My Favorite Easter Gifts

I went to Target last night in search of items to put in my teenage daughter’s Easter basket. For the last few years, a friend of hers…we’ll call her Lu…has slept over at our house the night before Easter. It has become a tradition, and I love it! I get to put together two Easter baskets! This year, though, I get to put together three, because her friend from Ohio is flying in to spend the weekend with us too!

Last week, I did some shopping for them at a local store called Paper Skyscraper and got some really cute items there…Greenwich Trading Company soaps, bunny slippers, and more. I’ve also ordered some favorite childhood collectibles on eBay, but last night, I was on a candy mission.

Easter candy is the best. I know you’re thinking Valentine or Christmas candy might be better, but I’m telling you, Easter candy wins, hands down.

Every year, when they put the Easter candy out…right after Valentine’s Day…I purchase some Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs. I don’t eat Whoppers any other time of year, but at Easter, I want the Mini Robin Eggs. They make me think of my friend, Angela. We have been friends for 33 years, so we’ve made lots of crazy memories. In the early 2000s, when we were both married without children, I visited her around Easter one year, and we sat on the sofa in her den, laughing and eating Whoppers Mini Robin Eggs. We might have eaten them till we both felt sick. But the point is…I have to buy them every year, because they make me think of Angela and good times!

I have other favorites too, so whether she likes them or not, my daughter gets these candies every year:

  • Peeps. I think Peeps are the best-selling Easter candies. Some people absolutely love them. Me? Not so much. But the Easter Bunny put them in my basket every year anyway. As an adult, I’ve discovered they aren’t that bad, but still not my favorites to eat. They are, however, necessities for Easter baskets. It just wouldn’t be an Easter basket without Peeps. I feel pretty sure my daughter throws them away every year, but this year, she and her friends will be getting a Peeps candy/sock gift combo. So cute!s-l1600-2
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. When I was a little girl, Daddy would give us our “allowance” on Saturday mornings and take us to the “candy store,” which was really a little, locally-owned convenience store called Murphy’s. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy were always there, and they were always kind to us. We would go in with our money and pick the candies we wanted. My favorite was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I would pick up those first, before getting Now & Laters, Super Bubble Bubble Gum, a Three Musketeers Bar, Spree, a Blow Pop, and sometimes a Marathon Bar. But Reese’s were my favorite. Somehow, the Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs taste more like the peanut butter cups tasted when I was a child. Whether my daughter likes it or not, she’s getting those.9101dS1S5jL._SX522_
  • Pez. Come on…Easter baskets wouldn’t be complete without an Easter-themed Pez dispenser. Little chick? Little Lamb? Little Easter Bunny? Sold! Pez candies are OK tasting, but the real novelty is in the dispenser. easter-pez-127510-im1
  • Fun Dip. My daughter loved Fun Dip when she was little, and so did I. They make a “spring” edition….pastel colors. She’ll be getting some in her basket, and so will her friends!springtime-fun-dip-multi-pack-16ct-sold-out-2
  • Chocolate Bunny. I don’t care if it’s good chocolate or cheap chocolate. Because I always received a chocolate bunny in my Easter basket, my daughter and her friends get chocolate bunnies too. One year, my daughter left it on the dining room table…right where the sun shines through the window. I walked in later to find an unidentifiable chocolate creature that looked a little zombie-ish, because it had melted.Palmer-Hollow-Milk-Chocolate-Bunny
  • Chocolate Cross. It’s Easter, people. solid-chocolate-cross-2-5oz-milk-or-white-chocolate-22

And then, there are gifts of the non-candy variety:

  • Devotional Book or Bible. There are devotional books that contain daily or weekly devotionals. There are books that explain The Bible in plain speak. There are books of Bible stories for children…and frankly, I see no shame in reading those myself! When we were little, Mother would read to us nightly from a children’s book of Bible stories. Amazon offers lots of options for devotional books and Bibles. I found one for teenage girls here.51LHcMF7M7L._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_

Silver cross necklace. Nordstrom has a nice variety of cross necklaces…a meaningful gift to add to the Easter basket. You can see their selection here.

