Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Week of Girlie Milestones

Hannah started shaving her legs ...

Olivia designed and sewed a skirt (check out the Michael Jordan tongue move!)

without a pattern, but with lots of help from Nana. (Thanks Nana!)

And Miranda? Spent some time here

getting one of these ...

Yep, we've got 'em all over the map!

Photos: Razor, Piercing

Oven-Fried Chimichangas

Gotta confess something.  I'm not a huge fan of mexican food.  At least not the way it's most often served in American Mexican restaurants.  I like Fresh-Mex just fine (and I adore fish tacos), but the swimming in soupy cheese with globs of beans floating around? No Thanks!

I'm also not a huge fan of deep fried anything.  So when Jason asked for chimichangas tonight, I was like, "um... uh... okay... if you really want it... I guess."  But I did a little googling and found this recipe, which didn't look too awful.

Oven-Fried Chimichangas


  • 2/3 cup picante sauce or 2/3 cup your favorite salsa
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken (we boil ours & shred it)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions, chopped with some tops (about 1/4 cup)
  • 6 (8 inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons margarine, melted
  • shredded cheddar cheese, for serving
  • chopped green onion, for serving
  • picante sauce, for serving


1.  Mix chicken, picante sauce or salsa, cumin, oregano, cheese and onions.

2.  Place about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla.

3.  Fold opposite sides over filling.

4.  Roll up from bottom and place seam-side down on a baking sheet.

5.  Brush with melted margarine.

6.  Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes or until golden.

7.  Garnish with additional cheese and green onion and serve salsa on the side.

Yeah, would have been better with some salsa on the side (we didn't have enough for inside and out). But we served ours with Mexican Rice (from a box... tough week!) and refried beans (minus the soupy cheese)


Chef Tanya - Pretty good (for Mexican).

Olivia - Chimichanga was kinda good, but not my favoritist meal. (this is where Hannah normally interjects "Favoritist is not a word!") Don't like Mexican Rice. Refried beans, not good. They make me poot.

Hannah - Oooh, I love the rice! For me, the rice is a 5 stars. Not a big fan of the beans. The Chimichanga, I didn't really like either.

Jason - I thought it was a great! A little dry. Salsa on the side would have been good.

Meal Plan (Aug 1-5)

First, an apology. We've been a bit AWOL this week. Sorry!

I would have told you earlier that we were going on vacation, but then I'd have to endure a lecture from the kids about how we shouldn't write anything online about being out of town. And let's face it, with five of us crammed into a Prius for an eight hour drive down to Florida the last thing I needed was a lecture from the kids!

We had a blast visiting Nana and Papa. We met our new(ish) cousin William. What a cutie!

We made some really cool bracelets ...

(Want one? Leave me a message with an order and Miranda will get our little sweatshop working! Seriously, she's already taken 8 orders.)

We also visited the Wild Music exhibit and the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History (so cool!) and an Urgent Care Clinic for a wicked case of poison oak (mine - very not cool! I won't gross you out with the photos).

8 hours down, 4 days visiting, 2 hours in the mall shopping for school clothes (whew!), 1 hour in a tattoo parlor (priceless!), 8 hours back, and 10 prednisones later .... and we're finally back in 'Bama gearing up for a week of work and school registration.

We're keeping the Meal Plan pretty simple:

Sunday - Oven-Fried Chicken Chimichangas

Monday - Warm Chicken with Green Beans and Chard

TuesdayVeggie Lasagna from the freezer

Wednesday – "Olivia's World of Food: Kenya" – Ugali (Cornmeal porridge – national dish) and vegetable Curry

Thursday - Bunny's Farmstand Tacos

What's cooking in your house this week?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Triumph in the Toilet

With a title like that you'd assume we have little ones at home who are potty training. Thankfully, that's not the case!

Nope. Our challenge began with a piece of paper (and not toilet paper).

Our water & sewer bill came last week and it was a drop-on-the-floor-WTF-kinda water bill.

