Celebrate with Fajitas and ‘Ritas

I’m dying for Mexican food right now, you guys. My hope is that Brian and I will be going out for tacos and stuff (mostly margaritas, but whatever) if he agrees to it, of course. Otherwise it might be blender ‘ritas and tacos at home for this girl. Either way, it’s fiesta time, my friends. And what good is a fiesta without food that leaves you ready for a siesta (I know. Bad joke. Don’t care)?

Brian: May the 5th be with you!
Me: Huh?
Brian: Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Me: Oh. Yeah. You too. Wait. We should get tacos and margaritas for dinner tonight.
Brian: …
Me: I mean, it’s the only logical thing to do.
Brian: I guess…
Me: Or we could skip the tacos and just get margaritas.
Brian: I’d rather have the tacos.
Me: Okay, we’ll compromise. You can get tacos, and I’ll get margaritas.
Posted by Quirky Chrissy on Tuesday, May 5, 2015

So, if you’re sitting at home thinking about restaurant-quality fajitas for dinner tonight, I’ve got the perfect recipe (although, maybe not quite a full recipe as I’m a big fan of throwing shit in a pan and hoping it turns out). Allow me to light the path to Cinco de Happiness. Taco night and fajita night are both really big deals in our house. Brian loves pico de gallo the way I love cheese. It’s a staple. So any meal that includes his favorite staple is a win in Brian’s book. And I just love stuff with lots of ingredients. So there’s that.

I’ll warn you now, that this recipe isn’t for those who want everything homemade from scratch. That’s a rare occurrence around here, what with our crazy busy schedules. This is designed to be easy. Feel free to substitute the cooking part of the chicken with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. I’m not saying we’ve never done that in order to save 30 minutes. (Spoiler alert – we do it all the time).

STORIES

Easy Fully Loaded Fajitas

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Bell Peppers – I use red, orange, or yellow, but you can rock any color combo you like
  • 1 Red Onion – feel free to use your favorite onion – I like red best
  • 3 Tbs Olive Oil – to cook veggies and chicken
  • 1 lb Chicken – you could do steak too, but I’ve always been partial to chicken fajitas
  • Fajita Seasoning – you can cheat and buy a packet from the grocery store or if you’re experimental, sprinkle in a teaspoon or so of each of these (Pro-tip: use the cayenne pepper to preferred heat):
    • Paprika
    • Cumin
    • Chili Powder
    • Onion Powder
    • Garlic Powder
    • Cayenne Pepper
    • Black Pepper
    • Salt
  • 8 Flour Tortillas – Brian prefers corn always, but I prefer flour for loaded fajitas because they hold together better
  • Guacamole – homemade recipe below
  • Pico de Gallo – we usually get ours from Trader Joe’s
  • Tomato Salsa – because sometimes you want more than just pico, amiright?
  • Trader Joe’s Corn Salsa – this stuff is fucking amazing
  • Sour Cream – I feel like it brings all the flavors together

Step 1: Slice peppers and onions into strips

Step 2: Saute peppers and onions in 1 Tbs of olive oil 

Step 3: Slice chicken into thin strips

Step 4: Saute chicken in 2 Tbs of olive oil

Step 5: Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, add the fajita seasoning

Step 6: Combine the veggies and chicken in one pan, allowing the seasoning to cover the chicken, peppers and onions

Step 7: Heat the tortillas in the microwave (wrap them in a damp paper towel and heat on high for 20-30 seconds)

Serve and enjoy.

I love guacamole. I love homemade guacamole even more. And when it all comes down to it, this easy recipe is DELICIOUS!

Homemade Guacamole

We’re big advocates for the simplest recipes. Guacamole is easy when you’ve got fresh avocados and a few key ingredients (lime and pico). I used to get all crafty and creative with the guac recipes, but then we tried this, and it was easy. And fucking magical.

  • 2 Avocados
  • 1 Lime (zest and juice) or 2 Packets True Lime
  • 1/4 Cup Pico de Gallo
  • Salt and Black Pepper to Taste

Step 1: Cut avocados in slices or cubes

Step 2: Mash avocados

Step 3: Add the other ingredients and mix well

BOOM.Fully Loaded Fajitas

What are some of your favorite go-to recipes for Cinco de Mayo? Have you tried making homemade guacamole? Will you be drinking margaritas with me tonight?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I’m Not Going to Lie…I Throw a Killer Party

So I know I promised months ago that I’d tell you about our housewarming party, but then LIFE happened…and the housewarming party came and went…and definitely got put on the back burner. But here it is in all it’s gaming glory.

