Dinner tonight – Vietnamese noodle bowl

I took Brett to his first Vietnamese restaurant in 2003, and he was hooked. Our favorite menu item is “bun” which is a noodle bowl, nothing involving a bun. This seems fairly straightforward – some kind of grilled meat or tofu on rice noodles, but the magic is in the sauce. Sweet, tangy, spicy.

A few years ago, I was able to track down a good recipe from an unexpected source. Emeril Lagasse – BAM – apparently makes a lot of Vietnamese food. So I’ve been making his sauce for years with a couple alterations. This link is to his sauce on the Food Network, here’s my version:

Nuoc Cham Sauce

  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 c. rice vinegar (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 1/4 c. fish sauce
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/4 c. shredded carrot

Combine all ingredients in a glass container and mix until sugar is dissolved.

The noodle bowls are good with meat, but I usually just do tofu because it’s a great blank canvas for the yumminess of the sauce. I get vermicelli noodles from the Asian foods section (also where you can find the fish sauce).

I topped the cooked noodles with some stir-fried tofu, cilantro and green onions, and plenty of the magic sauce. For Hannah, I just mixed some noodles with shredded carrots and topped with tofu. She ate half the tofu and liked playing with the noodles, then we gave her the leftover cheeseburger from lunch.

This is fun to do for a “homemade take-out” night or just something to mix up the menu plan.  And it was a great, light dinner after stuffing myself with a double cheeseburger and french fries for lunch.

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Oven cleaning semi-fail

My oven glass has been bugging me for a while. Especially since Hannah loves to turn the light on and check out what I’m baking. We could barely even see what was in there!

I tried every cleaning product I own – I even used Bon Ami. This resulted in a minuscule amount of improvement. Then I found a blog post on this specific topic – Cleaning Oven Glass. I decided it was worth a shot.

Before

With the baking soda paste on

After 15 minutes, it looked pretty much just like before; I forgot to take a picture. Barely noticeable difference. Fail.

Then Brett took pity on me and wanted to show off his manly scrubbing skills, so he volunteered to give it some more elbow grease. The baking soda paste may have loosened up some of the grime, but I think it was the extra intense scrubbing that made real headway.

Much better! Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of baked-on brown-ness. Any tips on getting this truly clean?

Dinner tonight – Chili dogs

It’s a winter picnic. Chili dogs, potato salad and brussels sprouts (like winter coleslaw?). We had our favorite Hebrew National hot dogs covered in vegetarian chili. For the potato salad, I did “baked” potatoes in the microwave, let them cool, peeled and sliced them, then tossed them with mayo (we get the olive oil kind), sour cream, green onions and some spices.

The chili is an easy way to stretch a pack of hot dogs. When one hot dog may not usually fill you up, one hot dog (on a wheat bun) under a mound of chili will probably do the trick.

Vegetarian Chili

  • 2 c. pinto beans (or one can)
  • 2 c. black beans (or one can)
  • half a jar of salsa
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. cumin
  • 1 14 oz. can tomato sauce

Everything goes in the Crock Pot for several hours. The end. Super easy. Healthy, too, except I put some nacho cheese on the top. I did get Newman’s Own “All Natural” nacho cheese, but sorry, Paul, that stuff is not exactly health food. (by the way, “all natural” is an unregulated marketing term that can basically be slapped on any product, including ones with high fructose corn syrup, but that’s a post for another time)

For the brussels sprouts I tried this recipe entitled The Very Best Brussels Sprouts Ever. How could I not try it with a title like that? It was really easy and seriously good. I don’t know if they’re the best; I think they’re tied with roasting. The recipe says 4-5 hours on low, but they were done after 2 1/2 and got a little mushy, so if you try it (and you should!) cut the cooking time way down.

And that was dinner!

New additions/editions

I love books. Duh. I have an English degree.

I don’t really like to read books unless I can finish them in one day. So I don’t start unless I know I have enough time to completely devour it. Some big ones take me longer; it took me five days to get through the four Twilight books.

With great excitement, I have added these new volumes to my collection in the past few weeks.

