Sunday, January 30, 2011

About that pie...

I promised to talk about caramel and pie adventures, so I guess I will!

I asked the Internet what kind of pie to make. There were a lot of suggestions and I settled between either one of the cream varieties, or apple. I asked Mark what he would prefer.

"Apple Cream Pie!" he said with way more enthusiasm than was probably necessary.

"There's no such thing." I told him, totally not rolling my eyes or anything.

He said "sure there is!" and told me to go find one on the Internet. And, of course, I did.

After sorting through quiet a few that looked like your basic apple pie but with cream mixed in, I found Old Fashioned Apple Cream Pie on Allrecipes.

This is the picture they show:

isn't it pretty? If you say yes, you'd be wrong, because that pretty looking pie is slathered in apricot preserves. I'll give you a moment to either vomit, or get the urge under control. Hurry and scroll down to get it out of your mind.


I hope that's better. If you're one of the fools that believe there is nothing wrong with apricots, you probably believe that there is nothing wrong with plucking the toes off of babies or finding tasty snacks in the treads of your shoes. Disgusting.

Anyway, it's okay if you feel that way. I'll still let you read my blog and everything! And not because I only have 5 readers, but because I'm just that nice.

Oh that's a lie, there's not enough nice reserves in my whole being to forgive apricot fraternization.

I just wanted to illustrate (since a great part of the caramel adventure came of not wanting to do the preserve thing) that using apricot was simply not an option. And also that they are gross and wrong and proof of evil.


Anyway, when I told the Internet that I'd settled on a pie, a friend mentioned that it looked good, but the apricot  idea seemed off. I agreed and since using any other preserve seemed just as stupid, I decided to attempt to make a caramel sauce to brush on the pie - an APPLE caramel sauce. I know right!!! Yay apples!

I found This Recipe   and decided I could fiddle with it to make a sauce, instead of the candy.

But, okay, at some point I decided I was also afraid of making sauce and thought it would turn out weird on the pie. I decided to put the apples on the bottom of the pie crust, and then the pudding mixture on top of those, and then whipped cream/cool whip on the top. That would take care of my caramel sausing issues.
...I'll tell you more about how that turned out later.

But I still wanted to make caramels because, as mentioned on other posts, the ones from Theo's Chocolates were in my head, demanding to be made.

So, back to the caramels.

The recipe tells you to boil down apple cider with mulling spices until it's reduced to 1/3 of a cup. That was the first thing I did and the easiest part of this whole process. Also, I wanted to drink it. It.Was.So.Good.
But I didn't, because even a spoonful is quite a lot when 1/3 of a cup is all you have.

So yes, you mix that with the heated cream/butter mixture and set it aside until you're done burning the sugar.

See, I'd never made caramels before where you cooked the sugar first and then added ingredients in to it. I've always done the sweetened-condensed-milk everything-in-the-pan-at-once variety. But I'd caramelized sugar plenty of times before for flan, so I wasn't afraid.

No where near caramelized:


You see how it's a light/medium amber color towards the upper left of the pan?
You see how it's much darker to the lower right of the pan?

I took it off the heat at that moment, and my super heavy pan continued cooking it, like it does. I didn't get a picture of the burnt section that the little dark spot became because I was trying to convince myself that it was still okay.

And it was okay, sorta. Most of the sugar was the dark caramelized color I was going for. So I figured I was this far, I'd finish it up and screw the results.

They came out super dark, and burnt tasting. Bitter and burnt, but definitely apple-y!

So I decided to make some more.

This was just your basic Basic Caramel Recipe but I subbed in a little more than half a cup of reduced Simply Apple apple juice, plus the liquid pulled from simmering the apples for the pie, and cut down the corn syrup by 1/3-1/2 cup. Then I just bubbled it until the candy thermometer reached 250 F and dumped it into a pan to cool.

Oh wait:
I burned this too.

It wouldn't be a day in the kitchen if I weren't burning something.

It wasn't so bad, but there were little twisties of extra-sticky bits that tasted only a little burned mixed into the whole batch.

