In the Kitchen: Meal Planning with Pinterest

By now I’m sure most of you are using Pinterest, if for nothing else than to amass a large collection of obnoxious Someecards.

Or maybe that’s just me?

Pinterest is useful for other things too though, like meal planning. Since I tend to Pin links to recipes all willy nilly, it can be daunting to go dig back through them each evening for a particular link. So, I’ve begun making a weekly menu that has helped keep me organized.

On grocery day I browse through my collection on my Kitchen board, then re-pin any recipes I want to use for that week on my This Week’s Menu board. I make my shopping list from there.

When it comes time to prep a meal, I can access everything with just my phone in the kitchen. This is a vast improvement over the days when I used to haul my laptop in there and try to find a safe place for it among the splatters. Oh, and hey, who remembers those things called cook “books.” So quaint.

Using the Pinterest app for the iPhone, I go to my boards.

If I just selected Kitchen, I’d have to dig around for my recipe. Oh look, I pinned nothing but carbs. How…usual.

This is where This Week’s Menu comes in handy again with its much smaller selection.

There it is, there’s the Pin for the shells I want to make.

When I tap on the Pin, it takes me to the website where the original recipe was posted. (If I’ve Pinned it correctly, that is. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.)

I can even use my phone to take photographs of the food, although I really should take a class in food photography and presentation, ‘cause mine never turn out quite as pretty as the inspiration.

But it still tastes pretty great, so that’ll do. That’ll do.

*If you’re not on Pinterest yet and are looking for a tutorial, may I direct you here or here. Or you can just find me on Twitter or Facebook and I can help walk you through. It’s a great tool for organization and inspiration and doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as some might make it out to be.

The bucket

Image source

During my training as a teacher, I was given an analogy that compared relationships to a bucketful of acorns.

The speaker held up an empty metal bucket. He said, “This is the person you’re in a relationship with.”

He placed acorns on the table in front of him. He said, “These are moments. They are kind words and insults. They are good deeds and trespasses.”

He handed the bucket to a woman sitting nearby. He told her she was doing a wonderful job at preparing for her career. Then he placed an acorn in the bucket.

Then he left the room and came back with a soda from the machine outside. He handed it to the woman and put another acorn in the bucket.

Then he kicked her.

Not hard. Just enough to catch her off guard and make her a tiny bit nervous.

He reached in the bucket and took out an acorn.

“Every interaction with people consists of deposits and withdrawals. You want to make sure you’re making as many deposits as possible, because eventually, even by accident, you’re going to end up making withdrawals,” he said.

I think about that demonstration all the time.


Now I’m not so great at banking, but I do know that if there’s $100 in my checking account and I write a check for $150, it’s gonna bounce.

And so I also know that with people in my life, if I care to have them around at all, if I care to make a positive impact on their life or want them to trust me, I need to invest in them.

I need to put acorns in the bucket.

But what happens when you’ve made several deposits in the other person’s bucket but they never make any in yours? What happens with they’ve given you no acorns and then they walk up and kick you?

Even if you’re a forgiving person (and I struggle with that) you’re going to feel that person is bankrupt after awhile. You’re going to take your empty bucket and go somewhere else.

You can’t ever get back the acorns you put in their bucket either. You gave time and thought and maybe even money to this person, but it’s an investment you can’t ever touch, because really what they’ve done is just dump out the bucket.

Today I realized that I made deposits in another’s bucket for no reason. I realized that every time I gave, and they took, that they never tried to reciprocate.

I looked down and not only was my bucket bereft of acorns, it had some IOUs in there. It was an account that was severely overdrawn.

So I’m closing that account. I’m taking my bucket elsewhere. And while I’m not ok with that, while I had hoped for better, I have to accept that some people are incapable of handing out acorns.

Are your buckets full? If not, how do you wish others would invest acorns in you?

And I would do anything for love…

*Warning: This post might offend vegetarians. And anyone with common sense, which I am obviously lacking today. 

The hubs and I, we don’t really do Valentine’s Day. It’s not that we hate candy and flowers, it just one of those take-it-or-leave-it holidays.