Some were Christmas and birthday presents; one is for Brett. I recently discovered that numerous books from our childhood favorite author Gladys Malvern were republished in 2011 after being out of print for decades. My mom got several for my sister and me, and we’ll read them then exchange.

I’ve been keeping a book wish list for a while, so I decided to use some of my Christmas money to get some. (side note: I don’t buy books that are available at the library, that’s a waste) Two of these books were published within the last two months, so I purchased them new, my only option. I was able to find used copies online of the rest of them, using Amazon and half.com. Buying used, I was able to save at least $3 on each book.

Buying used is the “greener” option as well as the cheaper option. And I had a nice surprise when looking at the list of my used book sellers. All were Goodwill operations from various parts of the country. So I was being green, saving money and supporting a non-profit that supplies valuable job opportunities. Cool how that worked out.

Yes, we have a Half Price Books store, but I’ve found that’s only a good resource when I’m randomly browsing for a general topic. When I go to look for a specific book, they rarely have what I’m wanting. And browsing just doesn’t work with a two-year-old, anyway, so online was the way to go in this case.

Anyway, now I’ve got a lot on my reading list. Four down so far. Hannah loves the preschool devotions book. Can’t wait to tackle the rest. Maybe I should give myself a couple days to catch up on housekeeping, though.

Things that disappear

It seems like we have a black hole in our house. Several categories in particular have a high rate of disappearance.

Hannah’s socks – I’m constantly buying more because I can never find any. I can ransack the house and find ONE of each pair but rarely a matching set. Most days, Hannah is not wearing matching socks. Then eventually they’re gone altogether. They’re not disappearing in the wash because I have a washable zipper bag that I put them in. Where are they going?

Cat toys – Of course she bats them around the house and they slide under furniture and in weird places. But, in our old apartment, we noticed two particular hedgehog toys missing, and we always said, “We’ll find them when we move.” Then we moved, and we never found them.

Plastic-ware lids – It’s just the lids disappearing, not the containers. Somehow I ended up with six of a particular size and only two lids that fit. This doesn’t work well for me.

My sister is coming soon to help me organize and de-clutter. Maybe some of the renegade items will turn up as we go through stuff. I want to track them down, because semi-useful things make me feel wasteful. Despite my best search efforts, I keep buying more socks even though there must be perfectly wearable socks somewhere in my house. And I don’t want to buy new plastic-ware just because 70% of the lids have disappeared. But they lose a lot of their usefulness when there’s no lid. “Here, Brett, I packed you some spaghetti for lunch, but be sure to hold it upright and cover the top with your hand.”

Maybe I have Borrowers! But that’s a strange assortment of items for them to be taking.

Miss America misses the mark

I love watching the Miss America pageant. I look at the pictures ahead of time and pick who I think will win, and I have correctly named three of the last five winners. Brett won this year (oooops, I just outed him for watching with me).

I love the glamor of the evening gowns, the ridiculously high heels and the anticipation that someone will say something truly dreadful in the interview round (please click on that, please please please). Anyway, it’s decent Saturday night entertainment.

But the messages I noticed this year were not so entertaining. In a pre-taped interview, Miss California said, “The job of Miss America is to be sexy and inspire young girls.” Seriously? Please keep Miss California away from my kid.

Then one of the co-hosts said on stage, “These women will go on to become successful in the most important careers – lawyers, doctors, maybe president! They will really make a difference in our future.” That’s nice, but guess what, there isn’t going to be much of a future unless some of these ladies become mothers.

Oh wait, that’s not cool. That’s not glamorous.

I know the Miss America pageant has been criticized in the past for supposedly sending the message to girls that beauty is all that matters. I’d like to complain that the current message seems to be that career success (preferably in a high-profile job with a big paycheck) is all that matters.

This isn’t a new message, and maybe it doesn’t matter because I forecast that more of those women on stage will become mothers than doctors, but it would just be nice to hear someone say on TV, “These women will really make a difference in the world – they’ll become doctors, teachers and moms!

 

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