Cheap-Skate Peppermint Latte

Hi Folks! Sorry for the long time between posts, January was a weird month for residents of The Compound. See, the thing about The Compound is… when something happens to one of us, we all kind of pitch in to help out. So we were all MIA for awhile. But really, that’s what it’s all about, right?

So can I make it up to you? How about a little peace offering in the form of… caffeine and chocolate? Yes? I thought so ;)

Here is my favorite part of my kitchen:

But my SECOND favorite part of my kitchen is this:

Cheap $30 Mr Coffee espresso maker that I got on sale at Target like… a million years ago. I use it to fuel my caffeine addiction. Hey, at least I can admit it, right?

So here’s a way to make a peppermint latte that tastes just like something you might find at a certain coffee chain… which shall remain nameless… but it might rhyme with Shmarbucks…

First, make a shot of espresso. (And seriously, if you like lattes or cappuccinos, or whatever, and are sick of paying $4 or more a whack? Go buy yourself an espresso machine. It’ll pay for itself a million times over. And you’ll be highly caffeinated at all times. Win-win.)

Then, zap a mug of milk in the microwave until it’s hot but not boiling (my machine’s old, so I do 45 seconds on high). Chop up two mini peppermint patties, and stir them into the hot milk until melted.

Finally, add a shot of espresso. Voila, instant deliciousness. Now excuse me, I have to go drink this before my munchkin wakes up!

Life Lesson #1: Seltzer Can Turn Into An Ice Bomb

I was trapped in my house with a potty training toddler over the weekend.  Granted, a very sweet potty training toddler who told me I was a beautiful mommy on several occasions (melt), but still: POTTY TRAINING.  It’s draining.  Despite the fact that Liam picked it up really quickly and is doing very well, it was still tiring—maybe because of all of those sprints to the bathroom.  At one point Liam literally yelled at me to “move faster!”, kind of how I would imagine a drill sergeant might bark at me if I were ever to join the army.  I’ve never moved so quickly in my life.
When I finally managed to escape the madness go on a little excursion with my sisters sans Liam, this is what I found in my car.  My first reaction was “did it SNOW in here?!” but then I realized: I had left a seltzer can in the car (along with approximately 540 crushed animal crackers on the floor, an entire library of Sesame Street books, receipts dating back to 2005, and more straw wrappers and napkins than you can count).  It’s been REALLY REALLY COLD, and apparently sub-zero weather turns seltzer cans into ice bombs.

Please don't try this at home

Luckily, Theresa offered to drive us to the supermarket.  But imagine what we found when we got to her car?  I’ll give you one guess.

Yes, it’s a water bottle. And yes, it cracked. Kate was the only sane one among us, so we made her dispose of it.

Seriously, what is wrong with us?  I’d blame Liam distracting me, but clearly the whole compound is afflicted.
To make ourselves feel better after our obvious lack of judgment, we ordered iced coffees from Coffee Express on the way to the supermarket.  Which we promptly drank half of and left the other half in the car to freeze.  Are we sensing a pattern here?
At least I can console myself that the potty training was a success. ;-)

Baked Potato Soup, with a side of Awkward

I have a confession to make. I never have all the ingredients for a recipe. Ever.

Life with a 9 month old means you can’t always run to the store for thinks like… leeks. Who just HAS leeks kicking around the fridge? Not I

(ssshhh, don’t tell the Food Network, I’m pretty sure I’ll never get my own show if they know I never buy leeks. I bet Ina Garten always has leeks in the fridge. Are you wishing I’d stop saying leeks already?)

Moral of the story, I usually end up substituting the living daylights out of recipes, to use what I have on hand. Which is exactly why I need more recipes like this one from smitten kitchen . It’s the kind of recipe that uses things you already have in the house. And if you don’t have it… you can probably use something similar and it will still be delicious. WIN.

For example, I swapped out the leeks for a sweet onion I had in the fridge, and used less chicken broth (mainly because I only had 4 cups, but you could totally add more at the end if you like a thinner soup). I also simplified the use of garlic, because the original recipe had you (deep breath) pop the entire head of garlic in the broth and simmer it until tender, then pop out the cloves and mash them with a fork… way too many steps for someone who is JUST STARTING DINNER AT 9:00 AT NIGHT. I just minced up a TON of garlic and sautéed it with the onions. Simple, no?

So, step one: pour a glass of wine. This might be the most important step.

Then cut up a bunch of veggies while drinking said wine. See? Potatoes, onion, and garlic. Totally things I usually have in the fridge.

If you’re wicked classy like me, you’ll forget to cut up an entire potato and chuck it into the soup accidentally. Then get your finger in the picture while documenting how much of a mess you are.

Bacon and soup? Yes please

Toast some crusty rolls to go with it, if you like that sort of thing.

