A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: recipes (Page 2 of 3)

This Corn and Shrimp Chowder Soothes My Couponing Failure

Late last year during my blogging hiatus, my BFF Laura talked me into drinking the “Extreme Couponing” Kool-Aid with her. Laura and I have a long history of being serial hobby enthusiasts. I’ve heard it goes with the territory of adult ADD, particularly in women.

Our kitchens are littered with the proof of our various attempts to change our lives with the newest craze. Well, mine is. Laura is MUCH better than I am at selling things on Ebay and Craig’s List. I, on the other hand, am a bit of a hoarder and hold on to my crap like a fecal obsessed potty training toddler.

For example, I own a wheat grinder and over 25 pounds of various grains, a juicer, the equipment to grow my own sprouts, a tortilla maker, a waffle iron, a panini maker, personal shake mixers, an applesauce press, and three crock pots of various sizes. And I’m just talking about the kitchen. You don’t even want to know how many crafts I have temporarily engrossed myself in over the years.

So when I saw Laura’s coupon binder last year and the semi-crazed glint in her eye when she shared how much money she was saving each week, I took the bait.

I bought a special binder.

I bought fancy tabs for that binder.

I bought enough baseball card holders to safely encase thousands of coupons.

I started buying 4 newspapers a week.

I bought a subscription to all*you magazine.

I joined every frequent shopper club I could at every local store and pharmacy.

I bought a bag tag at CVS.

I started frequenting couponing websites.

And then I started flipping, and clipping, and filing, and carrying that huge-ass binder with me everywhere I went. It was a full-time job.

And I sucked at it.

The math, and planning, and organizational skills required for this obsession totally overwhelmed my creative little brain.

I found myself buying all kinds of products I never would have purchased without a coupon just because I was getting a deal. And the time involved hunting down the obscure products I didn’t like in the first place! Dumb.

I’m talking Axe body spray that repelled animals, maxi pads the size of flying carpets, a lifetime supply of hideous lipsticks I wouldn’t even use to write REDRUM on the bathroom mirror and freak out my kids.

In the end, my extreme couponing was short lived, like my home wheat grinding, sprout farming, and tortilla making. Still have that damn electric tortilla maker if anyone wants it.

Now a days, the only time I’ll use a coupon is if somebody sends me one to shut me up, like that sweet executive at General Mills who responded immediately to my x-rated Tweet about the broken taco shells. Bless his heart.

As for that subscription to all*you magazine, I am ashamed to admit I have NEVER clipped a single coupon from it. What a waste; the coupons are outrageously good.

But I will say this, the recipes in all*you are consistently awesome. And believe you-me, I know a good recipe when I see one.

In the October 2011 issue, there is a whole section of recipes dedicated to using your slow cooker. I’ve already made their Corn Chowder with Shrimp TWICE, and it’s still October…it is that good.

I did tweak it just a tiny bit, so here’s my slightly modified version of the all*you Corn Chowder with Shrimp recipe:

Prep: 15 min.
Cook: 6 hr. 15 min.
Serves: 6
Cost per serving: $3.06


  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2  16-oz. bags frozen corn
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 2 russet potatoes, diced (don’t peel)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • half a frozen blob of chipotle puree  (or 1/2 tsp. or so of chipotle powder)*
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, optional
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1.)  Combine broth, corn, onion, bell pepper, carrots, potatoes, bay leaf, 1 cup water, and 1 tsp. salt in slow cooker (use your big one). Cover and cook on LOW until vegetables are tender, about 6 hours.

2.) Puree 3 cups of the soup in a blender and return to clow cooker. Stir in shrimp. Cover and cook until shrimp are pink and firm, 10-15 minutes. Stir in cream, if desired, and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and peppper, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

My kids said it looked like vomit, but smelled really good.

*The only thing I did to modify this recipe was add some chipotle flavor because I thought it was a little bland. But other than that, delish! So easy to throw together in the morning and have waiting for you on a chilly autumn evening. Serve with crusty bread and a salad and you have a completely satisfying meal.

Nature Boy has texture issues so I pureed his whole bowl separately. He didn't like it, even after I kowtowed to his pain-in-the-ass "special needs." Ingrate. Good thing he's so cute or I'd have surely killed him by now.

PER SERVING: 371 Cal., 10g Fat (5g Sat.), 141mg Chol., 6g Fiber, 25g Pro., 51g Carb., 710mg Sod.

