Ally

Recent conversation with Kidlet #1 over a breakfast of matzo brei:

Kidlet #1: This is good, what's it made of?

Me: Crushed matzo crackers and egg.

Kidlet #1: What's that?

Me: An unleavened bread. They're like giant crackers. My dad used to buy them for me when I was a kid.  I'd put a ton of margarine on them and eat them for a snack.

Kidlet #1: Cool. Are you going to write about it on your blog?

Me: Maybe.

Kidlet #1: Do you still call us kidlets?

Me: Yeah...but I guess I should change it now that you guys are teenagers. What should I call you? 

Kidlet #2 calls out from the living room: Starlord56! Starlord56!

Ummm, ok.....so I'm NOT going to call them Starlord56 (although I do kind of wonder where the heck he got that idea from?) but I do think they're due for an update. They're hardly "kidlets" anymore at 12 and 15 years old.  Kidlet #1 is taller than me and just started shaving for goodness' sake! So maybe I'll just start referring to them as Teen Z (Kidlet #1) and Teen B (Kidlet #2)?  That should suffice, right? ☺


Anyhow, this weekend try making some matzo brei for breakfast (or a snack), you'll love it.  My favorite recipe is Ruth Reichl's, although I use a little less butter than she recommends (her recipe uses 6 tablespoons).  Reichl once described matzo brei as, "one of life's perfect foods."  I think she's absolutely right, the dish is quite delicious in its simplicity.

Matzo Brei

Ingredients

4 matzos
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions


1. Crumble matzos into a large sieve placed over a bowl to catch crumbs, then hold sieve under running cold water until matzos are moist and softened but not completely disintegrated, about 15 seconds. Gently press out the excess water.
2. Transfer to bowl with crumbs, then add eggs and salt and mix gently with a fork.
3. Heat butter in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. 
4. Add matzo mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until eggs are scrambled and matzo has begun to crisp, about 3 minutes. (I usually flip them halfway through, I like them slightly crispy on both sides.)
* Sometimes I like to mix it up by adding in some sliced spring onions or a shake of garlic powder. Or go sweet and sprinkle it with a some cinnamon and brown sugar or a wee bit of maple syrup. There's a matzo brei for every taste.
Ally
Happy Passover and Easter everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. I've been swamped lately with what seems like a never ending list of house projects. Gah! The past two weeks, Mr.S and I have been busy getting the spring garden in order (although we have no idea how it'll fare with the drought) and buying a new fridge. Buying a new fridge sounds like a pretty easy and fun project, right? Research a few brands and models, check them out in the store, then order and get it delivered, right? Hahaha.  WRONG. This was one of the most frustrating shopping experience of my life (right up there with my hellacious car buying experience with Mel Rapton Honda last fall). Anyhow, we did our homework and researched a few brands and models and decided on the LG LMXS27626S. Excuse my french but what a f*cking piece of sh*t. And LG's customer service? They should be ashamed of themselves...it's positively abhorrent. 

So here's what happened in a nutshell- we purchased the LG fridge at Home Depot and it was delivered on a Saturday morning.  By early evening, there was condensation forming in the upper left corner of the water dispenser and dripping down the front of the fridge (on the outside).  We had purchased a warranty, so the next day I called Home Depot's Protection Plan Department. The gal I spoke to, Megan, told me I needed to call LG as the warranty with Home Depot only kicks in after the first year.  According to her, during the first year, the manufacturer is primary. So I tried calling LG. They were closed. I called again on Monday and spoke to someone overseas who kept giving me scripted answers.  After 30 minutes of repeatedly explaining what's wrong with the fridge, I finally was able to get LG to agree to send a repair person out. 

Day 1 of "Refrigeratorgate": Mr. S's father was kind enough to wait at our house for the repairman. Repairman Joe came out,  looked at the fridge, and acknowledged that there was indeed an issue. He could see and feel the condensation that we were having issues with.  He then called LG and told them he did not know how to fix it. They insisted that he pull out the water/ice dispenser.  He had extreme difficulty getting it out and in the process he scratched and dented the fridge.  Nothing was repaired so he left a claim #. 

