How to Be an Amazing Meal Planner

As I sit back typing out this post, gathering recipes, ideas, and organizing schedules, I’m reminded of simpler times. Growing up in rural Wyoming, buffalo roaming the wild, and tending to my family’s ranch brings a single tear of nostalgia to my eye. I was the youngest of 12, and nothing brought me more joy than slopping around horse shit all day. I was always rewarded with a heaping bowl of boxed hamburger helper at the end of the day, sealing in all the folksy warmth. Some of my fondest memories are of spending time around the kitchen, arguing over the package directions and deciding exactly how much butter is too much to add to a dish (answer: there is no amount too great). 

I’m not sure if any of this happened, or if I saw this in a movie, but I’m pretty sure this was my life. 

Before I post any more recipes, I want to let you in on the secret life of my meal planning. It’ll be sure to get you organized, leaving your whole family moderately satisfied with the job you’re doing as the house spouse. 

Step 1: Find the recipes, collect them all like adults trying to relive their childhood collect Pokémon

This woman clearly has never had a street taco.
There are certain websites and cookbooks I browse often, but I also get a lot from Pinterest. I usually spend about 17 hours a week on Pinterest. Around 10-15mins of those hours is spent on recipes, the rest of the time I look for inspirational quotes, exercises I never plan on doing, and sexy pictures of famous people that are currently really old and/or dead.  

This is totally true. None of my exes saw it coming when I slashed their tires.

Out of the recipes I get on Pinterest, only about 2% are successful, in that my family will actually eat them. Some might think I’m crazy for using Pinterest as my source because of this, but I’d like to think I’m a clever risk taker and I will eventually surpass even the most accomplished professional bakers. 

Can’t believe I found this rare picture of two of the sexiest men alive. Together!

Step 2: Write a grocery list

I take a lot of time on this part. I rarely look at my pantry or fridge to see if I already have stuff, so I tend to have doubles, as well as I have to get creative with ingredients because I don’t have stuff for recipes. I’m preparing to be on Chopped so it’s ok. 

Like 75% of the food in here is expired. The rest is almond milk.

Step 3: Go shopping, late in the evening, with a cranky baby, and everyone is hungry

Only this way will you be motivated enough to get it all done in under 3 hours. Sure, you may forget stuff on your list, and you’ll get more crap you didn’t plan on getting, but consider this: you will be so happy to have those extra powdered donuts lying around when you’re bored. 


Step 4: Give up, order fast food

If you take a tasteful picture of the fast food, it basically makes it as healthy as a kale smoothie. Science.

There is no way to sustain this life. You’re hungry, the baby finally fell asleep in the car, and you’re tired as fuck. All you want to do is eat crap and have a conversation with your husband about adult things. The last thing you want to do is slave over a hot stove, getting sweaty and adding to your already weird stench of breastmilk, baby poop, and dog musk. It’s ok, I still love you. You’ll make that casserole tomorrow. 

Don’t forget the wine. You might forget to get diapers, but don’t ever forget wine. Drink it and forget to take a picture for your blog.

Tears for Fears,

Mary Ellen 

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Doughnuts

M.E. and I have an ongoing “polite discussion” about the spelling of this heavenly, breakfast-appropriate dessert. I have no plans on conceding.

January is a time for us to take an honest look at our lives, to evaluate our health and habits. I’ve therefore decided that 2017 needs more doughnuts. A lot more doughnuts. On the days that I remember my digestive weakness (AKA lactose intolerance), I go out of my way to make my own treats. It’s mostly altruistic, because when I don’t avoid dairy properly it’s pretty unpleasant for anyone in my immediate vicinity.

I’m lazy and I also don’t like putting my appendages near hot bubbling oils, so I was delighted to discover baked doughnut pans. I have them in two sizes. When you make a pan of mini doughnuts, you’re allowed to eat the whole dozen. It’s part of the deal.

I should also mention that I don’t always clean off my counter when I cook or bake. I just unceremoniously shove things out of the way. I’ll try to work on cropping my photos better so you don’t notice.

doughnuts-1
Technically, I took this picture to show off my new chicken matryoshka measuring cups.

Mini doughnuts take much less batter than the big ones. It’s hard to say how much they take because halfway through any recipe I stop measuring and start eating batter. We’re lucky we got any baked doughnuts at all. The larger sized doughnuts were somewhat of an afterthought. My mini doughnut pan took way less batter than I thought, so I used the rest in my big doughnut pan but didn’t bother greasing it.

Doughnuts 2.jpg
I managed to get one intact larger doughnut. Grease your pans, kids.

