Steak and Avocado Sliders, Creamy Corn Casserole, and Crispy Potato Wedges

Here is another DELICIOUS, real-food meal! Steak and Avocado Sliders, Creamy Corn Casserole, and Crispy Potato Wedges! This meal is perfect for game day or a casual dinner meal. I made it last night for a casual meal in. I wouldn’t say it was exactly easy; there are many steps and it’s a bit time consuming, but each step itself is easy-peasy so if you have a little bit of time to chop and prepare, you must try this! The great thing too is that you can easily make a lot of each part of the meal so that means leftovers, yum!

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Let’s start with the corn casserole. Make sure though to put the potatoes in the oven and marinade the meat before you get started. Details on these recipes are further along in the post. I got the idea for the corn casserole from Pioneer Women, here is her blog,Pioneer Woman Blog. I also have her books. She has FABULOUS recipes, all made with real food. She also is down to earth and quite funny. I took her corn casserole recipe and switched it up a bit. I honestly wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out. I thought, “Corn casserole? Only vegetables? Weird, I guess we’ll see how this turns out because I am not going to the store again!” but when I took that first bite, I was hooked! I think this will most certainly become a staple in our household. It’s less of a casserole and more of a really delicious way to eat corn. Here’s what you need:

  • Frozen corn
  • Diced onion, I used yellow
  • Diced bell peppers, I used red and green
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Mesquite seasoning

First, I sauteed the frozen corn with a bit of mesquite seasoning. I wanted a bit of a grilled flavor. My husband suggested next time we grill the peppers for that flavor. Sounds like a great idea we’ll try in the future, but the mesquite seasoning worked well too. Don’t fully cook the corn, then it will be mushy in the casserole, just saute it a bit to warm it up.IMAG1470 IMAG1469

Next, saute the onions and peppers. Cooking onions is one of my favorite smells in the world! I try to work in onions to every meal just so that I can so I can smell that glorious smell! Don’t overcook these either. We just want them to soften up a bit. I have no picture of this step, but look at these delicious veggies! The avocado and tomato are for the sliders later on 🙂

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Now, mix up the corn, onions, and peppers in a big bowl. Add butter, I used half a stick for about 4 or 5 cups of frozen corn. (I am horrible at measuring exacts, I like to taste test instead). Also add cream or half and half. I added about 1/2 a cup, but would add a little less next time.Season with salt and pepper. Depending on if you use salted butter or not will dictate how much salt to use. You really want the creaminess of the sauce to be a bit salty for contrast. Remember, we didn’t add salt while cooking any of the veggies so be a bit liberal, but you can always add more later if needed. Salting a recipe is definitely a talent and varies based on palette. Then put the whole concoction into a casserole dish. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. I put it on broil for the last 5,  I love doing this with a lot  of recipes, but as I said before, I think I added a little too much cream and really wanted some of the liquid to cook off. It comes out warm, creamy, colorful, salty, and a great side dish!                                                    IMAG1473IMAG1474

Now onto the wedges which you can cook while the casserole is baking. You should have been baking the potatoes for about an hour while doing all this corn prep. Did you forget? Oops! Anyhoo, the potatoes should be small. Scrub them clean and then salt them heavily and bake them until done. 350 for 45 minutes to an hour depending on your oven and size of the potatoes. Take out and let cool. You could microwave, but then the skin won’t be nearly as crispy.

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After the potatoes have cooled a bit, cut them into half and then half again, making wedge shapes. They’ll be a bit starchy and mushy. Break them up a bit. Then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.                          IMAG1475

Lastly, fry them in about 2/3 inch of oil. The sound of those little guys frying right up is enticing ! Make sure you flip them so that all thee sides touch the bottom of the pan at some point. But don’t flip too much! This will cause the wedges to simply fall apart. Two turns is all you need so that each side gets one turn.

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Remove them when they are golden brown and place of a plate of paper towels to soak up the extra grease. Salt immediately. They will be flavorful, crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside.                                                    IMAG1480

Finally the entree which ironically is the easiest part. I marinaded the steak with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and balsamic vinegar.

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When you’re ready to cook, slice into small pieces and then throw into a frying pan with some onions. I told you I love them! I like to make the frying pan really hot before I put the meat in so that it sears, but you have to be careful your pan is a bit oiled if you do this so the meat doesn’t stick.