When I got home from work,  I called LG, they stated that they thought it was the humidity causing the condensation to form. I point out to them that's it's only in one corner of the outside of the dispenser, not to mention I live in Sacramento where it's 40% humidity! They seemed not to believe me that Sacramento does not have heavy humidity.  After much arguing, they stated they would send another repair guy out.

Day 2 of Refrigeratorgate: Mr. S stayed home from work and waited for the repairman.  LG told us he would show up between 8-12.  The repairman showed up at around 1:30pm. And guess what? It's Repairman Joe again.  The same guy. Poor Joe. He was confused like, "What the hell am I doing back here?"  He calls LG and tells them AGAIN that he does not know what's wrong with the fridge and yes, he damaged it...and no, he did not think it was a humidity issue. Again nothing got fixed, so he left another claim number.

When I got home from work, I called LG again.  First they tried to tell me that the issue was resolved. Ummm, no. I told them it wasn't and that there was still condensation on the fridge and water running off it.  I got the run around again (no big surprise) and a bunch of scripted answers again. I was getting frustrated at this point, so I called Home Depot's Protection Plan Department again. I complained to Chad, who was empathetic but stated that there was nothing he could do and that we would have to deal with LG. He also stated during the first 48 hours we should have called the Home Depot store we bought it from.  WTF? I point out to him that Megan in HIS Department was the one who told me to call LG.  He stated he couldn't find a record of that phone conversation.  I pointed out to him that she was the one who registered my warranty for me over the phone and they had a record of that, right? His response was a prolonged uncomfortable silence.  By then I was hopping mad.  I tried calling the Home Depot store where we purchased the fridge.  I got put on hold with bad music...for what felt like eternity. So, as a Hail Mary, I drove down there. 

So here's something I learned.  Nothing makes a bunch of middle-aged male Home Depot workers and shoppers more uncomfortable than a woman about to lose her sh*t at the customer service counter. I tried explaining to the associate the situation but as I was explaining I found my voice getting louder and louder.  Not screaming, just louder---like super frustrated loud.  One of the guys that worked there suggested that we go over to the appliance section and talk with the manager.  In hindsight, I think he was trying to diffuse the situation by having me move out of the front of the store, where the customer service counter was located, and over to the appliance section which is in the back of the store.  What he wasn't counting on was me talking very loudly about the lemon refrigerator and the run around I was getting from Home Depot and LG while their customers were shopping for fridges. Epic fail on his part.  People who were shopping for fridges were stopping and listening to our conversation.  I demanded that I just wanted what I paid for, was that too much to ask? The poor appliance guy that was saddled with this kerfuffle decided in a last ditch effort to try and appease me by calling the store's direct LG rep. The rep had the Home Depot associate take my fridge and contact info and said he'd look into it.  I also shot off an angry email to LG when I got home.

Day 3-ish of Refrigeratorgate:  I got an email response from LG.  No sorry for all the frustration or inconvenience, just basically a statement that they'll replace the fridge. (Maybe they got tired of me complaining...maybe the LG rep came through...I dunno.) They also stuck a note in there that they still thought it was a humidity issue and if the 2nd fridge had the same issue they wouldn't replace it. Like they were doing me a favor.  Way to stand behind your product guys.

So on Tuesday, Cesar Chavez Day, I was off work and I stayed at home and waited for the delivery of the replacement fridge. It was delivered on time, hooked up, and...by nightfall the &^%$#@!* thing had condensation on it and was dripping down the front again. This time I called Home Depot immediately and spoke with the appliance guy and then a manager. I demanded that they remove this craptastic lemon out of my house. We wanted to return it for a full refund and purchase a different brand...no LGs.  The manager agreed...honestly, he might have been a little scared of me at that point.  I wasn't yelling but I had that tone going...you know that tone---that "I'm going to rip your head off and jam it down your neckhole" tone. Let me tell you, it takes a lot to get me to that point.  The next day their Return Expeditor called and got it all set up.

