Oct 30, 2012

See Ya, Sandy!

Over prepared.  We were over prepared.  The only storm supplies we purchased that we actually used? The sweets.  Never lost power.  Well, let me clarify.  We lost power for an insignificant amount of time while we were sleeping, which I only knew about because I had to reset the clocks this morning.  All trees remained intact.  BearFace and I took a drive to Vineland (about 30 mins away) today to see a movie...not one power line down, and maybe two trees down.  HALLELUJAH!  The storm that seemed dead set on hitting Salem County, and pretty much all of New Jersey for a sustained time decided to turn elsewhere and spare us.  Must have been deflected by my clean house!  Unfortunately the coast of New Jersey was not that lucky, as well as NYC from what I hear from brother Joe.  I feel very fortunate that we made it through the storm with no damage, and I hope all my friends and family in other states were as lucky as we were.

Resuming normal activities tomorrow, thankfully!  Spending three days locked in a house with a stir-crazy boxer=rather trying.  Day 1 and 2 were ok, but today was definitely a challenge.  It went something like this (Family Guy, anyone?):

Murphy: Hey Mom.
Michelle: Hey Murphy.
Murphy: Mom.  I love you.
Michelle: Thanks, Murph.  Love you too.
Murphy: Mom.  Hey Mom.  Um, Mom?  Excuse me.  Mom.  Mommy.  Mommy.  Mom.  Ma.  Mom.  
                MOM. HELLO.
Michelle: WHAT?!?!?! 
Murphy: HIIII.  Heehehee!


Murphy took to playing dress-up in an attempt to entertain himself,
then realized he couldn't unzip himself, panicked, and tried
to eat his way out of it.  

You could say that I am looking forward to heading back to work and getting the crazy back on his regular exercise schedule.

I'm also looking forward to getting back on a normal eating schedule!  Apparently Hurricane Sandy gave me permission to eat junk for the past 3 days.  This included: PopTarts, Fudge Stripe cookies, more PopTarts, and a massive amount of soda and popcorn at the movies today, all of which I normally avoid.  I also consumed more pasta in the last three days than I've eaten in probably three months.  I guess I thought this might really be the apocalypse...

Anyway, back to a bit healthier eating with this Tuesday Night Post-Hurricane Dinner:

Lentil Soup with Chickpeas and Quinoa

I have been wanting to make this for a while, and finally got around to it tonight.  It seemed like the perfect meal for a cold and rainy day (I made a few alterations, of course).  First and foremost, I had to add some meat to it!

1/2 pound turkey sausage, sliced

For the sausage (cook sausage first, then continue with recipe):

  1. Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add sausage slices and cook until just browned.
  3. Remove sausage from pan and set aside (meat will finish cooking in soup later on.)
  4. Add sausage to soup in Step 8 along with chickpeas.
This meal had great flavors and the sausage went well with it, but I do have some suggestions for improvement.  The quinoa kind of overtook the dish and absorbed a lot of the liquid, so I recommend A) using 1/2 cup quinoa instead of a full cup, and B) adding more chicken stock.  I would suggest 6 cups.  That is the amount I usually use in soups, and the 2-3 cups this recipe calls for just doesn't do it.  Also, serve with crusty dipping bread for extra deliciousness.  YUM. 


Not super soupy, but very tasty!



Oct 29, 2012

Hanging in There!

While Hurricane Sandy rages outside with the worst of it still to come, Drew, Murphy and I are hunkering down and getting ready for power loss!  Kayaks are in the garage in case of flooding, and Murphy's raincoat has been taken out of storage (What can I say, the dog hates rain).  Neither of us had to go into work today, and it has already been canceled for tomorrow.  We did venture out this morning to top off the gas in my car and stock up on sweets (who knows when we'll be able to buy them next!)  A lot of the fields we passed were already flooding as of 10:30 this morning.

Our landlord, Tracy, stopped by around noon to show us how to work the generator and pellet stove so we will have some power and heat.  Having never weathered a storm around here before, Drew and I don't really know what to expect.  Tracy reminded us that our area is barely above sea level, and rather close to the Delaware River.  I don't think our house will be in danger, but a lot of the roads around here will probably be flooded out.  Getting to work later this week may be a challenge.

Good news though...RD is prepared with a gallon of water, granola bars, and some mayo.  He's also quite knowledgeable about the storm...he informed us earlier that this is the "highest low pressure the state has ever seen!"  (I'm sorry, what?  Is that an oxymoron, or are you just a moron?)  Let's be honest, if it weren't for me and Drew, I don't think he would have filled the grill or figured out the generator. 

But oh well, nothing we can do about it now!  Time to shut off the Weather Channel, cook up something tasty for dinner, and put on a movie.  Murphy is in his glory.  He's never had this much snuggling in his life.


Can't. Take. All. The. Snuggling.


Sunday Night Hurricane Dinner:

Dad's Baked Chicken, Mom's Egg Noodles, and Roasted Broccoli (I was feeling something warm and comforting last night!)

For the chicken:

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin or sliced in half
1 cup flour
1 egg
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Drizzle about 1 tbsp of olive oil in 9x9 baking pan.
  3. Set up a "chicken breading station".  Spread breadcrumbs and flour on 2 plates, and beat egg in a bowl.
  4. Dredge chicken in flour, then dip in egg wash, and finally coat with breadcrumbs.
  5. Place chicken in baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Flip chicken in pan, and continue baking for another 10 minutes. 
For the egg noodles:

1 package egg noodles (I used no-yolk noodles for a little healthier version)
~2 tbsp butter
~1 tbsp olive oil
Garlic salt
Parsley
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and return to pot.
  2. Add butter and olive oil and toss to coat (You can do just butter, or just olive oil if you want.)
  3. Add garlic salt and parsley to taste.
For the broccoli:

Fresh or frozen (defrosted) broccoli 
Grated Romano cheese
Olive oil
Garlic salt and pepper
  1. Spread broccoli on baking sheet.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt, pepper, and cheese.
  3. Roast at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until broccoli is slightly toasty.

A taste of Cheshire.  Yum.

