Monday, May 30, 2011

Cookout Time!

It's time to bust out the grill and all the fixin's that embodies cookout season. This is one of my favorite times of the year. Good food with good friends in the sun. How can you not love it? Well, I guess if it's 110 degrees and no water source in sight than that would not be fun, but other than that it's one of the best times of the year!

Usually this is also the time that I pack back on those 10 pounds that I've been losing and then gaining and then losing again at the gym during those cold, winter months. Let's not bring up winter. I know you didn't; I did, but let's just stop talking about it because it can be depressing. Warm months are ahead!

Speaking of warm months; it used to take me forever to figure out something to bring as a side dish to the different cookouts that wasn't your same 'ole potato salad, slaw, or baked beans. Not that there is anything wrong with those. Believe me I still eat it all......hence the 10 pounds that comes and goes!

The perfect side (in my humble opinion) is one of my very favorite pasta salads. It's super simple, and super-duper yum-my as my 3-year-old says!

Tomato, Asparagus Bowtie Pasta Salad

1 16 oz package Bowtie pasta
1 lb fresh asparagus, cut in bite-size pieces
1 bottle Italian vinaigrette (I use Girard's Olde Venice Italian)
1 oz fresh basil, chopped
1 lemon for zesting and juicing
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh, grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add asparagus to the cooking pasta the last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain pasta and asparagus. Let cool for 10 minutes or longer in a large serving bowl. Add your tomatoes. Zest your lemon over the pasta, asparagus, and tomatoes.

Whisk 1 cup of Italian vinaigrette, basil, garlic, and juice of one lemon in a small bowl. Pour dressing mixture over the pasta salad and 1/2 cup of cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well, but gently so not to break the pasta.

Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Before serving, stir in remaining dressing, or about 1/4 cup, cover top of the salad with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Then don't wait any longer, dig in!

Here's the choir that will make melodious flavor.

Boil your water.

If you don't know how to do that, no offense, but you may not need to be in the kitchen for the safety of those around you.

Pour in your pasta to boiling water, and then get a steam facial.

It definitely helps with opening up your pours. Now go use a facial exfoliator and finish with a good moisturizer.

You have like 9 minutes before your pasta's ready.

While you're getting the facial, multi-task; stir your pasta so it doesn't stick and it begins the cooking process evenly on each noodle.

Cut your asparagus in even, bite-size pieces.

If you don't like asparagus; I will pray for you.

Pour your asparagus in the pot with the pasta.

Cook the asparagus the last 2-3 minutes of the pasta cooking time.

Don't they look happy swimming in there?

Drain and let cool in your serving bowl.

DO NOT RINSE. I repeat DO NOT RINSE, you want all that starchy-goodness left on the noodles to soak up the dressing. You will make the pasta extremely irritable if you rinse it.

They just don't like it; I'm telling you from experience.

The grape tomatoes are waiting patiently.

Half each one.

Dump in the tomatoes with the pasta and asparagus.

Zest your lemon.

This is one of the stars, Girard's Old Venice Italian dressing.

You can use any basic Italian vinaigrette, but this is my go-to, and plus it is currently on sale at Kroger.

Add lemon juice to 1 cup of dressing.

Chop up fresh garlic.

I usually recommend using the jar because it is cheaper in the long run, but when you incorporate in a dish raw, always try to use fresh. It packs some big flavor, and you can taste the difference.

Plus, it was only a little over a dollar for two heads of fresh garlic.

Add the garlic to the dressing.

Cut the fresh basil; FRESH basil.

Add it to the dressing.


Pour over the salad.

Ohhhh this is gonna be good!

Stir well, but gently so not to break the pasta.

You want it to look purty.

See, purty isn't it?

Shred your Parmesan cheese.

Buy the block.

It's cheaper ounce per ounce, then the pre-shredded, and packs more flavor.
But, I won't kick you out of the kitchen if you buy the shredded.

Me LOVE cheese!

Pour in a 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Oh yeah, and a little salt and pepper.

Go easy on the salt because Parmesan has a salty-bite to it naturally.

Mix gently.

Gently I said!

Then cover and chill for at least an hour or overnight.

Pour on the remaining dressing right before serving, about 1/4 cup.

Also, right before serving, cover the top with the remaining cheese.

Serve with your favorite cookout food.

See that yummy burger, well that photo reminded me what I learned from our friend Bill.....

The key to a perfect burger is not only the meat, but the bun.

His secret: buy your buns from WW Cousins. If you live where there is no WW Cousins then you will truly never have a perfect burger.

And I will pray for you again.

Why does the word "buns" make me laugh.

Ok, I know, it's cuz I'm immature.

But you chuckled too! Didn't you?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wal-Mart and the phone call from Dawn

I just, today, got a call back from Dawn. You know, the Wal-Mart manager of the store where I had a horrible, terrible, no-good very bad day (by the way that's one of my favorite children's books).

I wanted to give you guys an update.

Here's how our conversation went.....

"Hello," I answered

"Hello?" said Dawn

"Hi, this is Megan McDougal...." I said

"*crickets* *crickets*," on her end of the phone.

Dawn, you are the one who called me. Remember?

"You know, the one who wrote a letter about my experience at Wal-Mart?" I questioned, my heart pounding.

I hate confrontation, but I'm just hoping she will offer me a shopping spree of some kind. Even though right now I am not venturing back into that store ever!

"Oh yea......I just pressed redial on my phone when I saw the missed call," she explained, "remind me again what happened."

Oh great! This is going to go well; I can already tell.

"Well, it was a pretty terrible experience," I explained, "I found a big hole in the bag of frozen chicken, moldy cheese, cucumber that was bad when I got it home...."

