Not Too Much Sugar and Spice

Moderation and restraint are not my strengths. If you take me shopping, I’ll talk you into extravagant purchases. If you keep drinking all your prosecco, I’ll keep refilling your glass. I’m what you might call an enabler.

Today I was entrusted with the awesome responsibility of contributing not-too-over-the-top treats to the primary school Halloween luncheon. I agreed, even though over-the-top is what I do best. My first priority as a mother is to show up at school with sweets when asked. I consider it to be one of the most important aspects of my job description, which is unfortunate because sweets are frowned upon at this school.

There is apparently a shadowy cabal of judgy parents who aren’t as much fun as I am.

I was told there were complaints in previous years about some over-the-top cupcakes, and I am 100% sure that I was the contributor of the cupcakes in question. As mom-in-charge of this year’s luncheon, I wasn’t about to let on that I was a top offender in years past. Last year parents weren’t invited to contribute treats at all, probably because of my 2015 pretzel skeleton cupcake transgression, but I was not about to bring it up. Now that I’ve been given a second chance, I’m sure as hell not going to ruin it for everyone again.

Did parents really complain about these adorable cupcakes?

The treats are supposed to be nut- and gluten-free, too. I thought Rice Krispy treats would be a good place to start, but I wanted to make them just a little bit healthier using the natural sweetness of dates. I experimented with reducing the marshmallow content of Rice Krispy Treats and replacing them with date caramel. They were a big hit with my husband, the babysitter, and 2/3 of my children (and the one who didn’t like them doesn’t like anything, including Oreos, so her opinion isn’t an indicator). I love dates and make desserts with them a lot. My kids call them “nature’s candy.”

Date Caramel Rice Krispy Treats:

  • 2 cups pitted Medjool dates
  • 2 Tbsps. Sunbutter
  • 2 Tbsps. milk (or more, for consistency)
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups marshmallows
  • 1 stick of butter, halved
  • 5 cups Rice Krispies

1). Blend dates, Sunbutter, milk, and salt in a food processor.

2). Melt marshmallows with 1/2 stick butter. Add to date mixture and process until smooth.

3). Melt the remaining 1/2 stick of butter in a large pot and transfer date mixture. Stir until smooth and add Rice Krispies. Stir and transfer to 9×12 pan. Cool and enjoy!

I’m also supposed to decorate the tables without going too over-the-top, which is a problem. I can restrain myself on the sugar, but over-the-top holiday decor is my speciality, so, yes, I will be taking the table decor to a ridiculous extreme. I can’t help myself. Let the judgy parents judge away…I am who I am.

On Marriage, Boss’s Day, and Chicken Pot Pie (including a run-in with the local police)

In the spirit of Boss’s Day, I was thinking about my marriage.

As a young post-college working girl (and non-boss), I remember how galling I used to find Boss’s Day. I actually liked my bosses, but thanking them for being bosses and for bossing me around was just too much for me, as I suspect it is for many people. I thought then, and I still believe, that every day is Boss’s Day–and the bosses, of all people, should recognize that. Part of me thinks that if the bosses had any measure of self-awareness, they’d see how galling the holiday is and cancel it, but it’s not just a matter of self-awareness–there are certain perks to Boss’s Day. My husband’s office had a breakfast that offered Chick-Fil-A chicken and biscuits to the bosses (and, presumably, everyone else). Everyone likes an excuse for chicken and biscuits, and nobody wants to stand up and spoil the chicken and biscuits for everyone else, so the ridiculous institution of Boss’s Day continues. I imagine there were many eye rolls from the secretaries and associates at the firm.

I haven’t had a real boss in many years, and if I’m being honest, my job performance as a housewife would not receive rave reviews. I do have my strengths, like cooking, throwing parties, braiding hair, and drinking Prosecco at brunch and then continuing my day without a nap. I’m good at grammar, assembling a cheese and charcuterie plate, holding my bourbon like a lady, decorating for holidays, and making a Drybar blowout last for a ridiculous amount of time. But being a housewife is not my strong suit.

I am awesome at creating a seasonal tableau.

I’m not great at organizing closets, cabinets or basements. I’m terrible at purging old toys and clothes, and doing laundry. I can keep the house relatively tidy, but the real cleaning is outsourced to Hernando. I own a vacuum cleaner, but I have no idea how to turn it on. I like to cook, but sometimes I can’t think of what to cook for dinner, and sometimes I can’t bring myself to go to the grocery store. Of course, we live in the age of ClickList and InstaCart, so that’s not an excuse anymore.

My husband is gracious about these many shortcomings.

I try to give him a hot homemade meal most weeknights, but the problem is that all hell breaks loose in this house from the hours of 3 to 8 o’clock, when the girls get home from school but before bedtime. Tonight we had chicken pot pie, which I cooked in record time between ClickList pickup (I didn’t have my act together, so I only placed the order this morning and picked it up this afternoon), school carpool pickup, piano lesson drop-off and pickup, a fourth grade English essay, and a closely averted law enforcement incident in which the neighborhood police saw me roll through a stop sign and pursued me down my own street with lights and sirens blaring. (I just wanted to get to my own driveway, y’all). The police realized that I was in a rush because I’d left the oven on, and then they saw my kids crying because they thought I was going to get arrested; the police were super-sweet and let me off with a warning, (Thanks, boys!) It was just another day in the adventurous and glamorous life of a Highlands housewife…and I still had that chicken pot pie on the table, toasted to golden brown perfection and cooled to a delicious temp, by 6:30. It was a miracle. Happy Boss’s Day, indeed.

Here’s my chicken pot pie recipe–it’s always a crowd pleaser!

Chicken Pot Pie

  • olive oil
  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded with a fork
  • 1 broccoli crown, chopped
  • 6 baby carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsps butter or Earth Balance
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup flour
  • thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.
  • frozen pie crust

1). Roast, grill, or saute chicken (or buy a rotisserie chicken). Shred with a fork.

2). Heat olive oil and sauté onion, carrots, and celery until tender, around 5 minutes.

3). Add broccoli and 2 cups chicken broth. Season with 1 tsp. salt and a little bit of pepper. Let this mixture cook until broccoli is tender.

4). Add shredded chicken.

5. Make a beurre manié: use a fork mix flour and butter (or Earth Balance) into a paste. Add to broth/veggie mixture to thicken the broth. Let it this mixture cook for a few minutes.

6). Add the frozen peas. Taste and season again if needed.

7). Divide this mixture into individual ramekins. (The beauty of this recipe is that you can customize each pot pie to each individual’s preference; this is where I add the thyme to my husband’s pot pie). Cover with pie crust. We like to carve each person’s initial into the pie crust, to keep them all straight. Trim, crimp, and decorate.

8). Bake according to pie crust packaging instructions. The pies will be HOT–allow 15-30  minutes to cool!

Don’t forget to sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the extra pie crust to make cookies for dessert! This dinner is always a crowd-pleaser in my family, and even my pickiest eater cleans her plate in anticipation of those delicious pie crust cookies after dinner!