There are other little things I put into the baskets on Easter, so I’m going to share some of those ideas too (some will appear in baskets this year):

  • Lip gloss
  • Hand lotion
  • Garden gnome (every…single…year)
  • Flower seeds or Grow Kit
  • Starbucks gift card
  • Other gift cards (Chick-Fil-A, Target, Smoothie King, etc.)
  • Good-smelling soaps. I purchased some made by Greenwich Trading Company.
  • Lacrosse and field hockey balls.
  • Decorative cross. Again, it’s Easter, and a decorative cross makes a lovely gift any time of year…to remember He is risen.

Happy Easter, friends! Christ died so we could have everlasting life, and on the third day, He arose. Let’s celebrate His resurrection.

 

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Teens and Life Skills

A friend and I were talking a couple of weeks ago, and she told me about an experience she had with a babysitter the weekend before.

She and her husband were going out at night and asked a teenager to babysit their nine-year-old daughter. The daughter had not had dinner, so my friend got out a few canned items, put them on the counter, and told the babysitter to heat those up when the little girl got hungry.

When she got home, the cans were still on the counter. Worried her daughter had not eaten dinner, she asked the babysitter, “Did she eat dinner?” The babysitter told her that her daughter had, indeed, eaten dinner, but she gave her something else, because...she…did…not…know…how…to…open…the…cans. 

We had a good laugh about it, but it made me think: does my own 15-year-old daughter know how to open a can? That afternoon, when my daughter got home from sports practice, I asked her, “Do you know how to use a can opener?” She assured me she did. Hmmm…. I took her into the kitchen so she could prove it to me. And she did. Whew!

When she was younger, we once had a housekeeper who wouldn’t let our daughter do anything for herself: put on her shoes; get dressed…she was two or three…old enough to put on her own slip-on shoes, but the housekeeper would always run over and try to help her. She could do it fine when the housekeeper wasn’t around! It drove me insane! If that housekeeper had remained with us, our daughter might not know how to do anything!

I know people have their own ideas about what teens need to know before they graduate from high school. I’m not even going to look at anyone else’s online list, but I’m going to share my own ideas with you.