I had these two pans of mostly burnt and slightly burnt candy sitting on my counter. They sat there from Sunday until Wednesday (Mark only ate about half a pounds worth) when I decided they all needed to be coated in chocolate.

I took the second slab and cut it into squares each with a toasted pecan half. Then I dipped it in milk chocolate and put it on a cooling rack.

Because I'm a moron.

Soft caramels in warm chocolate put on a little wire rack. I did around ten of them before I realized that this wasn't a genius way for excess chocolate to drip off the candies. No, this was a genius way to make caramel/pecan/chocolate swirl blobs with metal wire suspended in the middle. Hey, I made art!

And then I undid my art by plopping everything on waxed paper instead.

The next 80 went okay and then I did the burnt caramels too.

Surprise! They were greatly improved by the milk chocolate (I feel the other batch would have been better suited to dark chocolate.) Too bad there were only a doze or so. There should have been about three times as much, but I was stupid and followed the recipe.

If you go back and look (and if you haven't already I know you won't!) you'll see that it tells you to prepare a pan by lining it in foil and spraying it down with Pam or the like. When I read this I thought it was stupid, because obviously you'd be stuck picking foil out of candy, or risking leaving bits in it and somebody biting down on it. Stupid right?

Except for I did it anyway? So who's dumber? The one telling someone to do something stupid, or the one dumb enough to recognize that it is a recipe for a pain in the ass, but does it anyway.

Clearly it's not me. Clearly.

So I ended up throwing half of the burnt stuff away because I figured it'd be not-so-great anyway, and I didn't want to coax foil off of a big sticky wad of candy. Too bad.

And I'll never make this recipe again because making them the other way is just easier, and I'd only want to do this again to try and replicate this second batch. However, I accept that I am not skilled enough to get just the right amount of burnt on my sugar ever again. I'd either end up making a pain in the ass version of the other kind, or setting my kitchen on fire with burnt sugar and rage.

So, there you have it. Yay adventures.

Oh right, the pie.

So I said I'd decided to put the apples on the bottom of it, and I had, but I made the pudding mix first (by the way, I went with french vanilla pudding and added a splash of buttershots liqueur while ditching the lemon zest) and then got worried that it would look weird if it sat in the bowl for a while. You see, I was no where near having the apples done enough or cooled enough to put them in the crust and top them with the custard.

The results: Well, imagine the picture waaaaay at the beginning of this post, but imagine all the apples in a big messy heap.

Then imagine a ragged slice taken out.

Then imagine some grubby fingered lady kept stealing apple chunks off the top, so that instead of covering the pie the apples sorta lazed around on top of it.

Picturing all that?

Good. By now you shouldn't  have to imagine why I didn't take a picture.

It was really pretty good though. The whole family approve  (well, Max ate the pudding and the crust, but said the apples were weird- probably tasted too much like some sort of plant) and I would definitely recommend making it yourself. Just - apples on bottom - that way you won't have to worry about glazing it or arranging half-cooked fruit all pretty.

Sunday #5: Catch my post later this week to see what I burned next!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sunday #4 - Oinkity oink oink.

Let's start at the end.

Clockwise from the top we have bruschetta, chicken scaloppini with cheese ravioli, garden salad and finally meat ravioli with marinara sauce.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sunday #4: A Likely Menu

I'm excited for ravioli. How about you?

According to Alton Brown, it's easy enough. Of course he is kind of a liar sometimes.

I really want something like Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce but it looks like a huge pain in the rear. Plus I'm the only one who would eat it because the rest of my family is made of wieners.

So I suppose a sausage/beef filling will be in order. At the very least it'll give me another excuse to haul out the food grinder! Maybe I'll do a cheese/cheese&spinach one too. Depends on how long I want to stand around making ravioli.

Also on the menu will be a BIG salad (need.more.vegetables.) and Bruschetta if I can find some decent tomatoes.

For Dessert?
We've done cake twice - and we make a lot of cake. I thought Pie might do better and go faster. I asked the Internet and it only made me want ALL THE PIE.

But I narrowed it down to a couple of options. "Mark!" I said, "What kind of pie should we have? Apple or some sort of cream pie?"

