Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Alimentary, my dear readers

I’ve seen mention of Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal in several places lately and while I don’t normally prefer non-fiction books, I find this one intriguing.  I may have to give it a try.

Part of a review:

“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) takes us down the hatch on an unforgettable tour. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions explored in Gulp are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find words for flavors and smells? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? In Gulp we meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks of—or has the courage to ask. We go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a fecal transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal. With Roach at our side, we travel the world, meeting murderers and mad scientists, Eskimos and exorcists (who have occasionally administered holy water rectally), rabbis and terrorists—who, it turns out, for practical reasons do not conceal bombs in their digestive tracts.

Like all of Roach’s books, Gulp is as much about human beings as it is about human bodies.

Here’s a quick quiz you can go through to see how much you know about your digestive system.

Anyone else wanna know more about your insides, or is this an ignorance is bliss situation?

Monday, April 29, 2013

{Recipe Recap} Malted Treats

I’m celebrating my birthday with the girls tonight.  We’re eating at a pizza place that I’ve wanted to try for a while.  I really hope it lives up to the hype.

So you know how I make treats-to-order for people’s birthdays?  Well last year and this year, Heather’s taken it upon herself to be my birthday baker.  I requested a Heath Bar Cake from her, but I decided I wanted to use my birthday to make a dessert more complicated than anything I’d normally attempt.  You can sneak a peek at the cake over there on the right in my Instagram pics.  So yes, I baked my own birthday cake, but I enjoyed it.  As of this post, I haven’t tried the cake as a whole, but the marshmallow filling and chocolate frosting were both divine.  I plan to use them both again separately.

Anyway, the reason I bring all that up is that the frosting had Ovaltine, chocolate malted milk powder, in it.  I recently made two different bars that used regular malted milk so I guess you could say I’m on a malt flavor kick.  The McHusband isn’t complaining as malt is one of his favorite flavors.

First up: Brewers’ Blondies.


These weren’t as malt-y as we would have liked, but as far as blondies go, they tasted just fine.


I used some Easter Whoppers in these to up the maltiness.


When the McHusband and I had a nibble of these the night I made them, when they were still warm, we thought they tasted a little burned.  I think it was just the dark brown sugar we were tasting, that caramelized flavor.  By the next day, that blended into the blondie and just gave it some nice caramel undertones.


Next: Malt Cookie Bars.  This was a simple recipe that I doubled and almost ruined because I didn’t bake them long enough at first.  Yes, I do prefer my brownies and blondies to be fudgy, but they should still be baked through.


The tops of these got crackly and separated from the bars around the edges.  I took it upon myself to clean up that mess.



I don’t think you can go wrong with either of these bars, but the latter ones were much simpler and were just as good.


Enjoy looking at these blondies because I’m going to be cutting back on the treat-making.  I do have a few birthday celebrations for friends coming up so I’ll be doing the usual for them, but I need to get back on track with my healthy eating.  I still believe that treats can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet, but they need to be enjoyed in moderation and I haven’t been moderate lately.

It’s time for a reset.  But not until after dinner tonight.  I’m going to enjoy my pizza and TWO cakes and then I’ll repent for the next month.

{Brewers’ Blondies}

{Malt Cookie Bars}

Friday, April 26, 2013

Birthday recap via phone pics

I teased you yesterday with that big box. 


Are you ready to know what was in it?



And don’t go getting upset at the McHusband for getting me a household item.  I didn’t ask for it, but I’d been talking about needing a new vacuum for a while so I appreciate that he was listening and filed that info away.  Vacuuming is my favorite chore and now that we have another hairy dog in the house, I need a vacuum that works.

For a point of reference, I also collected gift cards a few years back with the intention of buying a steam cleaner.  So as you can see, floor maintenance is very important to me.

The McHusband also made a photobook out of our pictures from our vacation to San Diego and Vegas and I know that took him a lot of lunch hours to put together.  And last but not least, he ordered a new knife block.  That one’s less a birthday present than just good timing on Groupon’s behalf but my birthday was a good reason to bite the bullet and get some new knives.

Looks like 34 is the age for pink envelopes.


I had a box from the McInlaws, too, and it contained a special egg beater and a glossy collection of brownie and bar recipes into which were tucked a notice about a Southern Living subscription and three gift cards.  It was fun to keep finding things as I turned the pages.

We had dinner at the new Buffalo Wild Wings.  No, it wasn’t fancy, but guess what?  Neither am I.  They have a nice patio that we took advantage of, and I love their boneless chicken wings so I wanted to eat them minus the side of guilt that normally accompanies a meal like that.


The McHusband and I split “The Feast” – 20 wings in four different flavors.  And I washed them down with two of my ciders.  Yum, yum, yum! 