Monday Night Hurricane Dinner:

Quick Hurricane Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Drew decided that he wanted to cook tonight, so I had to step back and let him take the reins.  I actually had to leave the kitchen so I didn't push him out of the way and take over.  I am that much of a cooking control freak!

1 pound ground turkey 
1 box whole wheat thin spaghetti
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 jar marinara sauce (Usually I make my own sauce, but didn't have the time/ingredients on hand tonight!)
Grated Romano cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Brown turkey meat and garlic in pan.
  4. Add sauce to pan and bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until meat is cooked through and sauce is hot.
  6. Add meat sauce to pasta, and top with Romano cheese.


Another warm and comforting meal!

Time to squeeze in one more shower before our power goes out and we lose the water :(  Not looking forward to going outside to pee!  I hope everyone is safe and dry!

Oct 28, 2012

Mass Hysteria

Before we discuss the impending doom that is heading our way, a quick recap of the week here in Alloway.

Tuesday:
  • Did some riding, and I honestly could not tell you if I rode in the ring or out on the trails (I think senility is setting in early).  All I know is Chubbles was cute!  
  • Murphy eats remote control #2 while Mom is at the barn.  Mom gets really mad because she is in the middle of watching NBC's Revolution on OnDemand (If you loved Lost, you should watch this show!)  Luckily, it still worked.
  • Went on a cleaning strike after finding a plate, tupperware, and several utensils in the dish rack that were coated in grease and crumbs.  Put dishes aside as evidence.  
  • Had a conversation about the dishes with RoomDog that went like this: "Hey, I found these dishes in the dish rack, and they are pretty much disgusting, so if you could try to actually wash them so I don't have to REwash them, I'd really appreciate it." RoomDog: "10-4".  
  • Made some tasty ground turkey burritos for dinner (nothing special here, didn't think the recipe was worth including).
  • Got really annoyed after dinner when RD's dirty dishes were in the sink AND in the dishrack.  Decided I was done being nice and threw all the "washed" dishes back in the sink.  NO MORE MR. NICE GUY. 

Mom's really mad at me for eating her remote control today.  
I hope she still likes me.  Thanks for listening, Stink Bug! 
You're my only friend.

Thursday:
  • No time for riding today, but took Murphles for a nice walk.  
  • Best of Salem County Awards Dinner with Tri-County Veterinary Hospital (A rather big event in Salem County.  We won best veterinarian, obviously because of my recent addition to the staff.)
  • Facebook-stalking and reminiscing over 6 years of wall-to-wall conversations with my Buddy Jenny.  HILARIOUS!  (Boy, do I miss my Uconn pals!)
  • R.I.P. Ember, Murphy's funny goat friend.  She was a good goat and had a great life at the barn, but she will surely be missed.

Friday:
  • Realization that there is a storm coming, and perhaps I should tune into the weather.  Mild annoyance at the possibility of a power outage. 
  • Mild annoyance slowly increases to genuine concern throughout the day at work while listening to clients and the other girls discuss the storm.  
  • Genuine concern increases to vague anxiety for these reasons:
    • The girls inform me that when power goes out in Salem County, it is often out for weeks.
    • They also told me that Hurricane Irene took out almost every bridge in the area, and I still barely know the roads around here. 
    • The water at our house is not drinkable.  (Tastes like sulfur, and our landlord told us it potentially causes cancer.)
    • Salem County is FLAT, and quite close to the Delaware River.  

Saturday:

GENERAL PANIC SETS IN.  I had to work in the morning, and of course the entire county is in a panic, which is quite infectious.  Everyone was calling to try to come in for an appointment on Saturday, and refilling their pet's medications just in case the hospital is swept away by Hurricane Sandy.  The possibility that we might be without power for several days, or even weeks seemed more like a reality, so I decided to buckle down and make a list of storm preparations:
  • Ride Chubbles.  Who knows when I'll be able to get to the barn next!
  • Get gas for my car.
  • Get cash.
  • Buy dog food.
  • Buy more water and non-perishable food items.
  • Do laundry.
I think every person in Alloway and Woodstown had the same ideas as me, because there was not one bottle, jug, or gallon of water in Acme, so that one was a failure.  Bread, soup, and peanut butter were also precious commodities.  I had to take out a couple people to get to the peanut butter, but I prevailed in the end.  I learned my lesson with the laundry from Hurricane Irene, when I had to go to work in dirty scrubs.  EW.  

I took a break from the storm hysteria that night to attend the Alloway Halloween Parade with Drew and Kim.  Pretty much the biggest thing that happens in Alloway all year, and I have to say it was worth seeing!  


These are Mummers.  Apparently they are a thing in Philly.  
I don't know, look it up!


Red Solo Cup float.  My favorite one.


Murphy wishes he was in the parade.  Or that he
had a glow stick.   

After the parade, Drew, Kim and I went to the Point 40 Diner to grab a late night dinner.  Drew ordered a Chicken Parm Sub, and I decided to go with a Meatball Parm Sub.  Simple enough, right?  Wrong.  People in New Jersey do not understand sandwiches.  The waitress was confused because apparently subs=lettuce, tomato and mayo on top.  She insisted that we wanted Meatball/Chicken Parm sandwiches.  I let it slide and agreed after making sure that it still came on a sub roll.  Good thing we didn't order grinders, because no one around here has any clue what a grinder is.  And don't get me started on hoagies!  

Sunday:    

IT'S COMING.  Nothing we can do about it now but hunker down and make our last few preparations.  So what was number one on my list of things to do before FrankenStorm?  If cleaning the house did not immediately come to mind, you might want to re-evaluate your survival plans.  Cleaning the house is essential for two reasons: 1) NO POWER=POTENTIALLY NO VACUUMING FOR WEEKS! and 2) Everyone knows hurricanes don't like clean houses and avoid them like the plague.  

Drew went to Walmart to purchase some propane for our grill and more water, since Acme was clearly not prepared for the mass hysteria that would hit the citizens of Salem County.  He also planned to get a few candles for night time, butttt so did everyone else.  He came back with 2 mini candles and reports of people actually stealing water from Walmart.  I mean, I'm definitely in support of "better safe than sorry", but seriously?  The world is not ending!  (Or is it?  Watching Revolution a week before a monster hurricane was definitely not a great idea.)

