Thursday, October 16, 2008

This Week in Dinner...

Due to my complete inability to say no, I said yes on Monday to a colleague who needed a chaperone. He had an outside choreographer coming in to help with this year's musical, and he had a meeting he had to go to before the session was over. He needed an employee present so she was just a "visitor" instead of a "chaperone." The paperwork is different. We'll set aside that I think he found this woman at the Joseph Stalin School of Dance, and fast forward to dinner, which I picked up from Mr. Goodcents on the way home from school at nearly 7:30.

On Tuesday, Brad and I went to our awesome new gym and worked out. I introduced him to the joy and wonderment of the Ancient Roman Torture Machine, my affectionate name for the Precor Elliptical.

I had an eye of round steak that I got out of the freezer. I was going to use it to make pot roast, but I was out of dry onion soup mix. Instead, I used it to make some very delicious stir fry.

Beef Stir Fry
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup plum sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into thin 2-inch strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup snow peas, edges trimmed
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup bean sprouts
5 green onions, chopped
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves chopped garlic

Hot cooked rice

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Stir in the plum sauce, ginger, soy sauce and pepper flakes; set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry beef in oil until no longer pink; remove and keep warm.
In the same pan, stir-fry the mushrooms, carrots, onions and garlic until tender. Add the snow peas. Return beef to the pan.

Whisk the plum sauce mixture; stir into skillet. Cook and stir until slightly thickened. Stir in peanuts. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How do you spell spoiled? B*R*A*D

I had NHS concession stand duty on Thursday evening, so for the second time in a row I did not get home from work until close to 9 pm. I was leaving on Friday morning to go to my cousin's wedding in Atlanta, and all I really needed to do was move the load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. The sticking point, though, was that there were dry clothes already in the dryer. I knew I had to do something with those. I just didn't have the energy to fold them and put them away, and I was feeling guilty about just throwing them on the bed. So, I threw myself on the bed and played on the computer, while intermittently writing the vocabulary test for my honors juniors. I didn't prepare myself dinner. I didn't pack my suitcase. I didn't grade. I was LAZY! Then Brad calls at 10:00 pm to say he's really in the mood for calzones. Of course he is. The late night dining options in the thriving metropolis that is Troy, Missouri include... Sonic. No Calzones. Hardees. No Calzones. Mc Donalds. No Calzones.

Guess who is making Calzones? That'd be me.

Calzones (made entirely from ingredients I had around the house...)
1 refrigerator pizza crust (Like Pillsbury)
1 container ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese
12 slices prosciutto
1 jar spaghetti sauce

Mix ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and Italian seasoning together.

Divide pizza crust into 6 equal pieces. Roll the first piece out on a floured surface using a floured rolling pin. Roll until very thin. Put 1/6 of the ricotta mixture in the middle. Place two pieces of prosciutto on top, followed by a slice of fresh mozzarella. Fold the dough over. Roll the edges, then press with a fork to seal. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400F or until crust is nicely browned. Serve with spaghetti sauce for dipping.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Problem is...

Education is a particularly hot topic right now because of the impending election and Bush's tragically unsuccessful "No Child Left Behind" Program. Add in Jamie Lee Curtis's commercial featuring the forlorn child reluctantly hoisting up the flags of countries with better education systems than ours, and you have disgruntled Americans of all ages up in arms about the state of the education system.

"I believe that every child deserves an education that allows them to reach their full potential," Curtis states, but what does that mean?

I obviously don't have the answer to the question, because if I did I would have put it to good use, but here are my observations after being both a student and a teacher in the public school system...

Not EVERYONE can be successful, and a major attitude adjustment is needed for even the majority of students to be successful. One reason why "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) was doomed to failure before it began was because it called for 100% proficiency in math and science, English and social studies. In Missouri, it does not account for immigrants who are not proficient in basic English communication, and therefore certainly not able to write an essay to a community leader persuading them to do something. It does not make concessions for the profoundly autistic, or the mentally retarded. There is no conceivable way EVERY student, regardless of race, creed, color, socioeconomic class or innate talent can be proficient in English and Math.

And that, Ms. Curtis, is why other countries are outperforming us in Math. It isn't because Japan's smartest kid is smarter than our smartest kid; it is that Japan's numbers don't include every teenager in the country. Germany's numbers don't include every teenager in the country. China's numbers don't include every teenager in the country. It is easy to say we are being outperformed in Math by these countries when their scores are higher, but it is important to look at why their scores are higher. Only the elite in Germany go to what we refer to as "High School." Many, many German teenagers go to a sort of technical school to learn a trade. In China, only urban students go to "High School" and not all of them at that. The United States has had compulsory secondary education since the 50's, wherein every minor is REQUIRED to attend school until they are 16 years old, and therefore EVERY student gets tested. So yes, Germany's elite are outperforming our total population in math. Of course they are. China's wealthy, urban elite are outperforming our total population in math. Of course they are. They should be. I would certainly hope the the average score on a standardized math test in a country where only the best and the brightest take it would be high. I would hope their scores would be higher than those from a country where the valedictorian and the kid with an IQ of 85 take the same test.

