Monthly Archives: September 2011

Easy Funeral Potatoes.

Before I answer your question, “Funeral potatoes???” please let me draw your attention to the fact that — I actually cooked something!

(Let’s just hope that my cooking skills haven’t atrophied as much as my photography skills apparently have during the last month or so…)

Okay, so, funeral potatoes. They’re basically au gratin-style potatoes so named because of their prevalence at (well, after) Mormon funerals. I don’t really know why honeybaked ham & au gratin potatoes are the unofficial official food of Mormon funerals — & at Easter, now that I think of it… irony? — but they’re tasty, so that’s all that matters, right? Oh, & they’re easy. At least this recipe is. Which my I-haven’t-really-cooked-in-forever-&-I-may-need-to-run-to-the-bathroom-at-any-moment self is a big fan of.

There are a million different variations of this Mormon staple (in fact, there were no fewer than 4 different delicious varieties at a potluck I attended Saturday… which may explain my irrational craving for them all week…), but here’s a basic easy version my friend Chelsey shared with me from Cooks.com.

  • 1 pkg. (2 lbs.) frozen Southern-style (cubed, not shredded) hash browns, thawed
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (we use the reduced-fat kind to make up for the stick of butter)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream (again, reduced-fat, for the same reason)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Optional topping: 2 cups corn flakes plus 1/4 cup melted butter
  1. Let your kitchen helper help you mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Optional: sprinkle on corn flakes & drizzle with melted butter.
  3. Spread into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

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36th Avenue

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What’s cooking? …Um, not much.

If you’ve been around here lately — & if you have, thank you for your faithfulness! — you’ve probably been wondering what’s been going on.

Well, the truth is that I haven’t been cooking because I’ve got a bun in the oven! Hooray!

Unfortunately, with the joyful announcement comes major morning sickness & serious food aversions, to the point where I can’t smell food cooking, or even look at pictures of food, right now. So that’s why there hasn’t been much going on around here, & why I haven’t been commenting on your lovely blogs either.

But I’m getting close to the end of the first trimester, & today I bought some pizza dough & was able to make & bake a pizza without throwing up! So hopefully I’ll be up & cooking again soon!

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“I Bleed Blue” Cupcakes.

I’m pretty confident that every major university has a blood drive leading up to their big rivalry game with the tag line “Bleed {fill in team color here}.” How do I know this? I’ve attended or worked for — & bled for — three different universities in three different conferences.

As a freshman at Vanderbilt, I “bled gold.” As a first-time blood donor, I didn’t know you were supposed to eat a big breakfast beforehand. I walked outside to continue working on our float for the Homecoming Parade… & woke up in my dorm room bed at 6pm.

When I saw the light & transferred to BYU (Go Cougars! Beat Texas!), I “bled blue.” I was smarter by now & ate a big meal beforehand… but still bled so slowly that each of the other 3 beds went through 3 other donors before being done with me.

Then I worked for the Indiana University Alumni Association, where I “bled crimson.” Well, I think I did… I don’t have any recollection of anything weird happening, so I’m assuming it went well.

This year, I decided to let baked goods do the bleeding for me. Blue, of course. (Go Cougars! Beat Texas!)

These cupcakes are a cinch to pull together to show your friends & fellow fans your true colors. (Go Cougars! Beat Texas!) & they don’t involve needles, blood, or passing out! Juice & cookies afterwards would be a nice touch though.

  • White or yellow cupcake recipe or mix (I used my all-time favorite easy yellow cake recipe, which is quite pale & works very well for this)
  • 1 box (4 oz.) Jello in team color of choice (just use one or they’ll mix & not look too appetizing)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • frosting
  1. Prepare your cupcakes as directed. Tip: don’t use foil cupcake liners. My only other option at Publix was pink, which I knew wouldn’t go over well. So plan ahead & visit Michael’s or something for some cuter paper cupcake liners that don’t stick to the cake & wind up getting swallowed by party guests. Oops.
  2. When they’ve cooled a little, poke each with a fork.
  3. Mix the Jello & boiling water; stir 2 minutes or until completely dissolved.
  4. Use a small spoon to carefully spoon the Jello into the fork holes in each cupcake.
  5. Chill 3 hours or until Jello is set.
  6. Frost as desired. I used this fabulous color swirl tutorial from Our Best Bites. Once I got the icing in the bags, it was seriously faster than my standard sloppy knife-frosting way, & so much prettier!

P.S. If you’re wondering where to get the awesome football platter, it was a fabulous $1 party-store find several years ago that has stuck with us every season since.

P.P.S. Go Cougars! Beat Texas!

Tidy Mom

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TV: What they should (& shouldn’t) watch… & what you should watch after they go to bed.

TV is EVERYWHERE. I lost count of the number of TVs in the Red Robin we ate at on Labor Day (there was even one in the floor… what?!). There were TVs in the waiting room in The Munchkin’s pediatrician’s office in NJ. There are even TVs in the checkout aisles at grocery stores, above the pumps at gas stations, & on the PATH trains into the city! So how can you keep your kid under that 2-hour suggested screen time limit?

I can’t answer that for you.

What I can answer for you, though, is what we do to at least try to limit The Munchkin’s time in front of the tube, & how you can help your kids make better choices about what they’re watching in those 2 hours or less.

As well as some good choices for you too.

My good friend Lauren is blogging on TV choices as well over at her blog today; check it out!