Luckily we have a car charger for our cell phones, kayaks in case of a flood, and our landlord is trying to find a generator for us to run our fridge and hopefully our toilet!  Trash cans are in the garage, water jugs are filled with tap water for cooking and Murphy's water bowl, and TV shows are caught up on. Last step was writing this post...hopefully I will have power on Tuesday to write my next!  So, in conclusion, I hope your house is clean, you have candles, you live on a hill, and you can drink your tap water.  Good luck!

Oct 21, 2012

Scream-o-ween

For some reason, people really love Halloween around here.  Our neighbors have had decorations up since October 1st, and the girls at work have been wearing Halloween scrub tops for weeks now.  I have to say, it never was one of my favorite holidays.  Of course I loved the candy as a kid, but my mom insisted on homemade costumes which were always very clever, but I did not appreciate her craftiness when I was younger.  Plus the fact that I am a wimp when it comes to being scared.  I couldn't even watch Scooby-Doo when I was little (Embarrassing, I know).  Anyway, this weekend we decided to participate in some Halloween fun!

Friday

Drew and I did our weekly food shopping Friday night, so we really didn't have too much of an exciting night.  Murphy, on the other hand, had quite the party.  While we were at work during the day, he decided it might be a good idea to watch a movie.  He needed the DVD remote to do this, but since he doesn't have thumbs, he got into a bit of a jam.  I mean, why don't you try turning the DVD player on with your mouth and see what happens.  Drew got home first and caught him, but I would have known he did something wrong anyway...he had his guilty look on!


I'm so, so sorry.  I don't even have words for how 
sorry I am.  Go ahead, punish me!  


Saturday

Drew's FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR!!!  Opening day of duck hunting season.  I swear he was like a 5 year old waiting for Santa to come.  He went out in the wee hours of the morning, while Murphy and I enjoyed the whole bed to ourselves and slept in!  I did some riding later in the morning, and then came home in the afternoon to get ready for our big night.

We had plans to meet up with Kim and her boyfriend, and a few other people from my work for dinner, a campfire, and a Haunted Hayride!  It was fun to socialize with other people this weekend (I can't remember the last time BearFace and I went out together!  He really is turning into a hermit.)  Pizza and appetizers were tasty, and then it was time for the screaming to begin.  I'm pretty sure I was the one who suggested the hayride to begin with, but as soon as we got in line I started to have second thoughts.  Not that I'm afraid of monsters, but I am a super jumpy person (which BearFace loves to take advantage of).  The hayride included a walk through a corn maze, a hayride through a soybean field, and then concluded with another walk through the woods.  I must say, haunted events are even creepier when you are in the middle of nowhere (Children of the Corn?)  You can be sure I did my fair share of screaming at every "monster" that jumped out at me!  But also a lot of laughing, and clinging to Drew for dear life.

My tasty appetizer:

White Pizza Dip

I made my own crusty dipping bread to accompany the cheesy dip (the same bread I made for my Mushroom Barley Soup, but I used a French baguette this time).


SO DARN TASTY!


Sunday

Some more trail riding with Murphy, some deer baiting for Drew, and just general taking care of business.  A.K.A., laundry, more grocery shopping, chores, etc.  Really thrilling stuff.

For my Big Sunday Dinner I made:

Parmesan Chicken Bake (sorry, no picture of this one)

I used 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt and completely eliminated the mayo for a healthier version.  Plus the stuff seriously creeps me out.

I also added about 1 tsp each of basil, oregano, and parsley to the mixture for a little more flavor and color.


It was rather a picture-less weekend, but I do have this hilarious video of my adorable dog, who was exhausted one night last week after a long day at the barn.  Please excuse the giggling in the background.


Oct 18, 2012

Spare Room

So RoomDog did return home on Sunday evening.  This was unfortunate because I had already begun planning what I would do with his room if he were not to return.  These are the options I came up with:

  • Kitten Hideout: Get a tiny kitten for Murphy.  Murphy loves kittens, but sometimes they don't love Murphy.  
  • Puppy Playroom: Get a tiny puppy for Murphy.  He needs a mini me.  And then maybe he'll unglue himself from my hip.
  • Guest Room: Get a futon or extra bed for guests (not sure who would come visit me out here, anyway...)  
  • Exercise Room: Get a treadmill and set up an exercise room for winter.  And maybe throw Murphy on the treadmill with a treat just out of reach!
  • Horse Haven: Invite Chubbles to come live in my house (Yes, a horse would be a more preferable roommate.) 
Since RD's presence is preventing me from making any of these things happen, and since 3 of them involve furry creatures, my dislike for him has only grown since he came back.  


Murphy and his mini-me, Millie, have a playdate in West Hartford

Tonight I made a tasty and quick crockpot dinner.  I always feel like this is cheating, since there is basically no work involved, but I didn't really have anything planned so I threw this together last minute.  


**Disclaimer**: The recipe says that you can cook 4-6 frozen chicken breasts on high for 2-3 hours.  FALSE!  Unless they used a super-high-heat crockpot, there's no way.  I tried it with mine, and after 2 and 1/2 hours the chicken was still mostly raw.  By that point it was almost dinner time, so I threw the chicken and sauce in a glass baking dish and popped it in the oven at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  I was worried that it would dry out, but it came out perfectly tender and very juicy.  I would suggest either using defrosted chicken, which should be done after 2-3 hours, or plan on about 4-5 hours for frozen chicken.  

I originally planned to serve this dinner on top of brown rice, but someone was busy making a mess in the kitchen, so I skipped the rice-cooking and served it over a salad instead.  It actually worked out pretty well!  The sauce makes a nice dressing for the salad.   


Love having dinner ready when I get home! (Mostly ready, anyway.)


