Fatty, Fatty

My husband has picked up a new hobby - smoking meat.  He never picks out hobbies like perfecting the dishwasher load, or closet organization. No, he likes meat, baseball, and motorcycles.  I'll be honest, I can get behind some meat because I don't have to cook dinner.  (Although, I'm still in charge of providing some sort of healthy side, I just don't feel right eating nothing but a slab of meat for dinner. I'm not a cavewoman!)

Today we headed out to our favorite butcher shop, Johns Butcher Shoppe, and picked out our meat for the weekend.  Desmond requested pulled pork, so we got a small pork shoulder.  Then, we wanted to try to make some concoction called a Bacon Wrapped Sausage Fatty.  It's exactly what it sounds like.  Sausage that's been stuffed, rolled, and wrapped in bacon and then smoked on the smoker for a few hours. Holy heart attack was it good.  Oh, we also made bacon wrapped stuffed jalepenos.  Today was a day for things stuffed and wrapped in bacon.

To make the fatty you need:

  • 1 Lb of your favorite ground sausage (we just used bulk pork sausage from the butcher's case)
  • 1 lb of thick cut bacon (about 10-12 slices)
  • Stuff to stuff (we used diced red peppers, pepper jack cheese, and sharp cheddar.  Your possibilities are endless though.  Mushrooms, onions, and gouda anyone?
  • Start by making a bacon "weave".  I just drew back on a 3rd grade art project of making a basket weave placemat with construction paper but this guy has a step-by-step technique that looks fool-proof .  My bacon weave was 6 pieces wide by 6 pieces long
  • Roll out your sausage as flat as you can.  TO do this just put it in a gallon sized ziplock and roll it over and over until it's flat and uniform.  Let the air out of the bag as you go...
  • Remove the sausage from the baggie (scissors are your best friend here, folks) and put on a piece of wax paper or parchment paper.  
  • On half of the rolled sausage, start throwing your desired stuffing stuff on however your heart desires, then carefully roll the sausage into a log starting with your stuffed side. Pinch the ends so the goodness stays inside. 

Here's the bacon weave and the stuffing process.
  • Once it's stuffed, plop it on top of the bacon weave and roll again.  The put it in your smoker and smoke it until the bacon is cooked and the internal temp is at least 165.
I didn't get a picture of the "fatty" once it was rolled and cooked but here's what it looks like after a bite's been taken off a slice.    Seriously a yummy treat - we're going to try one stuffed with breakfast fixings next time

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Plated Review #1

A few weeks ago I was watching the Today Show and they were discussing the different "box" subscription services that are available.  I was watching half-asleep while feeding the baby and they brought up a service that delivered food.  A few hours later I was hungry and wishing someone would deliver me a salad when I remembered the segment on the Today Show. Of course, I couldn't remember the name of the service that delivered food so I googled "boxed meal delivery" and found Plated.  Turns out this wasn't the one they talked about on the Today show but a quick comparison of the two services and I decided to go with Plated, mostly because the ordering process on their website was more user friendly than the other service and also because I found a promo code that gave me 4 free plates; all I had to pay was a $20 subscription fee.  I was cool with that - $20 for two meals was reasonable to me.

How does plated work?
Well, they have a whole page dedicated to explaining this on their website, so this is the short answer.  You have the choice to order a la carte ($15/plate) or pay a $10/mo membership and the plates are $12 each.  They have three different menus: Land (beef, chicken, pork plates), Sea (seafood plates), and Veggie (vegetarian friendly).  You can pick and choose your plates from any of the menus and you must order in 2 plate increments.  If you like, you can also set up auto-ships on the meals and they'll pick your dishes and sent them at your delivery preference.  I opted to not set up auto-delivery because I won't order often and when I do, I want to pick the dishes that I think my family will like best.

So, lets fast forward.  When I placed my order, I ordered for a few weeks in the future because the week I selected had two dishes I thought my husband would like- Chicken with Caprese Salad  and Asian Steak.  Yesterday afternoon I got a notification the box was on it's way, at at 9:30 this morning my doorbell rang and FedEx was here with my box.  I wasted no time digging in to check out my goodies. The box contained everything I needed to make the meal (aside from a few pantry staples like olive oil, salt, and water) and handy little picture cards. Everything was packed well, there were no leaks, meat was separate from veggies, and everything looked fresh. I liked the picture cards. They were two sided - the first side gave a few tips and calorie counts while the back gave you step by step instructions (with pictures) for preparing the dish.  They were nice, especially for someone who might not cook very often.

After the box was emptied, I grabbed the two picture cards and held them up and asked my husband the million dollar question - "Chicken or Steak for lunch?" He did  quick glance at the pictures and decided on chicken.  Now that we had that decided, I just had to wait until a reasonable hour to get cooking! Once lunchtime was here, I grabbed the ingredients and handy picture card, and got to work.
(pictured: Boneless skinless chicken breasts [2], herb packet, arugula, basil, grape tomatoes, bocconcini mozzarella, garlic, balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, & grated pecorino)

The directions were written clearly.