{I’m wearing my hat because I went to the 45-minute spin class at 5:30 before going home to open presents and then stock up on all the calories I’d burned (times 3!).  No shower, just a quick outfit change and more deodorant.  Like I said, I’m not too fancy.}

It wouldn’t be a birthday celebration without something sweet so we gave the new Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt a try.  Of all the ones I’ve been to, it’s not my favorite.  It’s not even in my top three, but we’ll give it another try because it’s close and because the flavors rotate.


Okay, okay, the fro-yo wasn’t the only treat.  I couldn’t let my birthday go by without putting SOMEthing in the oven.  I went with these simple s’mores brownie bars made with a graham cracker crust, a fudge layer, boxed brownies, and cut-up Peeps on top.


It was pretty fun chopping those little yellow bunnies up.


Mmm, you know I love my fudgy brownies.


Thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes and gifts.  And thank you to my wonderful McHusband for getting me what I didn’t even know I wanted and for letting me eat exactly what I wanted for dinner and dessert.  34 is off to a delicious start!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Big box

I was pretty excited when I walked in last night to find a box seemingly bigger than me wrapped up and waiting to be ripped into.


You’ll have to check back tomorrow to see what was in it…

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


It’s Hump Day.

Subway Wednesday.

And, oh yeah, it’s my birthday.  I’m 34 years young today.  Mother Nature has gifted me with some gorgeous spring weather.  I’m wearing a sundress and sporting pink toes and can’t wait to eat my lunch outside while soaking up lots of sunshine.


I’m still recovering from our trip to PA and just not feeling too “bloggy” so far this week.  Hopefully I’ll get my groove back soon since I definitely have plenty to share.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I try to at least give a quick acknowledgement to people when  birthdays roll around.  I realize this little bubble around McMania isn’t very big (I’m no Pioneer Woman), but I do like to give a little shout-out when I can.

Anyway, Jenny’s birthday was on Saturday so between not posting on the weekend and not posting on Friday because of being in PA, then being out of my element Sunday night, I dropped the ball and didn’t send any birthday wishes out into cyberspace.

Good thing I’d already sent a birthday package out via snail mail last week. 

Chase box

I made some cookie bars with Cadbury Eggs, one of Jenny’s favorite candies, in them.


I had only the smallest nibble of these and it was a tasty one.  I wish I’d had another bite the next day, but I feel pretty confident telling you that these were quite delicious.  They were buttery and chocolatey and downright decadent.


They are made with cake mix and that flavor is strong so if you aren’t a fan of yellow cake mix, then these aren’t for you.  But if you do like the taste of cake mix, then these have your name written all over them.


Hope you had a wonderful birthday weekend, Jenny!  Wish we’d been able to celebrate in Florida again, but I don’t guess we can count on a trip like that EVERY year, can we?Smile

{Recipe here}

Monday, April 22, 2013

{Recipe Recap} Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Happy Monday!  I’m at home today because the McHusband and I traveled to PA this weekend to celebrate my grandma’s 90th birthday.  If I’m able, and I usually am, I like to take off the Monday after being out of town to have some time to chill before going back to work.  You can check out some of my Instagram pics from the trip over there on the right.

The McHusband loves pineapple, and I have to say it’s one of my favorite foods as well.  I like it fresh, canned, baked, grilled, dried, in yogurt, in desserts, on pizza, and as juice in girlie drinks served with little paper umbrellas.  Did I leave anything out?

Anyway, I wanted to make something that I knew the McHusband would like and I was in the mood to bake a cake so this treat was a perfect choice.  The recipe I used doctored up a cake mix, and it made so much batter that I was able to make a full-sized Bundt bake and a smaller one.


I didn’t use the glaze, and I reached out to the internet for the topping.  I liked that this one was simple but used dark brown sugar.


The cake was dense, which was what I wanted.


I don’t recall having pineapple upside-down cake before so I really can’t compare this one to anything, but I thought it was pretty good.  Considering it used actual pineapple and a pineapple cake mix, I was surprised that the pineapple flavor leaned more toward subtle than in-your-face.


I have another recipe for an award-winning pineapple upside-down cake made from scratch that I want to try.  I’m looking forward to comparing it to my first attempt at this Southern dessert staple.  And of course you know I’ll report back on which one wins the throwdown.


Hope your week is off to a good start!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

{Recipe Recap} Brown Butter, Caramel-Stuffed Snickerdoodles

Just a quick post for you today.  I chose these cookies as Shannon’s birthday treats because I knew she liked snickerdoodles, and I figured they'd hold up well as they traveled through the mail in the warm weather this week.


I stacked four cookies together and then Saran-wrapped the heck out of them.  I haven’t heard for sure, but I think they made it more or less intact.  And if not, hey, crumbs taste good, too.

