things that make me go hmm... #6

I don't know about you, but I must have popcorn when I go to the movies. Over the years, though, I've come to realize that I don't need to have the jumbo, so when I was at the concession stand on New Year's Eve, I didn't. And the interaction with the cashier made me go hmm...

Me: I'll have a medium soda and a small popcorn. (this was pre-2012 goal of 1 soda/week max)

Cashier: It's actually cheaper if you get the medium soda/medium popcorn combo.

Me: Oh. Well, I don't want that much popcorn. Can I get it in a small bag instead of a medium?

Cashier: We have to use the medium bag.

(I look at him oddly... I guess for inventory purposes, maybe he can't) Ok, well... I don't want to waste the popcorn. Can I get the medium bag and not have you fill it up all the way?

Cashier: So, you don't want a full bag?
(looks at me oddly)

Me: No, I won't eat that much. So, if I can't do the small bag, I want a partial medium.

Cashier: OK, I guess we can do that. Do you want butter?

Me: Yes, please. 
Hmm...  so what I heard was that they can charge me less money for more product. Or, they can charge me more money for less product. I found this perplexing.

So, when I went to a movie on Friday night this weekend, I had a similar, but somewhat different (shorter) with the cashier. 

Me: I'll have a small popcorn and a small soda. (this is the first soda I've had since new years. more to come on that.)

Cashier: You can actually get the medium popcorn/medium soda combo for the same price.

(thinks... oh geez, here we go, again) I know. I don't want that much. Thank you, though.

Cashier: OK.
(looks at me oddly and smiles)

I get that the cashiers are supposed to up-sell... but is it really an up-sell if they aren't getting more money? I guess the theaters aren't really supportive of the fight against over-eating, huh?

Hmm... your thoughts?


For more things that make me go hmm... check out: #5 (I didn't believe in Santa?), #4 (Nook vs. Nuk), #3 (people seriously get upset about that?), #2 (what did I look like before?), #1 (thanks for making me feel old).


microwave cake

A while back, I was looking through a church cookbook and, wouldn't you know, they have a "microwave" section in it. Ah, modern appliances. What I didn't expect is that I would find a cake recipe in there.

Fast forward a few months. I'm having a craving for something sweet and there's pretty much nothing in the house. It's cold, and I don't want to go outside. And I remember: microwave cake! I wonder if that's real...

So, I pulled out the trusty church cookbook, and gave it a whirl because it was all normal stuff I have on hand in my baking box.

I find the recipe and it turns out it's actually called "Mug Cake." It says:
In a large mug, mix well:
4 Tbsp. flour
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa

In a separate bowl, mix:
1 egg
3 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. oil (I used canola)
chocolate chips (optional)

Add egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring constantly, making sure everything is incorporated. (I used a palm of chocolate chips. Also, I did not stir constantly while adding the egg mixture... I dumped it in and stirred until it was well combined.)

So, I did that. It looked like this:

It then says to microwave on high for 3 minutes, then let cool. I don't know how to turn my microwave on high, so assume that normal is high. I set my microwave for 3 minutes and hit start.

I am skeptical that in 3 minutes, that bowl of goo is going to turn into magical cake that will get rid of my sweet tooth craving.

And, you know what? Microwave cake is real. It looks like this:

I didn't cool it, though, as the instructions said because, well, I lack the fine skill called patience.

The result? It did satisfy my sweet tooth. That being said, it's not the best cake in the world... but definitely worth the 5 minutes of my life it took to make a cake from scratch and it was certainly edible. It's pretty dense, but was moist, and if I would have had some vanilla ice cream, it may have even moved into really yummy. And, it's for sure dangerous that I now know a way to go from no cake to cake in 5 minutes flat.

Have you tried this before? Ideas for other microwave desserts?


quick update: 2012 goals

Although  I normally do not make resolutions, I've decided that in 2012, I am going to try 12 months of "dos and don'ts" -- and my first was: Don't drink soda more than once a week.

So, how's it going?