Seriously, want a tortilla maker? How about a coupon binder complete with tabs and plastic inserts? Make me an offer. Free shipping. I’ll throw in a high value Old El Paso coupon.

Let’s make a deal,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

Make perfect bacon every time.

You’ve heard it said that my husband brings home the bacon and I fry it in a pan.

That’s not really true.

Actually, I bake his bacon in my oven.

I’ve been making bacon like this for 22 years. In fact, it is such second nature to me that I’m always surprised to learn that some people don’t know how to do this.

I learned it while waitressing at The Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, New Jersey, back in the late 80s and early 90s during my college summers. Dot and ‘Ceelie taught me. They learned it from their mama, Miss Helen Dickerson and have been doing it that way forever. It is the only way to make bacon for a large restaurant crowd.

Baking your bacon in the oven is easy to do and easy to clean up. The bacon cooks evenly and doesn’t splatter, so less mess and less burns. And while it’s baking, you can tend to your other breakfast dishes. It’s really a no brainer. Just bake it.

Here’s the dealio:

1. Preheat your oven to 425°.

2. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup. 

TIP: Keep your bacon in the refrigerator until you are ready to place it on the baking sheet. The colder the bacon, the easier it is to use. Room temperature bacon is slippery and slimy.

3. Lay your bacon out on the foil covered baking sheet. We use a metal jelly roll pan. It’s okay for the bacon to touch each other, but try not to overlap it or it will end up sticking together.

4. Stick it in the oven on the middle rack. Check it after 12 minutes, but you might need to cook it for 14-15 minutes, depending on how thick it is and how crispy you like it.

5. When you pull the tray out, transfer the pieces of bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Use another paper towel to blot the top of the bacon.

I decided to keep the bacon grease this time for future use. We poured it into a mason jar and we’ll keep it in the freezer. (When it’s frozen, it will look much less like a urine sample. Thanks Keeley!) It will be perfect for a batch of fried corn later this week.

But if you aren’t going to keep your bacon grease, you can just toss your blotting paper towels onto the greasy foil tray and then ball up the foil and toss it in the trash. Voilá, your clean up is done.

And now, the money shot:


Looking for more advanced bacon baking moves? Try heart shaped bacon bites, bacon cups, or bacon weaving.

And if you’re seeking to take your bacon obsession to the next level, perhaps you would consider a bacon bra. Nothing says “Nice to meat you!” like bacon scented boobies.

That is all.


PS – New here? Like what you see? Want to help others enjoy it too? Please share the love by voting for The Bearded Iris at Babble.com’s list of the Top 50 Mom Blogs.  I’m currently in the teens on page one of the list. Thank you kindly!

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.


Appetizer Love: Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Jalapeños!

I just love a good potluck, don’t you?! Takes the pressure off the host, everyone gets a chance to contribute and feel important, and it gives us all the opportunity to try new foods. It’s just win-win. Love that!

Well, The Gatekeeper and I had the chance to attend a humdinger of a potluck last Saturday night with some of our best church buddies. We were asked to bring an appetizer. Oh thank God. I hate it when people ask me to bring the paper products. What a slap in the face. I mean, really; you show up with maggoty rice salad ONE time

Anyhooo… I knew I wanted to bring something different but awesome. Nothing worse than bringing a duplicate dish and forcing all the guests to do a Taste Test in front of you both. (Speaking of which, I don’t care how Southern you think you are, if the hostess asks you to bring a green salad, do NOT show up with Baked Mac and Cheese. You totally fucked up my menu that time, Beverly. Pfffft.)

So I started thinking of all the appetizers in my arsenal, and one in particular jumped out as a major crowd pleaser: Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Jalapeños! I know, right? Bacon: the magic word. It just makes everything better. (Apologies to my Kosher readers.)

I was first introduced to this magical appetizer a couple years ago when my dear neighborhood friend Mama Cloud stuck a plate of them on my front porch and ding-dong-ditched me. What a refreshing change from the flaming bag of dog poo I was expecting! Instead, there was a note on the plate that said “You’ve been tagged by the Appetizer Fairy!” God, I love that girl.

Even if you don’t love spicy foods, you might like this. The baking plus the cream cheese mellows the jalapeños so that there is just a hint of a kick left. Although sometimes you do get a super hottie that will just light you up! But that’s part of the fun in my book…like a milder form of Russian Roulette! But instead of a violent bloody death the worst case scenario is the dreaded double burn. So worth it.