Oct 16, 2012

Chubbles in Charge

Today was not just any other day at the barn.  Today, Chubbles and I went on a mission, with Murphy in tow.  Our task?  Clear the trails of low-hanging branches and prickers!  (I've taken one too many trees to the face while trail riding.)  We headed out this morning with nothing but a pair of clippers, our inter-species friendship, and some determination.  This mission turned out to be a bit challenging from the get-go because:

  • Murphy apparently loves to chase wild turkeys through the woods.  Especially when his mother is on a horse and cannot catch him.  
  • Chubbles thinks trails are for walking, not standing.
  • My clippers were most likely made for trimming shrubs and not trees.  
  • Chubbles thinks that a rather odd dog and a girl are not good enough company, and would prefer another horse to come along (He screamed for his friends for about 1/2 mile down the trail).
Mishaps aside, we actually cleared a good portion of the trail.  Still needs a little work, but once Chubbles realized why we were stopping directly under and sometimes in the low-hanging trees and prickers, he was much more willing to stand there and let me trim away.  While Murphy frolicked around in the woods chasing anything that moved.  (Really, could he have been less help?!) 

Once we made it out of the woods, we had a nice trot and canter around the soybean field.  Poor Murph had to cut through the field to catch up!  We only came close to bucking once, when Chubbles thought Murphy was going to pass him.  Apparently his competitiveness also applies to silly dogs.  We had another nice canter back on the newly-cleared trails, which passed the test.  I did not have to duck once, and made it through without getting any prickers in the eye!


There's no stopping Chubbles on a mission.


Finally found a little bit of Fall in Salem County!

I did all my cleaning this morning before heading to the barn, so I came home to a fresh, clean house!  And then I found this on Pinterest this afternoon:


Seriously?  Was this written for me?!?!  I will definitely be using #4, 5, 6, 10, and 18.  #13 and 33 are obvious ones.  (I mean, who in their right mind would vacuum BEFORE dusting?  That's just crazy talk.)  If you are slightly or massively OCD about cleaning like me (Ahem!  Honeybear!), you should check this site out.  If you just like to laugh at the crazy OCD people, you might also want to take a gander.  

We are still working on our Mushroom and Barley Soup leftovers, so no cooking tonight.  I did make these tasty guys though!

Spooky Halloween Cake Balls   

(source)  

1 box of your favorite cake mix (I picked chocolate)
1 container of frosting (I went with chocolate frosting as well)
2 pkgs. Wilbur's candy melts- 1 orange pkg, 1 black pkg.  (You can find these at a craft store)
  1. Bake cake according to package instructions
  2. While still warm, crumble cake into a large bowl.  Mix in entire container of frosting, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  3. Form 1 inch balls from the cake mixture.
  4. Melt candy melts in 2 microwave-safe bowls according to package instructions (Be careful not to microwave too long!  Candy will start getting hard again).
  5. Roll cake balls in melted candy to coat and place on baking sheet to harden.  
  6. Decorate with sprinkles, chocolate chips, drizzles of melted candy, or anything you like!


Cake balls are best shared with friends to prevent the consumption of an 
unhealthy amount of deliciousness. 


Oct 14, 2012

Peace Treaty...Or Not

RoomDog has done it.  He has out-maneuvered my tactical maneuver.  He must have planted some enemy spies behind our lines, because he somehow got wind of my plans to blindside him with a roommate meeting.  His plan?  Retreat!

A text from BearFace on Friday:  XXX is gone for the night!
Michelle: YESSS! Where could he possibly be going?
BearFace: Not sure.  Don't care.

Of course I was naturally curious where our roommate, who essentially never leaves his room, could be going, since he lives 7 hours away and has zero friends around here.  But my boyfriend is not one to ask questions.  I was even more curious when he failed to return last night, and still has not shown his face as of 6 pm today (Sunday).  My guesses are A) drove 7 hours back to NH for the weekend, which would be crazy and unlikely, B) lost somewhere in the cornfields, or C) found somewhere else to live (I'm really rooting for C).  Whichever it is, he has evaded the roommate meeting for another few days.

In other news, our "lazy weekend on the couch" turned out to be anything but, per usual.

BearFace is getting geared up for duck hunting season, which opens next weekend.  And which means we can't drive 2 feet down the road without him getting excited about anything flying.  This enthusiasm on his part either leads to me A) rolling my eyes sarcastically (Sorry, I just can't get excited about a darn Canada Goose), or B) my heart stopping when he screams"WOOD DUCK" while I am driving.

He spent the weekend scouting for ducks, camouflaging his kayak, and getting some of the necessary supplies for the BIG DAY!

This left me plenty of time for riding, and it was a beautiful weekend for it.  Kim and I did some ringwork on Saturday, and hit the trails on Sunday with Kelly and Murphy.


Decided to go Western today.  Chubbles looks cuter with a Western saddle.

I was hoping for a ride minus any bucking, but was not that lucky.  Chubbles immediately turned into a bucking bronco as soon as we started cantering after Sammy.  And then didn't stop until we walked again farther down the field. I was prepared this time, so I stayed on (that's right, I'm pretty badass) but it did not feel particularly pleasant.  It occurred to me that perhaps Chubbles was having a hissy fit, and  would prefer to be the leader, so the next time we cantered I led the way, and there was no bucking!  Apparently he is quite competitive, which I should have guessed from the fact that he does not get along with any other horses except for his mini horse friend Cashew, who is about the size of my dog.


Kim and Chance enjoyed watching the rodeo.

Other highlights of the weekend:

Saturday Night Date 

At Bull on the 19th, a local restaurant with a silly name and tasty food.  We shared an order of truffle fries, and each ordered a burger for dinner.  Normally I don't eat beef, but I was craving it this weekend.  I only made it through about 3/4 of my burger.  Our waitress, who was old enough to be my grandmother, harshly judged me for this.  Especially when I ordered dessert after.  


Waitress: Have you had our truffle fries before?
Me: No, but I've heard they're good.
Waitress: I hate them.  Can't stand the smell.  Enjoy!


             Pig and Bull Burger: Angus sirloin burger topped with cheddar cheese 
and pulled BBQ pork.  Talk about calories...

