Friday, January 29, 2010

Are You Tired of This Yet?



Again, not a food blog.  Just another delicious recipe.  I don't think I've ever made zucchini bread before.  I've eaten tons of it in my day, however, and I love it.  We got a bunch from the produce co-op last weekend and how many times can you serve steamed zucchini as a side dish?  The answer is NONE.  None times, because my kids won't eat it.   They will eat the bread, though, so . . . baby steps.  And D did take one bite of a stuffed pepper Tuesday night.  I don't think I could have been any happier had I won the lottery.  Small victories.  Anyhoo, I made this bread without the nuts because that's my family's preference, but I personally think it was just begging for some.  Something about the flavor made me think that pecans would have made it all the more delicious.  Next time I'll have to do half with, half without.  Enjoy!

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who Ever Thinks of These Things?!

omelets cooked in a ziploc bag, easy family meal, easy omelet recipe
Now, we all know that this is not a food blog. If you are looking for gourmet eats, you've come to the wrong place. But I do cook a lot. Like every night now that we are on our debt-reduction super money-diet. So I'm always looking for something new to put on the table, more for my own entertainment than out of strict necessity. And I do so like to share . . .

I found this fun recipe today whilst skulking around a blog I love -- Kevin and Amanda{dot}com. It was so intriguing, I just had to try it for dinner. The kids thought this was the best dinner we've ever had because they got to choose exactly what and how much they wanted in their omelet and mix it up themselves.

omelets cooked in a ziploc bag, easy family meal, easy omelet recipe
I have to say, they (the omelets, not the children) were pretty delicious. And because you boil them in the ziploc bag you're not adding any fat. Sweet!  {We had to use gallon-size bags tonight because that's all I had in the house.  Quart-size is plenty sufficient.}

omelets cooked in a ziploc bag, easy family meal, easy omelet recipe
We loved it so much I just had to digi-scrap it and share it with you! {Because I have big plans of digi-scrapping all my favorite recipes like this and binding them into a cutsey cook-book -- another idea I got from Kevin and Amanda.}

omelets cooked in a ziploc bag, easy family meal, easy omelet recipe, free recipe card printable
(As always, click the photo to enlarge.)

This recipe has become a regular in our home.  I'd love to know if you all try it and what you think!  

I'm linking up here:




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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shake and Bake, Baby
Banana Bread & a Printable Recipe Card

I bake a mean banana bread, folks.  It won third prize in the New Mexico State Fair when I was ten. I've always been fiercely proud of that.  Always.  Even though, having now had a ten year old daughter, I understand that my mom probably really made that bread while I stood by "helping" in the way only ten year old girls can do.

 I don't know why a third prize ribbon and a $9.00 check have meant so much to me over the years.  Especially when, in the immortal words of one Ricky Bobby, "If you're not first, you're last,"  and, "Second place is the first loser".  (Talladega Nights, people. Anyone?  OK)

Anyway, it's fantastic banana bread.  The only recipe I've ever made.  It makes especially good peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  Try it out.  And tell whoever eats it that this recipe won third prize in the New Mexico State Fair in 1983, because Ricky Bobby also said, "I tell everyone that.  I'm real proud of that."  Thanks.

 I made a pretty printable recipe card for you just in case you ... like pretty recipes, I guess.  I like pretty recipes.


(click the photo to enlarge, then right click and save to your computer)

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Opposition

"One's life . . . cannot both be faith-filled and stress-free. . . . Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life as if to say, 'Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken.  Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!' . . . Real faith . . . is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process."
--Elder Neal A. Maxwell  (1926 - 2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, May 1991

My word, this blog has taken a serious turn, hasn't it? I just can't get a few things off of my mind lately, chief among them the idea of opposition.  The idea that the good (easy) and the bad (difficult) experiences in life so often come hand in hand. And the idea that their close proximity in our lives make the one all the sweeter and the other mostly bearable. 