Another nice feature is that this is true finger food. It’s easy to grab and easy to eat, as opposed to dip & chips that can really slow the buffet line down and piss off the hungry people patiently waiting at the end of the line.

Are you sold yet? Here’s what you’ll need to recreate this magic in your own kitchen:

  • jalapeños (get at least a dozen!)
  • cream cheese
  • bacon
  • aluminum foil
  • toothpicks
  • rubber gloves (optional)

1.) Preheat your oven to 400° F and wash your jalapeños.

2.) Cut the tops off. Then slice each pepper in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and membranes so you get two jalapeño “boats” from each pepper. TIP: if you have sensitive skin, wear contact lenses, are menstruating, or plan on changing a baby’s diaper later, wear rubber gloves for this part! Trust me.

3.) Use a butter knife and fill each jalapeño with cream cheese. It doesn’t matter what kind you buy. I used a brick of regular store-brand cream cheese for this batch. I’ve seen other recipes online where people mix herbs and spices in with the cream cheese first. Unnecessary. Keep it simple, I say.

4.) Line a baking tray with foil (for easy cleanup). Use a tray that has sides or you will have a bacony flavored greasy mess on your hands and a potential fire hazard to boot. Nothing spoils a party like a house fire, believe you-me.

5.) BACON TIME! I cut each of my raw bacon strips into thirds and stretched it a little to wrap it around the cream cheese stuffed jalapeño. It was perfect. You need about five inches (you don’t hear me say that everyday). Secure each bacon piece with a toothpick through the whole thing (including the bottom layer of the pepper). TIP: pull the number of toothpicks you’ll need (plus a few extra) out of the box before you get started so you don’t have to keep reaching into the box with your bacony fingers (ew!).

6.) Place in your preheated oven and bake at 400° for about 30 minutes or until the bacon is cooked. Remove from the oven and marvel at the majesty:

7.) Move them to a paper towel lined plate to absorb the extra grease, and then replate them onto something pretty.

8.) Eat a few before you take them to the potluck or you’ll never get any...these things move FAST.

9.) Stand back and watch people go berserk while they fight over these babies. Then flash some gang symbols, shout “AW HELLS YEAH!” and enjoy knowing that you’ll never be relegated to paper products again!

Like my cooking style? (What is wrong with you?) Here’s a link to other recipes/kitchen tips I’ve posted previously.

still brimming with potluck pride,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

I have a favorite summertime salad recipe that is always a huge hit at potlucks and family gatherings. It’s called Jeweled Rice Salad and it is the brainchild of Mollie Katzen, famous New York Times best-selling author of the Moosewood Cookbook. I’ll include the link to the recipe at the end of this post.

The main ingredient of this recipe is brown rice.

“Huh? Brown rice? Like real brown rice?” you say?

Yes. Real brown rice. Long grain. And not that parboiled, enriched Uncle Ben’s shit. I’m talking REAL WHOLE FOOD, people.

It also has chick peas (aka garbanzo beans), grapes, toasted pecans, scallions, and parsley, so it’s a real beaut! The dressing is mostly lemon juice and EVOO with a little honey and garlic; very Mediterranean. It’s best served at room temperature, but the refrigerated leftovers are good the next day too.

This dish is totally different than anything else you’ll see at a potluck (especially in the South) because it’s SO healthy. No condensed soup, no mayo, no stick of butter, no pound o’ cheese. As much as I loves me some Paula Deen, I can’t actually eat most of her recipes (very often) or my butt would be as big as a doublewide, and not in a back-that-up-like-a-Tonka-truck-juicy-JLo-badonkadonk-kinda-way. More of a badonkaDON’T kinda way. (Look, I drink a lot and I don’t really exercise, so eating healthy foods is my only defense against the dark arts.)

This recipe is a little labor intensive, but it’s worth it. I love this dish and I hope you will too! However, in full disclosure, and in honor of Just the Tip Tuesday, I have to tell you something.

The last time I made this salad I had a teensy weensy problem.

But first, you should know, as a story teller and a writer and a private detective wannabe, I have a very keen sense of observation. Like freakishly keen. I notice things. Even minute details. And that’s not always a good thing. Just ask my kids.