So this morning was just like any other morning – we got up with the kiddo when he started squawking from his crib. Hubs let the dogs outside to potty, I plopped the munchkin in his high chair with some Cheerios and yogurt and then we sat down to read the morning news. (Ok fine, we were on Twitter. Shut it.)

After breakfast, Monkey and I read some books and hubs headed to work. A few minutes later the phone rang.

“Some fat guy in a diaper was on our porch,” my husband said.

There’s still a few inches of snow on the ground and the cat refuses to stay out at night, so I was thinking about how uncomfortable that nappied nincompoop must be out there when my husband added, “He was wearing wings.”

Most women would have caught on at this point, but I actually had a neighbor once who checked his mail while wearing pink underwear, a tutu and alien antennae, so instead of thinking “Cupid,” I was thinking “I hope that door is locked. Where’s my gun?”

Then, over the phone, I heard this weird mouth-fart noise that could only be my husband suppressing a giggle.

“You got me a card, didn’t you?” I asked, feeling like crap because I hadn’t done any Valentine’s planning at all.

And indeed, he had. It was punny and silly and perfect, and inside he’d penned a beautiful letter. I thanked him and we hung up.

As the morning progressed, I thought hard about how to reciprocate his spontaneous declaration of love.

Well you know, of course I decided on food.

We were going to have tacos for dinner tonight – not the fanciest fare even if the tortillas were going to be freshly made.

Suddenly, this post I’d seen the day before popped into my head. Restaurant- style steak! Men love red meat that’s dead, having been drowned in butter, but barely qualifying as cooked. (Or at least, mine does.)

Except that he has the car seat in the truck with him at work and it’s not like I can just zip over to the store with a toddler in the trunk of the car, and we don’t have any steak here…exactly.

Oh! But what we did have was a huge beef tenderloin my mother had bought for Christmas dinner. We’d never actually gotten around to cooking it, so it was taking up an entire shelf in my deep freeze.

Now, that’s way too much meat for our little family to consume in one meal and since we’re heading out for a little vacation later this week I didn’t want to waste it by defrosting the whole thing.

“I know,” I thought. “I’ll just cut off a little piece of the end, slice it into steaks and serve them with roasted rosemary potatoes. What man doesn’t like steak and potatoes?”

Armed with my sharpest knife, I headed into the garage to the deep freeze.

I’d seriously underestimated a couple of things.

One, the size of the tenderloin. This was a $70 hunk of beef, y’all.

Two, frozen meat is freaking hard. The knife wouldn’t even scratch the surface.

So there I am downstairs with a hunk of frozen beef that resembles a cadaver leg – trying to come up with a way to lop off the end of it – when I caught sight of hubs’ tool chest.

“I’ll chisel this mother off, “ I said to myself, returning to my beefy challenge with a hammer and a (very clean) wood chisel.

You know, I discovered that would be a great way to cut beef medallions, but it wasn’t going to get me a clean slice through the middle.

Luckily, a more thorough search of the tool cabinet revealed a fresh, unopened package of new hacksaw blades.

Now I’m standing on a pile of dirty towels, this large, plastic-wrapped tenderloin pinned to the top of the washing machine which was the only clean flat surface available, vigorously sawing back and forth while meat confetti flew everywhere.

But I got a chunk cut off that sucker for dinner. Oh yes I did.

It was about 15 minutes later, after I’d cleaned up the murder scene in the garage that I realized he’d taken the car to work and left the truck – complete with toddler car seat – in the driveway for me to use.

Linking up with Yeah Write #44! You should really come check out the posts there. No two are alike. 

In the Kitchen: Talkin’ Turkey

Last year I hosted Thanksgiving at my house, which meant not only did I have to clean behind the toilet and wipe off the three inches of dust that collected on the ceiling fan, I also had to provide the turkey.

Now, I’m a pretty experienced cook but the thought of tackling the turkey freaked me out. I couldn’t face the possibility of burning the bird and having to serve cold cuts along side our beautiful casseroles and perfect pies.

Luckily, my mom had come into town and she walked me through the basics. I also added in a couple of ideas of my own and we ended up with a fantastic turkey and a magical meal.