I wanted to throw a game-themed party. And actually I wanted to get crazy into it with a different game theme in every room and people playing games everywhere. I had HUGE plans. I was going to set up a whole CLUE scenario. I was going to have little Jenga pieces for everyone to put house tips on. I was going to make cute little favors for everyone. But, as many of you already know…shit doesn’t happen the way we plan it. We closed on our house on October 15. We moved on October 25. And we threw the housewarming party on November 15. We’re lucky the house was clean and there was food to eat.

Throw an awesome housewarming party

Part of the quick turnaround was because I NEEDED to have an organized, put-together house in order to survive. I would have gone bonkers if we were living amidst boxes and bags that hadn’t been opened and organized. (There are still a few of those, but not many…and none of mine). Part of the quick turnaround was the timing. If it was around Christmastime, I would have had to have Christmas up and running perfectly…and then we were hosting Christmas dinner and it would have been a disaster of too many parties in quick succession. If it were after Christmastime…well let’s just say we’re still recovering and Christmas is still lingering in unseen areas of our home.

ANYWAYS. So we threw a party. Pretty quickly. And had about 65 people show up throughout the day (while expecting about 35-40!). We opened our house up to guests from noon until whenever (which ended up being around midnight), and ran ourselves ragged with tours and food replenishing and beverage duty. We had some wins and we had some fails, but all in all it was a total success.

While no one really played games, the theme was pretty evident throughout the house.

How to throw a game-themed housewarming party (without killing yourself or your partner)

Decor

Set up an AWESOME food display in an open area, where people can grab food, mill around and start one of the bazillion tours you’re about to give.If you don’t have a lot of decorations elsewhere, that’s okay (YOUR NEW HOUSE is the decoration that everyone’s dying to see). I was a caterer in another life, so the buffet set up can be super baller if you know how to use levels and fluff the hell out of tablecloths or fabric. (I use milk crates and similar containers to create my levels). Because I have so many Scrabble boards and pieces from my wanna-be-a-crafter box (and that one time I made Scrabble Christmas ornaments for everyone), I thought that using them on my buffet would be a hit! I labeled all the food with tiles (and even used the board to get all the ingredients for my Blue Cheese and Date Spread on Endive. I also pulled a few more game boards and pieces for good measure, adding just the right amount of nerdy gameyness.

Setting up buffet tables is one of my special skills. I used to be a catering manager so this sort of thing really tickles my jollies.

Setting up buffet tables is one of my special skills. I used to be a catering manager so this sort of thing really tickles my jollies.

dice and trvial pursuit

Food

Choose food that is SUPER easy to make and replenish. I’m a big fan of Crock Pot apps and snacks, so I went with BBQ weenies and buffalo chicken dip. I actually had another Crock Pot in the kitchen with more buffalo chicken dip for easy replenishment. My mom made several deli platters for sandwiches and it was cold enough that we could keep the reserves outside.Obviously there was a cheese platter. I like to to a lot of fan faves and choose one crazy concoction that I hope works out (that would be the blue cheese and date spread – which worked out). I made ALL of the food the night before, so the day of I could focus on the insanity of hiding all our crap in boxes and corners and shit.

BBQ weenies

Note the chess pieces, trivial pursuit cards and scrabble tiles for a mix of beloved classics

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Gratuitous cheese photo

Gratuitous cheese photo. Please note. I spelled cheese wring and am completely ashamed of myself. But don’t you love the risk board below?

Dessert

I REALLY wanted to make domino brownies. And I REALLY didn’t want to do a lot of baking. So I baked chocolate chip cookie bars and gluten-free brownies (both from mixes, homies) and picked up a giant brownie cake thing from Sam’s Club. I sliced the brownie in Domino-size pieces and dotted them with frosting. And it fucking worked.

Domino Brownies

I seriously thought these were going to be a huge Pinterest fail. And then they turned out alright.

mint chocolate chip cookie barsDrinks

We had wine galore. We had beer. We had the soda stream. We had two Keurigs. And we had some epic fails in forgetting to get bottled water and cans of pop. Not realizing just how many people would come, we thought that we’d be fine with soda stream and filtered water from the fridge… Go buy cans of pop and bottled water. Save yourself. Seriously.

Oh. And get these shots – which were a HUGE hit.

Twisted Shots Twisted ShotsPlaying HostessI discovered Twisted Shots while at BlogHer in San Jose last summer. They actually sent me a lovely little box of these delicious treats for my housewarming party! After 7, I figured it was time to get the party going (and most of the touring had ended), so I brought out the shots. I played server and convinced almost everyone to try a shot or two. With flavors like Sex on the Beach, Buttery Nipple and Porn Star, you know you’ve got a good thing going. Almost everyone was down with these sugary sweet twisted shots full of colorful booze that tasted mostly like candy. Even my whiskey-loving friends found a few shots that were right up their alleys.