Judgmental waitstaff aside, everything was delicious, including the Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse I had for dessert.  Drew had to roll me back to the car, but I definitely left satisfied.  So, if you're ever in Salem County, you know where to eat.  Don't take this advice lightly...it took us 3 months to find this place.

Big Sunday Night Dinner

Mushroom-Barley Soup (It's finally cold enough to break out my cozy soup recipes!)
  
I originally made this recipe from a William-Sonoma cookbook, but I obviously can't find it soooo I had to improvise.

1 pound lean ground turkey 
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped 
2 cups sliced white mushrooms
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic (I use jarred pre-chopped garlic...much easier!)
Garlic salt
Parsley
Shredded cheese (your favorite kind)
Crusty bread for dipping

  1. Add chicken stock, carrots, barley, thyme, and salt to a large pot and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 40 minutes.
  2. While chicken stock is coming to a boil, brown turkey meat over medium heat in another pan, about 4 minutes. Add to chicken stock (meat will finish cooking here).
  3. Drain fat from pan, then heat 1 tbsp olive oil.  Saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms about 2 minutes or until onions are translucent.  Add to chicken stock.
  4. Continue to simmer chicken stock for the total of 40 minutes, or until barley is tender.   
  5. Shred your favorite cheese to top your bowl, and make crusty bread for dipping! 
For the dipping bread:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice your favorite crusty bread (I used Italian), place on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes (it should be slightly crusty on the outside but soft in the middle).
  3. Flip slices, then bake for about 3 minutes.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt (what else?) and parsley.
  5. Turn oven to broil until bread is golden brown (I know I always say this, but don't walk away from the oven!  I've burned my fair share of bread because I wasn't paying attention.  I know, it's blasphemy). 

Crunchy, cheesy, and garlicky.  What more could you ask for?


I love making soup because it is so easy...everything goes in the same pot, and you can put basically anything you want in it!  I have also made this recipe with beef stock and ground beef instead of the chicken and turkey, and it is equally delicious that way.  

And finally, Big Sunday News!!

Drew's brother Jim proposed to his girlfriend, Brooke!  Congratulations, you two!  Wishing you both the best!!

So to recap, this weekend included:
  • A missing RoomDog (How long should we wait before posting Lost Dog signs?)
  • Lots of our favorite fall activities (hunting and riding)
  • A thoroughly exhausted pup 
  • Several tasty meals, and too many calories to count
  • A FUTURE WEDDING!  
Not a whole lot of couch time, but it was great nonetheless.


I did so much running today Mom.  Did you see me?  I was so fast.

Thursday Throwback

I just didn't quite get around to writing a post on Thursday, but I do have a tasty recipe to share from dinner that night:

Spicy Shrimp and Grits

If you love grits, like me, you will love this recipe!  I'm not quite sure why I love grits so much.  They pretty much taste like nothing, but they are very versatile for that exact reason.  So many ways they can be cooked, just like polenta, yummm.

This dinner was easy and fun to make, and a nice break from our standard chicken and turkey meals.


I like dishes with lots of color in them!

Oct 9, 2012

The Proof is in the Pudding

Whenever I tell people that dear old RoomDog eats in the shower, I am met by expressions of shock, horror, and disbelief.  I suppose if someone told me that their roommate ate in the shower, I wouldn't believe them either.  Well, now I have proof.  There has been other evidence, but this I can share with you.


PROOF  

No, you are not imagining what you are seeing.  That is a granola bar wrapper.  On top of a soap bar.  In the shower.  1 point to RoomDog.

We are basically at a stalemate now.  Each team has won multiple small battles, but the outcome of the war has remained unclear.  UNTIL NOW!  RD made his final push to the front when he put a "clean" plate covered in mayonnaise in the dish rack.  I'm not sure why the mayo-plate was the last straw for me, but that just did it (Maybe because I hate mayonnaise?  It's so...white.  And creepy.)  This weekend I will win the war once and for all, and turn our passive-aggressive tactics into a full-on confrontation.  Not really.  But I do plan on having a roommate meeting.  Tune in next week for updates!

Today was yet another rainy, cloudy Tuesday of playing chicken with the weather.  It cleared up later in the morning, just in time for a trail ride!  Murphy and I met Kelly (the barn owner) around 11, and hit the trails with Chubbles and her new horse Sammy.  


Chubbles is ready to rock and roll!  Or eat some carrots. 


Murphy: Like I've told you before, I was born ready.

It was pretty chilly today, and Chubbles was apparently feeling pretty good with the weather change.  Normally he is quite lazy. Quite, quite lazy.  But not today.  Which is why I didn't see it coming.  During a trot around a soybean field, Chubbles decided he wanted to canter.  Which was fine with me, until he also decided to start bucking.  As I said, I didn't see it coming, and thus was completely unprepared to keep myself in the saddle.  In 2 seconds flat, I was on his neck, and then on the ground. Somehow I managed to hang on to his neck while falling, and swing myself around so I landed square on my feet facing him.  Rather acrobatic.  (Don't act like you're not impressed!)  Kelly didn't see it coming either, and continued cantering down the field, chatting away to me, until I yelled to her to come back.  She was quite surprised to see me standing there.  


Life lesson: Always get back on the horse! 
(Seriously, does this guy look like a bucker?!)

In a feat of incredible flexibility, I managed to clamber back on, and we continued on our merry way.  Chubbles attempted another buck while cantering farther down the trail, but this time I was prepared and stayed on.  I haven't been thrown off in a couple years, so I guess I was due for a fall!

Chores done, errands done, barn time done, exercise one crazy boxer, done.  On to dinner!  Drew and I have been craving some comfort food, so tonight I made:

Michelle's Secret Mac and Cheese Recipe 

I originally got this from a website a few years ago, but I've changed it so much it's basically my own version now.