Now, we're used to high water bills. Afterall, there are five of us in the house so that's a lot of



Plus, we live in a county with very high sewer rates.

But, seriously?!? A $286.13 bill?!? See what I mean about WTF?

Yeah. It's like a car payment. But. for. water!

So we had the waterman come by with his waterman tools and waterman magic and he declared that indeed, the meter was read properly. But that spinning red arrow? It meant there's a leak somewhere in the house.

Uh. Oh.

And not just a regular uh. oh. But a "I told ya so UH OH!"

The toilet in our master bath has been a little noisy ever since we moved in. What started as a little trickly sound had recently become more of a swooshing (okay, maybe gushing). But we've been so busy with work and cooking and blogging and other more fun home improvement projects that we let this one must-do become a will-do then a should-do and finally a "what? You hear a water rushing sound? hmmmm, I don't hear it"

What we now hear, to paraphase the little man from Texas, is a great big sucking sound. And it's dollar bills flowing through the leaky flapper in our loo.

So, seeing as

1. We have more month than money right now

2. We believe strongly that you should know how to fix things around the house

3. I'm the resident plumber (Jason does electrical. I'd much rather be doused in icky water than electrocuted!)

I got to work this afternoon. Thought I'd share the steps in hopes of convincing you that this really isn't a tough project. It just takes a little elbow grease.

Step 1: This is going to take 1-2 hours, depending on your level of skill and how many trips you have to take to Home Depot, so put on a little music or the radio (All Things Considered for me) and find a trusty sidekick to keep you company.

Step 2: Assess your innards. See our innards?

(ooh, yuck! water is icky from rust and lime build up, there're white crystals caking the flapper and the handle lever. just gross! We're replacing the whole thing with a QuietFill Complete Kit)

Step 3: Shut off your water supply. Flush the toilet to (pretty much) empty the tank. A little water will remain, so make sure you have a bucket handy to catch the spillage in the next few steps.

Step 4: Disconnect the water supply line under the tank.

Step 5: Remove the old refill tube (the thing that's attached to the floating balloon in the picture). There's a mounting nut on the bottom of the toilet. Unscrew it and the refill tube will lift right out.

Step 6: Unbolt the tank from the bowl by removing the nuts (underneath the tank), washers and bolts.

(don't judge the ugly wallpaper or the wood toilet seat. we haven't gotten around to renovating the bathroom yet. saving the ugliest for last.)

Step 7: Remove the old flush valve and flapper (the part on the right that has the flapper thingy that moves up and down when you flush to let the water out). Okay, admission. This was the absolute hardest part of the project because the toilet is probably 33 years old and the metal mounting nut had corroded and was stuck on the shaft. See my frustrated face:

Seriously, removing this joker took about 25 minutes of my trying lots of different tools and then finally calling the resident electrician in to use his brut strength. Actually, he showed up armed with two vice grips, a wire cutter, and a drill (??). Not sure what his Plan B or C were, but thankfully strategically placed vice grips and a little muscle did the trick.

Step 8: Install the new flush valve as show in your directions. (yeah, you gotta read your own directions ... but hey, it's not rocket science!)

Step 9: Bolt the tank back to the bowl according to the directions on your replacement kit.

Step 10: Adjust the height of the flush valve (yep. you guessed it. read your directions to find out the particulars)

Step 11: Install the new fill valve. Important: hand tighten the mounting nut. DO NOT use a wrench or vice grips to do this or you run the risk of overtightening the nut and possibly breaking it.

Step 12: Adjust the fill valve height.

Step 13: Attach the refill tube and flapper chain (do not allow much slack in the chain).

Step 14: Reconnect the water supply line (oh dang!! the 'flanged metal tubing" won't fit. make an emergency run to Home Depot to buy Vinyl or Stainless Steel Braided Connector -- those things rock and make it so easy!)

Step 15: Turn on the water supply and pray it doesn't leak!

So, did I convince you it's a doable DIY job? Still a little nervous? Check out this video.