Tours

Plan on basically spending the majority of the time touring and put someone else in charge of food and beverages once the party starts. Even if there are two of you, you’ll be switching off with the tours on a pretty serious cadence…and I think there were a few moments when we ran out of food. But I don’t know for sure because I was racing all over and mingling and busy and reveling and all of the things! (Yes, that sentence is supposed to give you anxiety.)

In the end, though, all you really want is for the people you love to come over and eat your food, drink your booze, and tell you that your house is pretty. And that’s what happened. I heard all sorts of positive things in regards to our first event in the new place (and then we hosted Second Thanksgiving…and then we hosted Christmas. So there was that.)

Blog friends, tell me about your party throwing experiences? What have you learned? What have you done well? What would you have done for a game-themed party?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Random Food Staples Always in our Kitchen

Normal people have a regular supply of certain foods always in stock. You know, things like mustard, ketchup, chicken breasts, American or cheddar cheese, pickles, Ritz crackers, olive oil…Sure we have some of these things in our fridge and pantry from time to time. Some of these normal foods even remain as staples in our home. But more often than not, my “must-have” food items are a little surprise quirky. I mean, you know we always have 5-10 different types of cheese hanging around in the cheese drawer. And for Brian, we ALWAYS have to have a back-up to the back-up of pico de gallo and tortilla chips. And the twelve different types of hot sauce…You can never have too much hot sauce. But these are some of my other favorite foodie treats.

Cheese drawer

This is the cheese drawer. Yes. I use cheese paper. It’s the best thing ever.

 

Arugula

Boring plain old lettuce is for chumps. Spinach? Chumps. I use arugula as a substitute for lettuce AND spinach. It’s flavorful. Green. Chock full of healthy. It’s amazing. I buy the Rocket Salad from Trader Joe’s, at $1.99 a bag, but you can find arugula in most grocery stores. TIP: If it starts to get wilty, cook it up in some  pasta or soup. You don’t need the perfect fresh arugula, and then you’re not wasting delicious $1.99/bag lettuce. At 0 Points Plus, it’s a great hearty side to any meal.

Pine nuts (Pignolias)

The nutty answer to almost everything. They’re a little lower in fat content that some other nuts, and you still get that nutty flavor that you’re looking for. Plus, a little goes a long way. Again, I buy mine from TJ’s.

Truffle Oil

I’ve used several different brands of truffle oil, and I like some of the more inexpensive oils better than the pricier options. I recommend taste testing some of the cheaper ones to start, just to see whether you’re a fan of the truffle aroma, or not…this one’s an acquired taste, a lot like me. So you’ll either love it or hate it.

Now go mix all three of the previously mentioned items together for an amazing salad of JOY. If you’re doing Weight Watchers, this little salad is 3 Points Plus for 2 cups of arugula, 1/2 oz pine nuts and 1 tsp truffle oil. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper and you’re ready to go… Just saying. And if you’re not on weight watchers, add parmesan cheese. Oh hell, even if you are…it’s worth the extra points.

Tarragon

Tarragon

I have a friend who gets me spices for Christmas every year. She’s got a sweet hookup and we’re Polish…so we like deals. I think this conversation pretty much speaks for itself. She actually gave me saffron one year and dared me to make something with it. I threw it in one of my “throw shit in a pan and hope it works out” recipes. It worked.

Speaking of which…that leads me to…

Smoked paprika

Forget regular paprika. This smoky sister to the standard spice brings out ALL the FLAVORS. So much delicious in EVERYTHING. Yumm-o. I use it on meat a lot (chicken, pork, lamb, beef – makes no difference to me). And in my chili. And sometimes on  veggies.

There are definitely more random food items, but I figured I’d start you off small. If you haven’t tried these beautiful creations, go forth and get the fuck on it. Because they’ll make you happy.

Hot sauce

This is a portion of our hot sauce/hot peppers. We also have a variety of salsas and pico de gallo. We don’t fuck around with spicy.

What are some of the strange things you always have in your fridge/cabinets? Are any of my choices on your list? What’s your favorite herb or spice?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Meet the McSmoky Triple Cheese Burger – My McDonald’s Create Your Taste

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take my pal Cletus over to a McDonald’s near-ish me in Downers Grove. We used to live in Downers Grove, so this was near and dear to me. They closed the McDonald’s that I knew and loved, and opened a new one a mile down the road. And this new McD’s was special.