I am okay with that. I relish in the knowledge that I live in a country where everyone gets a free public education. I will put our geniuses up against Asia's geniuses any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Why don't I see commercials that celebrate the public education system, rather than criticize it? It has problems. I will fully admit that there is a discrepancy in the quality of public education depending on district. I will fully admit that there is way too much political motivation in the public schools. I will admit that there are teachers who should no longer be teaching. I will admit that school has gotten too easy. I will admit that grades are inflated. I will admit that some parents have made school too easy for their kids And this, friends, is why Canada is kicking our butts in butts in Math.

If a student gets suspended (OSS) for fighting, or vandalizing, or bringing a weapon to school, I still have to provide him with his homework assignments and accept them for full credit. Doesn't that keep it from being a deterrent and instead make it a vacation. They get to sleep in, not sit through class, hang out at home AND make up their work for full credit.

I have a student whose mother writes all of his essays, and when I try to point out to her that her son's in class writing in NO WAY compares to his out of class writing, she yells at me, telling me in class writing assignments aren't fair because the kids have no time to prepare and revise. I am not talking about the out of class essay being a little better organized. It has words in it the student can't identify. He doesn't even read the essay to know what it is about.

I have a student who does no work all semester. He gets a progress report that says he has an F, and a quarter grade that says he has an F. I email his mom to tell her every time he is missing a big assignment. And then, when wrestling season begins, he comes in crying (literally crying) because he can't participate if he doesn't get his grade up. Then I am ordered by my principal to allow him to make up his work because he is an all state wrestler.

These are extreme examples, but then you get advances in education like multiple intelligences and differentiated instruction. These are efforts to allow EVERYONE to enjoy school based on their preferences or skill. And suddenly everyone can "do" school, and the kid that takes Calculus has the same grade point average as the kid who took a math class that featured Sudoku.

Where do you draw the line? Is school for everyone or should it be school like? Is it okay to leave a few people behind for the sake of the "greater good?" I don't have the answer to these questions, but I do know this: You can't have it both ways. Either school is school with lectures and text books and essays and tests, or school is for everyone with collective learning activities and recess. School is hard and we excel but leave a few people behind, or school is not and we fall behind as a nation, but bring everyone with us.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Does Anyone Know CPR? Part II

In addition to the crab Rangoon, egg rolls, and jalapeno poppers, I also fried pickles and cookie dough, and would have fried mozzarella cheese, but we were full.

Fried Dill Pickles
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup cornmeal
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (32 ounce) jar dill pickle slices

In a large bowl, combine eggs, 1/4 cup of the flour, buttermilk, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, seasoning salt and garlic powder.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, 2 cups flour, salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Preheat oil in a deep fryer or pot to 365 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Dip drained pickles into milk mixture and then dredge them in the flour mixture, then back in the milk mixture, and back in the flour mixture. Deep fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with Ranch dressing or marinara sauce.

* I drained the pickles first, then put them on paper towels for about an hour to try to absorb as much of the liquid as possible before dropping them into a vat of bubbly oil.*

My two crock pot appetizers were Chicken Wing Dip and Little Smokies

Chicken Wing Dip
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup pepper sauce, such as Franks® Red Hot®
1 cup Ranch-style salad dressing
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Put all ingredients into a crock pot. Cook on high until cheeses are melted and ingredients are well incorporated. Turn to low to keep warm. Serve with tortilla chips.

Little Smokies
1 package little smokies
1 bottle barbecue sauce

Place all ingredients into a crock pot. Cook on high until hot dogs are thoroughly cooked. Turn to low to keep warm.

I bet y'all are impressed with that recipe. I bet you wouldn't have figured that one out on your own, and are fantastically glad I posted it for you!

I also made fried cookie dough. Brad finds it "disgusting" (exact words), but our friends like it, so I made it.

Fried Cookie Dough
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 pasteurized eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
Egg Roll Wrappers

In a large bowl, beat together margarine or butter and sugars until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla, and mix well. Blend in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

Place about 1/4 cup of dough in the center of the wrapper. Fold edge over to create a tube. Fold sides in, then finish rolling. Fry until golden brown. Serve with ice cream toppings, such as caramel and hot fudge.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Does Anyone Know CPR?