A human being: an ingenious assembly of portable plumbing.
Christopher Morley

I mean, just because you're a musician doesn't mean all your ideas are about music. So every once in a while I get an idea about plumbing, I get an idea about city government, and they come the way they come.
Jerry Garcia

Modern cynics and skeptics... see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.
John F. Kennedy

My singing voice is somewhere between a drunken apology and a plumbing problem.
Colin Firth

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.
John W. Gardner

Photo Credits: dirty dish, laundry, water faucet

Quotes: BrainyQuote

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lasagna Stack-up with Chicken Sausage

This dish from SheKnows is billed as "a unique way to serve lasagna noodles", super quick and easy. That's enough to sell me! (especially on days I guest host Morning Edition and have to be to work at 4:30 a.m.) So we gave it a try this week. Our modifications are noted.


  • 6 lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup dried tomato halves (not oil packed), coarsely chopped (**we ignored this and used oil packed sun dried tomatoes since that's what we had)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound fully cooked chicken sausage links, cut in half and then into large pieces (**we only had one apple chicken sausage link, so worked with that. Probably only 1/4 a pound, which ended up be waaaay too little!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 5-ounce bag baby spinach
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan to garnish


1. Prepare the lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and set aside. (** we didn't reserve water since we used oily 'maters)
Put the chopped sundried tomatoes and the garlic into a bowl and add the reserved cooking liquid.

2. Place the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and then add the sausage. Cook the sausage, turning frequently, until heated through and then stir in the garlic mixture and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add the spinach and a few pinches of salt and pepper, stir to combine and then remove the pan form the heat.

4. Layer the lasagna noodles and the sausage mixture into a stack and then garnish with some shaved Parmesan. Serve immediately.

DUH! Shoulda known one link of sausage wouldn't be enough for our carnivores! Still, Jason and I liked the meal.

The kids?!? Well, I'll let their plates speak for them.

Yeah. Not exactly fans.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ethiopian Spiced Honey Bread

It's been FOREVER since Olivia cooked our Ethiopian dinner. And honestly, at this point, I don't remember why we haven't blogged about it. Maybe it was a tornado. Or illness. Or a conference. Who knows.

But what I do know is that the Honey Spiced Bread she and Jason baked was too good to not share! So, here goes:

Find It:

  • One 1/4-ounce packet of active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 4-5 cups flour

Make It:

1. In a small bowl, stir together yeast and warm water. Set for about 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, beat together egg, honey, spices and salt until smooth. Stir in the milk and melted butter.

3. Stir in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing to form a soft, smooth dough. Do not add all of the flour if the dough gets too stiff. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky.

4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes.

(Love that Daddy & Daughter shot!)

5. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place...

until it doubles in size (about 1.5 hours)

6. Remove the dough again to a lightly floured work surface and punch down the dough and knead for an additional minute. Form the dough into a round and place on an oiled baking sheet and allow to rise another 30-45 minutes.

7. Shape dough into desired form. We love braids!

7. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place bread on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until bread is lightly browned and sounds hollow when you tap it.

8. Remove and cool somewhat before slicing (or risk burning your tongue, like we did!)

9. Take photo BEFORE you eat it!

(recipe from

Monday, July 18, 2011

Apple Jelly Grilled Pork

You know how Facebook is. You log on and who knows what you're going to find.

(Okay, you know that one "friend" will always have a rant about politics. But other than that, who knows?!)

So, today I log on and find a link to a story about a new doll that teaches little girls how to breast feed. (um, yeah, not sure 'bout that one!)

One comment leads to another and my friend Sarah offers ...

"For some reason I feel like this is a good time to mention that at the present moment, the only things in my freezer (other than a bag of broccoli in the door) are ice, vodka, and frozen breast milk. White Russians? Can you come up with something from those ingredients on your blog, Tanya? Like one of those chef shows?!"

Um, yeah - I got nothin' for ya Sarah.

But we did do a little experimenting of our own tonight. We're trying to clean through some random stuff in the fridge, including a nearly full jar of apple jelly that the kids refuse to touch.

