Friday, February 27, 2009

My Kindle

My eyes returned to normal and I've been playing with my Kindle 2. It's a fun toy for grown ups and bookworms! The Eldest has one too; we're going to use them on our upcoming European tour. I've been loading books onto mine; I have 2 novels and a travel guide book on it so far. I have to say that it's wonderful, but librarians and book stores don't have anything to fear at this point. A real book in hand is so much better than an electronic device. It will be fantastic when we travel since we can load so much onto one teeny tiny little thing, but for regular day to day reading give me an old fashioned paper and ink book. The Kindle 2 (K2) doesn't have color, first of all, so you literally can't judge your books by their covers. Secondly, it's hard to get an idea of the length of the book from the K2. You can't easily see how many pages it is or get a sense of how long it is, or even, when you're reading, how much more you have to read to the end of the chapter, let alone the end of the book. Then it still has glitches. I was reading one of the novels this morning and went to turn the page, but nothing happened. I pressed "next page" again and still nothing. I pressed "previous page" just to try something, and it flickered to a blank screen for a second before going back to the home page. When I went back into the novel it put me at the place I'd left off the night before, not where I was currently. ARGH! And it's difficult to FIND where you are when that happens. (Luckily the book was talking about a new character so I did a search on that name and found my spot.) You can read samples of the books before you buy them. I did that, but then I had to start over from the beginning when I downloaded the actual book since it doesn't sync up where the sample left off.

These are minor annoyances but I can deal with them for the sake of not having to cart 20 guide books, language dictionaries, phrase books, and several novels on our trip!

Summer Squash Recipe

When we picked strawberries the other day I also bought some summer squash at the little market they have there. We ate it yesterday and it was so good. It tasted like it had a stick of butter on it but there wasn't any; it was just steamed.

Here's how I did it:
Several yellow squash, washed, bad spots peeled off, and cut into bite sized pieces
One sweet onion, diced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Throw everything in the top of a steamer basket and place over boiling water, making sure the water is below the bottom of the basket. Cover. Steam until the texture you like is reached. Test frequently by taking one of the larger pieces out with tongs, running it under cool water, and eating. I think I started with 10 minutes on the timer since the squash pieces were a good size and the basket was full. I like my steamed veggies softer than most; use less time for al dente.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


My Kindle just got here (my Christmas present from DH) and I can't play with it because my eyes were dilated at the eye doctor's today. WAHHHHHHHHH!

(I can strain and make out what's on the computer since it's far enough away; not a chance on my new toy.)

Strawberries & Soccer Moms

Yesterday was such a full and busy day that the two previous posts just can't begin to cover it. One thing DH said I had to write about is the fellow soccer mom I talked to at The Youngest's practice. Since it was his first practice I didn't know anyone, but I was trying to be sociable and make conversation so I mentioned to one of the moms that I was a mess (I was wearing a strawberry stained Firefly, yes, the movie, T-shirt) because I'd just returned from picking strawberries. She gave me a confused look and said "you were picking strawberries"? I said yes, then she just looked blank and said "why?" Why? WHY? Why would someone drive an hour to pick the most delicious, decadent, delightful fruit on the planet on a gorgeous spring day? Why would I do that? I was confused by the question, I have to admit, but I responded "because they're worth it!" Then I showed her a picture (because of course I had my digital camera in hand to take pictures of The Youngest) of the back of my mini-van full of strawberries. All she said was "yes, that's a lot of strawberries".

The Eldest said I missed an opportunity. She said when people ask her questions like that she gives the most outrageous answer she can think of; she would have said "because the strawberries in the grocery have all been poisoned by aliens". That led DH to say it would be a win if it resulted in a letter to the editor- "who are these aliens and why are they poisoning our berries?" They crack me up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I took The Middle Child and a friend of mine to pick strawberries again today- yum, yum, yum. One of the gentlemen at the farm told us it was peak season and he wasn't kidding! The plants were dripping strawberries; we filled our baskets in record time. The Middle Child picked the most- she was picking for all she was worth and filled more containers than I did! It was a gorgeous day for it, too. A touch on the chilly side in the shade but absolutely perfect in the sun. I blew my healthy eating resolve big time, too. They sell the best strawberry shakes and ice cream sundaes on the planet, and I indulged. They also sell cinnamon buns; yep, had a couple of those, and herbed breadsticks, and I had a couple of those, too. Ooooh, the scale is going to be up 5 pounds tomorrow, but it's so worth it! (I'll get right back on track and get it back down, never fear.)