So the other day when I was making this dish and I poured the brown rice into my measuring cup, I immediately noticed something strange.

Do you see it?


How about now…

No? Not yet?

Okay, let’s try this: (Special thanks to my kid for his badass LiveQuartz skillz!)

See it now? In the red circle? Looks like a grain of rice…but with a little brown tip. (Grandma, put your damn glasses on!)

How ’bout if we zoom in and drastically blur the background?

Do you see what I see? A grain of rice with SEGMENTS? AND A FACE!!!

Maybe an action shot will help:

That picture IS a little blurry. Okay fine. I have no choice but to pick it up and show you up close and personal:

Ew! I'm holding it! The things I do for you people.

One of those things is NOT like the others!!!

Wait, lemme zoom in a little bit more so you can really appreciate the fine details:

Ride that weevil, Paula!

Paula! You so crazy!

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce my uninvited houseguest: the Indian Meal Moth larva. Some people call this thing a pantry weevil. I call him Bubba.

Apparently Bubba and a bunch of his free-loadin’ kinfolk hitchhiked into my home inside the corner of my new bag of brown rice last week. Aw hayle no.

As observant as I am, I just didn’t notice the little spidery webs in the corner of my bag of rice while I was shopping at Publix the other day. I blame the three children who were threatening to tip over the cart while chanting “WE WANT POP TARTS! WE WANT POP TARTS!” It’s hard to do quality control when you are trying to negotiate with terrorists.

Well, shit. What’s a girl to do?

I guess I could have thrown out the rice and gone back to the store. But I hate to waste food and didn’t have time for that. Besides, chances were good that all the other bags of rice at the store were equally infested.

So you know what I did? I picked out the larvae and cooked up the rice anyway. So what? Big deal. If I missed a few, extra protein, I say.

Oh shut your rice hole, Betty Lou. Eating a larva or two never hurt anyone. Really. I’ve put worse things in my mouth. And so have you; don’t lie. But if a moth or weevil infestation spreads to the rest of the foodstuff in your pantry and has a free-for-all-orgy, it could be disastrous…as in throw-all-your-food-out-and-start-over. I have a friend who had a really bad infestation last summer. Every time she opened her pantry, moths would fly out at her like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I’m surprised they didn’t peck her eyeballs out or encase her in a giant cocoon and drain her blood while she slept.

I’ve been doing some research about these little buggers ever since I fed my family that Jeweled Rice and Larva Salad. Here are some steps you can take prevent an infestation at your house and keep your meals larvae-free:

  • Every time you buy a new bag of rice, stick it in your freezer for a few days.
  • If you have a current infestation, take everything out of your pantry/cabinet and clean all the shelves and corners with a vacuum and then with soap and water.
  • After it’s all dry, put a few whole bay leaves on each shelf.  Keeps them away, supposedly.  If you have wire mesh shelves, put the leaves in small bowls placed throughout the pantry.
  • Store all dried food goods, including dried pet foods and birdseed, in a glass or plastic container with a tight lid. If bugs are in that food product then the infestation will be contained and not spread to other foods.
  • Consider storing cereals and similar foods in the refrigerator.
  • Consume older food products prior to newer purchases of the same food.
  • Don’t stockpile grains and pasta unless you can store them in airtight containers.

If you’re not all heebie-jeebied out and are still interested in the Jeweled Rice Salad recipe, here it is. Larvae optional, of course. 

Oh by the by, if you and your Mom vote for The Bearded Iris over at Babble.com I promise not to bring any larvalicious food to your next potluck! (I’m in the running for one of the Top 50 Mom Blogs! Whooot!) 

Sweet dreams,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

How to Cut Brownies

So you’ve been invited to a dinner party and the hostess has asked you to bring a dessert.

Don’t panic.

Even if baking is not your thing, you can pull this off with grace and dignity for a minimum amount of money or effort.

The answer is brownies.

Everyone loves ’em and it’s really hard to screw them up.

Just buy a box, follow the directions, and let them cool.

But don’t be a schmuck and turn a beautiful tray of brownies into this:

Yes, friends, that actually did happen to me once. Oh, the shame!

Listen, you have enough to worry about when you go to a friend’s house for dinner, like will your kids go crazy and break the hostess’s grandfather’s antique African kettle drum? Or will you have too many Margaritas and tell a story about how a mutual friend from high school took a dump on your mother’s car after you played a prank on him in 1987?