Well, it's now Jan. 20, 2012 which means I am 20 days with no soda. That's right. NONE! I haven't had any at all. I'm in Miami for work this week, and I was sure I would have some, but I declined at lunch today, and haven't bought any at the airport or the hotel. I think part of it is that now that I've made this choice, I am steering away from it at all because I am worried I might fall of the wagon. Also, I have not increased my juice intake as a substitute. I'm finding I'm drinking a similar amount of coffee (lots) and water (lots more than before, which I think is good). And, I appear to be following all of the rules I set around this goal. 

That being said, I did find a flaw in the plan....

2 for 1 drinks.

Some say: but it's only part soda, so you can have two and that equals one.

Some say: you're only paying for one, so it's really just one.

I say: it's against the rules I made. No excuses. But, crap... a flaw in the plan. I didn't see that one coming. Let's hope that there's a 2 for 1 special without soda next time. 


butternut squash ravioli

Keith got a pasta roller attachment AND a ravioli mold for his Kitchenaid mixer for his birthday... which is awesome. Fortunately for me, he's willing to share and let's me use it. :) It may sound like I'm stealing his birthday present, but in my defense, he has been here every time (3) I've used it so far and he has helped each time.

The first time, we made spaghetti. The second time, we made ravioli with a meat and cheese stuffing. The most recent, and third, time, we made butternut squash ravioli which I have only had about 3 times. Twice in a restaurant and once in a Lean Cuisine. The restaurants were awesome. The Lean Cuisine was OK.

This was kind of an experiment, because I've never made it... and I looked up a few recipes and mixed and matched a bit.

Please note: Amounts will be approximate because I didn't exactly measure everything... but next time I'll do a better job. This will give you an idea, though, if you'd like to try it -- which I recommend, if you have a pasta roller.

First, the inside stuffing:

Butternut squash filling for ravioli
2 c. cooked, mashed butternut squash
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
3/4 c. Ricotta cheese
1 med. shallot, chopped
1 lg. clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. brown sugar

Mix the squash and cheese well in a medium mixing bowl. Saute the shallot and garlic in a bit of olive oil and add the brown sugar, mixing well so there are no lumps of sugar. Drain any excess oil from the shallot/garlic mix and add it to the squash/cheese mix and mix well. Set aside. 

Second, the making the pasta:

Did you know that pasta is only two ingredients? Eggs and flour. Sometimes you need a little water if the dough is too dry, but hardly any. So.... (and this is assuming you have a KitchenAid mixer):

2 c. flour
3 eggs

Put the flour and eggs into the mixer with the standard mixing attachment and mix (on speed 2) until the dough is sticky and in small pieces. The book I have says if there's flour sticking to the side, add water (1 tsp); if the dough is sticking to the sides, add flour. Change the attachment to the dough hook and mix on speed 2 for 2 minutes. It should be in a ball at the end. Then, knead by hand for 30 seconds. Cover it with a clean, dry cloth and let sit for 30 min. to 2 hours.

Putting the ravioli together:

We used a ravioli mold, but if you don't have one, you can shape them yourself. Put the dough through the pasta roller, beginning at setting 1 and up to 5-7. The book said to do 6 or 7 (thinnest) for ravioli. Because we are using the mold, I wanted some extra elasticity to work with and we went up to setting 5. If you've never used the roller before, you start at #1, and then increase as you go and put the dough through several times.

Place the dough on a clean/flat surface and lightly dust the sides that will touch the mold with flour so it doesn't stick (it took me a while to figure this out but it's genius... or common sense... whatever - it works!). Place the stuffing on a layer of the pasta, then cover with another layer and cut with a pasta cutter. Using the mold, it pressed the edges down for me -- but if you're not using one, you probably need to press edges around the sides of each ravioli.

In the end, they hopefully look something like this. These are the ones that turned out best for me, so don't feel bad if they don't look exactly like this. You should see what happened before I figured out the flour trick. :)

At this point, I would recommend getting the sauce started and start heating water to boil the pasta. When you are ready to cook the pasta, put it in boiling water for approximately 8 minutes, then drain, then immediately toss it in the sauce.