I made just a few adaptations to this recipe from Joy the Baker.

Makes about 12 mini doughnuts and 4 or 5 regular ones (or just 6 regular doughnuts if you can’t handle more than one size of doughnut)

Ingredients

  • 1 c flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated really does make a difference)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoon browned butter
  • 1 egg (large)
  • ½ cup buttermilk (I use almond milk with about a teaspoon of vinegar, left to rest for a minute or two to curdle)
  • 2 tsp vanilla (half for the doughnuts, half for the frosting)
  • 1 ½ c powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tbsp milk (again, I used almond milk)
  • Pinch salt
  • Sprinkles

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F

Grease your doughnut pans (unless you don’t want to eat torn apart doughnuts dipped in frosting)

Combine flour, baking powder and soda, sugar, salt, and nutmeg.

Melt butter. To see instructions on how to brown butter, you can google it or click this handy link (which was at the top of my google search)

Transfer browned butter into a bowl. Add the egg, almond “buttermilk,” and vanilla. Mix and then add in flower and mix until well combined.

Either spoon or pipette the batter in to the prepared doughnut pan(s). I dumped my batter in a plastic bag, cut the tip, and oozed the batter into the pan. It worked well for me. Aim to fill the pans about 2/3 of the way. If you overfill them, they’ll will lose the hole in the middle when they rise.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, they are done when a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a little bit before inverting onto a cooling rack.

Make the frosting by whisking together the remaining butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and milk. Add milk slowly to get the consistency dip-able.

Dip each doughnut in the frosting. Allow frosting to harden briefly or risk getting chocolate all over your arms.

I recommend sprinkles for the full doughnut effect. I went with naturally colored sprinkles, which was obviously a mistake. I trust you will make a better decision than I did.

Belgian Waffles for Lunch

Do not pour syrup out of the original container. That’s disgusting.

Hello, and welcome to the first blog post. As I hope you’ll glean from this, and all future posts, this is a tongue and cheek, not so family friendly, family, food, and lifestyle blog. 
We are two ladies, who are sometimes friends, usually frienemies, most of the time arch enemies, and the occasional star-crossed lovers. I am Mary Ellen, you will meet Serafina next week. If you want more intimate, salacious details about us, go to the “Meet the Authors” page. So, let’s get to blogging, shall we?

Make sure the dough is lumpy. Lovely waffle lumps are the best.

I love waffles. I never knew how much I loved waffles until I got a waffle iron this Christmas, and knew I needed to make every waffle recipe I could find. I’m opportunistic like that. But today, I decided to keep it simple with a traditional Belgian waffle. Since I’m not one to try and reinvent the wheel, I got the recipe from Taste of Home. But even that recipe is basically the same as all the other ones I’ve found online. Just keep it simple. 

I’ve been making this particular recipe for the past several weeks on the weekends in lieu of pancakes, and it’s really perfect. Chewy, and crispy, and fluffy. I plan on making it for some friends that are coming over for brunch in a few weeks because even their children should like this recipe. 

Mother fucker. I can never pour the right amount of batter.

This recipe makes about 5-6 large waffles, so it’s really only a recipe for one person, maybe two if you make a lot of other food and both people aren’t that hungry. Use maths on the recipe to account for more than one person. I usually serve bacon with this recipe, and I strongly suggest not deviating from that. Serafina would like you to think otherwise, but she’s a liar. You need breakfast meats on the weekend, because otherwise you get anemic. Serafina is super anemic. 

You deserved so much more, bacon. Like, a better photographer.

Simple Belgian Waffles (adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar 
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs, separated 
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk, like a hippie, and it tastes fine. My other preferred is whole milk)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Toppings of your choice

Directions:

Whisk the dry ingredients together in large bowl. Separate eggs, beat the whites to stiff peaks (I use my stand mixer) and thoroughly mix the remaining wet ingredients (please make sure you don’t cook the egg yolks with hot butter…). Combine the wet into the dry, don’t overstir. Fold in egg whites. Batter should be lumpy. Cook up on a preheated, greased waffle iron. 
I meant to take sexy pictures of eating, and pouring syrup, etc, but I just shoved the waffles into my face immediately because it was an hour past my lunch time and I was starving. Also, my 6 month old baby was timing me. He makes me eat everything in around 5 minutes or he will throw a fit. But don’t think for one second I didn’t dust that shit with powdered sugar, because I did. I also burned my perfectly fried bacon because I started taking pictures of other things with the camera. I still ate it, so I’m good on the anemia part.