Now we have to wash them, dice them, and flash freeze them for future use. Oh, and EAT as many as we can in the process! Happy happy joy joy, happy happy joy joy...

(And then I came home and did the soccer mom thing; whew, it was a busy day!)

Soccer Moms

So I've joined the ranks of Soccer Moms once again; sigh. The Youngest has wanted to play soccer for a while now so I finally caved and signed him up for the spring season. His first practice was tonight, which conflicted with the Girl Scout leader meeting I was supposed to be at, of course. I went to soccer, naturally! I can't miss his very first practice ever. I tried to take pictures but it was too dark; the flash didn't help any from the sidelines so I'm bummed. He was so cute, though, with that toothless grin which makes for extra oodles of adorableness in a boy child. Several of his team mates were also sporting the toothless look, I noticed. It's all the rage at that age level, I hear. The coach seems like a good guy so far, although time will tell. He worked well with the kids. They were running all over the place working on ball skills then ended with a scrimmage. On the way back to the car I asked The Youngest about his team and he said "there were only 3 kids on my team", so I had to explain to him about how the team will divide up to play a game for practice, but at the real games all of the kids he was with tonight will be on his team. He liked that idea, but he's still bothered that he doesn't have his uniform yet. He's going to be so excited at that first game!! I'm going to be so tired!! The games are EARLY on Saturday mornings and we're not morning people so it's going to be painful, but we'll do it for The Youngest. ;)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Happy Thinking Day!

Yesterday was a special day for Girl Scouts and Girl Guides the world over- it was Thinking Day! We celebrated today with my younger daughter's troop by attending the event hosted by her service unit. It was held at a local high school cafeteria and many of the local troops participated by making booths all of the girls could visit. Each booth consisted of a display about a member country from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, a food from the country, and a craft from the country. The Oldest went with us; she goes for the FOOD! We're going to the event for her troop (she's in a different service unit since she stayed with her old troop after we moved six miles up the road) on Friday; more FOOD, yeah! ;) I planned the event for 2007 and 2008 but a friend of mine took over this year and did a fantastic job. I was so happy it wasn't on my shoulders, even though I happen to love this particular event. I did help out by planning and running the pinning ceremony part of the evening and that went well. I had print outs of the Girl Scout/Girl Guide Promise from several other countries and in a few different languages. I learned that one of the moms in my troop speaks 5 languages! Spanish, English, Italian, French, and Portuguese- wow! She's also quite well traveled and had a ton of advice for our upcoming European vacation. The main thing was STAY LONGER!!! DH would have some issues with that, however, so we'll see. ;) (He's not going; it's just me and The Eldest.)

Blog Organization

I want to organize my blog archives and I can't find a way to do it. I see it on other blogs but I can't find a widget or anything to do it on mine. :-P I want to set up my archives so that I can file the food related posts, recipes, Menu Plan Monday, recipe reviews, etc., all in one place. Any and all words of advice would be greatly appreciated! :)

Thank you!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Menu Plan Monday!

We wound up deviating from last week's plan a little this weekend. DH loves the Jamie Oliver chicken recipe so we had to have that, then I found a new recipe in the current issue of Cooking Light I wanted to try- Scallops with Warm Tuscan Beans. We've never cooked scallops at home before but DH enjoys them at restaurants so I wanted to give them a try, plus I was able to stop by Whole Foods, with their good fish market, since I was in that area yesterday. (Whole Foods isn't local for me unfortunately.) We had the scallops for lunch today and they were pretty good! DH cooked and said the recipe was easy and could lend itself easily to subbing any type of protein for the scallops. (He threw in a few shrimp that were delicious.)

Well, that was then, this is now, and here's the plan for the very busy upcoming week:
Monday Lunch: leftovers
Monday Dinner: deli sandwiches
Tuesday Lunch: Mushroom and Chicken Quesadillas, Family Circle January '09 page 133
Tuesday Dinner: Lemony Shrimp with White Beans and Couscous, Real Simple Feb '09 page 184 (sub olive oil for the butter and cut back on it a bit to make it healthier)
Wednesday Lunch: Healthy burgers on whole wheat buns, organic oven fries, and Waldorf salad
Wednesday Dinner: Spiced Chicken with Black Eyed Peas and Rice, Cooking Light Weeknight page 98
Thursday Lunch: Spaghetti with garlic bread and bruschetta
Thursday Dinner: Deep Dish Taco Pizza, Cooking Light Superfast Suppers page 69
Friday Lunch: Tasty Lentil Tacos from; this is our 2nd try for this recipe and DH especially likes it. I'm trying to incorporate more vegetarian/vegan meals into our menu plans since it's so much healthier, for us and the planet! This one was rated "a keeper" by the family.
Friday Dinner: Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin, Rice, green salad
Saturday Lunch: Jambalaya (made by adding pork tenderloin cut into bite sized pieces, onion, and red pepper to the Zatarain's mix and throwing it all in the rice cooker, which couldn't be easier!)
Saturday Dinner: Eat out at our Girl Scout event
Sunday Lunch: Black Bean Cakes, Carrot Salad, White Rice, and Organic Applesauce; our 2nd vegetarian meal for the week
Sunday Dinner: Pizza for the kids and sitter; Mom and Dad eat out!