First step was to prepare the ingredients
Rinse tomatoes

Halve tomatoes, Rinse arugula, pull stems from basil

Step 2- make garlic paste.  The card gave really good instructions for doing this.  I learned a new technique that will be useful

pretty garlic

Step 3 was to make the dressing by whisking the garlic paste, Dijon, honey, balsamic, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Step 4 was to season and cook the chicken.  The salt came from my own stash, but the herbs were bagged nicely and just had to be sprinkled on both sides of the chicken.
Seasoned chicken

Cooking chicken

Step 5- While the chicken is cooking, assemble & dress the salad.
Before mixing

After mixing
And lastly step 6 was to plate the chicken and salad evenly between 2 plates.  

This is 1/4 of the salad - there was a very generous amount of salad.

So, now that the dinner was cooked what did we think?  I asked my husband to rate the meal on a scale of 1-5.  

For the chicken:
Matt rated at a 2 or 3 and I rated at a 3. The quality of the chicken itself was not bad but definitely was not up to par with what we usually buy.  That's probably my fault, I'm picky with my chicken and a generally buy  fresh, organic, free-range, hormone free chicken so I have us a little spoiled.  You could definitely tell the chicken had been vacuum sealed.  The seasonings were a little bland.  I could have gone more liberal on the salt and it would have made the flavors pop more.

For the salad:
Matt rated it at a high 4 and I agreed.  The ingredients were all very fresh.  The arugula was crisp and tender. The tomatoes were really good, there were no overripe and squishy tomatoes in the carton and they also didn't have that refrigerated taste you tend to get with  tomatoes outside of tomato season.  The basil was fresh and aromatic.  The mozarella was delicious.  The dressing was also very good - it had a spicy kick which I expected since I prepared the meal, but it definitely caught Matt off guard.  We like spicy, so it was a welcome flavor to us, but it would have been too much for some.  

Value wise- the price point for what we got was a little high if you just take the food into account.  The price was what I would expect to pay at a restaurant (in Mo, where I live) and the quality was just as good but I had to do the cooking whereas a restaurant does that for me.  That being said, I still think it's a good deal.  Why?  
  1. I didn't have to scour the grocery store for the ingredients.
  2. It motivated me to cook a homemade meal with no processed ingredients
  3. The recipe instructions were great - especially if you're not a seasoned cook. (I cook often but for someone like my husband, he said the card would have been very helpful)
  4. It was fresh
  5. It lets you step outside of your comfort zone or food rut and try new dishes with ingredients you might not always buy or recipes you might not ever have tried on your own.  The fact that the ingredients were pre-measured and packaged nicely really did help me actually want to cook the meal.  It brought some excitement back into cooking.
I'd definitely recommend trying this service.  I think if you're someone who eats out a lot, wants to try something new, or even wants to impress a date (or, husbands who want to impress their wives *hint, hint*)  with a home cooked meal you'll really enjoy this.  I can't wait to try the Asian steak meal.  And I'll definitely be ordering again!

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Isabella Announcement
View the entire collection of cards.

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Pasta with Spinach and Tomato Cream Sauce and Chicken

Just a quick dish I threw together tonight inspired by my pregnancy cravings.  It turned out pretty good.  Note I don't actually measure, so these are just approximate measurements...

1/2 onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter (or olive oil)

1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
salt and pepper to taste

1 can tomato sauce
4 oz cream cheese, cut into cubes

1/2 c fresh grated Parmesan

1 cup frozen, loose leaf spinach

3 small chicken breasts, flattened to uniform thickness
garlic powder
kosher salt

less than 1/2 box ziti noodles

1) Cook Noodles according to package

2) in large skillet, cook onion and garlic with butter or oil until translucent

3) While onions/Garlic is cooking, heat grill pan or outdoor grill.  Season chicken breasts with garlic powder, salt, and pepper and grill until cooked through. 

4) Add tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper to onions and stir

5) add in tomato sauce

6) add in cream cheese and stir until melted

7) add in parmesan and stir until melted

8) add in spinach and allow to heat fully

9) Drain noodles and reserve a little pasta water.  Add cooked noodles to sauce, (if sauce is too thick you can add a tablespoon at a time of pasta water until sauce is desired consistency)

10) Serve pasta topped with chicken, sliced and garnish with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.  

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So, as normal, it's been a few months since I've touched this blog.  Life has a funny way of getting in the way of taking time to sit down and write notes down.  I started this blog with the intentions of chronicling my son's moments and milestones, but Facebook and Instagram have proven to be a much more efficient way of getting my thoughts down quickly.  That being said, today I'm taking my blog in a different direction.  Today I'd like to just give my own, personal opinion.  