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Afterwards, serve on a mini-bun (we used pretzel buns) with avocado, tomato, and cheese. We only had cheddar, but I think I’d prefer blue cheese. I made a mayonnaise-onion sauce to smear on the bun. Sorry, I didn’t take a picture of that but I just took the drippings and onions from cooking the steak and mixed it with mayo! I used it on the sliders and to dip my Potato Wedges into. Again, look at this delicious meal. Made with all real food and not too unhealthy 🙂 Yummy!

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Costco and Cooking: Being as Real Food as I Can Be on a Budget

I love food. I’m neutral about cooking. Sometimes I enjoy the experience, all the smells and textures, but I will never, ever turn down takeout or someone else cooking for me. I love being provided food that is delicious and requires zero effort on my part. The problem with said takeout is it makes you fat. I have a firm belief that it isn’t the actual food that makes you fat (plenty of people eat cheeseburgers at home and are skinny), but all that added bullshit that makes Americans fat. Preservatives, chemical, filler, that is the root of evil within our food culture. To combat this, I try to cook as many yummy foods at home as possible. My husband and I try new recipes all the time for our favorite kinds of take out food, ultimately reducing the number of takeout trips, and in turn, the amount of junk going into our bodies. Costco helps greatly with this goal. I just got back and spent $233. I got practically everything one needs to make practically anything. I still need to get organic romaine (When will Costco jump on this bandwagon!) mushrooms, some beans, bread crumbs, and tomato products, but other than that, we are set for about a month of eating. In contrast, we could probably get 7 or 8 takeout meals on $233, depending on where we went and what we ate. While Costco offers some organic products, I’d definitely like to see more variety on this spectrum but I get it, it’s hard to get organic in bulk. I’d also like to see more natural cleaning products. Despite it’s faults, Costco plays a major role in maintaining my families food budget and waistlines. Cooking for yourself can be empowering, fulfilling, and good for the soul. It’s also cheaper and much, much healthier.

A 9 a.m. text from Hawaii: Losing my job and being totally okay with it

It all ended so weirdly. A Thursday morning in January. A 9 a.m. text from Hawaii. “Jennifer, I’ve heard you are interviewing for another job. Please leave and do not return.” In one month I went from a star student to a fired fish (I love alliteration). I had already decided by October that I needed to leave. The environment was toxic, draining, and no longer fulfilling as it once was. I was going to finish the year and then transition to public school. However, I quietly and slowly became more and more frustrated with decisions being made and the way people were being treated. The last straw came in the beginning of January. I was forced to change classroom assignments; to teach a grade I didn’t want to teach because I was, “the only one that was qualified.” The real reason, like most decisions made at that school, was based on money (Please see where the text firing me came from though, Hawaii, how ironic) They didn’t want to hire another teacher so they thought they could just do a little shuffling. Just move people around like pawns and hide it behind a guise of bullshit. I, however, was not the submissive little bird he thought I was. I instead was a qualified, confident, desirable teacher who did not need to put up with this kind of crap. I was a woman who knew who I was and what I deserved. I immediately began applying for newly posted public school jobs on the Tuesday following the classroom change. I got called for interviews Wednesday. Received the text from Hawaii on Thursday. Had 5 interviews the next two days; offered and accepted a job on Monday. Less than a week from the initial push, the whole thing had snowballed into a great chasm of change, empowerment, and general Fuck you-ness.

He fired me because he had the, “I’m going to break up with you before you break up with me” attitude. I made a perceived mistake telling my Head of School I was interviewing. My stepfather said this was a life lesson. She was my friend, I didn’t expect her to tell our CEO. I also was trying to show integrity and allow them time to find someone to replace me in the event I did leave. Revealing that I had interviews is what inevitably caused me to get fired, however I do not regret this. I acted with the utmost integrity and strength through the entire ordeal. My character shined while theirs faltered. My coworkers, all 7 of them, saw the way things unfolded. This made them angry and nervous, rightfully so. I had worked there for 5 years, was second in seniority, and yet was so easily discarded the second I didn’t fall in line. They discussed trying to stand up to our CEO about the decision. I felt loved and supported at that offer, but declined for two reasons. I didn’t want to be there anyway; I was now free and didn’t want the option to be sucked back in if he changed his mind. The other reason is more fucked up. He would have probably just fired everyone if they did this. He manages from a position of fear and need for power; he’d never keep a staff who disagreed with him on such a fundamental level.