I get my deep fryer out about once every 9 months or so, and usually because I am craving really good crab Rangoon. Then, I fry to my heart's content... or until the oil gets nasty... I scrub the fryer. It sits on my kitchen table for about a month because I am too lazy to drag it to its home in the basement. Eventually it does end up in the basement, where it stays for 8 months until I repeat the aforementioned process.

On Saturday, I had some friends over to eat fried food and play games... in that order. Here's what I made...

Adrienne's Rockin' Crab Rangoon
2 (8 oz) pkgs. cream cheese
1 (8 oz) pkg. imitation crab, chopped
4 cloves crushed garlic
4 green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 package wanton wrappers

Mix the first six ingredients together. Put one teaspoon mixture in the center of a wanton wrapper. Dip your finger in water, and trace it around the perimeter of the wanton wrapper. Fold one corner diagonally across . Pinch to close. Then, fold the remaining two corners up to this corner. Fry at 350 F until golden brown. Serve with sweet and sour sauce and spicy mustard.

Eggs Rolls

1 package pre-shredded slaw mix
1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
20 egg roll wrappers

Mix together cabbage, sprouts, and onion. Stir in shrimp, soy sauce, garlic powder, and black pepper. Pour beaten egg into a skillet placed over medium heat; cook until done. Remove from skillet, cool, and chop finely. Stir egg into cabbage mixture. Sprinkle top with cornstarch, mix, and allow to sit 10 minutes.

Place 2 or 3 tablespoons of the shrimp mixture into the center of an egg roll skin. Dip your finger in water, then trace the perimeter of the wrapper. Fold the egg roll skin from the bottom over the mixture, making a tight tube of the shrimp mixture. Fold corners in from the sides; then, roll the rest of the way. Repeat with remaining egg roll wrappers.

Fry at 350 F or until golden brown. Serve with sweet and sour sauce and hot mustard.

Jalapeno Popper Spread
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
2 ounces canned diced jalapeno peppers, drained
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Stir together cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in green chiles and jalapeno peppers.

At this point, you can toss this in a crock pot to warm it up, bake it in the oven at 350 F until it is bubbly, or microwave it, if the thought of microwaved mayo doesn't gross you out.

As per my friend Amber's suggestion, I wrapped it in wanton wrappers and fried like crab Rangoon. (See aforementioned crab Rangoon recipe for specifics...) I actually didn't have one, but it got rave reviews from my friends. I served this with Ranch Dressing (Ken's... to be exact.)

At this point, I'm sure you are wondering what else I could have possibly fried. You will have to continue to wonder, because I have to go to sleep. BUT, I will update tomorrow with the rest of the fried items, as well as the two crock pot appetizers I served... Do you think I had too much food for 4 people???

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Our" Visitor...

I did a lot of cooking this week for various reasons. First, "we" had company. I put "we" in quotes, because I really had almost no interaction with the visitor. He hung out in the office and played Microsoft Flight Simulator for 2 solid days. Due to this, though, I was a good little cooker. On Monday, I made corn chowder, garlic bread, and peach cobbler.

Cheddar-Corn Chowder
1 pound uncooked bacon, diced
1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 medium red potatoes, diced into 3/4 inch cubes
6 cups chicken stock or broth
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 (16 oz.) cans whole kernel corn, drained
2 (16 oz.) creamed corn
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups heavy cream
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 bunches scallions, sliced

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until brown and crispy. Remove bacon from skillet, and allow to drain on paper towels.

Place 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in a stockpot. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the drippings and saute for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, stock, cayenne pepper, and coriander. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 35 minutes. Add the corn, cheese, and cream. Simmer additional 7 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Stir in the scallions and crispy bacon pieces.


I've made this several times, and have loved it every time. I used 2% milk instead of cream this time because I am trying to cut back (see earlier post). It was a bit thinner, but just as tasty. I served it with garlic bread, and we had peach cobbler for dessert. (The peach cobbler recipe is posted around July 19... I made it for my mom's birthday.)

On Tuesday, I made baked Tilapia, scallops, green beans, and rice pilaf.

Baked Tilapia
4 tilapia fillets
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place fillets in dish.

Mix lemon juice, butter, garlic and parsley. Pour mixture over fish.

Bake fish in preheated oven until fish is white, and flakes with a fork, about 30 minutes.

Baked Scallops
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 pound large sea scallops

Preheat oven to 450 F. Mix butter, mustard, lemon juice, garlic and parsley together.

Place scallops in a baking dish. Pour butter mixture over scallops. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until scallops are opaque and cooked throughout.

I served this meal with fresh green beans, prepared in the Ziploc steamer bag, and a box of rice pilaf, prepared per the package directions. It was delicious.