I had a few requests from friends to share my turkey tips, so here you go.

Mamamash Talks Turkey: Do’s and Don’ts

DO plan ahead. Most turkeys are sold frozen, so you’ll need to plan for defrosting time. It takes 24 hours to defrost 5 pounds of turkey, so do the math and realize that 20-pound bird you’ve purchased needs four days just to reach a non-frozen state.

DON’T defrost the bird in the sink. It must be kept cold. Place the turkey in the refrigerator in a jelly roll pan lined with paper towels so you don’t end up with unwanted juices mingling with the fresh produce. Salmonella is not a good way to lose the holiday weight.

DO remember to remove the giblet bag once your turkey is defrosted. It’s not a nice surprise to pull it out in the middle of carving your bird at dinner.

DO brine your turkey. Once your turkey is defrosted, you’ll need an extra 12 hours to brine it. The night before, while you’re off marinating yourself in martinis in order to calmly handle your houseful of relatives, soak the bird in a salt solution in order to increase the moisture holding capacity of the meat. You can choose from many brines, like this one here, or this one, or this.

DON’T substitute one cup of table salt for one cup of kosher salt when making your brine. Table salt is much saltier.

DO continue to keep your bird chilled while brining. You must keep your turkey chilled to at least 40 degrees Farenheit during the brining process. If your brining container won’t fit in the fridge, put the turkey in a cooler, cover with ice, and pour the brine over the top. Stick it in the garage overnight if it’s cool outside. Last year, my turkey hung out in its cooler in the bathtub. To be completely honest, it was very odd to be doing my business next to a large dead bird, but definitely worth it.

DON’T attempt to deep fry a frozen or wet turkey. It will explode and burn down your house. Seriously, Google fried turkey mishaps. You’ve been warned. In fact, here are some great tips for frying birds.

DO let your turkey come to room temperature before cooking it. It will roast/fry/smoke more evenly that way.

Now, if you’re smoking or frying your bird, check here and here for tips on those two methods. I’m going to continue on discussing how to roast the perfect turkey.

DON’T be afraid of the butter. Pull a Paula Deen and set out a whole stick of butter, y’all. Soften it, then gently separate the skin from the bird and rub that butter all over the place. Give the bird a nice butter massage.

DO be creative. If you want to use herbs, place them inside the gap you’ve made between the breast and skin. If you like citrus, throw some orange slices into the bird’s cavity. Be sure to salt and pepper the skin as well. If you don’t have a roasting rack, line the bottom of a roasting pan with carrots and celery stalks to elevate the bird.

DON’T ever cook the turkey with stuffing inside. Yes, I know that’s how your mom did it. No, the fact that fact that you never got sick doesn’t discount the fact that it’s a recognized health hazard. If you must have your dressing flowing out of the turkey as you place it in all its glory on the table, stuff it with separately cooked stuffing when you pull it out of the oven.

DO truss up the bird’s legs for more even roasting. Also, it looks cool. Look, you’re a chef!

DON’T forget to preheat the oven. It can take 30 minutes for a cold oven to reach 325 degrees Farenheit.

DO roast the bird with its foil-covered breast side up in the oven at 325 for 20 minutes per pound if previously frozen and 12 minutes per pound if fresh.

DON’T even think about peeking until about 45 minutes before you estimate the turkey to be done. Remove the foil so the breast will brown and check the internal temperature. Baste with the pan juices.

DO ensure that the meat reaches 180 degrees at deepest spot between the leg and the breast.

DON’T immediately cut into the bird. Tent it with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes so the meat can absorb all the juices back in.

DO lay claim to your favorite piece before allowing anyone else near the bird. After all, you’re the one who’s been working on this dish all week and if you want a leg, dammit, you get a leg.

If you happen to run into a turkey emergency, don’t forget the awesome experts at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. I’ve never used their services, but I’ve heard that they are enthusiastic and very helpful.

Also, if you’d like to bring something besides green bean casserole to your family’s celebration this year, try this corn casserole from  The Bearded Iris.

Good luck and have a Happy Thanksgiving!