This bag o’ cookies was just for show, really.  I ended up taking these into my office to share with my coworkers.


Remember how I said these were caramel-stuffed snickerdoodles?


The recipe called for the caramels to be quartered, but that didn’t seem big enough so I cut mine in half.  Good call, if I do say so myself.

Do you see those bigger white flecks on top of the cookie?  That’s a sprinkling of sea salt.  I’m a big fan of salt on my chocolate chip cookies and, turns out, I like it on my snickerdoodles, too.


Mom, Shannon, what did you guys think of these?  I thought they were pretty tasty and I’d make them again with or without the caramel, which was a nice surprise but the appeal of the cookie didn’t necessarily depend on it.

{Recipe here}

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Real life

Some nights, my life goes to the dogs.


And that’s okay with me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Naptime preferences

Morgan loves to lay in the sun in the dining room.  I keep a bed in there for her because I know she’ll go looking for that sunny spot after we’re gone to work during the day, and I’d hate for her to have to lay on the hard floor.  Morgan'll be nine in May so I think it’s okay to cater to her bones and joints at this point.

Guess who discovered Morgan’s secret spot?


Just like Tucker, though, Monte is hot-natured so he tends to prefer the kitchen or hardwood floor, or even the fireplace marble surround.  So he’s perfectly happy keeping Morgan company by laying next to her.  She’s pretty excited about that, let me tell you.


I checked on them a bit later to find that Morgan had migrated along with the sunshine, but Monte was content to stay where he was.



Morgan better enjoy that landing while she has it herself.  I have a feeling her little shadow will be joining her there soon as he’s a little better at climbing the stairs.


In the meantime, I know where to find Monte:

The hardwoods.


The mat by the back door.


Or tangled up in a kitchen chair.


Not even naptime is dull around here.

P.S.  Happy Birthday, Shannon! 


She turns 30 today, which seems impossible because no way can my youngest sister be 30.  Because that means I’m going to be 34 next week, and I don’t feel a day over 28. 

Shannon, would you mind skipping your birthday next year?

Monday, April 15, 2013

{Recipe Recap} Chocolate-Frosted Cracker Fudge

If you live in NC, I don’t even have to ask if you had a good weekend.  The weather was absolute perfection.  I sure hope we have a few more weekends like this one before the heat and humidity of summer smother us.

So not only is it Monday, but it’s Tax Day, too.  If ever there were a time for something sweet, it’s now.

I wanted something easy for my HOA meeting last week and this three-ingredient “fudge” fit the bill: Ritz crackers, sweetened condensed milk, and toffee chips.


I had to complicate it up a little with my favorite brownie frosting, but it’s really pretty simple to make as well.


This treat isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but it was pretty good, especially considering the ingredients.  If you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t like your desserts overly sweet, then you’d probably really like these.


Of course, I’d like just about anything with that frosting on it.


Here’s something exciting from our weekend.  Guess who didn’t make a peep all night and through the morning on Sunday?  And that same someone ALSO didn’t have any accidents in his crate from midnight to 9:30 in the morning.  I realize that might’ve been a one-time thing right now, but we’ll take it!  No matter what, it was good bladder training.


Hope you all have a marvelous Monday!

{“Fudge” adapted from here}

Friday, April 12, 2013

{Recipe Recap} Spinach Pizza Quinoa Casserole with Chicken Sausage

It’s Friiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiday!  Have you seen the forecast for my weekend?


That lightning bolt on Friday probably messed up my commute this morning, but the yucky weather should move out by lunchtime and then the day’s supposed to be pretty darn nice. And then look at Saturday and Sunday – the epitome of a beautiful spring weekend in NC.

With temps like those, I know you’ll be dying to make some comfort food like a casserole in your oven, right?  Well, you’re in luck because I have a delicious one to share with you and it just so happens to be healthy, too.  You know, on the off chance that this warm weather has you thinking more about shorts than sweaters.


I made this casserole late Sunday morning with the intention of portioning it out to eat all week.  The McHusband had it for lunch that day so he had it “fresh” and said it was tasty.  I didn’t have any until Tuesday afternoon and I was sorry I missed out on eating it for two days.


I used one package of Green Giant frozen chopped spinach and also cut up a package of Aidell’s Caramelized Onion Chicken Meatballs and threw those in.


I added…maybe half a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes to give the casserole a little oomph and that was the right decision.  It’s not spicy or hot or anything, it just gives most bites an extra layer of flavor.

I baked this in an 8 x 8 pan and divided it into 9 portions.  MFP told me each serving had 214 calories and 13 grams of protein.


I know this doesn’t look like much, especially since I didn’t try very hard to get good photos of it.  But I promise, if you like pizza and don’t hate quinoa, you will enjoy this casserole.


Hope you guys have a great weekend!