I want to preface this with saying I am a firm believer that I am my son's mother first and friend second.  I love my son but I want to mold him into a respectful man.  That's a tough job.  There are days I feel like I am being judged for getting angry because my son won't eat dinner or throws a tantrum in the store because I refuse to buy him a toy, but in all honesty I don't care what other people think of my parenting skills.  I have a generally well behaved, albeit rambunctious, four-year-old who is learning the difference between right and wrong.  But let's elaborate on the "respectful" piece I mentioned above.

When I was growing up, I feared my parents.  Allow me to explain.  I was not scared of my parents.  I never felt in danger with them.  I never felt like I was going to be harmed by them.  But I feared what they thought of me if I did something wrong- I feared disappointing them. As I've grown into an adult, I still apply "what would my parents think" into a lot of my decisions I make.  I feel like that was the mentality of kids in my generation and older.  We actually cared what our parents thought because they were (are) our parents and not our friends.

I don't think this applies to today's generations of tweens and teenagers.  Facebook allows me the opportunity to observe from the outside with it's wonderful security settings and the lack of a filter on today's youth. The number children having sex and doing drugs shocks me and the number of parents that are ok with it shocks me just as much.

Here's a personal story about me.  I know I am far from the norm, but I chose to remain a virgin until I was almost 20 years old.  This was a personal choice because of my aforementioned fear of my parents and what they would think if I became pregnant in high school.  I had plenty of opportunities to engage in sex and drugs but I chose not to. Sure, I had a couple of years in my early 20s where I was, in my opinion, a little out of control, but I was grown and on my own and responsible for my actions.  I still, in the back of my mind, feared what my parents would think if they saw how I was acting, but I still made bad decisions but did so on my own turf.  I lived on my own, I had a steady job, and I was independent. If I had done these things when I was sixteen, and my parents knew about it, I think they would have killed me.  (Obviously not literally- they had three other kids to take care of and it's not likely they could have taken care of them from prison). 

Kids today aren't scared of their parents.  When a sixteen year old becomes pregnant and her parents are excited about that, there is something wrong.  When a child (yes, child) is in prison (not juvenile detention- prison) and the parents refuse to admit their child is a trouble maker, there is something wrong.  I'm not talking about an independent adult- if an independent adult makes a bad decision, it's on their back, not their parents- I am talking about a child who is still in school and still lives with their parents and still not legally an adult.  While we want to love and embrace our children we live in a society where when our kids make bad decisions we blame someone else and praise them for doing the best they could.  It's ridiculous.

Please understand me, I will love my child no matter what.  But I will not praise bad decisions- because his bad decisions ultimately are a reflection of my parenting until he is a legal adult and because as a mother it is my job and responsibility to ensure my son is educated and monitored to make good decisions as long as he is a child in my home. I will not be a helicopter mother, I will have to trust him to go out in the world and make good decisions. I know he's going to do stupid things, but I trust that I will instill enough knowledge into him that he knows the difference between good, stupid and bad and applies that knowledge into his every day life.  

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Trips tip Target

I'm actually writing this as I walk aimlessly through Target. I had a moment walking through the electronics section when I saw an endcap of lip balm right next to the video game cartridges and thought "what an odd place for chapstick...ooh thats new... I need this chapstick...why did I come to the electronics section...damn you target." Thats when I realized I should write a book about Targets clever ways to lure suburban women to buy everything except the thing they need.

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Last week I ran into Target for something. Who knows what I went in for? There's something about that place that sucks you in and before you know it you've wasted 2 hours and a hundred dollars and probably didn't get what you needed in the first place. Anyway, I digress, I was in Target and I walked past the beauty aisle and my eye caught this:

A new line of shampoos from Burt's Bees: güd

Of course, the pretty packaging caught my eye. I'm a sucker for cute packaging with bold colors. Target had 4 scents on display and I spent at least 5 minutes going back and forth between the scents before deciding on this one, Pearanormal Activity. This scent is a combination of Pear and Acai berry. The pear is definitlely the scent that stands out the most. It's very sweet and refreshing smelling and leaves your hair smelling delicious for hours.

I bought this the same day I decided to undergo a major hair transformation- I had about 6 inches cut off into a cute, stacked swing bob. Over the last week, I've used the shampoo and conditioner exlusively. The shampoo has a nice lather and leaves your hair feeling clean without that awful squeaky feeling. The conditioner is nice and light, it makes my hair feel soft and look shiny but doesn't weigh my hair down or make it look and feel greasy. Honestly, my hair has never felt healthier and I don't know if it's because of the new haircut or the new shampoo/conditioner, or a combination of both, although I'm going to go with the latter.

The shampoo and conditioner each cost $5.99 at Target. The line also features a lotion and body wash but I didn't feel the need to buy the entire line that day. Target is the only place I've seen this scent and I think it might be exclusive to the store. The güd website does sell the other scents: Floral Cherrynova, Orange Petalooza , and Vanilla Flame and the line is a full assortment of bath and body products. Next time I go to Target, if I don't get distracted by something else shiny and new, I am going to pick up a thing (or two, or three...) in the Orange Petalooza scent.

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