Saturday (yesterday), the last day of Refrigeratorgate (hopefully): They came and got the LG fridge out of our house and the new fridge, a GE, was delivered at the same time.  So far, so good...knock on wood.  We even saved $649 on this one!  I made Home Depot price match theirs to the price at Lowe's. ☺

Now that the fridge issue is resolved, I'll start posting some of the recipes that we've been cooking and eating. I promise!
Ally
For the past year, I've been feeling an insatiable sense of wanderlust.  Most recently my inner travel bug was screaming:
 
So Mr. S and I took a little adventure (sans kidlets) to the magical island of sand, hula girls and malasadas last week. Since he had never been to the Land of Aloha before, we thought we'd do Oahu this year and if he liked it (really...who wouldn't? I mean c'mon!), we'd do Kauai or Maui next year. ☺

Yep, that's a real rainbow outside our airplane window!

For our trip, we did 3 nights in bustling Waikiki at the luxurious Trump International and 3 nights on tranquil North Shore at the Turtle Bay Resort. The suite we had at the Trump was phenomenal (I loved the huge marble bathroom with deep soak tub) as was their service- 5 star all the way! Waikiki ---well, Waikiki was terrific but honestly, we were quite ready for a slower pace by the 3rd day.  We did do some touristy things like visiting the USS Arizona/ Pearl Harbor memorial site and the Dole Plantation.  Seeing and hearing about the sunken ship and the fallen soldiers was quite a solemn and informative experience.  I strongly urge you to go if you're on Oahu. 



The Dole Plantation in Wahiawa was ok. It's a good choice if you're looking for a family activity but it wasn't really our cup of tea.  I did learn though that pineapples do not grow on trees and they can take 18 months to mature!  Here's a photo I snapped of a pineapple plant.


There was also these gum trees on the plantation. They look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, no?
  
We had a lovely drive to the North Shore on our 4th day.  I'd been to the North Shore on previous visits but had never stayed there.  Turtle Bay Resort was nice, not quite the caliber of the Trump but it's the only hotel out there (it's more like a mega-resort).  The view there though...I can't stop gushing about it.  Bright blue ocean, green mountains and lush foliage everywhere you looked. We were on the top floor and the view was breathtaking. 
Turtle Bay, just steps from our doorstep

Near Sunset Beach, down the road

Things at Turtle Bay were also much more relaxed. Mr. S got in some ATVing and we even took a 40 minute helicopter ride over the entire island.  I was terrified at first but once the helicopter got off the ground, I absolutely loved it!  It was so exhilarating.  Josh, our pilot, with Paradise Helicopters was fantastic.  I sat between him and Mr. S in the front.  We could see everything- the breathtaking 1,000 foot Sacred Falls (which has been closed to the public since 1999, when 8 hikers were killed and 50 others were injured), the amazing North Shore surf breaks and even the rainbow-hued oil still leaking from the wreckage of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor.

Just like Magnum PI's

During our stay on the North Shore, we actually saw giant marine turtles sunbathing at Laniakea Beach and whales jumping just off the coast of Turtle Bay.  Mr. S also saw a monk seal. (I missed that one...I was busy laying out.)


Now of course, I would be remiss if I didn't point out some of the tasty food we ate- fresh poke, malasadas, Spam musubi, and loco moco...LOTS of loco moco.  I'm pretty sure I gained back all the lbs. I lost before vacation.  It was worth it though. 

I remembered to stop stuffing my face with island fare and guava juice for a second or two to take a few pics.

1. Malasadas at Leonard's bakery.  Eat these pillowy Hawaiian/Portuguese doughnuts sprinkled with crunchy granules of sugar while they're still piping hot.  I love the plain ones, Mr.S preferred the custard filled ones.  The aroma inside Leonard's will drive you crazy...I'm pretty sure it's what heaven smells like.


Mmmm!

2. Loco moco...anywhere pretty much. We loved the ones we had at Rainbow Drive-In and at Ted's Bakery.  The gravy and burger patty at Ted's is better than Rainbow, but Rainbow's loco moco is pretty solid and their mac salad is slightly better. Both had 2 fried eggs, 2 hamburger patties, 2 big ass scoops of white rice, 1 scoop of Hawaiian macaroni salad and lotso' gravy.

Rainbow Drive-In Loco Moco

Ted's Bakery Loco Moco
  
3. Speaking of Ted's Bakery, be sure to pick up a slice of their chocolate haupia pie for dessert. So creamy...so chocolatey.  So insanely good!  As are their breakfast sandwiches.  The bread they use is so soft, like a warm King's Hawaiian roll only MUCH bigger.