KioskThe first of its kind in Illinois, the Create Your Taste menu offers a build-your-own burger feature. When Cletus and I walked into the McD’s we were greeted by one of the many helpful team members, who showed us how to operate the order menu screen.

Building my own sammy in DG at @Mcdonalds #MyPerfectSandwich ##McDPtr

A video posted by Quirky Chrissy (@quirkychrissy) on

With so many menu options to choose from, I could make whatever burger I wanted.

And I wanted all the cheese.

The menu boasts three different cheese options including a pepper jack, white cheddar and the traditional American.

Now, I’m not a big fan of American cheese in a lot of circumstances, but there are some food stuffs that are classic and nostalgic and exactly what  I want…and a cheese burger with American cheese is one of them.

Cheese

Of course, I clicked the buttons for all three cheeses on my burger.

How many burger patties? I only need one. I’ve already got cheese, cheese, and cheese.

What type of bun? I want the artisan roll – it’s the most like the original bun.

Add Bacon

Add bacon for a small charge? Yep. Definitely.

What sauce did I want? Oh, I’m thinkin’ the sweet barbeque (which is actually sweet and smoky).

What extras? Let’s go with pickles, lettuce and red onion for the win.

Fries? Oh heck yes.

When it was Cletus’ turn to order, he opted for a specialty build, instead of his own creation.

Build Your BurgerThe Hot All Over had pepper jack cheese and jalapenos, and was an obvious win for Cletus, though he was disappointed that he couldn’t find pineapple on the menu.

Specialty BurgersWhen a team member delivered our food a little less than 10 minutes later, he was SUPER helpful, offering to bring me extra BBQ sauce and ketchup. The fries were OMG served in the CUTEST little fry baskets, making this a serious happy lunch hour for this girl.

Fry basketI may have already eaten half the fries by the time I remembered to take the picture. Don’t hate.

McSmokyAnd of course, the piece de resistance. The McSmoky Triple Cheese Burger. The cheeses melted together in a magical cheesy burger land. The smoky BBQ added a rich flavor and the rest of the ingredients were exactly what I wanted on my burger. Thanks McDonald’s! This was delish.

Create your taste

The giveaway has ended, but I’m still curious…

What burger toppings would you put on your dream burger (and while pineapple is not currently on the menu at McD’s, you’re free to suggest it as a dream burger topping for your sammy Cletus’ orders)?

This post was created in partnership with McDonald’s. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Holiday Leftover Breakfast Pizza – It Sounds Gross, But Even Brian Liked It

Okay, so after Thanksgiving, my girlfriend Brookie Banosnapper Snapchatted me with her fancy “Turkey and hollandaise with poached eggs on flatbread” and “I’m making all the soup from Thanksgiving leftovers” I’m-cooler-than-you-videos.

In typical lady fashion, I had to one-up her.

I also had to use some of the Thanksgiving leftovers that I had in order to make room in my fridge for Second Thanksgiving food prep and such. It was a Saturday morning. I was bored. I was hungry. And I thought…what the hell? Let’s get experimental and crazy up in here.

So I did this. And OMG even Brian was down with it.

Holiday leftovers breakfast pizza

If you have Snapchat, why aren’t we friends yet?

The beauty of this breakfast treat is that it’s totally relevant after whatever holiday feast you’ve got going for you. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Easter. Random fancy-pants Sunday dinner if you do that sort of thing.

Holiday Leftover Breakfast Pizza Recipe

Holiday leftover breakfast pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 can of crescent rolls
  • 1 cup turkey
  • 1 cup ham
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups cheese (or more) (I used brie on half and Vella Dry Monterey Jack on half)
  • 3 Eggs

Method

  1. Roll out crescent rolls in a circular shape on a round pan (I used my pizza stone, but you can use non-stick pans or whatever you prefer, really)
  2. Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on the type of pan you used (longer for stoneware) and your preferred crustiness
  3. Slice or shred cheese (I sliced the brie and shredded the Jack)
  4. Dice ham and turkey (if you don’t have a cup of each, don’t worry about it…I’m really bad at that whole measuring thing)
  5. Add the meat to a non-stick frying pan (or a regular frying pan with your spray, butter, or oil of choice)
  6. Cook for a minute
  7. Crack the eggs over the meat and scramble in the pan (I prefer this method to pre-scrambling, but you can do it your scrambled way and it’ll work just fine)
  8. Set the scrambled eggs aside
  9. Remove the crescent crust from the oven and spread with cranberry sauce (I knew Brian wouldn’t want the cranberry, so I only used that on half the pizza)
  10. Evenly distribute the scrambled eggs on the cranberry sauce or crust
  11. Top with cheese (I used brie over the cranberry side and the Jack on the non-cran side)
  12. Return the pan to the oven to melt cheese (keep it on bake if you’re using stoneware, broil otherwise)
  13. Remove when cheese is melted
  14. Slice and enjoy