I think for most of my life I truly believed that if I was a good enough person life would be easy for me and bad things wouldn't happen.  And, for the most part, I've  had a pretty idyllic, sheltered life to support that conclusion.  That's why when things occasionally took a turn for the worse, as a result of my own poor choices  or just by "random chance" (if such a thing exists), I went straight to a place of devastation.  "Why is this happening to me?"  I cried.  Or I prayed, "Please, make it stop."  All I could ever think in those dark times was that I just desperately wanted it all to go away because I didn't deserve it.  I was too good a person to be suffering.  And in that state all I could see was darkness.  I felt so alone, though I never truly was.   

The good thing about those dark times is that we can't help but emerge from them wiser.  I can see so clearly now how those difficult times have been, and continue to be, for my growth.  As I look to my future now, fully expecting to be challenged, I can see more than just the darkness.  I can see glowing "candles" of goodness and happiness all along the way -- the sweetness that I would never have known before I tasted the bitter. And, because of those lights, I can see, though vaguely at times, that I'm not alone.  And that soon, when the time is right and I've learned all I need to learn at the moment, I will emerge into the full light of the sun once more.

Life is hard, and it is so exquisitely wonderful at the very same time.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Simple Gifts



I have been asked to work on a committee with some of the most wonderful women planning a Women's Conference for our Stake.  It has been so much fun.  The theme for the conference is "Simple Gifts" -- you know, the little blessings which bring us real joy.  They're everywhere.  Want to know some of mine?

home made bread (I know, enough about the bread already)
clean sheets
dirty jokes (OK, not too dirty)
rain
a family meal
a good laugh
a good cry
a good, hearty laugh at yourself
expensive haircuts
cheap dates
early morning walks with my daughter
late night cuddles with my sick boy
a blood sugar reading of 96
reading a book with a dog curled up on your feet
celebrating with friends
comments on my blog
letters in the mail
cold, cold water (to drink)
hot, hot showers

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Paradigm Shift

The other morning I was flipping through a home furnishings catalog that had come in the mail and complaining to Brent about how shabby our home is and how I just won't be happy until it is finally "finished".  (Is any real person's home ever really finished?  Mine will never be, but that's a post for another day.)  Even as the words were spilling out of my mouth, I wanted to pull them back in and re-speak.  How lucky am I to have a home at all?  A home that I can afford.  A home with a roof that doesn't leak throughout 5 straight days of rain, a task that may never before have been required of it.  With a heater.  And a dishwasher.  And real beds.  For everyone.  We all have beds to sleep in.  With down blankets.  And guess what else.  You'll never guess.  We had food to eat yesterday.  Three times!  With snacks in between.  Fresh fruit and everything!  Home and food that we paid for out of my husband's paycheck.  The paycheck that just magically appears in our bank account on the first and fifteenth of every month.  Also, my kids go to school every day.  Fantastic public schools.  Some of the best in the state.  And when they get home they go outside to play with the neighborhood kids.  And I don't have to worry about them.  Because our neighborhood is quiet and safe.

Am I so ungrateful that I can disregard all those blessings in one fell swoop as I whine about how the bright red upholstery on my couches has faded and been used as a napkin by my children and the pillows aren't nearly as fluffy as they used to be?  Has it really come to this?!  I'm the Pretzel Girl my sister-in-law's family encountered in Disney's Animal Kingdom last year!!!!!!

Oh, no.  Not gonna' happen.  I love my home, with all it's flaws.  It has character like I do.  My interior designer mind will be ever spinning out new and better ways to adorn it, but that doesn't mean I can't love it in the mean time.  And make it warm and inviting, peanut butter hand prints on the couch and all.  I try.  I have been truly blessed and I can be happy without the cheese sauce.  Besides, I kind of like my pretzels plain.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sick Day Lunch Date

Yesterday, Brent and I were both feeling under the weather.  An all-night cough.  A morning barf.  Typical winter stuff.  We had such a lovely day while the kids were at school, each curled up on our own couch with a quilt.  We got a $5 Hot & Ready Little Ceaser's pizza for lunch and a $1 Redbox scary movie and just took it easy.  I can't ever remember feeling ill being so enjoyable.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Food for Thought