I’ve never been fired from a job before. I have a perfectionist type personality and was surprised at my reaction to this news. If you would asked me a few months ago how I would react to getting fired, I would have said cry, for sure. Be depressed, wallow, but I surprised myself. I have not cried a single tear. I didn’t feel bad or fearful when I got the text, instead I felt relief. I felt empowerment. Some rich old guy tried to bully me and I stood up for myself; I could not control what he did out of his frustration and if standing up for myself caused me to get fired, then so be it. I was not happy and so I started the process to get out. I would not be a victim in a somewhat emotionally abusive situation. I am now free, no longer a caged bird. I am excited about the new possibility and proud of the way I handled everything.

I’m disappointed that that was the way it ended after all these years, but frankly I’m not surprised. I had seen this man treat many other teachers and parents this way. I feel slightly silly and stupid for believing he had good intentions all these years, I feel naive. But I learned a lot and did really enjoy the majority of my experience there, despite the craziness. I made life-long friends and developed deeply as a teacher. I matured and grew from a college graduate to a woman with the help of the women surrounding me. I will never forget those friendships or the lessons I learned from them. I could not imagine my life without a few of these women, know they will remain for years to come, and for that I am grateful.

It will be different. For 5 years, it’s been the same. Two years ago my husband’s life took a 360 (he lost his job, started college and a new career) and now mine is. I can feel the energy from God, the universe, karma, that what is meant to happen is happening. I feel peace, with a brush of anxious excitement. I feel that I was being tested for the past little bit and I passed the test. Change used to frighten me greatly, it still kind of does, but I am learning that there is no need to fear. That life is forever changing, we just have to ride the wave and enjoy the experience.

I’m currently in limbo; waiting for hr to process all my paperwork, hoping I can start my new job next week. I love reading quotes from really talented writers that are congruent with my much less sophisticated brain. I’ve always felt connected to birds. They seem so delicate, yet they are strong and free. The below quote from Monique Duval sums up perfectly my current state of mind. I encourage you to check out her book, “The Persistence of Yellow: A Book of Recipes for Life.”

http://www.amazon.com/Monique-Duval/e/B001K7YOGS

Lying on the Floor: The Rock Bottom of Depression

I know our big blow up fight was because of me. It’s not that he did nothing wrong. It’s not that I did all wrong. It’s because I am unstable. My depression has resurfaced it’s ugly head and he is the only safe place where I can be truly depressed. Unconsciously I was allowing this little spat about which park to go to escalate out of control. If this happened, I could let out all of my rage and emotion. He would match me with emotional intensity, I could be free with my emotions and with him I know, despite the pain, it will be okay in the end.

The fight is over, the truth of my current emotional state has finally come out. I’ve hinted at it for weeks, but the funny thing about depression is you logically understand you shouldn’t feel this way. Then the battle begins. Your own thoughts devour you. Things aren’t that bad, what’s wrong with you, you are weak, how will you ever be a mother if you can’t even handle a minor life problem, is life even worth living, maybe I’ll be lucky and get in a car accident or come down with a fatal illness, then maybe I’ll get peace. No, you selfish creature, what’s wrong with you, how could you think these horrible things. One day he’ll realize, you’re going to ruin everything, you’ll run out of money and he’ll leave. These thoughts echo and circle in my mind for weeks and weeks until I can’t hold it in anymore. We fight, we make up, I confess, I fall apart and he picks me up.

The day ends with me lying on the floor, exhausted, him lying next to me. I’ve exerted all the tears I think a human body is capable of excreting without shriveling up. He has said so many positive, encouraging things, I wonder how he doesn’t lose patience with me. When I say some of the things I have been thinking I laugh. They sound so silly when I say them out loud to another person. He laughs with me and promises he’ll never leave. He reminds me of who I am, not who I think I am, but who I actually am. I feel better, well maybe not better, but at least neutral. There is enough love and hope in this house to keep going.

Update: I found this great video explaining depression with the metaphor of a black dog. I found it congruent with my experience. Enjoy!

http://www.upworthy.com/what-is-depression-let-this-animation-with-a-dog-shed-light-on-it

Hosting the Holidays

This year I decided to give my husband his greatest holiday wish, the wish he couldn’t help but gripe about each year. We hosted Thanksgiving AND Christmas at our home. That’s right folks, we cooked a turkey AND a ham in our very own oven with no help from the folks. They didn’t think we could do it, I knew we could.