The recipe link for Black Bean Cakes is for Apocalypse Chow, the cookbook I used for the recipe and not the recipe itself; I'm not sure of the protocol if the recipe isn't on-line already. I don't mind typing it in but I don't want to get in any trouble with copywright laws! ~:-O (I highly recommend that particular cookbook though, especially if you live in an area that can be subject to extended power outages for any reason or you just want a cookbook full of yummy vegetarian recipes that even meat eaters can enjoy.)

As always, don't forget to check Organizing Junkie for links to all of the other blogs hosting Menu Plan Monday!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Recipe Gold Mines

I know they are out there, it's just a matter of finding them! I'm on the hunt for recipes and the internet is an almost endless resource if you know where to look. I have links to a few of my favorite sites, my local grocery store, Cooking Light, and Food Network, over there on my "Links I Like" list. There are others- I just discovered one for Swanson broth when I was poking around over at Cooking Light looking for new recipes for next week's menu. There's also Kraft (although they use a lot of heavily processed ingredients in their recipes), Whole Foods, and King Arthur Flour. A lot of the cooking and lifestyle magazines have a ton of recipes; I've used some from Real Simple and Southern Living. And the blogs, the blogs!! All of the blogs that link to Menu Plan Monday, of course, are wonderful recipe resources, then there are the "Top 50 Food Blogs" to check out. Some of the blogs I've stumbled onto several times are in the top 50- Pioneer Woman, Smitten Kitchen, and Joy the Baker. I've corresponded with Pioneer Woman- it's like I've communicated with a celebrity! (I told her she should be on Food Network or have a book out; she said I was very nice to think so, or something along those lines.) The photography on the better food blogs is amazing too; it's food porn, to use the term DH introduced me to. Makes your mouth water just looking at it, which is why I liked the Design Sponge Christmas post so much. ;)

Do you have any favorite sites? Let me know because I'm always looking for more recipes!!

And with all these wonderful resources, I still can't resist buying new cookbooks.

PS: Update on another blog and website I just discovered when I was looking for Apocalypse Chow, one of my favorite cookbooks. One of the authors had a website a while back and I tried to find it, oh, a month or so ago (more or less) but it was gone. I checked again, clicking on the book on Shelfari, and that led me to her NEW website! She also has a blog and the very first recipe I found on there looks yummy; I'm probably going to try it next week. I put the links on my "Links I Like" and "My Blog List" lists.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Round Tuits

When I was a kid, there was a teacher who gave us all little round wooden disks with "TUIT" written on it. She explained that these were "Round Tuits", so that when we looked at them we would know it was time to get "around to" whatever we might be procrastinating about. Well, today was a Round Tuit day. I finally, finally took all of our dead electronic equipment to our county recycling facility where it will be disposed of properly instead of going to a landfill and leaching bad things into our water table. Whew! That feels so good! I dropped off a very large TV, two computers, a printer, an old battery operated mini TV, two DVR units, and a bunch of miscellaneous items. Most of it was ours, some of it was from my grandmother's house, and ALL of it was stacked up in the corners of my house for WAAAAAAYYYY too long!

It feels so good to both have that stuff out of my house and to have a task that's been hanging over my head for a long time crossed OFF my to do list!

PS: Saturday update: I noticed a pile of stuff right in the middle of my bedroom floor today- a dead computer and a dead VCR I FORGOT TO TAKE TO THE RECYCLING PLACE! How could I have missed it? I mean it's RIGHT in the middle of the floor! MAJOR ARGHHHH!!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The New Link

I've placed a new link on my "links I like" list. It's for the official White House web site and everyone should check it out! There's all sorts of interesting information on there, for instance, did you know that our President is taking his first foreign trip today to Ottawa, Canada? He is, and one of the White House staffers will be liveblogging about it as it happens! There are updates on the stimulus bill and how that's going. You can read the President's agenda to find out where our country is going under his leadership. There is a section on history; you can watch a slide show about all of our former Presidents and learn about the White House itself. Under White House 101 you can even learn about the first pets! It's a fascinating site and has loads of content to poke around in. Let me know if you take a look. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My To Do List