"If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens." -- Robert Browning


I came across this quote yesterday and instantly fell in love. Maybe because I'm a carb-addict. Maybe it was my recent focus on bread making. Maybe it was because I had a batch of bread in the oven at the time. The eloquent words and the mouth-watering aroma combined to leave an indelible impression in my mind. I'll never take a bite of bread fresh-out-of-the-oven again without thinking of this quote. Because, really, is there anything better in "all the heavens" than warm bread on a cold, rainy winter day? Who knew that when I decided to make a dent in the hundreds of pounds of red wheat we have in storage by making our bread this year that I would bring my entire family so much joy? Every member of my family, upon walking in the house yesterday, said excitedly, "You made more bread?!"  Delightful.  Sometimes the simple things matter the most.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

So Much Good in the World

It always happens.  Catastrophic events always reveal the depth of goodness in average people.  This week after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, people, average people, have come out to aid in the relief effort.  They come from everywhere.  They do what they can to help, even if it seems so small in comparison to how big the need is.  Those who can't actually go to Haiti, which is most of us, help from home by raising money and gathering supplies to send.  And, at the very least, by praying for the well-being of the Haitian people.  By calling on a higher power to do the good that we cannot.  Average people can do so much good.

But it doesn't take a catastrophe.  On a much smaller scale, I have been coordinating the volunteers for the middle school winter dance this week.  I have been overwhelmed by the response of the parents in our community.  So many people want to help, in any way that they can.  People want to help others.  They want to do good and be good.  In a world where there is so much to fear and so much to worry about, it's nice to be reminded once in a while that we are, most of us, good people getting through it all together.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Real Life Dictionary

at wit's end:

(idiom)
-at the end of one's ideas or mental resources; perplexed: I was at wit's end this afternoon when Dylan screamed for half an hour before having to be restrained by myself and a very nice nurse to have his flu shots forcibly administered.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Bread Recipe

This is the perfect recipe, including tips, from my friend, Sarah.  I only have two bread pans so I cut the recipe in half. It made two huge loaves, but they're all gone now.  That's how good it really is.  (Even the dog loved it.  She stole half a loaf off the kitchen counter and gobbled it up. She's naughty.)  Now, from Sarah:

A few tips that helped me--(1) Use white wheat flour for a lighter, airier texture. Hard red wheat works fine, too, but it's a little denser and has a nuttier flavor. (2) This recipe (kneading time, etc) is written for a mixer and I'm not sure how to translate it to pure manpower. (3) You can buy wheat gluten and dough enhancer at the grocery store in the baking goods. They come in decent sized cans, good for probably 5 or 6 batches of bread.(These are what make it have a light, airy texture even though you are using 100% whole wheat flour.) Here goes:

Basic Honey Whole Wheat Bread

9-13 c. whole wheat flour, divided
3 Tbsp. yeast
¾ c. wheat gluten
6 cups hot water
½ c. olive oil
1 c. honey
3 Tbsp. dough enhancer
1 ½ Tbsp. salt

Place 9 cups of whole wheat flour, yeast and wheat gluten in mixer. Mix for 1 minute. Add hot water and mix for 1 minute. Cover and let dough rise for 10 minutes, or until pretty close to the top.

Add olive oil (canola can be used), honey, salt, and dough enhancer. Turn on mixer and add 1-3 more cups of flour, once cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the side and is not super sticky. (Better to add too little flour than too much.)

Knead dough in mixer for 7-10 minutes. Preheat oven to 170º and grease pans. Lightly oil your hands and divide dough into 4-6 portions. Form into loaves and place in greased pans. Put into warm oven for 25 minutes to rise.

Then, without even touching the pans, turn the oven up to 350º and bake for 20-25 minutes (to internal temperature b/t 180º-195º). Place on wire rack to cool. I like to swipe butter over the top of the loaf when it's still hot. Yummmmmm. Everyone has their favorite recipes and this one is mine. It's easy (well . . . if you have a mixer) and delish and my kids love it and it's 100% whole wheat. Hard to beat that. Good luck!