"Oooh, Apple Cream Pie!" said Mark.

I told him there was no such thing and then he sent me to my beloved Internet to prove myself wrong.

And behold: Old Fashioned Apple Cream Pie.
This thing tells you to slather apricot preserves over the apples at the end?
Why Lord, why?  Apricots in all forms are of the devil!

I've seen this recipe elsewhere, and they say if you don't like apricot you can switch in another preserve. That still sounds pretty stupid.

So - here's my crazy plan. I'm still in Will Winter Never End mode, so I think this needs to make more with the spice and less with the Zesty Springtime Freshness. So that means ditching the lemon, and pulling out the Best Cinnamon Ever! And also maybe Pecans, because I have a pounds worth.

And then. Oh and then!
I'm making Apple Cider Caramel Sauce.

I've been wanting to make caramels for about a week now, ever since my friend told me about These.

I have drool now.

I figure I'm safer trying to make a sauce than I would be trying to make a hard caramel - particularly since I've never ever made them starting with such a liquidy liquid. I've only made the fat, fat, sugar, fat variety.

So this way I don't risk potentially destroying delicious ingredients, and I don't have to slather the pie in something so sinful.

Apricots are sinful not in the "mmm, delightfully wicked!" sort of way, but in the "Oh, God my tongue! My face! Why is it my tongues job to taste but in Hell!"

Because it's disgusting. Remember that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oh yeah - Sunday # 3: Dessert

You might have seen the box of fortune cookies on the table with the last dinner.

Yup, that was dessert. The kids insisted on them.

However, we did plan on a cake. We even made one! Then we ate it when we pushed Sunday to Monday.

It was sorta like this:, except she mixed the pudding in with the cake mix and ours had chocolate pudding on top of the cake - after you'd poured the jello and let the jello set.

Okay, so this sort of recipe isn't really MAKING something, it's taking a whole bunch of pre-mixed ingredients and adding some sort of fluid (water/milk/oil). But... I'm working on it? I have made some pretty awesome non-pre-mixed desserts I'll have you know.

We used the same sized pan as this lady does, and cut it into 12 pieces. All twelve pieces are gone because we are gluttons and are generous enough to let the previous generation have a longer life expectancy. That there is called respecting your elders.

I seriously need to work out some sort of plan, so that half of the desserts we make go straight in the freezer (like with the pound cake I made last time) or so that we're just not making so many portions.

Dinner #3: Sorta Chinese Food

The Menu:
Pork and Napa Cabbage
Egg rolls
Beef Yakisoba
Chicken Teriyaki

I only have a recipe for the Pork dish. Sorry.
Also, there aren't going to be a lot of pictures in this update. I do like doing pictures, and intend to do them again, but it wasn't really possible this time.

Don't worry, I'll justify myself!

Okay. Reasons for no pics:

#1 - My camera sucks so bad. This thing has seen some rough times. Some phone based cameras are now better than my Canon door prize (really, it was) camera. It takes roughly 10 seconds to be ready to take a picture again. Sometimes I take that long to do parts of my job. It's because I really really really hate my job. I feel bad that the camera hates his job so much. Maybe we'll put it down after taxmas.

#2 - We were making Chinese food. Sure it wasn't super authentic, but there were still plenty of vegetables, many of which were of the leafy green variety,

That's bok choy and napa cabbage - leafy!

If I took the time to take pictures of every step along the way my semi-sog vegetables would have been suppersogged. And since this is primarily about the sitting down with the dinner, I decided the blog could eat it and feature less in the way of pics. Sorry blog.

Seriously, we had a lot going on:

That pinky-purple pan is about to get the pork, the cast iron skillet has some super-marinated chicken in it, the old crust pot in the back (which is part of a pressure cooker that's been around longer than I have - I got it from my parents when I moved out) was heating oil for the egg rolls, the covered pot was the rice and the electric wok was for the yakisoba.

So, that's 5 dishes we had going at once. No time for pics!