Ted's chocolate haupia pie

Ted's big Spam breakfast sandwich
  
4. Odds and ends:  I took a liking to li hing powder on a previous trip.  So I indulged in some li hing powder dusted gummy bears and this hurricane popcorn (see below) this time around on the island.  I also brought some back with me.  Haven't quite decided what I want to use it on yet.




[I also brought back a big bag of furikake popcorn with me. And no-- I'm not sharing. ☺]

5. Kidlet #1 requested that we bring him back some Spam macadamia nuts (yes, Spam!) since Spam is so big in Hawaii.  Ummm...I had a taste.  I can't say I'm a big fan of the Spam nuts but he seems to love them.


5. One of my favorite things to eat on the North Shore was garlic shrimp.  Oodles of butter and minced garlic...pure nirvana.  We hit up Fumi's shrimp truck on the recommendation of our bell man at the Trump and the roadside Kahuku Grill on the rec of my friends, Amy and Steve.  Both locations were equally delicious, but the styles were quite different.  Fumi's goes balls out on the butter so plan to get elbows deep in it.  Kahuku Grill uses a more subtle garlic and butter method.  Either way, I was stuffed and happy (and quite garlicky) after our visits.

Kahuku Grill

Fumi's Shrimp Truck

Fumi's Garlic & Butter Shrimp Plate

(Note: There's a LOT of feral cats and wild chickens roaming near the shrimp trucks.  Don't feed them.)



 Anyhow, it was lovely to get in some R&R and to get to show the island to Mr. S.  Can't wait for our next adventure!

Mahalo!


Ally

Has it really been 2.5 months since I've last blogged?  JHC, life these days has been...complicated, to say the least.  I transferred jobs, my mom's cancer came back and she's now in hospice and I've had some other personal issues that I've been contending with.  Some things like the job, involved making the big, scary decision to switch to another state agency and although the work is unfamiliar and it's a constant learning process, my new coworkers are wonderful and the fast pace of the work makes the day go by faster.  Other things, like my mom's health, that are out of my control...I've had to make my peace with.  I went out to Kansas City a few weeks ago, spent some time with her and said my goodbyes.  I strongly believe that it doesn't matter what age you are, you're never prepared to lose a parent.  It's one of those wounds in life that cuts really deep...luckily, I have a great father, boyfriend and friends to lean on during those times.  Especially on weeks that I have IVIg treatment...I guess I should explain what I mean....

About 6.5 years ago, I became very ill.  It's not something I talk much about on the blog (or possibly ever have?) but it's something I deal with every day.  I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called CIDP, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy.  I was lucky to be diagnosed relatively quickly by a terrific doctor at Kaiser.  It was a terrifying few months of CTs, MRIs and endless rounds of blood work.  Finally after a spinal tap came back with elevated proteins they were able to properly diagnose me and start me on the correct course of treatment.  They're pretty sure that the flu shot I got a few months prior triggered it.  Now CIDP is usually treated in one of three ways: IVIg (immunoglobulin infusions), plasmapharesis, or corticosteroids.  I was fortunate that the IVIg worked for me, for some people none of these treatments work.  By the time I started treatment, I was using a walker, couldn't drive and if I fell I couldn't get up.  It was a sad, frustrating and confusing time for me and there were days that I was angry. There was no definitive prognosis. My dad came out and stayed with me for 6 months.  To this day, I'm so grateful that he was able to help me in my time of need. 

When I first started the treatments, I was going to the Infusion Center at Kaiser every two weeks, four days in a row but as time passed, gradually my treatments were reduced to two full days back-to-back.  Then they were slowly moved out to every four weeks, then six weeks and currently I'm at every eight weeks (2 days back-to-back, 7 hours each day).  The treatment slowly brought back my mobility.  It didn't come back fast or easily however.  The IVIg infusion give me these horrific migraines and often cause nausea and vomiting, this doesn't occur with everyone just with people who are sensitive to these sorts of things...like those who are migraine prone.  In the beginning, I was visiting the ER after every treatment and pumped full of Duiladid and Phenergan. They barely made a dent.  Aseptic meningitis "migraines" are 10x worse than the worst migraine of your life...and this comes from someone who has a pretty high tolerance for pain.  Over the years my body acclimated to the treatment and I no longer have to go to the ER.  Usually I can medicate at home with Dilaudid, Butorphanol, and T4's.  Phenergan and Zofran are also my best friends on those days.  Not to mention strong black coffee, it helps ease the extreme pulsating pain in my noggin.  I still get "flu-like" symptoms from the treatment- achy body, fever, and all I want to do is sleep.  My treatments are usually scheduled for Thursdays and Fridays so that I can sleep and take it easy over the weekend. Mr.S. is great about cooking on those days, rubbing my shoulders and feet and tiptoeing around- usually I'm pretty cranky. :)