Brian was surprisingly impressed with my Thanksgiving leftovers breakfast pizza concept (and thankful that I didn’t include the cranberry sauce on his half). I had two slices for breakfast and two slices for lunch, while Brian ate 4 slices for brunch – he doesn’t wake up in time to eat breakfast with the laypeople. He also added a little sriracha hot sauce to his slices, and that was pretty damn tasty too.

What weirdo creations have you concocted with leftovers? Tell me your leftover war stories – the good, the bad and the ugly. Any kitchen successes that probably should have been fails or vice versa?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

“Friendsgiving” is Stupid. We’ve Been Calling it Second Thanksgiving For Almost a Decade. And We Were There First. #StreamTeam

Thanksgiving is for giving thanks. Not giving friends.

Sheesh.

So I’ve mentioned Second Thanksgiving in the past when I told you about the hematoma on my butt. But I’ve been hearing the term, “friendsgiving,” a lot lately in regards to people throwing these “festive affairs” with cheap wine and instant mashed potatoes. Even the Netflix Stream Team is celebrating a discussion of “friendsgiving.” And people have started calling our 9-year tradition “friendsgiving.”

And I hate that.

friendsgiving is stupid

I hate it because that’s not what it is. It isn’t some hipster tradition that we just started doing in 2012 because we saw our favorite characters on TV celebrate Thanksgiving together as friends for years, but decided it needed a new name because Thanksgiving wasn’t good enough. The only place you can even find a definition of “friendsgiving” is on Urban Dictionary, which basically describes it as a subpar event where friends gather together the day before or the day after Thanksgiving to enjoy either leftovers or boxed wine and cheap dishes.

Did Jess and Schmidt re-name their Thanksgivings “friendsgiving?” No. (Okay, Schmidt may have decided on “bangsgiving” this year, but he’s dirty and ridiculous and it’s not REALLY a thing.)

Did Rory and Loralei head to “friendsgiving” with their people? No.

Did Ted and Marshall call it “friendsgiving?” Nope. (Fine, they had “slapsgiving.” Which was wicked and funny and not trying to MAKE A THING happen).

Go ahead! Celebrate the big Turkey Day with friends. Enjoy it. Watch a few Thanksgiving episodes of your favorite shows. Watch football.

I’ve heard people hosting and attending these “friendsgiving” dinners as early as the beginning of November. I’m sorry, what? That’s called a dinner party. If you’re going to host a Thanksgiving to celebrate with the family that you chose, instead of the family that you’re born into (or stuck with), do it the week of Thanksgiving. Or ON Thanksgiving. Last year, I attended 5 Thankgiving feasts. Five. And not one of them was called, “friendsgiving.” Because it’s stupid. We had work Thanksgiving, Pre-Thanksgiving, two family Thanksgivings and Second Thanksgiving. At all of these events, there was turkey. Ham. Homemade potatoes. Real vegetable dishes. Pie. Nothing was re-purposed leftovers. We made fresh, delicious food for each other. And celebrated a thankful day.

Second Thanksgiving may be a way to enjoy a turkey dinner with the family that you choose, but it’s not a cheap substitute for the real deal. It’s an equal. It’s powerful. No one’s fighting over what time to bring the turkey out. Dirty Uncle Jack isn’t flirting with your girlfriend. Crazy Cousin Maria isn’t drunk and picking fights. Grandma isn’t yelling at the little ones to sit down. It’s just friends. Drinking good wine, expensive beer, liquor-filled jello shots, and eating the best food that each attendee can prepare. We typically host it on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so we can even watch football as per Thanksgiving tradition.

My college friends and I started Second Thanksgiving after a discussion of our crazy (albeit lovable) families on the holidays. Nine years ago at my best friend’s apartment (the same best friend who’s car I stole a few years ago), back when I used to throw parties at other people’s homes. The first year was a potluck of epic proportions, but the second year became a full turkey dinner because I wasn’t going to have a real Thanksgiving with my family (one day, I’ll tell you about that). And I wanted a real Thanksgiving.

This is a picture of everyone who attended the second annual Second Thanksgiving in my best friend's one-bedroom apartment. While he was in Australia.

This is a picture of everyone who attended the second annual Second Thanksgiving in my best friend’s one-bedroom apartment. While he was in Australia.