I had a rare and momentary lull in my to do list today. I mean there's still a lot that needs to be done (laundry, as usual, is up to the ceiling, among many other household tasks) but, and here's the spooky part, I DIDN'T HAVE ANY URGENT "FIRES" TO PUT OUT!!! Nothing urgent for Girl Scouts, although I have a pinning ceremony for 200 I have to plan for Monday night, nothing for my grandmother's estate (she passed away last June and I'm executor), no driving anyone anywhere, no one scheduled to visit, no play dates, nothing! I was going to be free to laze around and enjoy a much needed break today, or so I thought. Sigh... Then something came up for my younger daughter's Girl Scout troop this afternoon that was a drop-everything-and-deal-with-it kind of thing, so I did. Best laid plans, as they say.

The Youngest starts soccer next week too, so that will put a wrinkle in my schedule. They expect parents to stay at the field during practice so I'm at least hoping to multi-task and take my daily walks while I'm there but I'll have to see how that goes. It's his first time playing organized sports so I'm hoping he has fun with it. He's been attending a homeschool P.E. program for a couple of years now so he's been involved with sports through that, but that's not as intense as the youth soccer leagues are by a long shot. He had to go for his "valation" (evaluation) a few weeks ago with his dad and thought the kids he was playing with were going to be on his team. He was telling me about "the fast kid" this morning and I had to explain to him that the kids he met were going to be mixed up on all different teams. He's been talking about it quite a bit so I know he's excited. I'll be taking the camera along for those first few practices! :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

President's Day

We had such a lovely afternoon today! I picked up deli sandwiches and fruit from the grocery store (instead of the turkey dogs on the menu plan) and we ate a late lunch at a local park followed by a bike ride until the park closed. The weather was gorgeous although on the chilly side; I wore a jacket and was still a little cold. (I get cold easily; thank goodness we don't live up north!) DH and I bought bikes for each other for Christmas and we've been to this particular park a few times now. It's a smaller park and draws fewer people so it's perfect for bike rides with the kids. There are cars going through were we ride but the speed limit is very low and the visibility is good so it's safer than riding through our neighborhood. The worst part is packing up the kids and the bikes which takes, oh, at least half an hour or so on a good day. ("Where's my helmet? Do I HAVE to wear sneakers? I can't find them. Did you get water for me?" etc., etc., etc.) It was worth it though (especially since DH loads the bikes) ;) and I was so proud of us for being an active, outdoorsy family. Me, outdoorsy! Go figure. It feels so good, though, and I know we're setting a good example for the kids. "The family that plays together" as they say.

We have an extra bike The Niece uses when she's here; she takes it to work sometimes. I got a good deal on that one- I asked at the local bike shops if they had any used bikes to sell and we picked that one up for about a third of what it would cost new. (Good frugal tip for a troubled economy- check bike stores for used bikes!) It's a good brand all fixed up with new parts. Someone dropped it off for repairs and never picked it up and the store owner was tired of having it around taking up space so he sold it to me when I asked. I'm pleased as punch about it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Menu Plan Monday!

It's time to post the menu plan again! This is actually becoming quite convenient. DH is on his computer all the time so he can check what we're having, and look up the recipes with the links, without bugging me about it. ;)

Monday Lunch: Picnic at a local park, probably turkey dogs, chips and dip, potato salad, and fruit
Monday Dinner: Jamie Oliver's Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes
Tuesday Lunch: Ellie Krieger's Sloppy Joes
Tuesday Dinner: Chicken with Tomatoes and Peppers, page 94, Easy Healthy Dinners cookbook from Grand Avenue Books
Wednesday Lunch: Balsamic Chicken with rice
Wednesday Dinner: Beef-a-Roni
Thursday Lunch: Spaghetti with garlic bread and bruschetta
Thursday Dinner: Saucy Italian Style Chicken Thighs, page 159, Cooking Light Superfast Suppers (hold over from last week)
Friday Lunch: Bourbon Chicken with Rice; thanks to a fellow Menu Plan Monday poster for this one!
Friday Dinner: To Be Determined
Saturday Lunch: Grillades and Grits
Saturday Dinner: Chicken Soup
Sunday Lunch: Leftover Soup
Sunday Dinner: Pizza delivery

As always, don't forget to check out all the other Menu Plan Monday posts over at Organizing Junkie! :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The 10 Meal Box

Hurricane and emergency preparedness is kind of a hobby for me. Odd, I know; I listed it on my profile and, where all my other interests link to other people with the same interest, that one links to... nobody at all! I guess I'm the only one who considers it a hobby. ;) I live in an area prone to hurricanes and went through one that did a lot of damage, to say the least, so I'm very aware of what can happen. The worst case scenario is total destruction due to a direct hit from a powerful storm. Far more likely is damage that leads to extensive power outages, which can last weeks, and roof damage. I’ve taken steps to prepare our house and family as much as possible, thinking through what might happen during a storm and the aftermath and what I can do in advance to lessen the damage and discomfort as much as possible.