Also, I don't have a lot of information as to what actually went in these. I'm sorry! Except for the pork and the egg rolls Mark was the boss of everything else. I don't really know what he did because I was busy with my thing.

So, let's talk about my thing:

The Pork and Napa Cabbage.

The directions say to mix all of the sauce ingredients into one bowl, and then in yet another to mix the cornstarch and a little more water. What the what? That sounded stupid. The instructions have you adding them both at the same time! It all went in the same bowl:

Mmmmm, right?
Now, because there is cornstarch in here you do have to make sure you give it one last good stir before adding it to the dish.

Which, by the way, you remember the pinky purple pan? There is not enough room in there for five cups of cabbage. So I browned pork, set it aside, sauteed the onion and garlic, added mushrooms (they aren't on the recipe but I had some so...) browned those, added carrot and then waited and waited for Mark to get done with the wok.

Mark probably remembers this differently. He probably thinks something stupid, cause that's what he does. Probably something along the lines of "Denise never said she'd want the wok, so I was just standing in my corner trying to avoid the wrath." Pfft, typical Mark, always afraid of the wrath.

So once I kindly and gently informed him that I needed what he was hogging up he moved out of the way.
Again, his memory is flawed in that it probably recalls the moment something like: "Mark, here's a dish for the yakisoba, dump your slop in there and move on with your life." wait - wait -wait  "I need that for the pork and cabbage sOOner rather than later!" and then he probably remembers me stompling over and not quite shoving him out of the way to get the wok wiped out so I could get my stuff in there.


And we all know how much I care about the vegetables of this world, right? Completely justified bitchery. Yup.


So, in the wok went the skillet items, the pork and then handful after handful of cabbage and a single handful of bok choy (something else the recipe didn't ask for, but the darker and leafier the vegetable, the more okay I feel about slathering it in something like super-salinated peanut sauce) and then I tossed it for a couple minutes like the instructions say, then I added the sauce.

Then I overcooked it and it got so sad and wilty. Not awesome at all.

I don't have a pic of it by itself, because we were trying to get everything to the table. You can see it in the larger pic though.

Oh - so I also made:

The Egg Rolls

Egg rolls were one of those things I'd never thought to try and make. Sure, I'd seen the wrappers at the store, but figured they were for people much more skilled than myself to use.

And then my friend Corina made some and I figured if she and then I saw how easy they were! Corina uses load of cilantro in hers and has actually ruined them for me forever because no-one else does, and Mark isn't a fan of cilantro. She also has something else going on in hers that makes them especially tasty, but I don't know what it is. Maybe she'll tell you in a comment *hint hint.*

Even if mine aren't as awesome as Corina's, they are still pretty tasty and really easy to make so long as you're willing to slave over the skillet/fry them (Corina forgoes the deep-frying.)

The base ingredients are:
-A bag of slaw cabbage from the salad section at the grocery store
-Your preferred meat - I like chicken
-Seasonings - I used oyster sauce and Chinese five spice

I also included super-minced mushrooms in mine. And a tiny bit of cilantro. Mark either didn't notice, or didn't care. He ate three.

Instructions: Cook your meat - I seasoned my chicken with garlic powder. Also, for me anyway, it helps if you cut the chicken up supersmall before cooking it. We were using chicken-tenders so think something like the diameter of a celery rib cut into 1/4 inch or less slices?
-When the chicken was about half-way done I added the minced mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms and chicken are browned, add the cabbage. Sprinkle the cabbage mound with five spice and oyster sauce. Enough to almost evenly distribute when you stir the cabbage. You don't want it soaking in this stuff, it's salty. Stir that around until it cooks down a little. How wilty you want things is all up to you. Just remember that it's getting cooked again later.

Hey, because I'm helpful (and lazy) here's a youtube clip:
Making Egg Rolls With Way More Ingredients But the Principle is Still the Same

His is nice and short compared to some, and has way less "instructional text in lieu of video" going on.
Also, he rolls his different than I did mine, but I think I like his way better.

Let's talk about Marks stuff:

His Yakisoba:

This package was almost five dollars. I'm not convinced that it's any better than the dried Ramen noodles. It sure had the same consistency. Close enough that in the future, should we try this again, I'd rather try our luck with 50 cents worth of ramen noodles instead.