Introducing Apple Jelly Grilled Pork


  • Pork Tenderloin
  • 1/2 jar apple jelly
  • 3-4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp red pepper (flakes or ground)


Marinade pork in the jelly overnight. About 30 minutes before grilling, take out of fridge, add soy sauce and red pepper. Grill at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until internal temp is 150 degrees.

We served ours with cherries, steamed broccoli, and grilled red peppers and onions.


Jason - 3.5 out of 5 star - It was fair. I mean, the meal as a whole was pretty good. I don't think I'd go out and buy jelly just to use it this way, but it was a good use of something we needed to get rid of. It was fine.

Tanya - What he said.

Hannah - 4 out of 5 stars - It was good. I didn't really like the outside of the pork because it was really, really sweet. And I loved the broccoli for once! To make it better I ate a lot of broccoli with a lot of butter.

Olivia - 4.5 out of 5 stars - Well, the pork tenderloin was really sweet, but it was really good. You know how I love steamed broccoli. I think it's like the best vegetable in the whole wide world. The cherries were good too, except I don't like how cherries have pits, but I can't avoid that.

Hannah points out you can avoid pits if you order a Shirley Temple. (smart girl!)

Sarah, maybe you'd want to consider a Cherry Chocolate Milk Royal (just with regular milk, no?!)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Around the World: Japan

They call it The Beautiful Game, and today is was beautiful, exhilarating and ultimately excruciating as the U.S. Women's Team lost to Japan in a World Cup Finals penalty kick shoot out.

Not that any of us really need to relive the rise and fall, but if you missed it, here're the highlights.

I watched the finals as a former soccer player (probably the shortest high school goal keeper ever!). Jason watched it as a former youth soccer league coach and the sport's newest Uber Fan.

In the middle of the game today (before the crushing loss) he declared that soccer is now his favorite sport. This, from a former college wrestler, triathlete, competitive weightlifter and high school cross country runner. This from a guy who can wipe the floor with anyone who challenges him in sports trivia, whether it's basketball, sombo or golf. (BTW, have to throw out some love to Darren Clarke. At 42, he won his first major today - the British Open (as we Americans call it) or the Open Championships (as the Brits - and Jason - call it).

But back to soccer. Jason loves it. And he loves the women's game even more than the men's. Now, I'd be inclined to think that's because he likes looking at Hope Solo

And who wouldn't?!? She's gorgeous! (stick with brunette, Hope.)

But Jason swears his love of women's soccer is because ...

1) it's much more unpredictable than the men's game, where precision passing and Beckham-bending seem a given


2) it flows better than just about any other sport. While baseball, football and basketball can be choppy, soccer is fast and fluid. And the women's game even more so because they don't rely as much on the "art of the flop" to draw a foul. Those men can be so damn dramatic!

But the women. Solo, Wambach (Go Gators!), Rapinoe and crew. They are poetry, even when they don't win.

So, licking our wounds tonight, we made an Around The World Dinner to honor the World Cup Champions...

Olivia was the head chef/team captain. I was her sous/goal keeper. And, as a team, we made Pork and Vegetable Soup and California Roll Sushi.

Pork and Vegetable Soup Ingredients

Notice that big, honking, white thing in the front? (and who wouldn't?!?)

Any clue what it is?

If you answered Parsnip, no dice.

Daikon? You win!

Here's the full ingredient list, from a recipe in this cookbook:

  • 2 oz gobo (optional)
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 black konnyaku
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 7 oz pork belly, cut into thin strips
  • 4 oz daikon, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium potato, thinly sliced
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 3.5 cups kombu and bonito stock or instant dashi
  • 1 tbsp sake or dry white win
  • 3 tbsp red or white miso paste
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • seven-spice flavouring

I know what you're saying. Gobo? Konnyaku? Kombu Stock? What the hell are those?!?