1 box Medium Shells (I use whole wheat pasta)
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, sliced into 1-inch cubes
2 cups Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
2 cups Half and Half (I used 2% milk instead...a little healthier)
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp dried parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside.
  3. Melt 1/4 cup butter in saucepan over medium heat until sizzling.  Stir in flour and cook about 1 minute until creamy and smooth.  Stir in milk and cook for about 5 minutes until mixture thickens slightly.  
  4. Add cheddar and MJ cheese cubes and cook about 5 more minutes or until melted.  Stir in Romano cheese.
  5. Melt remaining 1 tbsp butter in microwave, about 10 seconds.  Stir in breadcrumbs and parsley.
  6. Pour cheese sauce over pasta.  Put mac and cheese in casserole dish, and top with breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn oven to Broil for about 3 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.  (Don't walk away from the oven!  They brown quickly).
  8. DEVOUR.  
Serve with a side salad so you don't feel like your arteries are going to explode.  


We may or may not have consumed the calorie requirement of a small town.  For dinner.
And I'm not ashamed. 


Oct 7, 2012

Autumn Cometh

It's true.  It's that season.  My favorite season of the year!  The crisp, fresh air, changing leaves, and fall yummies (apple cider, pumpkin desserts, and comforting soups and stews!).  I really didn't expect to be missing the whole season by being 4 hours south of Connecticut, but as the girls at work informed me, the leaves pretty much just turn brown and fall off the trees here in Alloway.  So so sad!  Well, I had to see at least one yellow or orange or red tree this fall, so Drew and I decided a trip to Connecticut was in order to cure us of our autumnal blues.

Friday

We got home late Friday night, after almost getting into a car accident on I-95.  Two SUV's in front of us smashed into each other, totaling one car and damaging the other.  Luckily no one was injured, and Drew is an excellent defensive driver and managed to steer us clear of the wreck (by about a foot!).  This was even luckier because we were bringing my parent's car back to Connecticut aaand that would not have been a fun phone call!

After a short chat with my parents and a rousing game of chase between Murphy and Ruby, I headed to bed.  But not before Murphy drank about a gallon of water, and then proceeded to wake me up 3 times during the night.  I thought he was just being annoying, so I waved him away.  False.  He had to pee.  Really, really bad.  I finally got up to let him out around 6:30, and he peed for about 5 minutes straight.  (I'm not exaggerating.  Rachel, Drew, and my parents can all attest to his marathon pee sessions.)  An hour later, after eating his breakfast, he peed for another 3 minutes.  And that was when I found the wet spot on the carpet.  OOPS!  I guess he that's what he was trying to tell me...

Saturday

The day started off with an early breakfast in West Hartford with MagSauce to wish her good luck on her new job in Boston!  It was a bittersweet breakfast...very happy for her and her new adventures, but I will certainly miss seeing her in Connecticut. (A trip to Boston will be in order in the near future, I think!)  

When I got home, my mom greeted me in the yard and explained that my special, special dog had been chasing the shadows of falling leaves for over an hour.  While Ruby looked on, simply bewildered.


It was a beautiful Fall day, best spent outdoors, so I convinced my parents to take the pups for a hike up Sleeping Giant (More like a leisurely stroll up the Tower Path.  They are not really the hiking type.)



View from the castle

There were a ton of people hiking there, which was a bit of an issue on the way down.  Ruby is not a huge fan of other dogs (besides her friend Murphy).  I think she's just not really sure what to do with them.  But either way, she wants to eat them.  At least, she looks like she wants to eat them.  Her intentions are unknown, since we haven't given her the chance to get close enough to actually eat one.  There was some lunging, some yelling, a bark or two, and some confusion from Murphy (who wondered why Ruby would want to do anything but play with other dogs.  Except Huskies because he thinks they are the devil.)  We all made it back down the mountain with our limbs intact, and no one suing us.  Credit to my parents, who are not natural animal whisperers but are doing an excellent job with Ruby!


Ruby takes a break from being a vicious dog-eater to check out an interesting scent with Murphy.

Later that evening, I headed to Simsbury to see my long-lost friend Sarah Towle!  We often go through cycles of seeing each other weekly, and then falling out of touch for up to 6 months, but we somehow always manage to bring it back together!  We had plans to meet some Drill Team friends in Hartford for our friend Megan's birthday.  


A mini Drill Team reunion

We went to Up or On the Rocks, which has an 18+ night, since Megan's sister is only 19.  Can you say SKETCHY!  Some of the dresses the girls were wearing would barely fit my pinky finger.  I saw things I never wanted to see.  (As in, body parts. Ew.)  And the guys were super creepy.  Let me put it this way, if you are an 18 year old girl, or 40 year old single man, this is the place for you!  It was great to see everyone, though, and we certainly had a good time laughing at the ridiculously-dressed people there.  

Sarah and I headed back to her apartment around 1 am, where I crashed on the couch and spent the night cuddling with this guy:


Shadow: You look like you had a long day, Michelle.  Let me massage your feet with my paws until you fall asleep.
Michelle: Why thank you, Shadow!  If only my boyfriend would do the same...


Sunday 

Sarah and I started out with breakfast at Dave's Place in Granby.  Probably some of the best homefries I've ever eaten!  After that I was off to Simsbury High School to meet my parents, aunt and uncle, and my grandfather to watch my cousin Dan play football.  He is 13, but if any of those kids tried to tackle me, I would still run for my life.  Some impressive football playing.

Always sad to leave, Drew and I headed back to New Jersey Sunday afternoon and made it back around dinner time.  Another busy but great weekend!  Plans for next weekend: a date with BearFace, my couch, TV, and maybe some Chinese food.  

I leave you with one more video...a throwback from the days when Sarah, Shadow, Murphy and I lived together!


Oct 4, 2012

Trash Night Adventure

Just a short post tonight...then settling in to watch a new episode of Parks and Rec!

My stomach has been rebelling against me for the past few days, most likely as a result of the consumption of one or two alcoholic beverages this weekend.  It's possible that the 4 chocolate chip cookies, 1 donut, 1 mini package of Cheez-its, and leftover guacamole and chips that I ate yesterday also contributed to the raging heartburn and stomach pain, but it's hard to be sure.  (So I had the munchies at work yesterday.  It happens to the best of us.)  