  • Use a can opener to open a can. Obviously.
  • Crack an egg and scramble it. If you can’t cook anything else, this one is essential, preferably without eggshells in it.
  • First Aid. Know how to stop/treat bleeding; recognize if you need stitches; How to make a temporary sling; recognize serious illness (appendicitis, heart attack, etc.); treat a bloody nose; treat a bee sting. It’s also very important to know how to operate an Epipen; you never know when you will be the only one who knows how to do it in an emergency!
  • Heimlich maneuver. This is an important one. I’ve known several people who have been saved by it. They also need to know how to perform the Heimlich on themselves in case they are alone and choking.
  • Escape a burning building. It’s important to know to stay low and move swiftly. Don’t open a door if it feels hot to the touch. And more…
  • Budget. It can be difficult to budget. When I was first out of college and making very little money, it was all about choices. I learned to pay essentials first, set some money aside for saving, and make good choices about what I wanted to do. Sometimes, I had to pass on some things I wanted to do.
  • Write a check. Check-writing is rare these days, but it is a necessary life skill. By the time our teenagers are in their 30s, checks might be obsolete, but for now, they need to know how to write a check. It’s also important to know how to do banking transactions: deposits, withdrawals, transfers, etc.
  • Check the oil in an automobile and add engine oil. You don’t want your child to find herself 200 miles from home with the “add engine oil” light on in her car, but if she does, you want her to know what to do.
  • Put gas in a car. One would think this is obvious, but in New Jersey, it’s illegal to pump your own gas, so I wonder what happens to those people when they get to another state? Years ago, I knew a woman whose husband had always pumped gas into her car for her. While that’s gallant (my husband takes my car to fill it up regularly), it’s important to know how to pump gas.
  • Negotiate new cities (without fear). This is not an innate skill. It is one that is acquired by experience, and it is crucial for survival, if your child plans to do any travel. I learned it as a teen.
  • Swim. Yes, everyone needs to know how to swim. It doesn’t have to be pretty.
  • Pack a suitcase. Someone once told me about an adult (over 40) whose mother packed her suitcase for a vacation. While I hate packing, I know how to do it. I’ve been doing it since my first trip to Disney world when I was six. My daughter hates it too, but she has been packing her own suitcase since she was about seven or eight. *She went on an adventure trip to Iceland last summer, and someone who “had the inside scoop” insisted on packing for her, and I was OK with it, because we know nothing about wilderness packing…and frankly, we don’t need to know.* It’s not likely she’ll do another trip like that again…she is her mother’s daughter and likes nice hotels.
  • Iron a shirt/pants. I can iron just about anywhere…a floor, a bed, a countertop. I grew up ironing, and I actually enjoy it. Need some ironing done? Invite me over, and if you’ll chat me up, I’ll catch up all your ironing…just ask my friend, Angela, whose ironing I’ve done before! My teen daughter knows how to iron. She also knows how to use a steamer to release wrinkles from her clothes.
  • Check in for flights at the airport. People need to know how to make sure their bags have name tags on them; check in; get boarding passes; check bags; clear airport security; find their gate; change planes; stow baggage on planes; and retrieve their bags at their destination. They also need to know how to get ground transportation.
  • How to cross a city street on foot. Kids who don’t live in urban areas don’t learn how to cross city streets on foot unless they have some practice doing it. It’s a life skill.
  • How to tip. Living in the US, it’s important to know how/when to tip. They need to know how much to tip in different situations and when to tip. My daughter does her own tipping at restaurants with friends. I now encourage her to do some of the tipping at the airport (skycaps) and hotels (bellman, valet, doorman, housekeeping),  so she will become comfortable with it.
  • Clean a toilet. You don’t have to enjoy it, but you have to do it.
  • Vacuum.
  • Use a plunger in a toilet. Definitely need to know how to do this. It’s not fun, but it’s essential.
  • Repair a hem. I don’t care if she uses hemming tape, but it needs to work.
  • Sew a button onto a shirt/jacket/pants, etc. When I was fresh out of college, I worked as a flight attendant. I arrived at a hotel one night to realize one of the buttons was falling off my blouse. The hotel had a sewing kit, and I re-attached the button with ease. Not everyone can do it. Teach your children.
  • General safety. Safest places to park. Be aware of surroundings. How to know if you’re being followed, and what to do if you are. What to do if you’re approached by a stranger. The necessity of locating emergency exits in buildings, theaters, hotels (and planes) all the time…especially crowded ones. How to avoid dangerous situations. What to do in active shooter situation.
  • Weather safety. Growing up in Alabama, we had to know what to do in case of a tornado. Even though they are rare where we live, it’s important to know. Know what to do in lightning.
  • Use a bottle opener, a corkscrew, and open a bottle of champagne properly and safely. Sounds basic, I know, but a lot of adults don’t know how to use a corkscrew. And the cork isn’t supposed to fly out of a champagne bottle (dangerous) or make a lot of noise. It’s an art. It’s one they shouldn’t need till they’re over 21, but just in case…they need to know how dangerous a flying champagne cork can be.

I know I’m forgetting some things, so feel free to comment any skills you want to add. I know “change a tire” will be on there, but that one is iffy. While I know how to change a tire, lug nuts are often difficult to remove, and lots of newer cars don’t carry spares. Therefore, it’s important to know how to call for roadside assistance (through the manufacturer or AAA). There are lots of other necessary life skills…recognize an abusive relationship; when to walk away; etc.

Let’s hear your suggestions…

 

My Top Ten Reasons (Excuses) To Stay In Bed

I don’t consider myself a low energy person. I like to be busy. I like to have things to do. But sometimes, I like to have nothing to do. In fact, one of my hobbies is doing nothing, and sometimes, I look for any reason (excuse) to stay in bed.