How does it all work? Well, CIDP involves the white blood cells attacking the myelin sheath on the peripheral nerves, if it gets past the myelin sheath and attacks the actual nerves you can end up with nerve damage.  The IVIg treatment basically floods the body with antibodies which act like a Trojan horse.  The white blood cells start attacking the antibodies and leave the myelin sheath alone.  This gives the myelin sheath and nerves time to heal.

The IVIg treatments are pretty painless.  They jam a needle into my hand or arm and run the infusion for about 7 hours.  I have to have it run at a slow rate or the migraines come on quickly.  It gets pretty boring sitting in the chair but the staff there is very kind and they give you a warm blanket and soda/juice/coffee.  I usually bring my lunch, some reading material and my iPad. A few years ago they moved me to the infusion center at Kaiser Roseville where they have free Wi-Fi.  The Wi-Fi is pretty spotty but it usually runs well enough that I can catch up on some Hulu or Netflix streaming. The second day is always the worst, I'm usually feeling pretty cruddy and antsy. (Have you ever tried sitting in a chair for 7 hours?) One of the suckiest things is that every time you need to go to the restroom you have to take the whole IV rack with you, what a PIA, and when they're pumping that much fluid in you, you have to go a lot!  Oh and I forgot, the IVIg treatments are crazy expensive! 10-20k each treatment. I have to call in before each appointment to confirm that I'm coming in, otherwise, they won't mix it up.

These are the recliner chairs I get to hang out in while getting my IVIg.

This is the handy-dandy IV rack that I get hooked up to.

The stuff is working it's magic though. Looking at me today you'd have no idea that I ever had mobility issues.  I know, of course, because I still have issues with walking long distances, walking on uneven ground and trying to go down steps that don't have railings.  Down escalators still freak me out a little but it's all getting better slowly.  I've learned not to push things...especially when it's really hot out.  The heat really seems to trigger nerve issues in my feet and legs, so I have to be careful not to overdo it.  Also, I've learned to speak up to friends and family and tell them when I need to take it easy.  It's taken me awhile but these days I "listen" to what my body tells me.

Anyhow, I had IVIg treatment last week and was feeling pretty craptacular all weekend; however, on Monday I ventured out of the bedroom for a bit.  I had a few Meyer lemons leftover from a giant batch that a friend gave me so I decided to bake some Meyer lemon blueberry bread for a friend (and one loaf for us as well).  It came out great, was easy to double and the cheery citrus taste of the bread was like a little bright ray of light on a cloudy day.  You know one of those moments when you set down the baggage you're carrying and just soak in the moment and smile.  So not to be cheesy or anything but I guess when life gives you lemons, make some Meyer lemon blueberry bread. ;)



Meyer Lemon-Blueberry Bread (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients


1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons grated Meyer lemon zest
1 cup fresh blueberries

Optional: 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Butter an 8x4 loaf pan and line with parchment paper.

3. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar, Meyer lemon juice and eggs (I used my Kitchenaid mixer--makes it much easier and smoother).

4. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir it in the egg mixture, alternately with the milk.

5. On a plate, sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour.  Lightly roll blueberries through the flour so that they are lightly coated.  (This will keep them from bleeding and turning your bread blue and also from sinking to the bottom of the pan during baking.)

8. Fold in zest and blueberries. Mix gently (you don't want to smush the blueberries).

9. Pour batter into pan.  Bake for 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

10. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Grab parchment paper and carefully lift out.


