Thursday, January 23, 2014

Retiring the Old Gal

Nope, not me. I mean, I'm old. And feeling older by the day. But no, I'm sticking around for a while still. I'm sure you are all relieved.

We've officially retired our rocking chair. It might not seem like a big deal to many of you. But this sentimental mom is remembering the past 14 years of snuggles, middle-of-the-night feedings, spit up and more. All in this $100 Toys-R-Us clearance bargain I scored when I was expecting LadyBug. Who is now 14. Sigh. Four.Teen. Again, with the sigh. But it was long past time for a change. A quiet, smooth-riding change. This late 90's model has seen better days. Its contributions to the noise quotient in this house have exceeded Momma's limits.

I've mentioned before that I have purposed to cherish and use Mei Mei's naps and night time routines for all that they can be. But since Mei Mei's surgery, we've really been struggling with some hard night time issues. Sleep irregularities and deprivation have taken a toll on us all. She's taking MUCH longer to settle for both nap and night time. And that longer time has translated into raucous, grating, obnoxious squeaking and creaking from this old rocking chair. No amount of WD-40 has consistently worked. No tightening of bolts or screws has stood up against the steady rhythm of comfort that I have had to engage in twice a day for my girl. And the terrible noises have made me tense. Oh, so tense. Which, of course, has NOT contributed ummmm, positively, shall we say, to the process of soothing and gentling my girl to her rest. Rest that she desperately needs to feel in order to heal, both physically and emotionally.

So I bit the bullet and started shopping around a bit. True to form, the glider rockers that I really wanted to purchase were ridiculously, insanely crazy expensive. You know the ones that look like lovely recliners and "real" furniture for the family room? Yeah. Those are really gorgeous. But out of The Gang's budget by hundreds of dollars!

I wanted something that would do a great job playing its part in a quiet and peace-filled bed time routine but that also would fit seamlessly into the decor of the downstairs of the house when our rocking-Mei Mei-to-sleep-days are over (sigh, sob). I found a great deal on W@yF@ir, and scored a good price on a special sale day. A couple clicks and my new chair arrived on Monday.

In the process, I may have developed a teensy tiny addiction to their website. And to their giveaways. Maybe.


Mei Mei isn't too sure how she feels about it yet. She keeps patting it and saying "Soff, Soff," but she isn't totally embracing it yet. She kind of watches the cushion warily while I'm settling us in. But me? Heh. I might take my next nap there. It's quiet. And soft. And quiet. Oh. SO. Quiet.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Leftovers and the Frugal Re-do

I love to cook. I've shared tons of great recipes here that I've gleaned from friends, family, and other sources. You've shared some of your favorites with me. But one thing about cooking that I haven't tackled much here on the blog is the topic of leftovers. It seems to me that the word brings up a "love them" or "hate them response" among my friends. I'm in the "love them" camp. Because, really, as much as I love to cook, I don't love to do it from scratch every single night. Nor do I really have the time in our busy calendar to do so. To help keep things fresh and interesting, I have a couple ways I like to deal with leftovers.

One of the best things we do here at The Gang's house is our "Leftover Smorgasbord." It's exactly what it sounds like. I empty the fridge (and sometimes the freezer) of the smidges of this and the dribs and drabs of that. I put them all out on the counter and the gang lines up to pick a couple portions to fill their plates. It's kind of a "First come, first served" night and the slowpokes around here have learned that sometimes it's a good thing to live life at a slightly faster pace. Heh.

But the other thing I love about leftovers is a challenge of a complete re-do. I enjoy taking what I have, be it from the fridge, the freezer or some additions from the pantry to make a whole new meal that fills The Gang's bellies and makes them all sigh in satisfaction. This post is to walk you through the most recent, most successful re-do that I did this week.

I made a simple, but amazing pork roast a couple Sundays ago. Man, it was juicy, tender, and full of flavor. Literally ALL I did to prep it was lay it on a bed of thick cut onion chunks in a well-sprayed crock pot. Then I sprinkled the top with garlic powder and pepper. That's IT. This thing was HUGE, so while it was slow-cooking, I was already starting to dream up meals to make with the leftover meat. The pleasant surprise was that I also had at least 4 cups of thick, flavorful pork broth to use. I asked around on F@cebook and got some good ideas for using the broth. Here's what I settled on!

I started by thawing out the 4 c. of rich broth.

To that, I added 4 c. of water, a touch of salt and some olive oil.
(That's my new thing, olive oil in my rice water instead of butter.
Gotta get my healthy fats where I can!)

To the boiling broth & water, I added 2 c. white rice
and 2 c. brown rice. I let it simmer low and slow
until all the liquid was absorbed and the rice
was light and fluffy.
(Truthfully, I could have left it on a tad longer
as some of the brown rice was a little tough.)

Once the rice was up and running, I started a big bowl of these.
You don't HAVE to buy the fancy kind.
But that's how we roll in my kitchen!

As the rice cooked and my fancy veggies steamed,
I chopped the freshly thawed leftover pork.

It was really cold but my new Tigger mug
kept my fingers from suffering too much.

The awesome thing about this meal, which by now I think you might have guessed to be Pork Fried Rice, is that I prepped all the ingredients early in the morning while we watched Fox News and hung out in our jammies with our coffee and pancakes.
Later, when it was time to assemble the whole kit and kaboodle,
I made sure my griddles were well prepared with this.
I have found this little bottle to be my secret
weapon for AWESOME fried rice.

I forgot to get pics of the assembling,
as there was SO much going on in the kitchen
& immediate surrounding areas at that moment.

Shaggy decided to go from THIS

to THIS!
At the very same time that The Boss and I
were warming the meat on one griddle,
stir-frying the rice on another, and warming the veggies in the microwave.

When everything was sufficiently heated through and blended well 
on our huge griddle and Shaggy was all cleaned up from The Big Shaving,
 I made two wells in the rice and poured in 6 eggs that I'd scrambled lightly.

We let the eggs set up and didn't incorporate them into the rice
until they were almost cooked through.
The Boss gave the whole batch one more big toss around
and brought it to the table. Doesn't that look YUMMY?! 

Everyone had a ball trying the chopsticks that Shaggy
brought home from his trip to Cambodia.

By the end of the meal, both Li'l Empress
and Mei Mei were quite proficient.
But everyone decided that the Congo Bars for dessert
were best eaten with our fingers! YUM.

So, let's make this interactive! You leave a comment with your favorite or most recent leftover re-do. Or with a link to your own blog post like this, sharing a leftover re-do. I'll come by and visit. If you aren't a blogger, share this link on Facebook and tag me with your recipe. Let's share our creativity to help beat the winter dinner rut that so many of us battle. If nothing else, you'll have some fun new reading material for the big snow day that most of the East Coast is bound to have tomorrow.

Can't wait to hear from you all!