And, finally, the sauce:

Browned butter sage sauce
6 Tbsp. butter
8-10 fresh sage leaves
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

In a med/large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring regularly. When the butter becomes hot, watch it closely and stir frequently, as it will brown quickly, and you don't want it to burn. Or so says my mother, who I had to call to learn how to brown butter. But she's right, it happens fast once it starts. When the butter is golden brown, remove it from heat and add the sage leaves (it will bubble up) and the lemon juice and stir well. Let sit until your pasta is nearly done.

When the pasta is nearly done, remove the sage leaves from the sauce and then return the sauce to heat and stir frequently, adding the 1/4 c. of Parmesan cheese. It may brown a bit more, but don't let it burn. As soon as the pasta is done, drain it and then put it into the sauce, toss well, and serve with Parmesan.

And, if all goes well, it will look kind of like this and taste delicious.

Diane was here for dinner and she was surprised (happily) and how light the sauce was, considering it's so much butter, but it wasn't overly rich.

So, there you have it! It was quite a process, but it's something to do on the weekend. AND, you can freeze pasta, uncooked, for a month in the freezer and have it for a quicker dinner some other time. Just put it on parchment paper (on a cookie sheet) and freeze it for two hours. Then put it in a freezer bag. When you're ready to cook it, drop it in frozen - the book says not to thaw it first.

Have you made homemade pasta? Favorites? I'd love more ideas!


2012: Goals, part 2

I wrote yesterday about something I'm going to try with goal setting in 2012. My first is: Don't drink soda/pop more than once per week. Already since I posted it, people have been really helpful - asking questions and giving me ideas to help support it. And, so, I had to go back today and make two editorial additions to the "rules" of this goal to address one of their questions (and one of my own):
  • Soda is OK in cooking because I only know one recipe (coke roast) that uses soda and I don't make it often.
  • Someone asked me what about ginger ale when I'm sick. I guess I'll have to play that by ear, because I don't get sick often (excuse me for a moment while I go knock on wood... OK, I'm back). If it's the only thing that will settle my stomach, this is allowed... but it has to be legitimate and hopefully not necessary.   
A friend from work recommended doing "cucumber water" by putting water in a pitcher and adding sliced cucumbers. Sounds easy enough! Another friend recommended a line of powder mixes to put in water that are all natural - the line is called True and comes in lemon, orange, etc... I looked it up and its unsweetened, too. I'll have to check that out!

And, my very helpful friend Donna, who inspired me to give this all a try, posted a link to a news story on facebook about mountain dew and a mouse ... and it truly disgusted me. And, helped to support that I'm making the right decision here. Don't read the article if you like mountain dew -- seriously -- but if you don't have a weak stomach, or don't like mountain dew anyway, click here to read it. Sick, yet helpful. :)

In other news, did you know that I posted on my blog 72 times in 2011 AND 72 times in 2010? Probably not, but I just realized it a few days ago... and this leads me to my year goal:

Post 10% more in 2011.

This means I must post a minimum of 79.2 times before Jan. 1, 2013. For the sake of argument, we'll round up to an even 80. That's about 1.5 posts per week.

The rules on this one are pretty simple: Post 80 times this year on this blog.

3 down, 77 to go.

What would you like to hear about this year?

And, if you read the article - reactions?


2012: Goals, part 1

Yesterday I posted some reflections on 2011 - where I've been, stuff I did, and foods I made (and wrote about). It was a good year, for the most part, and I am looking forward to 2012 being great.