Ally


This weekend I took Kidlet #2 to see Big Hero 6. Have you seen it yet? It's such a cute movie with some great themes running through it- coping with grief, being a "nerd" is cool and how to take the high road instead of exacting revenge - just to name a few. I also liked how the main character (Hiro) lived in a non-traditional family, as that's quite common these days. (He and his brother, Tadashi, are raised by their aunt.) I think the movie appeals to both kids and adults alike. I enjoyed it a lot and the Kidlet loved-loved-loved the movie and we discussed it at length on the way home.



Speaking of non-traditional. This weekend I also cooked this bad-ass hybrid cheesecake dish. It was so simple to make, I'm almost embarrassed to post it. But if you need an easy-to-prepare dessert for a party, I highly recommend making this sopapilla cheesecake.

If you've never heard of a sopapilla before- it's a deep-fried, puffed/pillowy pastry served with cinnamon and honey (or syrup) that originated in New Mexico.  This recipe combines a slacker-version of that with some creamy cheesecakey goodness.  It tastes insanely amazing warm but it's just as delicious when you refrigerate the leftovers- cold, they turn into a cheesecake bar. Just be warned- this recipe is not for the sugar-conscious and for god's sake don't make it with artificial sweeteners. 

I tweaked a few tiny little things to suit my tastes. (The original recipe can be found here: Allrecipes )

Sopapilla Cheesecake

Ingredients

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 (8 ounce) cans Pillsbury Original Crescent Rolls dough
6 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cup sliced almonds


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Spray cooking spray on a 9x13 inch glass baking dish.

3. Unroll the sheets of crescent roll dough from the cans. Roll each can's contents into a 9x13 sheet.  Press one sheet along the bottom of the pan. 

3. Using your mixer, beat the creamed cheese, 1 1/2 cups of white sugar, and vanilla extract together until smooth.

4. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the dough.  Spread so it's evenly distributed. Lay the 2nd sheet of dough on top.

5. Drizzle the melted butter over the top of teh cake.

6.  Mix the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon together. Sprinkle over the top of the dessert.  Then sprinkle the almonds on top. Then use a frosting spatula or knife and lightly mixed the almonds and sugar/cinnamon mixture together.

7. Bake for 45 minutes. The crescent roll will puff up and turn a golden brown.

8.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Slice and serve.



Ally


Is everyone ready for Thanksgiving? I'm definitely not.  Growing up as an only child in a family that wasn't super gung-ho over celebrating holidays; I've felt a bit overwhelmed during the holiday season ever since I started dating Mr.S.  He has a big family that's really nice, but the holidays always feel a bit chaotic to me when I'm there. There's a lot of people in his house during Thanksgiving and Xmas, a lot of noise and kids running amuck.  Up until this year, I could skip events and just duck home to the cottage if I needed a breather but now that I live with Mr.S I'm not quite sure how I'm going to handle it all.  I think the panic of the holidays must have already started to show a little on my face because Mr. S suggested we get out of town for a night. So the day after Thanksgiving we're going to duck out and decompress. I'm looking forward to it. ☺

How do you all deal with the holiday frenzy? Got any tried and true tips?

In the meantime, if you get tired of turkey and ham, give this delicious mushroom lasagna recipe by the folks at Sunset Magazine a shot.  My friend Michelle made it for book club and it was so insanely good that I had to ask her for the recipe. I just made it again this weekend. Mr.S and I had half and I brought half to a friend that just had a baby. It has a wonderful earthy taste balanced by a béchamel sauce that's not overwhelming. Also it can be prepared ahead of time which makes it a holiday time-saving gem!

Mushroom and Fresh Herb Lasagna

Ingredients

12 no-boil lasagna noodles (1/2 lb.)
1 qt. milk  (I used 2%)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, divided
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 medium leeks, sliced into thin rings
1 1/2 pounds portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. coarsely shredded Asiago cheese