We used freezer stir fry veggies, fresh onion, and fresh broccoli. It went in the pan in order of smooshiness. So - onions, then broccoli, then freezer veggies and after that was all heated through he put in the noodles, beef (cooked in the skillet after the chicken was done) and finished it off with the sauce.

The sauce- made a sauce from some Internet site that said soy sauce, brown sugar, tomato sauce/past, worcestershire and rice vinegar was the way to (it also said sake and mirin,but I didn't have that laying around) Mark ended up using that, and the packets this stuff came with. I dunno, but I think making your own sauce is probably the way to go. The packets are just a sweeter version of the beef-flavor-ramen packets.

Chicken Teriyaki:

Mark marinated chicken tenders in soy and teriyaki sauce. Not awesome teriyaki sauce, but the stuff in the jug that is just soy sauce and HFCS. It was a little salty. Partly because we pushed Sunday to Monday and it soaked in that stuff for close to two days.

There isn't much to say. It was marinated and then cooked in a skillet. Not much to it.

Before I move on though, let me say that there is a reason that the folks at the teriyaki places use thigh meat. It's way more moist, and way more flavorful. If you're going to make chicken teriyaki at home, try and get skinless boneless chicken thighs. There are more clues that what you're eating used to be an animal (gristle and fat are minimal, but not uncommon) but I think the flavor more than makes up for it.

What Mark and I like to do is have the friendly folks at our neighborhood Safeway chop the thighs and add a marinade before repackaging it and giving it back to us. Spanaway Safeway has always been happy to do this for us, and it really makes a difference.

Calrose Rice:

I don't know why someone would go through all the trouble to make the above mentioned meal and then dump it on top of some boil-in-bag rice. Gag. Why eat the rice at all if you aren't going to eat good rice?

Calrose rice is a little more expensive but flavor-wise it's worth it. Mark makes it by following the package directions but adding in rice vinegar and sugar during the cooking process, then he hits it with a little more when he pulls it off of the stove. The vinegar and sugar add a subtle flavor, but it's not overpowering. This isn't sushi rice, but it's getting there.

I recommend giving calrose rice a try if you haven't before. It's not any harder than boil-in-bag, but you do end up with a pan to clean.

Get to the table:

The eggrolls are in the upper left hand corner. The other items, clockwise from the top are - Yakisoba, Pork and Cabbage, Rice, and chicken teriyaki.

This is so much more food than four people needed. However, see the amount of chicken there? There was probably half as much pork and beef in each of the other dishes. So there are piles of carbs and veggies, and not much meat. Just like real Chinese* food!

Ready for Dinner

Max, trying to be a good sport so that the whole of the Internet (clearly he has yet to understand how much of the Internet goes unread) doesn't think he's some sort of anti-veggie weenie, tried an egg roll.

He almost puked. His face looked like that for about two seconds and then it looked like maybe he discovered a kitten foot in there or something. He gagged and retched and then had some milk and was all better.
He got through the rice and chicken just fine. Well, except for the chicken.

*Should any trolly types come knocking, I do realize that none of this really qualifies as Chinese food. But hey, here in America it's what we call it when we add soy and noodles to dinner. So thanks.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Monday is the new Sunday

At least this week it is. I had my first night out in months (that's a night out without kids, husband, but with plenty of beer and *blech* cigarrettes) and don't have it in me to make much more than slop today.

Since tomorrow is a holiday, I'll have recovered and will still have plenty of time to create! We talked it over as a family, and decided the cake needed to be eaten today, though. Mmmm, cake!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sunday Dinner #2: Family reaction

I thought I'd make this into a new post rather than leaving it at the end of the dinner review since that was already going on forever.

Sitting down together this second Sunday of the year was so much better than the first. Once I got it through to Mark (I hope) that it was us sitting down together for dinner that was more important to me than force-feeding Max things went much smoother.