"Oh that's right," she interrupted, "I was really surprised because I've never had a meat complaint!"

Well maybe not to your face....

"Well, I hate that I had to complain, but really just wanted you to know the facts, and....." I said.

"Now, do you remember who you spoke with?" she asked.

"No, I didn't think to look at his name tag, but he was stocking the bananas," I said, "Oh, and he had gray hair."

"Oh I think I know who it is...." she said.

Sheesh! I hope you are never an eyewitness to a big murder case because is that really enough information to go by before you convict somebody?

If you really do know who it is please don't fire the old guy or even yell at him. It's not really his fault; unless there's some kind of protocol you all have that he didn't follow; then you can remind him.

"Well, really I just wanted you aware of the situation so you can fix it, and I will probably never...." I said.

"Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked.

Ummmm, yes please! A $5,000 shopping spree will do the trick, at your best Wal-Mart in the country, and you can pay for air-fare and a one night stay at a five star hotel in the area, as well.

"Well....." I started to say.

"Do you know when the next time you will be back?" she asked.

"Really, I have no clue," I said, "I don't think I ever....."

"How about this I'll leave you a $50 gift card at the customer service desk and you can pick it up the next time you're in," she said.

Sold, I guess, can't you make it $100 at least?

"Thanks so much," I said.

"Thank YOU and if you EVER need anything or have anymore problems please let me know," Dawn said, "we appreciate you and your feedback."

"Thanks, I will," I said.

Don't worry, Dawn I definitely will, but after I pick up that gift card I don't think I will have anymore problems because I probably won't be back. More than likely. Well, I wouldn't stake my life on it.

"Good bye!" she said.

"Bye!" I said as I hung up.

Gosh I am so easy. $50 is like giving me $0.50 compared to the amount of cash flow Wal-Mart has coming in!

But I will take it! You better believe it! There ain't no shame in that! And that was still nice; she did seem like she cared, and $50 is $50 to the McDougal family not $0.50!

Still a happy ending, considering.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

U Simply gotta try this!

So I went to Wal-Mart the beginning of the month for my monthly shopping trip; I only spent $90 which is one of the best monetarily speaking experiences I have had there, but overall experience I give it -98%. That's negative 98% for those that read that too fast and are now confused. Why not negative 100% you ask? Well because I did save money, and that's how Wal-Mart sucks me in that door because it's the cheapest and also because of this ridiculously, awesome product I found (which you may be able to find other places; Wal-Mart is just where I've seen it).

I'm not gonna go on a tangent about my shopping experience. Nope, I won't. You can't make me.

Well maybe I will; just a little one.....

The block of cheese I picked up was covered in mold, they were out of my red onions which I specifically needed for a salad I was making the next day, every bag of rice had holes in it that I picked up, the only cumin they had left was dented, and the bag of frozen chicken had a hole in it the size of my fist. I hate to complain; really I do, I know it doesn't seem like it because that's what I'm doing, but sometimes you gotta face "the man" and stand up for what is right!

So I found the most important looking man I could, and told him in an even tone, what a lovely experience I had been having (no, not really, you can imagine what I said, but there was no yelling involved; promise).

He looked at me for a minute, like a deer in headlights, and said, "This has just been a terrible day for you in here hasn't it." *crickets* *crickets*

"No, duh!" I thought, taking deep breaths to remind myself to have self-control, and said, "Here, let me show you what I mean," and then I proceeded to take him around the entire store to show him, of course, what I meant.

I get it. Everybody has a bad day; I have plenty of them. People close to me can tell you that, but then you apologize and go on and try to fix what you might have messed up; then do better the next time. No discounts were given, or apologies handed out. That was it.

Why didn't you just leave your cart and walk out you ask? Well, because I had already been in there an hour, with my 3-year-old, who was ready for dinner and bed. And I think all we had in our refrigerator at the time was ice cubes, frozen strawberries, frozen peas, and plain yogurt. I guess I could have gone home and made a strawberry-pea smoothie for dinner, but would you?

Now I am not completely dissing every Wal-Mart; this was the Wal-Mart closest to my house. And thanks to my friend Bonnie's encouragement, I wrote Wal-Mart a letter this past week and already got a call from the manager answering my letter.

When I call her back I'll let you know what happens.

Phew! Thanks for listening.

Now for the real reason I wrote this post. The ridiculously, awesome product that I found on this most recent trip is Simply U. It's shampoo.

I use the Volumizing, 'cuz may hair needs help in that department. Okay, I'll say it, it's fine and limp, there.

This shampoo has quickly become my new favorite. One big reason is it's $5.47 for 25.4 fl oz! I also love that it's in a big, pump bottle! Plus it's Sulfate and Paraben free, pH balanced, and contains vitamins and antioxidants (I'm starting to sound like a commercial). And it smells like palm trees, sun, sand, and the ocean (I know I could've said beach, but it doesn't smell like coconut suntan lotion-you know that smell you automatically think of. I love the beach by the way). I guess the intoxicating, but not-overpowering smell is because of the Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Extract, also known as the Acai palm, which is a species of palm tree in the genus Euterpe cultivated for their fruit and superior hearts of palm (yep, that's right, I'm pretty much a genius).

Okay! You got me; I looked it up. Sheesh.

This natural shampoo also doesn't take five hundred pumps to produce a good lather, like other's I've tried. It's two pumps and that's it! I'm tellin' you, you gotta try it.

I noticed on the shelf they also carried Moisturizing, and they claim that this shampoo is gentle-enough even for permed or color-treated hair, as well.

Your hair will thank me for sharing this with you.

Talk to you soon!