Hey, shit happens.

So make sure you don’t add to the drama with a mangled dessert.

A good dessert is your Get Out of Jail Free Card for all the other mistakes you may make during the evening.

And here’s the best part…you don’t need any special equipment.

Sure, we’ve all seen ads for the new brownie pan…

Save your money, Honey Bunny.

You can get the same results with a cheap plastic knife.

What? You don’t believe me?

Watch and learn, sweetie.

Here’s the before shot:

Mmmmm. Brownies.

Next, get your cheapo plastic disposable knife and cut the whole big brownie into two halves like so:

See how cleanly that plastic knife cuts? It’s a miracle!

Next, cut in half the other way so you have fourths. (Didn’t know you’d be getting a math lesson today, didja?)

Can you guess what’s next? Eighths!

I totally rock at fractions.

How to Cut Brownies by The Bearded Iris

See? How easy was that?! Plastic knife. Who knew?

You can take some vanilla ice cream with you and you have a perfectly simple and delicious dessert. Or go whole hog and bring choco-syrup and rainbow sprinkles too. The kids will go ape shit.

One last thing, brownies are really easy to jazz up if you want to make them fancy. My friend Anne adds peanut butter chips to her brownie batter: DELISH! No peanut butter chips in your pantry? You can also take spoonfuls of peanut butter, drop them onto the batter, and spread them out with a spatula before you bake the brownies. Fabulous!

If I’m feeling super fancy, I’ll substitute Kahlúa for the water in the basic boxed brownie recipe. The alcohol cooks off and you are left with a rich mocha flavor. Oooh la la!

So there you have it. Keep it sweet. Keep it simple. And keep it from not sucking. That’s my Just the Tip Tuesday secret for you.



© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

Roasted Kale Chips

When your loyal canine companion is in the hoosegow for the crime of protecting his family from a stick-wielding intruder, chances are you may want to take the edge off with a cocktail. Or two.

But if that’s not an option, you’ll need something else to squelch your sadness.

And indignation.

And rage.

You could choose something sweet and satisfying like several pints of Ben & Jerry’s. Or perhaps you would prefer to tie a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos to your face and go to town. Either of these options would work nicely in the short run.

As for me, I am choosing the high road. I need to be in tip top physical and mental shape when I go to Night Court to defend my sweet dog later this month and reduce his sentence. I am training for battle.

And thus, when I get that urge to snack until I burst, I will be snacking on Roasted Kale Chips.

They are super easy to make, very satisfying to munch on, and pretty healthy too. Here’s my recipe if you’d like to try these yourself…

You will need:

  • one bunch of fresh kale
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Here’s what you do:

1.) Preheat your oven to 400° F.

2.) Wash your kale. Or don’t, if you don’t mind some bugs, and/or pesticides, and/or E. coli with your kale chips. Totally up to you.

3.) Strip the leaves off the kale stems by holding the stem in one hand and grasping the leaves in the other hand, then pulling the stem away from the leaves like so:

And no, I’m not doing that with my feet. Did you think I was kidding when I told you about my hands? Not kidding. Hands like feet. Man feet. I can type really fast though and open jars like a mofo.

4.) Dry your kale leaves thoroughly. You know I am a big fan of the Spin n’ Stor for this part.

5.) Rip your kale into bite sized pieces.

6.) Spread the torn kale on a cookie sheet, preferably one with sides. I’m using the Pampered Chef large stoneware bar pan. I use it for everything. Look how beautifully seasoned mine is!

If you want one, come to my Pampered Chef party on Saturday or email me and I’ll order one for you.

7.) Drizzle the kale with extra virgin olive oil. Probably about a tablespoon.

8.) Salt and pepper to taste… but not too much! If you are feeling frisky, you could even put a little sprinkle of chili powder or garlic powder on at this point. That would be goo-ooo-oood!

9.) Use your hands and really mix it up so the oil and seasonings coat every single piece.

10) Place in the oven for about 20 minutes. You’ll want to stir it up once or twice while it is roasting.

The edges will brown up. That’s okay! It adds a great crispy texture and smokey taste that totally melts in your mouth.

11.) Serve and enjoy!

Iris's Roasted Kale Chips

By the way, I do this same technique with several other veggies like cauliflower and brussels sprouts (cut into fourths). It is delicious!! Try it and let me know what you think.

your friend,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

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