For nine years, I’ve hoped to one day host out of my kitchen. This year is the first year that I can host Second Thanksgiving in my own home. All my Clark Griswold dreams are coming true.

So tell me, Blog Friends, do you have a Thanksgiving with your friends? Do you call it “friendsgiving?” If you don’t, what do you call it? Would you have a Thanksgiving with friends?

This post is brought to you by the fine people at Netflix. As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, I was given a free year of Netflix along with some other sweet perks. Prior to joining the Stream Team, I had a Netflix subscription of my own accord. Because Netflix is awesome. And no one paid me to say that. 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Under Pressure

I’ve always been afraid of pressure cookers. Okay, I’ve been afraid of pressure cookers since I discovered their existence when Brian and I first moved into our apartment two years ago. He had one and tried to get me to use it. I laughed it off…in fear.

A few months later around St. Patrick’s Day, I used his mom’s, under the supervision of his mom and uncle to make a bacon roast thing (basically, bacon in hunk form). I made Brian deal with the pressure release.

About a month ago, we got this fancy pants Cuisinart electric pressure cooker. I was pretty excited about it, because it seemed much less scary than a traditional pressure cooker…but not as excited as Brian. Which is weird since he doesn’t cook anything besides frozen dinners, frozen pizza, cans of soup and grill food.

Except that the pressure cooker can create all his favorite things in half the time. So he went into this venture ready to tackle a new device. Me? I was planning on throwing stuff in the pot and hoping it turned out.

So we each gave it a go.

While I was sick a few weeks back, Brian prepared a tasty meal as I watched on with amusement…and my camera.

image

He made a pork roast with parsnips, tri-colored carrots, potatoes and onions, which he seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and fresh thyme.

image

As he was cooking, he showed me how to operate the machine (you know, since he had read up on it and read through the directions and such.)  It was surprisingly easier than I expected.
1. Select mode from low pressure, high pressure, brown, saute, simmer, and keep warm.
2. Add food. And water.
3. Close and seal lid (unless you’re browning – then you can keep it open)
4. Set the timer and press start.
5. Release pressure/steam (Brian did the quick release by turning the pressure knob dealie, and I did the slow release by not doing anything.)
6. Remove lid.

That’s seriously all.

So his pork (which he cooked on high pressure for 20 minutes) turned out pretty well, though I suspect we added too much water (we used a cup of water & opened it up to find a little more than 4 cups of liquid). The flavors were nice and it cooked wicked fast. To be honest, we probably over cooked it too, out of fear of under cooking. The browning feature was awesome as we browned it right in the pot without needing another pan.

So when it was my turn to try it out, I was ready. But not really at all. We still haven’t moved into the new house, but I thought I’d cook there one night with the pressure cooker.

I stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up the ingredients for pot roast and made sure I wouldn’t have to cut anything. I literally threw it all in the cooker (after browning the pot roast) and went on with my day. I cooked at low pressure for 30 minutes, and I think I over cooked this one. I guess I can’t fault Brian, huh? I also used less water and still ended up with about 3 cups of liquid, so there’s that.

image

Is it as easy to get right as I hoped it would be? Not really…BUT this is a girl who failed on slow cooker usage waaaay more (to the point of inedible). So, we’ll keep trying until we perect it, and once we have this system DOWN, I’ll be back with an update. Because the cook timing of this contraption is exactly what we need for home-cooked meals in our busy commuter schedules. Plus it’s WAY less scary than the other kind of pressure cooker.

Have you used a pressure cooker? Would you? Do you love roasts as much as my Irish boyfriend?

This is not a sponsored post. I was supplied with a Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker in order to review it and give my honest opinion, but I was not financially compensated.

I did use affiliate links in this post, so if you make a purchase, I might get a bitty commission.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Weight Loss Wednesday: Healthy Eating Habits Should Start Early

Quick intro/disclaimer of awesome: I’m working with the NRA (That’s National RESTAURANT Association) and Triberr to talk about healthy eating, especially with kiddos, through the Kids LiveWell Program. Everything I say, I do believe, but for the record, the NRA has sponsored this campaign post. 

Okay, so I’ve been Dietbetting with Joules and Kari and a whole lot of YOU this last week and a half. In addition to the Pocketful of Quirky Grace DietBet, I’m also participating in the Transformer DietBet-a six month commitment to lose 10% of Chrissy. And my real goal? More than 10%. Because I used to be healthier. And I want to be healthier again.