How did I marry a man who hates to sleep in? I love sleeping in! I remember when “sleeping in” meant 10am or 11am, but now it means 8:30am, and it’s rare. My husband is a morning person. Every morning at 6:00, he jumps out of bed, opens all the drapes, and starts his day. He usually asks when I want to get up, and rarely I say, “Now.” And when I’m awake, he  brings me a cup of coffee in bed (yes, he does!). Lots of times, though, I say I’m not ready to get up yet, and I feel the need to give him a reason (excuse) for me to stay in bed. Some of my reasons (excuses) for staying in bed are good, and some are lame, but here they are:

  • “I was up late last night picking up teenagers from friends’ houses while you were sleeping.” I’m really a night owl, so I don’t mind driving kids around at night, but I use it to my advantage the next day, if I can. Sometimes it buys me an extra hour in bed.
  • “It’s raining.” Or snowing…either would apply. Yes, I’ve actually used this lots of times. Who wants to get out of bed when it’s rainy and gloomy outside?!? You can either let that rain ruin your weekend, or you can use it to your advantage…be happy you get to catch some extra  Zzzzzz’s.
  • “We’re out of coffee.” This one is pretty lame. I admit it. But it worked. When I told my husband I didn’t want to get out of bed one Saturday morning, because we were out of coffee, it bought me another 45 minutes of sleep. He actually went to the grocery store and bought more Keurig cups, and on the way home he stopped at Dunkin Donuts and picked up an Iced Coffee for me.
  • “We don’t have anywhere to be.” Fortunately, our daughter gave up club soccer a few years ago, so we don’t have to get up at 5:00am to drive three hours for a soccer game on weekends anymore. There have been lots of Saturdays my husband has jumped out of bed and started to open the drapes, but I’ve interrupted him by saying, “Don’t bring my coffee till 9:00, please. We don’t have anywhere to be.” He sighs, but he hears me.
  • “I’ve gotten up early five days in a row…no more.” Yes, there’s a limit on how many days in a row I’m willing to get out of bed early…five days. I do it because I have to, but don’t ask for more than five early mornings in a row. I might cut you.
  • “It’s cold out there, but it’s warm in bed.” I’ve honestly quoted Wham!’s song, Wake Me Up Before You GoGo, as my reason (excuse) to stay in bed. It’s my favorite line in the song: “It’s cold out there, but it’s warm in bed. They can dance; we’ll stay home instead!” I love sleep, but I don’t do it very well anymore…despite the fact that I used to be a professional sleeper. If it’s really cold outside, for some reason, it’s easier for me to sleep. Thus…the line from the song.
  • “I didn’t sleep well last night.” This one is a good one. Lots of times, it’s legit. I rarely sleep well, since I usually wake up at least three or four times a night. Most people would consider my average sleep night a terrible night’s sleep. For me, waking up several times is normal. A bad night is when I wake up and can’t go back to sleep, or when I am awake more than I’m asleep. A good night is when I wake up two times or fewer. So, I could use, “I didn’t sleep well last night,” as a reason to sleep in on almost any given day…legitimately.
  • “The Barometric pressure is off.” Lol! This means absolutely nothing to my husband, but it totally sounds good. In reality, barometric pressure changes can trigger migraines, but for me to use this line is a total ruse. Yet, I’ve used it on more than one occasion. Like I said, I enjoy a little extra sleep.
  • “I spent the whole weekend at our daughter’s sports tournament.” This one goes a long way, because there is no way he wants to be the parent who has to go to the out-of town sports tournament. He knows if he lets me stay in bed a little longer after a weekend in Rocky Mount, NC, for a lacrosse tournament, he won’t have to go to the next one either.

If you’re like me, and you consider sleep a hobby, you might want to keep this list next to your bed. Or maybe you have your own reasons (excuses) to stay in bed?

Happy sleeping!

My Favorite Brunch Recipes

Recently, I wrote about my delay in closing my mother’s estate. She passed away in December 2017, and I am just now getting around to closing it. I’ve been delaying it, because it’s depressing to think about the finality of it, but I’ve decided to look at it as a positive. I am going to host a champagne brunch to celebrate the closing…something my mother would love.

I haven’t set the date yet, but as soon as I do, I will invite some friends over for brunch to celebrate with me. I’ve already been planning the menu with some of my favorite recipes. All the recipes listed can be found online; the links are included.

  • Ham-It-Up Egg Cups. hungry-girl.com. Low in calories and high in protein, these yummy egg cups are simple to make and look cute too! Plus, they promote portion control! Your guests will rave. Get the recipe at hungry-girl.com here.

    img_2579

    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Hashbrown Casserole. Betty Crocker. I would go to any party if I knew hashbrown casserole was being served! This recipe is pretty easy and has a lot of flavor, but since it contains potatoes, sausage, and cheese, there is nothing low-calorie about it. Personally, I would count this as my splurge for the day and enjoy it! Get the recipe here.