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Well, That Was Fast

Today.  A rainy, grey, beautiful morning.  (Rainy is rare and fun, for a change.)  A holiday.  A lazy, bread-making day.  Attempt #2 at honey whole wheat resulted in absolute perfection.  I guess I just needed the right recipe.  My friend Sarah e-mailed me her favorite recipe and it is heavenly, to say the least.  I will share the recipe soon, if it's OK with her.  It was so simple I can hardly believe it.  The only hard part was finding the dough enhancer.  It's at Whole Foods here in Chandler, if you're wondering, but I think I bought the last jar. 

Enjoy your holiday, everyone.

 

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday Eye Candy


These are some good lookin' folks.  Too bad they're not still a couple.  Imagine the beautiful children they could have had.  Someday.  When they were grown ups. Instead of children.  Which I know they are.  Is it wrong that Brent and I find them attractive?  So . . . . . . very . . . . . . attractive . . . . . .

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Yeah, I've Become One of "Those" People


One of "those" people who give their dog Christmas presents.  One of "those" people who baby- talk to their pet.  (But those things are pretty common.  Right?) One of "those" people who look at a bare crate with an old blanket in the bottom and think, "My wittle poopsie needs a pwetty big-girl bed".   Really, it's just because her crate is huge and it's right in the living room.  Nothing comes into our home without being painted or slip-covered.  And don't tell me you didn't see this coming a mile away.  I bought a dog that matches my home decor, for heaven's sake.  This was my inspiration. And yes, this bedding was one of Cassie's Christmas presents.  Stop laughing at me.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Back to Basics

I am going to learn, through trial and error and possibly by purchasing a bread machine, to make a perfect loaf of honey whole wheat bread.  It's my sincerest desire in life right now.  Nothing would make me any happier than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on home-made bread with a tall, cold glass of milk.  Seriously, nothing.  

Too often we forget what was wonderful and beautiful about the old way of doing things. Too many skills get lost along the way.  Too long I have just thrown a loaf of 88 cent store brand sandwich bread into my cart at the grocery store and denied myself and my family the pleasure of a home that smells like bread baking and food with actual nutritional value.  Too many hours I have wasted watching television, not being in any way productive.  Really.  I can tell you who got voted off of Launch My Line last night (Patrick) and when the new season of Toddlers in Tiaras starts (next Wednesday).  I can even give you a brief recap of every episode of Wizards of Waverly Place within a minute of it starting and , yet, I've never baked bread.  Crazy!  I'm not saying every woman should bake her family bread.  Not at all.  I'm not even saying that I SHOULD bake bread.  But I GET to stay home.  I don't HAVE to work, ever, unless I chose to.  I have 8 hours a day while my children are in school, and I'm going to bake some perfect bread, darn it.  In my cute little apron.  Possibly wearing my pearls.  (Because that just somehow seems appropriate.)

Last night, Batch #1 succeeded in making my home smell heavenly, but it was too crusty or something.  Far from perfect.  I'll just have to try again.  Any tips or favorite recipes out there, blog friends?

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Children of the 80's, remember these lovelies?  It's not just me is it?  They were a favorite of mine as a child and I'm trying to bring them back.  My kids adore them.  They love "trick food" where you think you're getting one thing, but really it's something else.  You just use a regular cake mix and divide it evenly between 24 ice cream cones instead of cupcake papers.  I set my  cones up in a cupcake pan so they're easier to move around and then bake as I would normal cupcakes.  It's OK if some of the cake spills out over the edge while it's baking.  That just looks like melting ice cream.  You don't even need fancy cake decorating tools to do the frosting.  I use a zip-loc bag with the corner cut off.  Canned frosting works great (you'll need two cans to make them look really good) , but I like this buttercream frosting recipe I found here.  It's fluffy, super-sweet and delicious and it is a beautiful pure white.  One batch makes more than plenty to do a batch of these cupcakes.