So far, I’ve lost 4.5 lbs. I’m weighing in weekly, instead of daily or multiple times a week. This is best for my weight loss, so that I don’t see the regular ups and downs of a typical week. If my weigh-in shows that I gained a pound this week, I’m still down by 3.5 and if I lose more…well YAY! I’ll be keeping you posted on Wednesdays from now on.

These days, I have some pretty healthy habits. I love vegetables. I love lean proteins. (Okay and cheese). I don’t eat a lot of pasta or breads…but I have a tendency to overdo it on the snacks. And the sweets. Those are my kryptonite.

But I didn’t always have healthy habits.

One of the things I forever think about is my chubby childhood. I was never the tiniest girl in school, not by a long shot. I ate a lot of McDonald’s. In fact, I could eat more McDonald’s as a kid than I could eat right now. I can remember my grandfather taking us to Mickey D’s and ordering a value meal because a Happy Meal just wasn’t filling enough. And you bet your bottom I super sized it. And ate every bite.

Sure, I wasn't fat...but I was one of the biggest kids in my class. That's tough on a little kid.

Sure, I wasn’t fat…but I was one of the biggest kids in my class. That’s tough on a little kid.

From the age of 8, I was always on the go, whether we were heading to or from cheer practice to this event to that party, I had a pretty busy life. So fast food was definitely a thing for us. But it wasn’t just fast food chains…my family ate out…a lot. Not because my parents couldn’t cook or didn’t want to (they were/are excellent cooks), but because going out was a family thing that we did. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way. That’s where my brother and I gained our passion for fine dining. Our love of delicious food. Our tact and class when it comes to behaving in a restaurant.

What I would have changed-would have LOVED to change-would be the choices that were available for me. At 9-years-old I was a connoisseur of chicken fingers and honey mustard sauce.  I ordered chicken fingers every. where. we went. And the honey mustard sauce was a big deal. I’d eat it by the bowlful. Because that was what the restaurants had. Chicken fingers. Cheeseburgers. Mac and cheese. French fries.

kids_livewell

With the Kids LiveWell Program, sponsored by the National Restaurant Association, restaurants across the country are offering healthy and delicious options for kids (and adults too!) You remember my amazing breakfast sandwich from Denny’s right? They’re working to make healthy choices for kiddies so that they can start building those healthy eating habits right from the start.

This Saturday, at the NRA Show in Chicago, bloggers will be meeting the restaurateurs and chefs behind the new and exciting healthy kids meals. Will you follow along with me on social media with the #KidsLiveWell?

Follow Kids LiveWell on social media (Twitter and Facebook) for updated news, information and more! You can also find out if your favorite restaurant is a participating Kids LiveWell restaurant and start making healthy choices for you AND your family!

Do you wish they had healthier choices when you were a kid? Do you have kids and try to make healthy choices for them when dining out? What do you think of KidsLiveWell?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Chrissy and the Hot Dog Factory

I seriously had the best day ever. So I’m not sure if you remember that one time I walked head first into a pole because I was busy excitedly Skyping my co-workers? (If you haven’t read that, you probably should. Because it’s a prelude to this tale. Plus it’s funny. I’ll wait.)

Okay, fine. If you didn’t read it, long story short: I got on a 3-year waitlist for the Vienna Beef factory tour.

So fast forward to January when the company e-mails me to say, “Oh hey, by the way…you can’t come in September of 2016 because we’re moving to the Southside. So why don’t you come in April instead?”

Less than a year wait for something that people wait an entire lifetime (the lifetime of toddler, but a lifetime nonetheless) for?! Hell. Yes.

A brief look at the Chicago hot dog dynasty from the eyes of me

I grew up in a mom-and-pop Chicago suburb pub. My parents owned a bar from before my birth until shortly after my 25th birthday. My father prided himself on the highest quality Chicago-style hot dog and beef sandwiches. And they were the best. Because he used Vienna beef. I learned early on that the only hot dog is a Vienna beef hot dog.

The Vienna Beef Factory Tour

I knew it would be just like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…only with the Willy Wonka of Meat Candy instead. And I would end the tour with a lifetime’s supply of hot dogs. (As it turned out, it was again a lifetime supply for a toddler, but a lifetime nonetheless. Okay fine it was a hot dog and fries, but the best hot dog and fries ever…with RED cream soda).

We were greeted at the back office by Danny, our Willy Wonka for the day.

Willy Wonka Welcome

He handed us hard hats and coats…hair nets and beard nets (I was not given a beard net for the 17 hairs on my chin).

Vienna Important Person - Vienna Beef Factory Tour

From the get-go, Danny seemed to know everything and anything about the factory. As we walked through the place, he greeted every. single. person. by name.