Screen time tips

  • Don’t leave the TV on. It sounds silly & obvious, but I’ve walked into too many homes where the TV is just on for background noise. When the program you have chosen for your child (yes, chosen… see below) is over, turn it off. No amount of kicking & screaming changes this in our house. Also, if you need to have news in the morning as you get ready, use the radio in the kitchen.
  • Set expectations & stick to them. The Munchkin knows that she can watch in the morning while Mommy’s getting ready, & sometimes in the evening while I’m making dinner, if it’s not one she can help with. That’s it. Occasionally we will have a rainy-day movie, but it’s just that: occasional.
  • Know that kids are sneaky. & take the appropriate precautions. Even at her age, The Munchkin knows how to turn on the TV & DVD player (thankfully not usually at the same time). Keep the family TV & computer in public view, & hide the remotes. (That last tactic worked wonders when I was growing up because we’d broken the power button on the TV, so no TV ever got watched until after homework was done. We never did find where my mom would stash the remote all those times…)
  • No TVs in kid rooms. Period.

Choosing what to watch

When they’re young, it’s easy. They don’t have friends & commercials telling them they should be watching. Though, in the aforementioned pediatrician’s office one day, Spongebob — the Ren & Stimpy of the new generation — was on, & despite my best distraction efforts, she zoned completely. Then like a week later we were walking in front of Dylan’s Candy Bar when she saw him again & recognized him. How do they do that?! Those Hollywood ad people have no souls.

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. I think it’s important to help your kids choose shows that you can tolerate. I, personally, want to take a power drill to my right temple every time Dora is on. So we don’t play it in our home. You can’t say “no” to everything (which I imagine will become very tempting in the tween years judging from the after-school lineup on Disney Channel), so suggest something you can say “yes” to. I have very fond memories of evenings spent with my dad & my siblings watching Rocky & Bullwinkle, followed by The Muppet Show.

The only suggestions I have are for little kids, because that’s who’s watching TV right now. Those of you with older kids, please give your suggestions!

  • Sesame Street: Teaches kids stuff (The Munchkin may or may not have taught herself how to jump after an “Elmo’s World”), not annoying (except “Abby’s Flying Fairy School”), & even celebrity guest stars & jokes that parents can appreciate (I still think of the Sesame Street versions when I hear Feist’s “1-2-3-4″ or Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” on the radio). But even The Munchkin got over it after awhile. Now she’s into…
  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Okay, so the writing’s not going to be winning awards any time soon, but at least not everyone has the EXACT SAME voice with the EXACT SAME inflection (cough cough, Dora). The characters solve a problem in each episode, & I like that they’re resourceful with their “Mouseketools:” for example, they needed to transport sand somewhere, & one of the tools was a few pillows — they emptied them to carry the sand in the pillowcases.
  • Curious George: Honestly, this is my favorite. (Is that weird to say?) It’s well-written & teaches kids about lots of different things. The Munchkin & I always have lots to talk about after each episode.

I think the important thing is to teach your kids (when they get old enough, of course) to be active consumers. Just because my friends were all watching Beavis & Butthead in middle school, doesn’t mean that I could turn off my brain (or stay up that late, for that matter) to watch it too. But how can you teach them that?

The main thing is to be an active & discerning consumer yourself. So we’re old enough to watch TV-MA now. Does that mean we have to? Well, that’s up to you & your family. But here are my 2 cents:

I don’t like to watch stuff that makes me feel gross, sad, or uncomfortable. We had to stop watching 24 after a couple seasons because of all the torture. The Office just wasn’t funny anymore — just awkward. The Mentalist was really good, but it just left us feeling depressed or disturbed afterwards most of the time. So if something you’re watching leaves you feeling less than desirable — or like you just murdered 85,000 brain cells by watching it — just stop watching. Here are the shows that make us happy:

  • Psych: This show makes me laugh harder than anything else. Lauren should be talking more about the finer points of this gem, as well as Monk, which is sadly over but still great.
  • White Collar: Another USA Network program that does a great job of keeping it clean & entertaining. The cinematography & costuming are beautiful (oh, ok, & so is Matt Bomer). Rundown: FBI agent catches brilliant con artist & gets him a “work release” from prison to help out his elite team in New York.
  • Chuck: The usual nerd-boy-meets-hot-girl-&-goes-on-spy-missions-with-her love story. Brilliantly written, clean, funny, action-packed. I have yet to introduce this show to someone who didn’t immediately love it. But this is the last season, so if you’re just tuning in, start at the beginning. Please.
  • Bones: The only drama on the list, this is actually classified strictly as a “dramedy” because it’s generally so lighthearted. Brilliant Smithsonian forensic anthropologist (Emily Deschanel) consults on murder cases with strong but sensitive FBI agent (David Boreanaz). Her team of “squints” is awesome too. I’m just sad Zac had to leave… I hope they write him back in eventually.
  • The Middle: We first started watching this because it was about a family in Indiana (we were living there at the time), starred Patricia Heaton & the janitor from Scrubs (see below), & it looked funny. We keep watching it because it is funny. Each of their 3 kids falls on a different point in the social spectrum, & their misadventures are totally relatable. It’s a very family-friendly comedy with no social agenda, unlike the family comedy that comes on ABC after it. (I think Lauren will be covering that one, since I’ve only seen one episode.)
  • Frasier: An oldie but a goodie. Still SO funny. Niles is my absolute favorite.
  • Scrubs: A story of love, friendship, bromance, & what it’s apparently like to be a young doctor who reminisces to himself all the time.
  • How I Met Your Mother: We just started watching reruns because they were on after Frasier, so I can’t claim to be an expert, but it’s funny. & it takes place in New York. Win! Oh, & it’s also what I watched while I wrote this post.

works for me wednesday at we are that family

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