About Mark: He's not some sort of angry parent yelling at his kid for not liking the icky flavors veggies in the cabbage family have. His angle was more of the "you're mom spent a long time making us all dinner and you should eat it." But still gentle and cajoling.

Max brought up what we were having next for Sunday Dinner a couple more times this last week. He's either actually excited, or smart enough to see that it's important to me and participating because of that. Either way, I appreciate it buddy!

Yay family! It was a real feel-good night.

Mark and I even did dishes together rather than letting them fester on the counter all night. Awww.

Best Ham Dinner was Just Okay.

Last Sunday I set out to make this: Best Ham Dinner

We'll start with the star of the show and go from there with verdict to follow.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best Recipes Ever on the CBC

Up here in Magical Happy Land we have free access to a little something called the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Aside from awesome cartoons and news featuring 62% less Mario Lopez, it has an afternoon cooking show called Best Recipes Ever.

Mark loves Best Recipes Ever.

I'm pretty sure he may just love Kary Osmond:

and who would't? I mean she's totally adorable, right?

One of the days we were home together (meaning; one of the days I wasn't slogging away in in the emotionally empty Seattle and then trapped on the city bus for 2 hours while he tried to see just how much StarCraft II he could fit in while leaving time to do half the dishes before coming to pick me up from the bus dump) I was flipping through all 9 channels and he got all "go back, go back!"

It was then that I understood that it's not just StarCraft that's leaves me welcomed home by a kitchen made of filth. It's Kary.

That day Kary was making a ham dinner. Apparently it was the Best Ever Ham Dinner.

Everything on that looks tasty to me. I'm excited for scalloped potatoes with flavor, and the carrots will hopefully be non-burned.

Plus, bonus, there's a ham in the freezer for the post-holiday discount ham. That should help keep our grocery budget down for the week.

Also, I'll be making this:King Arthur Flour's Original Pound Cake

I'm topping it with this:

Because I want you to beg me to have your babies.

Also, because I seem to want do die from cardiovascular disease.

Things could change between now and tomorrow night, when I go to purchase the necessary ingredients. Two days ago I was pretty set on making that BBQ pork loin, but no one was interested. Mark has been making moany sounds that turned out to be "haaaaaaaaaaaam" so I'm pretty sure at least one of the boyfolks will be pleased with Sunday night's menu.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Apparently 2011 has 53 Sundays.

Maybe I'll skip one!

I'm already searching the intarwebs for my next conquest. I figure if I don't start now, I'll be done with this whole Sunday Dinner/Blogging thing for the rest of 2011.

A few Christmases ago I received a Taste of Home cookbook for baking. I've been pretty happy with it. So, for this adventure, I thought I'd look to the Taste of Home website for ideas. Since they have a handful of recipes that contain "Sunday Dinner" in the title, I thought it was a good place to start.

I thought that the Pork Loin looked like a good idea and the Lemon Parsley Potatoes it suggests as a side do too.

I think I'll forgo the Bacon Green Beans though.

First Sunday of the New Year

I wanted MEAT.
I wanted Po-Tay-Toes
I even wanted vegetables. In fact, it would be fair to say that I wanted VEGETABLES! Lots of them.

In the two weeks leading up to New Years Day we'd had 3 "holiday" meals, numerous fastfood and restaurant visits, "foraging" nights and to cap it off, New Years Eve featured a dinner entirely comprised of finger foods and home-made Mac and Cheese. My youngest son picked Flavor Blasted Pizza Goldfish as his finger food. He ate the whole bag. Oh yeah, one night we had ice-cream for dinner.

Sunday, January 2nd, I woke up feeling Dinner was in order. Over the last two weeks I'd prepared sandwiches, canned soup, cookies, cookies, and more cookies, but (with the exception of the pan of Mac and Cheese) had not prepared a meal using ingredients. In fact, I don't think I'd actually made dinner in closer to a month.

So I sent Mark off to the store for a pot roast. It sounded like just the thing.