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 1/4 cups shortening (do NOT use butter flavored!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp clear butter flavor
  • 2 lbs confectioner's sugar
  1. Beat the shortening with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  2. Add the salt, milk, vanilla, and butter flavor. Beat until mixed. The mixture will be sort of watery at this point, so it's ok if it's not completely homogeneous.
  3. Add the powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time. Mix well after each addition.
  4. Once all of the sugar has been added, keep on mixing for about 5-7 minutes until your icing is nice and fluffy!
  5. Icing will keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
So fun for a birthday party!!

P.S.  You also need to know how to eat them. : D   For maximum enjoyment, you have to break the bottom of the cone off and use it to scrape off half of the frosting.  That way you get a better frosting to cake ratio all the way down.  Enjoy!

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    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Staring Down My Demons


    Today, after taking D to the doctor to get more albuterol for his wheezing, hacking cough, I went through the McDonald's drive-thru to get him the obligatory ice cream cone WITHOUT purchasing a delicious, sugary beverage treat for myself.  Ha HA!!!!!   It's the dawning of a new day around these parts . . .  the dawning of a new day . . .

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    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Crazy Eights



    8: The number of times we said we were happy with two children.
    8:  The number of months I waited (after finding out) for our third child to be born.
    8:  The weight (in pounds) of my youngest (heaviest) baby.
    8:  The number of times I have seriously considered sending him to meet his maker.
    8:  The number of times he hugs me every day.
    8:  His preferred hour to arise in the morning lately.
    8:  The number of waffles he can eat in one sitting.
    8: The number of Nerf guns in his arsenal.
    8:  The age in the Mormon church when children are baptized -- a major milestone in our faith.
    8:  The years I have been blessed with "Baby D" in my life.
    8:  The number of seconds I would want to go on living without him.



    *all numbers are approximations

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    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Desperately Seeking Simplicity



    OK, so maybe I'm making just one teeny tiny little resolution this year.

    I resolve to SIMPLIFY my life.

    As a creative thinker and a perfectionist, I tend to over-complicate many things.  I do more than is strictly necessary and no one reaps the benefits of my over-action.  Except for me.  I get a sick satisfaction in knowing that I did it my way, which is, of course, the right way. I'm starting with the grocery shopping, a chore that I detest.  It has always been a day-long project: poring over the ads, cross-referencing with my coupons, deciding what to make each night of the week, writing a list, organizing my things, going to three different stores (on an easy trip) and putting it all away.   My purse is littered with scraps of paper containing old grocery lists and crumpled receipts.  And I always over spend.  Always.  This year we're on a tight budget, what with our war on personal debt.  And by tight, I don't mean slightly uncomfortable.  Remember the jeans you wore in high school?  Now imagine putting them on today.  Yeah, that tight. But that's our choice and a few years from now we'll be swimming in those figurative jeans.  However, overspending now is not really an option.  Also, I've come to realize that my time is a valuable commodity. I don't want to spend an ENTIRE DAY each week procuring food for my family.

    I've been thinking about this for months.  How?  How can I make it better?  How can I find the happy medium between tedious planning and running willy-nilly through the store buying whatever looks good, but is really bad for my waistline AND my bottom line?  Then it occurred to me: Automation.  Ninety percent of my list is the same from week to week.  I buy the same handful of items at Costco every month.  Most of the "old stand by" recipes my family loves require the same basic ingredients.  What if I made up a "master list" (and printed it out and laminated it -- oooh, my OCD heart just lept for joy) that I could use as starting point every week.  Then, knowing what's on the master list, I can clip only the coupons each week that will work for my list.   I can take few moments to peruse my vegetable crisper to see what we got from the produce co-op, which is different every time, and decide what to make.  Add the few extra, meal-specific ingredients and incidentals and I'm off to the store. Just one store, knowing basically how much I'm going to spend, because it's basically what I bought the week before. 

    Maybe I'm not simplifying at all.  Maybe this is just my new version of crazy.  Maybe, upon re-reading my madness, I won't even click that Publish Post button.  But I'm excited to give it a shot.  And I spent too long typing this to not publish it.  Have a great day, everyone!