That being said, I'm not typically one for resolutions. People always ask, and I always say "I don't really do that." Maybe I just feel like I'm setting myself up to fail? This year, inspired by my friend Donna, I thought about it further. Choosing one day to make several changes is hard - and is possibly the reason these resolutions aren't followed through on. Think about it - choosing in one day to, for example:
  • go to the gym 3 times a week
  • stop eating chocolate
  • stop eating carbs
  • learn to speak Spanish
  • win the lottery
... all in one day? That's a lot of pressure. But what's she's doing is different and she has decided to make a change every day for a year. And she didn't start on New Year's -- she started a couple of days prior. I'm excited to follow her in her journey for the next year. She's keeping us updated on her blog, Muddied Feats, so check it out. From what I can tell so far, it seems like some of her changes are big and long-term (only check Facebook once / day; no sweetener in coffee-includes mochas) and shorter-term changes (change route when traveling from the one taken before).

An interesting concept - a tiered approach to making changes and making goals for the coming year. However, one a day is pretty intimidating and because I'm not prepared to commit to a new change every day, so I've decided to make a goal each month. They aren't very well thought through, yet, except for the first one, but I envision this being 12 months of Dos and Don'ts. And I should probably start out with a positive "Do", but I'm starting with a "Don't" anyway.

January: Don't drink soda/pop more than once per week in 2012.
  • This means: 
    • All sodas - regular, diet, caffine-full, caffine-free. 
    • Energy drinks (which I don't really drink anyway)
    • Sweetened cold teas (i.e. Lipton Rasperry, etc...)
    • Crystal Light add-in flavors
  • I can still have: 
    • Unsweetened ice tea (as long as sweetener isn't added by me)
    • Hot teas (any are fine)
    • Juice (see caveat in "Other Notes" below)
  • Other notes: 
    • Juice is not a substitute for soda, because it also has a ton of sugar. Although juice is not included in the list above of things I can't have, my juice consumption should not increase over what it currently is. 
    • Once a week is being allowed, but not required, to allow for a "cheat" soda, or a mixed drink. However, I'm still limited to one glass or can - not 2 liter. The "cheat" is for one, normal sized serving - not one day of having a soda IV.
    • This has nothing to do with my coffee intake. I have no problems with that, and hardly ever use sweetener in my coffee. This does not impact plain coffee or "coffee drinks" - mochas and the like. And I think that's OK, because I'm usually a "dark roast with cream, thank you Dunn Bros." kind of girl, anyway. I don't often get the high calorie/sweetened drinks.
    • Editors Note (01/03/12): Soda is OK in cooking because I only know one recipe (coke roast) that uses soda and I don't make it often.
    • Editors Note (01/03/12): Someone asked me what about ginger ale when I'm sick. I guess I'll have to play that by ear, because I don't get sick often (excuse me for a moment while I go knock on wood... OK, I'm back). If it's the only thing that will settle my stomach, this is allowed... but it has to be legitimate and hopefully not necessary.  
  • Start Date: Jan. 1, 2012
  • Completion Date: Dec. 31, 2012

I did actually start yesterday, and so far, so good. But it is funny how when you decide to restrict yourself from something, you're increasingly aware of it's presence in the house and you want to have it more. That is exactly why I'm not eliminating it completely -- I can still have it, just on a very limited basis. My hope is that eventually this will become habit and I won't really "want" it anymore.

In the meantime (read: past two days) I have drank a lot of water, which is good for me and I have already found a work around so that I can have something flavored -- I'm adding a little lemon juice (unsweetened) to iced water, but no sugar. I did have one glass of juice, but that is not out of my normal juice consumption, so I'm on track there. In fact, I feel myself veering away from the juice, too, in an effort to make sure I'm not using it as a substitute. Oh, I did have a Turtle Mocha from Caribou yesterday... but it's not against the rules and there was a BOGO coupon.

So, it's not a change every day, but it's worth a shot. And now that I've told you, I have to keep with it. :) 

More soon...

Have you made goals or resolutions this year?


Happy New Year!

As it's natural to do around New Year's time, I've been thinking about things that happened in 2011 and what I hope is to come in 2012. So, here's some stuff than happened in my 2011 -- more to come soon on 2012. :)

What were the highlights of your 2011? What would you like to see from me in 2012?