27 April 2010

Spinach Cheese Dip

From Taste of Home: Simple & Delicious; May 2010

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
16 ounces salsa
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach , thawed and squeezed dry
2 c. shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided
Tortilla chips

1. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, salsa, spinach, and 1 cup of the cheese blend. Spread into an ungreased 9-inch pie place. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

2. Bake, uncovered, at 350º for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. Serve with tortilla chips.

I used fat-free cream cheese and a "lite" Mexican blend from Trader Joe's. I also used baked tortilla chips. I found that I only needed about 15 minutes, but that could be because of the "lite" shredded cheese.

26 April 2010

My Camden Adventure

Friday morning, I found out that Brook had given birth (and in the interest of not rehashing THAT drama, I'll just leave it at that). After I talked to Brook, we decided that I'd go to hospital to see her and Jamie on Saturday. I reserved a car for the evening (the only time I could), looked up directions (which were easy - the interstate to the state route, a right turn, and boom!), and set out.

Well, I made it to the state route, but I never found my right turn. When I turned around (I'm currently GPS-less - half of my GPS is in Missouri with my mom; don't ask), things were going well until the road forked and I ended up back on the interstate to Philly instead of on the state route to Camden (which is where said hospital is). Since I had no interest in paying the toll to go back to Philly only to have to turn around to come back to NJ, I chose a random exit (knowing Camden geography VAGUELY from having dated a Camden-ite years ago) and hoped for the best. After going through the heart of Camden (for non-locals, this is NOT a city you want to be going through at all, let alone at dusk, especially when lost), I finally run into the state route I wanted, and just chose to go right (cause, you know, it's RIGHT!). And I ran into a landmark that I knew was wrong. But at least I knew I needed to turn around and NOT take the wrong direction on the fork this time.

But this time, when I went to turn around, I ended up at a stop light at the jug-handle (this may make sense only to people who have travelled in NJ), and I got the attention of the woman next to me. I asked her if she knew how to get to XYZ Hospital. She said, "Yeah, it's a bit of a detour, but just follow me! We'll got down ABC street. C'mon - light's green. Let's go!" Um. Okay!

Here's the thing about assumptions. See, when she said, "It's a bit of a detour," I thought she meant, she'd be going out of her a way a bit to show me how to get there. But instead, here's what actually happened: She starts driving me through all of the back roads and residential neighbourhoods. And I start thinking "Oh my God, I am SO going to be on the news. And when they find my body, my mom is going to wonder why the hell her daughter was in this neighbourhood in the heart of Camden." But she was actually dropping off her resumé at a woman's house, and THEN taking me to hospital. And she didn't just bring me back to the turn-off for hospital - she actually drove me directly to the front door! I offered to take her card or email address so I could contact her later so I could thank her, but she wouldn't hear of it. So, I sent up several prayers last night thanking God for sending this Good Samaritan my way.

(Btw, it took me 85 minutes to get there. Going home? Eighteen minutes flat.)

But, every freaking minute was worth it. Because I got my very good friend Brook (who I could not be prouder of), Joe (who was trying to tell me as a fall back they could nickname the baby after a Survivor contestant from this season), new big brother Alex, and the newest addition to the family, Jamie. And, despite my reluctance, Brook even talked me into holding the wee lad.

And, just for good measure, here's a pic of Alex, doing his best Two-Face impersonation while holding a light sabre (don't rush out and get your eyes checked; it's invisible).

25 April 2010

Orzo Cheesecake Fruit Salad

From: Taste of Home, Simple and Delicious: May 2010

1 c uncooked orzo pasta
1 3.4-oz instance cheesecake or vanilla pudding mix
1/3 c sour cream
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 large banana, sliced
2 t lemon juice
1 11-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
2 c mini marshmallows
1 c chopped pecans, toasted
1 c canned sliced peaches, drained and chopped
1/2 c maraschino cherries, drained and quartered
1 8-ounce carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 cup flaked coconut, toasted

1. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside.

2. In a BIG-ASS bowl, combine pudding mix, sour cream, and pineapple. Toss bananas with lemon juice; stir into pudding mixture.

3. Stir in oranges, marshmallows, pecans, peaches, cherries, and orzo. Fold in whipped topping. Sprinkle with coconut.

4. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or until chilled.

Yield: 16 servings

My modifications: I nixed the pecans, marshmallows, and cherries. I added one more banana (and therefore, one more teaspoon of lemon juice). I used all "no sugar added" fruits and fat-free, sugar-free whipped topping. I used the vanilla pudding mix, rather than the cheesecake mix.

Keep in mind that I didn't use several of the ingredients, AND I used a 3-quart mixing bowl. And my fruit salad still filled my bowl to the brim. You have been warned.

Also... it's SOOOO good. OMG - I can't stop eating it.

19 April 2010

Best April Fool's Joke EVER

If you've ever asked me for a book recommendation or heard me talk about books and haven't heard me babble endlessly about how Brad Meltzer is the BEST. AUTHOR. EVER. (well, other than the fact that he didn't write my favourite book, but it's hardly his fault he didn't write "Charlotte's Web"), you should probably consider yourself lucky.

I mean, really. I've subjected many a person to watching this YouTube video that he put together from a string of bad reviews he received. The cast of characters? The Little League team he coaches, his grandmother, and her fellow nursing home residents.