    (You may notice a few GLARING omissions from my list above:  anything fresh (co-op), deoderant/ toothpaste/personal grooming (still have a monster stash from my old mega-couponing days), and staples like flour, rice, sugar and such (fully-stocked food storage).  Yes, we do eat healthy and groom ourselves here.  No need to worry.)

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    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Happy New Year!! Wanna' Bowl of Soup?

    I'm not really one for setting New Year's Resolutions.  I'm a big goal setter, so I rarely have to wait for January First to get inspired.  For the past month or so I've been reading the book You: Staying Young by Dr. Roizen and Dr. Oz.  (I'm late to get on the bandwagon with this one.  It's been all over Oprah's radar for years.  Which is why I haven't bothered to read it sooner. I hate Oprah. Fact.)  I know I'm still relatively young-ish.  I just haven't been feeling entirely healthy lately.  I don't sleep enough and I'm tired ALL the time.  I have an unhealthy dependency on a certain soft drink that shall remain nameless.  I don't like vegetables.  Or cooking.  Or cooking vegetables.  I've been running on empty for a while now.  This book has been a good read for me. . . once I got past the overuse of simile and the trying-too-hard-to-be-funny references.   It has opened my eyes to the way that our physical, emotional, and spiritual health are all intertwined.  I've also learned how hard my body is having to work to compensate for my less desirable habits.  Shocking.  So when I tell you about about the soup diet I've been on this week you'll, of course, understand that it is NOT part of a New Year's Resolution to lose weight.  The goal to get healthier and the month of January just happened to coincide by no planning of my own.  Great.

    So . . . the soup diet.  You make a huge batch of vegetable soup one day and then every night for dinner you  take a little of the basic soup and doctor it up with fresh ingredients to make different kinds of soup.  There are also some suggestions for breakfast and lunch each day.  It has actually been pretty delightful.  The food is delicious and fresh and healthy.  Dinner is a snap to cook every night and my kids even like it (mostly).  They have been supplementing with chips and quesadillas and bread and butter on the side.  They're young.  Now, in the four and a half days that we have been eating and drinking healthy I have .............(drum roll) .............. GAINED THREE POUNDS!!!!!!

    "Not possible," says my husband who has LOST three pounds to date.  "Phooey," say my children who feel like a million bucks.  "The scale doesn't lie,"  says me, weeping on the inside.  Where did I go wrong?!  Is it the two slices of cheese pizza I ate for lunch with my girlfriends yesterday instead of the club sandwich on whole wheat that was sitting in the fridge at home?  Was is the one measly cupcake sans frosting I ate at the youth activity at church Wednesday night?  The hand-full of pecans I snacked on between Visiting Teaching appointments Wednesday morning?  Did I really blow it when, throwing caution to the wind this morning, I ate the entire whole wheat english muffin instead of the diet-mandated half?  AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!  For the record, in the recent past I could have eaten all those things plus the soup plus a 44 oz. Coke everyday and gone to McDonalds four times in a week WITHOUT GAINING THREE POUNDS!!!

    Weight-gain aside, I would be happy if I was feeling peppy and wonderful from all this healthfulness.  No such luck.  I have been exhausted, grumpy and, Brent's personal favorite, weepy all week.  My skin has seen better days.  I'm still not sleeping well.  I want to die if I have to live one more day without refined sugar, preferably in cola form.  Please tell me that if I hang in there my body will catch up with my newer, better habits.  Please tell me that it's not always miserable to "be healthy".  And tell me it's OK to have another slice of pizza and a cupcake at my baby boy's birthday party tomorrow.  Or I might cry.  Again.

    I don't think we'll ever do the soup diet again, but it has made me very conscious of portion control.  Also, I've joined the produce co-op again so we'll have a steady flow of fruits and veg into our home and I'm determined to stay off the soda.  So . . . baby steps, I guess.

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    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    I'm Still Here . . .

    Just got nothin' to say. Off the Coke (a-Cola) again and not sleeping well.  Grumpier than I ought to be and working on that.  Tomorrow.  Maybe. 

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