Instructions

1. Soften noodles in a pan of very hot water while you prep the other ingredients.
2. Make béchamel (white sauce): Bring milk to a simmer in a saucepan and remove from heat. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened, 2 minutes. Whisk milk into flour mixture all at once and whisk until smooth. Add 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and the nutmeg. Sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon; if it isn't, cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in garlic, 2 tbsp. parsley, and 1/2 tbsp. thyme. Keep covered.
3. Preheat oven to 375°. Heat a deep, wide pot over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Swirl in 1 tbsp. oil and add leeks. Cook until tender but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Scoop leeks into a bowl and set aside.
4. Swirl 2 tbsp. oil into pot. Add mushrooms, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, covered, until mushrooms are tender and beginning to release juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until edges start to brown. Stir in leeks and remaining 1/2 tbsp. thyme. Remove from heat.
5. Mix Parmesan with Asiago.
6. Assemble lasagna: Oil a 9- by 13-in. baking dish. Spread a few spoonfuls of béchamel over bottom. Arrange 3 noodles crosswise in dish, then spoon on about 1/2 cup béchamel, followed by a third of the mushrooms and 1/3 cup cheeses. Repeat layers twice more. Top with a final layer of noodles and béchamel, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
7. Bake lasagna until browned and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp. parsley and let sit at least 15 minutes before slicing.
* Make ahead: Through step 6, 1 day, chilled, or up to 3 months, frozen. Let chilled lasagna sit at room temperature 1 hour before baking. Frozen lasagna can either be thawed in the refrigerator overnight and then baked, or baked straight from the freezer for 1 3/4 hours (cover for first hour).
* Dried shiitakes will work in this recipe too. Just rinse them in cold water several times, then place them in a bowl with boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain the water off, slice off the stems and use in recipe.
Ally
Hey there! Yep, I'm still alive. I've just been submerged in life. Living with Mr.S and the kidlets has been keeping me crazy busy. Kidlets? Should I even be calling them that anymore? One's a tween and the other a teen...and with age has come the teen angst, the normal stinky teen boy smells (Sweet Baby Jesus, why do their rooms consistently smell like a combo of dirty socks, sweat and ass?) and hormones, hormones, hormones. Rampant hormones and mood swings around every corner. Please someone, tell me it gets better at some point?! Plus, Pepper has decided to go around peeing upstairs (maybe because it already smells like socks, sweat and ass?) so we've had to put a doggie belly band on him. It seems to be working but I'm constantly velcroing and unvelcroing the sucker for him so he can go out. I'm like a doggie valet. I'll have to take a pic of him wearing the belly band, it's really cute (we bought him one that has bowties on it) but man, does Peppy hate it! Talk about a really disgruntled poodle.



Anyhow, I did come up for air and do some cooking this weekend. About a month or two ago, my friend Julie posted on Facebook that she was eating a funeral sandwich. My interest was piqued, I had to ask, "What's a funeral sandwich?" Turns out it's a type of slider made with Kings Hawaiian rolls, filled with thinly sliced lunchmeat and cheese, and then glazed with a sauce.  You shove them in the fridge to marinate and then pop them in the oven. I'm not 100% sure but I think they're some kind of spin-off of the Southern funeral biscuit.

I decided to make some this week and Mr. S and Kidlet #1 LOVED them, in fact Kidlet #1 has been begging me to make them again. He even offered to wash my car if I made them for him. I could get used to this. ☺

So if you need a dish for football Sunday, to take to bunco or just something to nosh on- give these a whirl. They're super easy to make (and you can even make them the night before). Traditionally they're made with ham and Swiss but I prefer turkey and provolone, so use whatever combo you like. They all taste good with the glaze.

Funeral Sandwiches

Ingredients

12 Kings Hawaiian rolls
12 slices of turkey lunchmeat (thinly sliced)
12 slices of provolone cheese
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Instructions

1. In a Pyrex measuring cup, melt your butter. Add in the Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, brown sugar and onion powder. Whisk together.

2. Coat your 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray.  Split the whole package of rolls in half and place the bottoms in the pan.

3. Use a pastry brush and baste each roll bottom with the sauce.

4. Fold a piece of lunch meat and cheese onto each roll bottom.

5. Place the roll top on.

6. Brush each roll top with sauce. Then drizzle the remaining portion of the sauce over the top of the rolls.

7. Cover tightly with Saran Wrap. Place in the fridge for a minimum of 3-4 hours but overnight is even better.

8. Preheat over for 350 degrees F.

9. If you want to get fancy you can sprinkle the rolls with poppy seeds or toasted sesame seeds.

9. Bake uncovered for 12-15 minutes.

10. Remove from oven. Eat right away.  (FYI: These do not reheat well so eat 'em up!)