When I first emailed him (yeah, FIRST emailed him - as in I've emailed him a few times since then. Actually, I kind of marvel that he hasn't marked me as a stalker...), he actually emailed me back. And it wasn't a form email thanking me for buying his book. I used to receive hand addressed invitations to his book readings. Last week, I received an invitation to his local book reading and I was both psyched and saddened to see that the address was computer printed. Psyched because I'm guessing he's now so popular that individually hand-writing them is just no longer feasible, but saddened because... well, that was just cool. Now, did I imagine Mr. Meltzer himself writing them out? No, but it was still hella cool.

So - if you ever ask me for a book recommendation, just know that I'm going to recommend Brad Meltzer. If you say you don't like legal thrillers, I'm going to tell you that his books might involve suspense and the law, but they aren't REALLY legal thrillers, per se (yeah, I just used a legal term in a sentence trying to convince you an author isn't a legal thriller author; get over it). And if you say you love legal thrillers, I'll tell you you'll REALLY love his books - especially "The Tenth Justice" or "Dead Even." Like feeling like you have an inside scoop on something? Try "The First Counsel," "The Millionaires," or "The Zero Game." And Superman fans can't miss "The Book of Lies." Intrigued by the Masons? Go read "The Book of Fate."

But other than plot points, the fact that he answers emails from his fans (who he insists aren't fans, but are family), and writes awesome things like this about his 15th anniversary on his blog (have some tissues ready)? His characters come to life, the dialogue is snappy, and his humour is intelligent and witty.

And speaking of humour... the point of this blog post. I DID promise the best April Fool's joke ever, right? Cori (Brad's wife) decided that Brad's 40th birthday (falling on April Fool's day) needed the BEST, the BIGGEST April Fool's day joke ever. She pulled in authors and publishers to help her out. Humour me and make with the clicky one more time to go read about it; it's worth it.

09 April 2010

Pizza Casserole Recipe

In my family, when we find a recipe that we like, we mark it with "good," or "like," or "great." If it's really good, it might get underlined or get an exclamation point. I'm not sure if it's Grandma or Ganno (her mother) who came up with this high-tech system, but it made more sense when I received an email a few weeks ago from my mother with a subject line of "Good."

The email was a recipe for Pizza Casserole. During a phone call later that night, I thanked her for the recipe and told her that it looked really good. She said she thought so, too, but it really wasn't. Uh... what?

Me: So, then why did you say that it IS good?
Mom: Because I thought YOU would think it's good.
Me: Well, why didn't you like it?
Mom: Because it was bland and it didn't really have a taste.
Me: ...
Me (after I recover): Mom? Am I particularly KNOWN for tasting things, saying "Oh! This has no taste and is really bland! I LOVE it!"?
Mom: Well.. this just seemed like something you would like.
Me: Okay. Well... is there something you recommend I do to this to make it LESS bland?
Mom: No. I think you'll like it the way it is.
Me: ...

So, without further ado, I present:

Pizza Casserole

2 c spiral pasta
1 1/2 - 2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion
15 oz pizza sauce
8 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
1/2 t sugar
1/2 t garlic salt
1/2 t dried oregano
2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
12-15 slices pepperoni

Preheat oven to 350º.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Brown ground beef and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring to break up meat. Drain.

Combine pasta with pizza sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, garlic salt, and dried oregano. Add beef mixture. Stir until well blended.

Place half of pasta mixture in 3-quart casserole dish. Top with half of mozzarella cheese.

Repeat layers.

Top with pepperoni.

Bake 25-30 minutes.

Variations: I added a LOT of onions (sorry Cristi and Brook), and I added ground garlic. I subbed in turkey pepperoni since I don't eat pork. I used WAY more than 12-15 slices of pepperoni, but I don't know if turkey pepperoni is smaller than regular pepperoni or if maybe my casserole dish is just bigger. But to cover the surface area, I used about 25 pepperoni slices. I also added in mushrooms for bulk and to make this a little more diet friendly.

Next time I make this, I think I will also add spinach. I will also use the pepperoni for the bottom layer, not just the top layer.

I think that without the extra garlic that I put in, this could have been bland, so I definitely recommend adding in whatever you like to give it some zest.

07 April 2010


Lately, I've been reconnecting with some friends I haven't been able to spend time with in a long time, and it's been really nice.

Last week, Jess and I started up our IHOP dates again. Mmmm, there's just something about the combination of girl talk over a batch of supper pancakes that can't be beat.

On Saturday, Ella invited me spend the day at a dog park in Delaware with her and some of her friends. While I didn't get to spend much one-on-one time with her at the park, I got some sun, I got to meet a few new chill people, and I got to spend some great car time with Ella on the way down there and back. Plus, watching random dogs doing dog things is always fun. The best was when a guy threw a tennis ball in the middle of the pond and the dog would swim about five feet into the pond and turn around as if to say, "Yeah... that's too far. Sari." But he finally went and got it after about the sixth or seventh false start.

And on Monday, I went into the city a bit early before my therapy appointment and had lunch with Anjeanette. She was kind enough to treat me to lunch at her work caf, and I got to meet one of her coworkers (but not the coirker). She also gave me a small sauce pot, which is REALLY exciting, since the only small sauce pot I currently have is handle-less; the handle fell off of it... oh, about ten years ago. But I couldn't bear to throw it away because it's such a cute, handy, small size. But now I have a great small sauce pot WITH a handle AND a lid!