And garnish the finished product with whatever makes you happy. I went with sour cream, chives, and bacon. That can ONLY be good. (sidenote: I *might* have added more bacon after I took this picture… don’t judge me)

RECIPE: adapted from smitten kitchen (click link to see original recipe)

Serves 6

1 head garlic, minced (use more or less depending on how garlicky you like your soup)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium sweet onion
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (the original recipe called for 5-6, so add more after pureeing depending on how thick you like your soup)
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used Yukon golds, which took a little longer to cook but were delicious)
1/3 cup sour cream (or whatever dairy you have on hand, to add some creaminess)
Ground black pepper
Salt (to taste)

Toppings, optional:
Minced fresh chives or scallions
Bacon bits
Sour cream
Grated cheddar

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook them until soft (but not brown), about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook another minute. Add broth, bay leaves and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes. Add potatoes and continue to simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Discard bay leaves. Add sour cream to soup and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Using immersion blender, process soup until chunky-creamy, or totally creamy, whatever makes you happy. I’m sure you could also use another method of pulverization if you prefer; a food processor or blender, etc.

Chronicles of Chaos…Home Edition

My husband, Brian, and I are currently in the process of redecorating and revamping our house.  Here’s a little background on the house- the hub of The Compound, if you will.  We are currently living in the house I grew up in, the one that my parents bought in 1987.  When I was little, I used to tell my parents that I was going to live in that house forever.  Little did they know, that was actually going to happen.  Most normal kids can’t wait to leave for college.  I, on the other hand, decided to live at home while getting my degree, and couldn’t bear to be away from my family, especially my sisters.  My parents bought a vacation home and mostly left me to my own devices.  I like to tell people that they couldn’t get me to move out, so they took it upon themselves to leave first.  That’s completely untrue, but it sounds dramatic and a little evil, which I enjoy (I am a youngest child, after all).

That being said, it’s much harder to consolidate your belongings and throw things away when everything in the house is associated with a childhood memory.  Conversations usually go like this:

Me: “Do you think we should toss this heinously ugly table?”

Brian:  “Sure!”

Me: “ARE YOU CRAZY?  This came from my grandparents house!  I don’t care how ugly it is, we’re keeping it!”  *Storms off in fit of unjustified rage*

Ugliest. Table. Ever.  Do you like that awesome 80s phone?  You do?  I knew it.  [Also, please note the corner of the couch to the left of the table.  Janine is trying to somehow acquire that couch from my house.  That’s another story for another blog post…stay tuned].

 My parents still have the majority of their furniture in the house, until at some point they build an in-law apartment and move it all out (except, of course, the things that I have stuck post-its on and labeled as “keeping this forever– sorry Mom.”).  Sometimes I think that it would have been easier to move out and start fresh in a new, empty house, but then I think about how much I love the house and all its little quirks, and it makes all the work worth it.

My constant complaining about not having enough space to store things, not having enough time to decorate, and the fact that this adorable Anthropologie wallpaper won’t go on sale doesn’t seem to bother Brian in the slightest.  Yesterday we spent well over an hour looking at wallpaper and bedding online, and I only caught him staring at the ceiling out of sheer boredom once…we’re making strides here, people.  I come up with a new, usually hare-brained scheme for the house pretty much everyday.  My current obsession is trying to remedy the lack of closet space.  The house was built in 1890, when people clearly didn’t have excessively large wardrobes and/or nail polish collections.  I’ve convinced myself that turning an alcove in my room into a walk-in closet will solve all of life’s problems.  I’ll keep you posted on the progress of that…If you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s safe to assume that I’ve been attacked by the clothes-monster that seems to be expanding exponentially in the upstairs hallway.

Preschool: The Dramatic First Chapter (complete with weeping)

So, we just submitted an application for preschool. As in, an application for preschool for my baby who I swore could never leave me until he was 98 years old. Be prepared for lots and lots of crying if he is actually accepted, because right now I’m in complete denial. I keep saying things like “we’ll decide when we get the letter back from the school” and “there’s no rush making a decision.” You know what that means? I’m only in the first stage of grief. I’m sure my hand will start shaking uncontrollably when I have to write the check (well, that’s an emotional AND a financial thing, because heck, preschool is apparently worth the actual cost of your firstborn child).

Look at this face. Could you send him to school? Me neither. Come on, Liam, let’s go snuggle under your Mickey quilt and watch Winnie the Pooh again. I’m sure we can keep doing this forever.

Don't you just want to kiss him?

The flip side of this is that I’m actually hoping he DOES get into this school, because from everything that I can tell, it’s amazing. Liam is obsessed with musical instruments (obsessed like, he’ll give you a musical instrument the second you enter our house, instruct you how to hold it, and then proceed to conduct you in a song of his choosing) and this is a preschool based in a music conservatory. Lots of attention, lots of focus on the things he loves. What’s so hard about sending your child off somewhere new is that you don’t know if they will approach learning or communication or nurturing the same way—but I guess that’s part of the whole learning process, right?

Now I’m off to inspect Liam’s elbows. I’m seriously concerned his baby dimples are starting to disappear. WAHHHHHHHHHHH.