Holidays were typically spent deciding whose family we’d dread less (typically mine), travelling to places we’d rather not go and eating food we’d rather not eat. He rarely, okay never, wanted to spend the holidays with his family (they are all little balls of hate and anger, Merry Fucking Christmas right?!) and I then felt an obligation to spend the holiday with my family if we weren’t spending it with his. It sounded crazy to not go to someone’s family’s house, who does that? Drug addicts, musicians, and people in prison must be the only ones who don’t go to the obligatory holiday dinner right? One Christmas we pulled out the big guns and lied (gasp) to each of our families saying we were with the other. That Christmas we enjoyed a great dinner at Sherri’s bar with our friends and few other secretly free souls. Each year he’d ask to just stay home, host dinner at our home, and each year I said no.

It’s not that I didn’t want to cook, we love cooking together. It’s not that I didn’t want to have people over, I love entertaining. Truthfully I’m not sure why I didn’t want to do it. Maybe I felt some pressure as to who to invite, no side of our families ever get together (his mom, my dad, my mom, three separate families). Maybe I didn’t feel grown up enough. Maybe I cared too much about what other people thought, I tend to do this. No matter the reason, I decided to give him his wish and we committed to hosting both big holidays. We invited all of our families to each event, went shopping for large hunks of meat to be put in the oven for an obnoxious amount of hours and then relaxed.

Hosting was less stressful and more fulfilling than I thought it would be. It was lovely to be in our home for the holidays, how comforting and enjoyable to no longer a guest in someone else’s house. It was even more lovely to eat deliciously prepared, real food instead of the frozen food my grandmother is akin to serving in her old age or the “ham” from the deli section of Walmart my mother says she enjoys. But what was most lovely was that I felt so much that I was celebrating with my family, my husband and myself and whoever else wanted to join. This was a great feeling and I’m glad I could feel this before we bring kiddos into this family. I’ve been becoming more and more of myself outside of my family (isn’t this one of the biggest achievements of your 20’s) and ripping off that holiday bandage was so freeing. I was reminded yet again, that I can do what I want, feel how I want, and enjoy life my way, no longer burdened by my past or family’s expectations.

It was also great to see the surprised look of relief on our families faces when they ate the food they had yet to believe we could actually cook well and although I learned lessons about independence, image of self, blah blah blah, the best part of hosting holidays is all the leftovers you get to keep and enjoy, haha!

Waiting, money, and happiness

2013 was full of a lot of emotional shit. Nothing too bad really happened, I find myself screaming, “First World Problems!” at even the slightest hint that my life is “hard”, but I am ending this year with a depressing weight and burden on my mind. Many things are left unfinished and the future is unpredictable at this point. I’ve lost my happiness and am unsure of how to get it back.

Financially my husband and I struggled. He is still in college and so isn’t working full time, we are working on paying down debt, and all of this means not very much money left. Growing up poor left me with some weird emotional issues connected to money. Money equals security, safety and when I don’t have any, I feel very scared. The world could get me at any moment. Everything could come crumbling down at the slightest change in financial circumstances. We always have basic necessities, and for that I am trying to show more gratitude. I know our financial situation, or really anyone’s financial situation, is only temporary. My husband is done with school in 3 months and at that time, things will be on the up and up, but I must wait and try to learn what I can from this time.

My job is giving me anything but happiness. I use to love it there, feel at home, feel inspired, gather worth. But all good things come to an end and I now feel undervalued, overworked, and that my time there is over. Just go get a new job, right? The issue is that I am a teacher. Jobs are year-long commitments and new jobs are only posted in the spring/summer time. This gives me time to work on applications which take about 3 hours each with all the endless uploads and paper hunting an application for a school district requires, but again I must wait and learn what I can from this time.

My greatest wish in the world is to have a family. Given our financial, college, and job status at this moment, we are not yet trying. It sucks seeing so many of my friends celebrating Christmas with their little ones, or announcing baby #2, while I sit here with an empty womb. I know we will get to have a baby soon, but I must wait and learn what I can from this time.

I am trying to find the blessing in this time and lesson. Learn through the trouble. I had a struggle of a childhood and early adult years and so I, soooo naively, though, “Hey, the shit must be all behind me, yay!” But it appears I have more work to do.I have a hard time waiting. I have a hard time enjoying the moment and seeing it for what it is. I’ve always lived in the future or the past, most notably thinking too much on past trauma or being too afraid that the future will being undesirable things.

This is my lesson to be learned. Struggle is constant and is really an opportunity for growth. Waiting is okay, there can be joy in the wait. Live in the present, the present of my life. Here’s to hoping 2014 can bring me peace with these things.

Blogging, and reading other blogs, I think will help me process all of this and again find happiness. Now when I feel the urge to Facebook, I will instead try to write or read about real experiences people are having. I hope to find some answers, peace, and happiness in words.