Anyway, I decided that something easy on the stomach was in order for dinner tonight.  And although it was 80 degrees and humid today, (Seriously, October??  I had high hopes for you.) I still felt like making something warm and comforting.  

Easy Weeknight Chicken Soup

2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 boxes chicken broth (64 oz.)
1/4 box whole wheat penne
1 cup baby carrots, sliced
1/2 cup celery, sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
Grape tomatoes, halved
Baby spinach, 2 handfuls
1 tbsp Oregano
1 tbsp Basil
Dash of salt and pepper
Garlic salt (for chicken)


  1. Combine chicken broth, pasta, carrots, celery, onions, and spices in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Boil for about 15 minutes, or until pasta and vegetables are tender.
  3. Season chicken pieces with garlic salt and pepper.
  4. Saute chicken in olive oil over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes.  Chicken should be browned but slightly undercooked.  
  5. Add tomatoes to chicken broth and continue to boil for 5 minutes, then turn to low heat.
  6. Add chicken and spinach to pot and stir until spinach is wilted.  Chicken should finish cooking in the broth.
  7. Top with some tasty shredded cheddar cheese! What else?? 

Tummy-healing goodness.  Plus cheese. 

Not bad for a quick weeknight soup!  I do have a top secret "homemade, from-scratch" chicken soup recipe that I developed in my tiny Hilltop Apartment kitchen, but that takes at least 2 hours to make, and will have to wait for another night!  (Just a quick caveat: check the sodium content of your chicken broth.  One thing I hate is super salty soup!  Add less, or no salt if needed.)  Also, watch out for the tomatoes.  They are little exploding bombs of hotness.  

Nothing else exciting here.  The biggest part of my night was taking the trash out.  Sounds pretty easy.  Well, not when your yard has been taken over by giant spiders.  And I mean seriously, seriously large spiders.  I am NOT a fan of them.  Or any spiders, no matter the size.  Our trash cans are behind the garage, which is not attached to the house.  And it was dark out.  THEY COULD SNEAK UP ON ME.  I almost took a web AND spider to the face the other day when I went in the garage.  The big bugger decided to make its home across the entire door way.  So. Gross.      

Things I needed to prepare for my trash excursion:
  • 1 lamp post light: ON
  • 1 front door light: ON
  • 2 garage lights: ON
  • 2 back deck lights: ON (Gotta make sure I won't be walking into any webs)
  • 1 mini LED lantern: ON
  • 1 medium-sized white boxer, preferably one that glows in the dark (For moral support)
Luckily I made it back without any spider encounters, and hopefully made RoomDog feel guilty for NEVER taking the trash out.  I'm not holding my breath on that one though...

We (BearFace, Murph, and I) are making the trek back to Connecticut for the weekend tomorrow night after work.  Must say, I'm pretty excited to see my parents and hopefully a few friends too.  That is, if Drew and I manage to survive 4 hours in an enclosed vehicle with a gassy boxer...


Can you guys crack a window?  It smells kinda funky back here.


Oct 2, 2012

The War Rages On

Let me start this off with some highlights from the Battle of Alloway:

Team RoomDog:
  • 1 point for smearing oatmeal all over the shower this morning
  • 1 point for leaving a bowl of tuna fish/water in the sink this morning, and stinking up the kitchen
Team BearFace:
  • 1 point to Michelle for using RD's blender and not washing it with soap!  (Just how RD would have wanted it!)   
  • 1 point to BF for leaving the sink full of dishes this evening, which left RD no choice but to wash his.  (We, of course, washed our's later.)
  • And finally, 1 point to Michelle for doing the dishes with hot water while RD was in the shower.
This sets the score at:

Team RD: 2 points
Team BF:  4 points

Tune in for more highlights later this week!

Although I was very busy today strategizing our next moves, I made sure to save some time for a relaxing trail ride with Chubbles and Murphy.  Lamont is out of commission for probably the next month, so I will be leasing Chubbles this month.  (A rather unfortunate name, if you ask me.)

Murphy was beyond excited to go on a trail ride, since the last one he went on was at least 3 months ago.  And trail riding is his favorite thing to do!


I literally could not be happier right now.


I could be.  I just wanted my breakfast...

I didn't realize poor Chubbles hadn't had breakfast yet, so I made sure to give him extra carrots with his grain before I left the barn! 

I had to make a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home so I could pick up the necessary ingredients for our Tuesday night feast.  Easier said than done.  If there was a Stop and Shop around, I could have been in and out in 15 minutes flat.  I pretty much know where every item is in Stop and Shop.  Not Acme.  Acme makes ZERO sense.  It took me 15 minutes and 2 Acme employees to find the pizza dough.  (Seriously??  Perhaps you should put it somewhere else, if even the employees can't find it!)  

Murphy spent the rest of the day doing this: 


2 hours at the barn is exhausting!

But some of us had things to do, so I spent the rest of the day cleaning and making dinner and dessert.

Tuesday night feast: my very own Guacamole Chicken Pizza creation!  This dish has several components, so I will break it down to make it simpler.

For the crust:

1 lb. refrigerated pizza dough
Flour
Pepperjack cheese, shredded
  1. Place a nonstick pan in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F.  (Leave pan in oven while it is preheating)
  2. Roll pizza dough into a 13 inch circle on a lightly floured surface (I suck at rolling out dough, so it was more of a rectangle!)
  3. Liberally poke holes in dough with fork.
  4. Transfer to pan and cover dough with shredded cheese.
  5. Bake in oven for 12 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is melted.
For the chicken:

2 chicken breasts
Cajun seasoning
Garlic salt
Black pepper
  1. Slice chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Season with Cajun seasoning, garlic salt, and black pepper.
  3. Saute in olive oil over medium heat, approximately 6 minutes.
For the guacamole:





4 ripe HAAS avocados
3 TBLS freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/2 freshly squeezed lime (optional)
10-16 shakes of Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
4-5 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded and small-diced
Fresh cilantro, as much as you like!!
  1. Cut avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl.
  2. Immediately add the lemon juice, (lime juice, if using), Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and toss well.
  3. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced.
  4. Add the tomatoes and mix well.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Add more lemon juice, if needed.  
My suggestion: Preheat oven.  Cook seasoned chicken.  While chicken is cooking, roll out dough and put it in the oven.  Set cooked chicken aside.  While dough is in the oven, make guacamole.  (This is some serious multi-tasking, so for amateur kitchen multi-taskers, feel free to complete each step one at a time). 