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    Photo from bettycrocker.com

  •  Biscuits. Lots of southern ladies have their mother’s biscuit recipes, and they don’t share them. I have my mother’s buttermilk biscuit recipe, but it’s a no-share item. But if you want some good southern biscuits without having to start from scratch, Mary B’s Biscuits, from the Florida Panhandle, are delicious. You can find them in the freezer section of your grocery store.

    001f3f_30bb4e7cb9e04b98aceaf39ac18766b9

    Photo from homadefoods.com

  • Fruit. You must have fruit. It’s spring, and it’s nice to have one cold item, I prefer fresh cut fruit, but I think I will make the traditional Southern Fruit Salad for my brunch. It adds a different look, and even though I never ate it when my mother served it, there must be something good about it, because it used to show up on southern tables everywhere. If you’re not from the south, you might balk at it, but try it just once! Get the recipe from Southern Living here.

    southern-pear

    Photo from southernliving.com

  • Dessert. I love pound cake, and my cousin gave me my grandmother’s sour cream pound cake recipe a couple of years ago. I think it’s perfect for a spring brunch, and I will serve it with a macerated-berry topping from Martha Stewart. While I’m not willing to share my grandmother’s recipe, you can make a classic pound cake from the Martha Stewart website. The recipe is here. And the recipe for the macerated-berry topping is here.mld104160_0709_scan_001_horiz
  • Beverages: Coffee, Water, Prosecco, and Aperol Spritzes. Here’s how to make an Aperol Spritz: over ice, combine equal parts Aperol liqueur and Prosecco. Add a splash of club soda and an orange slice. Drink up!aperol

After we’ve dined and enjoyed our Aperol Spritzes, we’ll have some door prizes, because Mother loved to win prizes! I’m not going to divulge those secrets till afterward. We’ll also have some take-home party favors to talk about afterward.

Mama would be proud!

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Talk Curfews

My 15-year-old daughter went to a Travis Scott concert called Astroworld with some friends last weekend. An adult who had been to a previous show assured me it would be pretty tame. My daughter doesn’t have a driver’s license, and almost all her friends can’t drive yet either, so I dropped off four of them at the concert with the understanding they would be sleeping over at one house.

A few hours before the concert, the mother with whom they would be staying texted the rest of the moms, telling us, “I told my daughter they had to be home by midnight. She acted like I’m the mean mom. What do you think?”

I assured her that I agreed with her, and the other moms did too.

Before we picked up all the others on the way to the concert, my daughter and I had this exchange:

  • Me: You understand that you have to be in by midnight, right?”
  • Daughter: Yes ma’am.
  • Me: Even if the concert isn’t over, you have to be back to your friend’s house by midnight. Understand?
  • Daughter: Yes ma’am.
  • Me: That doesn’t mean you can wander around uptown after the concert if it ends at 10:30.
  • Daughter: What?!? Why would we wander around uptown?!?

Whew! She does have sense! Sometimes, when you’re the parent of a teenager, you wonder if they have sense, and sometimes, you wonder if you’ve lost your mind.

So all that curfew talk led to more questions from her. She is rapidly approaching driving age. She asked what would happen to her if she misses curfew when she can drive.

I explained to her that I would rather have her get home a couple of minutes late than drive too fast trying to get home. She has been in the car with me three times when a teenager in our neighborhood nearly ran us off the road trying to make it home in time for her curfew. (For the record, if you’re reading this, the teenager is not yours.) I told her that the best case scenario would be for her to call me if she is going to be late, and of course, she asked, “What if I’m driving?” I told her she should know before she leaves somewhere if she is going to be late, but if she finds herself stuck in traffic, it’s OK to use voice text and let me know, but do not pick up the phone.

We discussed the fact that curfew isn’t just to make her come home; it’s also a way for me to know she is safe. If she doesn’t make curfew, I will start worrying, and we might need to start looking for her…not because we don’t trust her, but because something might have happened.