 

He told us that he had been working there since he was 16 and that it was most definitely a family operation. He explained that they tried as often as possible to hire friends and family members of employees, though they did of course have an application process for others, as well. I asked if he had family working their, and he gave us a knowing grin. I obviously assumed he had a parent or aunt/uncle who worked on the assembly line or in the offices.  As he said, “Pressing on,” I imagined he was wearing a purple coat and brown hat instead of the Vienna Beef jacket and hard hat. I was calling him Willy in my head, instead of Danny.

Willy Wonka Tour

Prior to attending this most-exciting event, I was told that it was a crazy idea. I was told I’d never want to eat a hot dog again. I was told about pink slime. But I was confident that these 100% beef hot dogs were made from the purest of cows.

As we made our way through the tour, we learned of their incredibly clean factory practices, including our required handwashing as we entered the factory (even though we didn’t touch anything), feet washing as we progressed from raw to prepared food, and the daily quality assurance taste test.

Willy Wonka Taste Test

At the end of the packaging process, once items are sealed, but before they’re boxed, there’s a metal detector to make sure that not even a single speck of metal from the machinery made it into the meat. It really felt like we were with Willy Wonka when we saw the conveyor belt slide open and drop a package of hot dogs into a bin after passing through the metal detector. Apparently that was a bad egg.

Bad Egg

 

Of course, we learned a lot about the process, too. The factory is pretty cold because obviously there’s the meat to think about. They also add ice to keep meat at the right temp-which is where the added water content comes from in the product ingredients. The strip off the external fat (which could have bacteria and stuff you don’t want in your hot dog or beef sandwich) from the meat that comes in, and dye it green right away so that it doesn’t end up in your food.

They make different meat products on different days, based on the demand and seasonality of certain products. Everything is designed to have complete uniformity, right down to the fat content. We got to check out the gigantic smoker with the hickory chips that they use in the smoking process just as the hot dogs were being removed. It smelled like heaven. Legitimately. During the daily taste-testing, employees taste products to ensure quality and maintain that uniformity. When we joined the tasting team, they asked us how we were enjoying ourselves, and of course, I looked at this guy and told him, “THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE.”

I think he thought I was joking. But I wasn’t. Mostly.

We got to check out the gigantic smoker with the hickory chips that they use in the smoking process. It smelled like heaven. Legitimately.

And the tour ended with a free hot dog, fries and a drink from the Vienna Beef Factory Cafe.

Vienna Beef Hot dog and fries

It was magical and wonderful, and I’ll never eat a hot dog that isn’t from Vienna Beef again.

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I May Not Have Won a Bloggie, but I did Win a Dance Off and That’s Good Enough for Me.

So, y’all remember how I’m an elite Yelper, right? The other night, I attended a sweet Elite event at my favorite breakfast restaurant, which happens to conveniently live across the street from me…for 17 more days.

At this delightful event, we were served mimosas, crepes and French toast…in our pajamas. And you know how I feel about breakfast. I love me a pajama jammy jam if there ever was one, and any opportunity to wear my sparkle camo slippers in public is a big win.

There are sequins on them, I swear. Also, don’t judge my Polish cankles.

Anyways, so I found out at about 7 that the Bloggies went and lied, saying they were tweeting the winners on March 31, but really they did it on the 30th. Whatevs. I was over it with three swigs of my mimosa. (I was honored to be nominated for THREE flippin’ categories, and it makes my heart happy that y’all supported me in this endeavor. So thank you!)

But THEN the Yelpy community manager, Candice was all, “Hey there’s a dance off!”

And I was all, “Pants on dance off, right? No public pants off dance offs, right?” Because sometimes you have to confirm that shit.

My pal, V, was chanting like “Do it! Do it! Do it!”

And I’m thinking to myself, Fuck. I’m not wearing a bra…

And then I thought…But I have mad dance skillz. 

OBVIOUSLY, I danced anyway…

And tied for first place. It was a great honor for sure, because my dance moves were rocking (not). I did the running man, the twist, the Chrissy (basically bounce around like a fool until someone tells you to sit down before you hurt yourself) and many more. And I looked like an ass. But people think I’m funny…or they feel sorry for me and I got a gift card to go back and get me some corned beef hash bennies (it’s the best corned beef hash ever. Even better than my own corned beef hash recipe!) *drool*

And here’s a video created by one of my favorite Yelpvendors Andres D., photographer/videographer extraordinaire!

Have you ever participated in or won a dance off? What did you win? Would you do it? What would you dooooo for a Klondike bar (or an ice cream sandwich cake)?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!