Me too. And while googling cleared it up (here and here and here) it didn't address my lack of

time to go to the asian market across town


money to buy exotic ingredients I won't use again any time soon

So, we made some Substitutions:

1. Pork loin for pork belly (not sure what cut is the "Belly", but the term just grosses me out!)

2. White mushrooms for the shiitake (I know.... shiitakes taste much different and they're not that exotic. But remember the $$? I had white 'shrooms in the fridge already)

and Subtractions:

Skipped the gobo (it's optional, afterall), konnyaku, kombu and miso paste and replaced them with store-bought Miso Soup.

Directions (modified from original):

1. Heat oil in a deep sauce pot and quickly stir-fry the pork. Add the mushrooms, daikon, carrots, and potato and stir-fry an additional minute. Pour in the stock and the sake or wine.

2. Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.

3. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a sprinkle of scallions and seven-spice flavouring. (We only had 3 of the 7 spices on hand. Ya work with what ya got!)

California Roll Ingredients (modified from here):

  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds (DANG! We didn't have these either. And we usually do!)
  • 4 crab sticks (The fake stuff. You can find it in the grocery store, near the seafood section)
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1/4 of a ripe avocado
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 toasted nori sheets (that's the seaweed your roll 'em in)
  • 1.5 cups prepared sushi rice
  • soy sauce, wasabi paste, pickled ginger (all optional) for serving with


1. Juice the lemon

2. Ignore the messy counter!

3. Toast the sesame seeds without oil in a small pan on low heat until golden brown, stirring occasionally so they don't burn. Remove from pan and let cool

4. Dry off crab sticks and cut then lengthwise in half.

5. Wash and dry cucumber, then cut (with peel) in 1/4 inch thick slice.

6. Peel the avocado, cut into strips, and immediately sprinkle with lemon juice so it won't turn brown.

7. Cover a sushi rolling mat (or if you're like us and can't find yours, a countertop) with plastic wrap. Place nori sheet smooth side down. Wet your fingers, then spread half of the sushi rice on the nori sheet, leaving a margin on the upper and lower sides of the sheet.

8. Lay a strip of crab, cucumber and avocado on the bottom of the nori sheet, then roll.

9. Repeat with additional nori sheets and ingredients.

10. Once your strips are rolled, cut them into 8 individual pieces, serve with soy sauce, wasabi paste and/or pickled ginger, and enjoy!

We sure did! Miranda stuffed three piece of sushi in her mouth on her way out the door to hang with friends. Olivia loved the sushi, but thought the soup was too spicy (she kinda overdid it on the 7-Spice flavoring. It's very spicy, even with only 3 spices!). Hannah didn't like the sushi (the thought of eating seaweed freaks her out), but loved the soup. And Jason and I agreed, it was a great meal. A beautiful one, if you will.

Speaking of... did you know that the Beautiful Game inspired an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical?

Or music from English smooth jazz group Acoustic Alchemy?

Me neither!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kitchen Inspiration

I am totally wiped out. Totally!

Many of you know I work in public radio. Well, today was the first day of our Summer Fund Drive -- also known as the semi-annual beg-a-thon.

We had just two days to raise $25,000. And you know what?!? We did it .. in .. one .. day!

A marathon day that started at 5 a.m. for several of my colleagues (6 a.m. for me) and ended 14 hours later.

Needless to say, I'm not cooking tonight! Well, I might broil a hotdog for the kids and warm up some leftover fund drive tacos for Jason and I. But no real cooking.

Instead, I'm gonna sit on my tush with a cold beer and look at kitchen porn.

Like this, from one of my favorite before & after sites Design Sponge...

And this...

(might want to jack my cabinets, thusly)

And this...

(and no, I wouldn't be the least bit worried about the open shelving. We took the doors off most of our cabinets about a year ago and love it.)

Ooooh, and this...

Oh my god, I so love that kitchen. I would totally love any of director Nancy Meyers movie houses. She's just genius!

And finally, this...

(Okay, it's not a kitchen. But it's flippin' fabulous!)

Photo Credits: Doberman, Marathon.