In addition, I explained to her that if she frivolously or repeatedly misses curfew or breaks other rules along the way, the gravy train stops. She will stop getting to do things she wants. She will stop getting things she wants. She will stop having so much freedom. We don’t reward bad behavior. As long as she follows our rules, she will continue to have “privileges.”

Oh my gosh…I am my mother.

It made me think of when I was a teenager back in the 80s. Good times. Back then, we didn’t have cell phones, so our parents didn’t always know where we were, and they couldn’t always get in touch with us. Back then, if I were going to be late, I had to call my parents from a pay phone and let them know. I’d be hard pressed to find a pay phone now!

My little exchange with my daughter about curfew didn’t turn into a lecture or argument. It was simply a conversation outlining expectations. It is a conversation we will have many times before she goes off to college, and frankly, I’m glad we’re talking about it now.

Maybe that Travis Scott Astroworld concert was a good thing…a good opportunity for the two of us to talk about expectations. And she even texted me from the concert, sending me video clips and saying how much I would have enjoyed it. Seriously, it looked pretty tame. And for the record, they were home a little after 11:00.

Thanks, Travis Scott. Who thought I’d ever say that?!?

 

 

 

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Decide To Be Happy

Sometimes, life hands us lemons. We’ve all heard it…we need to make lemonade. My mother used to always say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

Every single day since I lost my mother in December of 2017, I remind myself that I have to decide to be happy. It’s not that I haven’t experienced any happiness, but sometimes, when I get sad about having lost her, it’s hard to bring myself out of it. And every time, I hear her say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

I try not to write about death and loss very often, because I know people don’t want to hear about it. I know it’s a downer. I know that sometimes, I feel better if I think of something happy. But right now, it’s OK if no one wants to hear about it. It’s OK if everybody skips over this, because right now, I need to write about it.

I’m in the process of closing out Mother’s estate. No, there were no loose ends to tie up. She made it as easy as possible. She had a will. She listed survivors on bank accounts. She didn’t have any debt. She made it easy. Maybe if she had made it complicated, I could have gotten angry with her and been in a bigger hurry to close everything, but nope…she made the division of assets easy. Yet, I still haven’t closed out the estate, and it’s time for me to do it. I should have done it six months ago, but it’s downright depressing.

In fact, I feel more sad now than I did immediately after her passing. Weird, I know, but I guess I feel like closing out the estate is like closing the final chapter on her life. There have been days that I knew would be difficult…my parents’ anniversary, Mother’s Day, her birthday, Christmas Eve (the anniversary of her hospitalization), Christmas Day, the anniversary of her death (December 30)…but I never expected this part to be so difficult. I thought it was completely transactional, and being a tough chick, I thought I’d be able to treat this as a transaction. But I can’t. I realize that now, because I’ve been delaying it…and I’ve been sad.

And I’ve been off my game. Sure, I’ve gone through the motions of regular life, but deep inside, I’ve been off my game since she took her last breath.

And now I’m faced with closing the book on the estate.

But something occurred to me today: Maybe…just maybe…it will be freeing. That’s all I can hope. Maybe I will feel a little sense of freedom, like a weight has been lifted, when I sign all the papers. Maybe closing the estate will actually make me feel better. We’ve all had times like that. We put something off because it’s scary, but once it happens, we feel a sense of relief or freedom. I have friends who put off signing divorce papers, because it was depressing, but once they did it, they felt like the albatross had been removed from their necks. Maybe the estate is my albatross? That sounds terrible. My mother would not like it that I referred to it that way, but she doesn’t get a vote in this.

After my daddy died, mother was talking with her doctor about anti-depressants, and she said, “My husband wouldn’t like it.” The doctor, very calmly, said, “Your husband’s not here anymore. He doesn’t get a vote in this.” And he was right! She knew it, and she actually laughed! For the record, she started taking the anti-depressant, and it made a big difference in her approach to life. Sure, she was still grieving Daddy, but the anti-depressant helped her decide to be happy.

As soon as I receive all the paperwork, I’ll sign off on closing the estate. In fact, I’m going to invite friends to a brunch at my house for that very day, so they can come over and drink some champagne with me to celebrate the closure…the freedom.

Mother would laugh about that, and she would be happy to know that it’s done.

I will decide to be happy…just in time for spring!