I started it at about 2. Seared it on both sides to get it nice and brown, seasoned the water with Worcestershire and other stuff and put it in the oven to cook til the giant runner of fat through the middle of the thing was nice and melty. Mmm, animal fat (I should point out here that I love meat and have no qualms about eating animals - however, I'm having serious issues with the grossness that is factory farming. Future bloggings will undoubtedly feature my adventures in either trying to get away from it - or sitting and bitching about it as the meal from the night before slowly digests in my stomach.)

Making pot roast doesn't require much of you. So while it was cooking I played some Sims on the XBox and then watched Mark run away from the bad boogies on Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.

The house started smelling good and MEATY, so I figured it was a good time to get some other things going. I peeled enough potatoes to feed 8 (there are 4 of us), got the green beans uncanned, and sliced up some carrots for glazing.

My Grandma Freda fed herself into being well over four hundred pounds. I'm not that big, but I'm far from dainty. You'd think I'd flat out RUN from her cooking methods, but no. I cooked two cans of green beans in about 1/3rd of a cup of bacon fat. I'm not proud.

I burned the carrots. I had some honey, a few crumbles of brown sugar, and some butter going on in the pan. It was taking FOREVER to reduce into a glaze. Then I got really involved in rooting Mark on. RUN MARK RUN!!!!
and then I noticed...*sniff*
Okay so they weren't blackened or anything, but burnt sugar isn't something I was wanting in my honey/ginger glazed carrots.

I made gravy. I love you gravy.

We called the boys to the table. Simon (aged 10: my oldest - and most peculiar- son) knew immediately that it was YAY DINNER! Max (aged 8: my youngest - and increasingly too cool for his family - son) groaned because it wasn't pizza or PB&J.

So we sit down and start to eat. Max groans at the idea of putting in any vegetation, and dumps twice as much ketchup as there was meat on his plate. Also he took a slice of buttered bread.

Immediately things got bad. Maybe not bad bad, but uncomfortable. It's not as if we'd never had a meal at the dinner table before. I don't know how it went downhill so fast.

Okay, that's not true. I do know - Max will take any excuse to be offended and run off to his room. Simon is socially retarded - seriously. I'm not using that word flippantly, it's just true. So Mark was trying to make a case for Max trying the carrots. I don't even remember what he said, but it was a little bit in the "don't be a weiner" category. Usually cajoling works on Max, but Simon let out a huge bray of laughter and Max shut-down. That’s how it went downhill so fast.

So dinner consisted of explaining the difference between idle dinner chit-chat and hee-hawing at someone else's expense, and telling Max that if he wasn't going to eat that was fine, but not to expect dessert (where do the kids get off expecting DESSERT all the time?)

Simon hated the green beans. We can usually get him to eat those but apparently slathering them in bacon grease is pretty disgusting.

Max came back around (I'm usually content to let him freeze us out, he usually comes back around, but his dad feels that it's his DUTY to make him eat something) and started scraping ketchup off of his meat. When his dad offered to cut it he got ketchup on Max's bread. OFFENDED!

Then Simon started telling him that it was that or nothing ("not your job, Simon!" we told him) and Max ran off and cried.

All and all it was a disaster. The taters and gravy were good though.

It was then that I decided that we sucked at family dinners. I also decided that we needed to do them more often. In fact - we'd do them every Sunday! That'd show us.

So now I've made it our personal challenge. It's a selfish thing really. I need something to look forward to in the week and something to ramble about. This serves both functions. Also - excuses for tableware!

I'm hoping to rope the rest of the crew into it - make it something we all look forward to.

My goals for beginning the challenge are simple:

-Eat a meal prepared in a home kitchen (meaning we can have Sunday dinner with friends/family)
-Eat the meal where we can see each other's faces (that means no more clearing off two tiny sections on the table for the boys, and eating the parental meal in the parental recliner.)

The End-of-Year goal is less defined. I don't have a solid idea of what I'm looking for. I'm hoping our family starts getting excited for dinners - I hope the kids WANT to get involved and have ideas and requests. I hope to stop doing crazy things like using bacon fat - seriously, what was that?

I hope next First Sunday of the New Year has a family excited to come to the table together, instead of just showing up to cram it in or pout. Yeah - that's what I want. That's a goal that sounds worthy - maybe even attainable.