Once all the components have been made, spread guacamole on top of melted cheese on pizza dough.  Top with chicken and chopped cilantro and DEVOUR!  





Tuesday night dessert:  Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt




Tastes just like fall!  And pumpkin pie.  

Weekend in the Big Apple

By this point I've found that the key to surviving Alloway is to do exciting things on the weekend.  This weekend: a trip to NYC to visit the little bro, who I hadn't seen since the beginning of August.  Not that this is long for us, I think we went a few years in middle school/high school without speaking. But we're past that now!

Since late nights out are not really BearFace's thing (especially while in the police academy), he opted to stay home and have some male bonding time with Murphy.  He was nice enough to drop me off at the train station in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.  He was even nicer to come in with me and help me find my train.  Apparently it's not just airports that I am afraid of.  Any form of travel=anxiety.  (Might be time for some Xanax for travel! Just kidding...)

I arrived at Penn Station in NY around 5pm, where Joe met me and we walked back to his apartment. It was a good thing he met me, because there was no way I was going to figure out how to get there on my own.

We spent a little while hanging out at his new apartment, then headed out to dinner at Cinema Cafe.  They actually play movies from a projector on the back wall of the restaurant.  There is nowhere NEAR that cool in Alloway!  We were both feeling pretty seafoody, so we split an appetizer of fish tacos, and then ordered grilled fish for dinner.  I got the grilled Mahi Mahi, and Joe got the Ahi Tuna (Surprise, surprise.)  



Edamame house salad, sweet corn-hominy grits, and Mahi Mahi grilled with olive oil, lemon, and fresh herbs

I LOVE fish, and Drew won't let me cook it, sooo I was super pleased with this meal.  This was my first time trying Mahi Mahi, and the fish was cooked perfectly.

After we ate, we headed across the street to Pie Face for dessert.  What is Pie Face, you might ask?  Let me ask you this.  Do you like pie?  Do you like cupcakes?  If yes, then the thought of Pie Face should make you drool.  They make pies the size of cupcakes.  What's not to like?  NOM NOM NOM.  I chose a pear ricotta pie and an apple crumb pie.  So. Stinking. Good.   


Even the pies are happy to be eaten.  

We headed back to Joe's apartment to digest a little, and then headed out to the Trump Soho to meet up with Caitlin and Mike.  They were spending the weekend in NY at the hotel, courtesy of Mike's parents.  It was great to see some Connecticut friends!  Joe and I marveled at the ridiculously nice hotel room...complete with a bathroom TV, water closet phone, and video-chatting capabilities with the front desk.  (Of course, a bag of microwave popcorn from the minibar cost $9, but who's counting?) 

From there, we headed to Red Lion a few blocks away.  We had a blast rocking out to the live bands that played there all night.  The night was completed when our city-dwelling friend Mad Dawg came out to meet us!  I hadn't seen this crazy lady since New Year's Eve, so it really made the trip!  


A merry bunch.


 The infamous Mad Dawg makes an appearance! 
                                          
Caitlin, Mike, Joe and I decided it was pizza time around 2 am, and we left on an intense pizza-finding mission.  


Pizza must be found.

Unfortunately, the particular pizza place we were hunting was closed.  Apparently, the phrase "the city that never sleeps" does not apply to all pizza makers.  I suppose they need to rest up to make the most delicious slices possible.  Joe and I cabbed it back to his apartment at that point, but not before making a quick stop at the corner pizzeria.  (I mean, we couldn't go home empty-handed.)


Sweet, sweet BBQ chicken pizza success.  

Sunday morning was a bit slow to start after our big adventure (well, it was a big adventure for me at least) the night before, but we pulled it together for plans with Joe's girlfriend Chrissy, who I had not yet met.  We hopped on the subway and met up with her at Bistro Ten 18 for a spot of brunch!  Apparently brunch is the thing to do in the city.  (I freakin' love brunch.  I wish every meal was brunch.)  

$20 for a dish off the brunch menu, plus your choice of unlimited mimosas or bloody mary's.  NOT BAD!  I had the eggs benedict, and after some consideration, decided to have one mimosa.  Just one.  Well, that was a failure.  The waiter kept filling up my glass before I even finished, without even asking.  Sooo I might have had 3.  Or maybe 4.  I think I lost count after 4.  (I could get used to this whole brunch thing...)  Aside from the food/drinks, I had an awesome time chatting with Chrissy.  Hopefully she and Joe will be able to come visit BearFace and I! 


Mimosa # 3.  (I think?)

After a brief stroll around Central Park, Joe and I took the subway back to Penn Station so I could catch my 3:13 train, which was supposed to get in to Philly at 4:38.  Which actually got in to Philly at 6:00.  Why would a 3:13 train to Philly be an hour and twenty minutes late?  Well, that is because it got stuck about 30 minutes outside of Penn Station.  Just stopped dead.  In the middle of the rail.  Instant reactions of everyone on the train: WE ARE GOING TO DIE.  It always amazes me how easily people panic.  Not that I was the picture of calm myself, but I certainly wasn't jumping to assumptions of death!  The announcer finally informed us that the power on the line had died, so we were pretty much just sitting ducks.

That took about 30 minutes for them to figure out.  Then, another 20 minutes went by while they decided to transfer us to another train, which had to be meticulously lined up with our train so they could put down a bridge.  The conductor then made this announcement, "It is very important that you do not touch both trains at the same time, or you will most likely be electrocuted."  Ok, now would be an appropriate time to panic.      

Luckily, all passengers made it onto the other train without being electrocuted (at least I think they did...)  The transfer took approximately 30 minutes, thereby resulting in an arrival in Philadelphia 1:20 minutes late.  And lots of frustrated texts to Drew and Joe from me.  But frustration aside, it was an excellent weekend!