 

 

 

Behold! The Instant Pot!

I know I’m not the only one behind the curve on the Instant Pot. I purchased mine over a year ago, and most of that year, it has been sitting in my cupboard just waiting to be used.

Last year, at about this time, I browned some sausage in it for a breakfast casserole I was making for a brunch at my house. After that, I put it away and haven’t given it much thought since. It’s not that it didn’t work well. It did. The problem was simple…

I was afraid of the Instant Pot.

It’s that whole pressure cooker thing. I have childhood memories of my mother telling me to stay away from the pressure cooker when she was using it to cook cabbage or turnip greens, because it could blow up. And she wasn’t kidding. It could, but it never did at our house. It did happen at a friend’s house, when his mother was cooking turnip greens in the pressure cooker. Greens went everywhere! According to my friend, there were turnip greens on every wall in the kitchen and even hanging from the ceiling.

Now you understand my fear.

Well, Friday night I was home alone. My husband was at the beach with friends, and my daughter was spending the night in Raleigh, a few hours away, for some lacrosse games. Normally, I would go to the games, but since my husband was gone, someone had to be home with our three dogs. Plus, I was actually looking forward to an evening home alone to do whatever I wanted and eat whatever I wanted.

As it turned out, cooking was what I wanted to do. After spending the afternoon in a local thrift store, I went home to cook dinner for one.

I had decided I would have my favorite chicken spaghetti, using spaghetti squash instead of pasta, for dinner. It’s one of my favorites, but the rest of the family…not so much. I was talking on the phone with my funny, reliable friend, Mary Ann, as I prepared to cut the spaghetti squash to bake it in the oven for an hour or so before making the casserole. And she stopped me, asking, “Why don’t you use your Instant Pot? You don’t have to cut through that hard squash, and it will be ready in 10 minutes.” I told her, “OK. I’m going to use it, but you know I’m afraid of it. You have to walk me through it.” And she did.

I did exactly what she told me to do, and lo and behold, I had a cooked spaghetti squash in about 15 minutes, because the Instant Pot has to pressurize before it actually starts cooking the squash. But 15 minutes is fantastic compared to the hour it usually takes! And I didn’t have to risk life and limb trying to cut through that hard squash! I just stuck it in the Instant Pot whole!

It was a masterpiece! It came out perfectly cooked. I sliced it in half (it was so easy!) and scraped out the seeds before scraping out the actual “spaghetti”…the meat of the squash…with a fork. I added all the other ingredients and popped it in the oven for about 25 minutes, and voila! Chicken Spaghetti! As soon as I stuck it in the oven, Mary Ann reminded me I could have done all that in the Instant Pot too. Next time…baby steps.

At least I’m not afraid of it anymore! If you’re afraid, don’t be. Mary Ann has never had a problem with hers, and she uses it all the time. Mary Ann will likely have to walk me through it every time I use it, but that’s OK…it gives us an excuse to talk (as if we need one).

Here’s the recipe for my chicken spaghetti, which really started out as Mary Ann’s Chicken Spaghetti, because she gave me the recipe years ago. I’m sure I don’t do it exactly the same way she did, but it’s good nonetheless.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Spaghetti squash
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, plain
  • 1/2 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can Rotel Original tomatoes and peppers
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 grated cheese of your choice (I use Colby jack for mild flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • In Instant Pot, pressure cook whole squash per Instant Pot directions.
  • Pick chicken off the bones and place in a mixing bowl.
  • Mix 1/2 cup of the cheese with other ingredients in bowl with chicken.
  • When squash is cooked, allow Instant Pot to depressurize for a few minutes before removing. On a plate, cut the squash in half and scrape out seeds/strings, using a spoon.
  • Using a fork, scrape “spaghetti” from the meat of the squash and fold it into other ingredients in mixing bowl.
  • Pour into 8×8″ casserole, spreading evenly. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the top.
  • Cover and bake in oven for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, till cheese is melted.

For more Instant Pot recipes, check out the healthy recipes from Hungry Girl website here. She also has a really good, easy Instant Pot recipes in her new book, Hungry Girl Simply 6, which you can purchase from Amazon here.

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Enjoy your Instant Pot!