One thing I’ve done, since I like to eat, is to put together a 10 meal box. (Actually it’s a couple of large plastic storage bins with lids.) I went through my cookbooks, including Apocalypse Chow, and found 5 recipes my family likes that use non-perishable ingredients. After trying them out, I bought enough of the ingredients to make each recipe twice, including seasonings, and put that in one box. Additional items to fill that box and the second box include breakfast and snack foods, cookware, paper plates, bowls, plastic utensils, water, dish soap, a can opener, matches, and so forth. I also purchased a butane stove, as recommended in Apocalypse Chow, and store it with the boxes.

This is something I think every family should try to put together, and it doesn’t have to be a big expense. You can buy enough for one meal at a time and accumulate the items slowly instead of all at once, for instance. Once your box is established you’ll need to rotate the food to keep it all fresh. (Even canned goods expire after a while.) I go through my hurricane supplies at the beginning of each storm season to freshen everything then donate any unused items to a food pantry in November when the season is over.

Before I had the idea to set up my 10 meal box I set aside other food stores. I have several packages of dried beans and a large bag of rice stored with a Dutch oven (the camping kind with the little legs on the bottom) to cook it all in and a trash can, purchased just for this purpose, full of charcoal in the garage. I bought an Emergency Food Supply in a 5 gallon bucket from an on-line company that has a 20 year shelf life. I also purchased a container of nutrition/survival tablets for our “go bags”. They probably taste terrible but if we’re in a situation where we need to actually eat them I have a feeling the taste won’t be important. I have water stored as well. We drink bottled water (our tap water tastes terrible) so we have a good stockpile of that all the time. I also have two 5 gallon bottles of water and a ceramic dispenser I purchased at Whole Foods. I have four water coolers, two five gallon and two smaller ones, that I fill with tap water when a storm approaches and leave by sinks to wash with. I have large 10 gallon buckets I put in each shower and fill with water to use for washing and flushing the toilet. One thing I DO NOT do is put water in my washing machine. A family member did this prior to a storm then lost power for a long time afterwards. With no power she couldn’t run the washer and drain it so the water sat in there and rusted the machine! (It’s also not a good idea to store valuables in the dishwasher since sewage can back up into it after a storm- yuck!)

These are just some of the things I’ve set up for emergency situations. Would your family be prepared if an emergency struck your area?

UPDATE: The book I recommend to everyone for emergency preparedness, Apocalypse Chow, is out of print. The authors have revised it and it's now published as Vegan Unplugged. If you're not vegetarian/vegan don't let that throw you! You'll want vegan recipes, trust me. After all, how long will meat last without refrigeration? I've also realized that the credit for my 10 meal box goes to that book. I read the book then didn't act on it for quite some time, forgot about their 5 day meal box, then came up with my very similar 10 meal box. So the 5 day meal box was probably floating around in my subconscious somewhere. I like to give proper credit, so there you have it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Recipe Report

I made the Greek Chicken Dinner last night, adding a bunch of my new favorite convenience food to the recipe, and it was DELICIOUS! The family declared it A Keeper. What is my new favorite convenience food? Pre-peeled garlic cloves! I first used them for the Jamie Oliver recipe and they are so handy. I hate peeling garlic, especially more than just a few cloves, so the pre-peeled is very helpful. I threw a handful in the pan right before it went in the oven; the kids picked them out of the finished dish to smear on crackers.

The recipe was fairly easy to prep, then an hour in the oven and the house smells so yummy while it cooks. I meant to make some bread-from-a-can (Pillsbury french bread) but since I never got around to it the crackers were OK. I think this is an easily adjustable and versatile recipe, too; if you don't like one or two of the seasonings leave them out, or change the seasonings completely, change up the veggies, (any veggie that roasts well would work), change the quantities to suit the number of people you are cooking for, etc.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gloom, Despair, and Misery

The Eldest is still sick and she’s gotten worse. :( I took her to an urgent care clinic this afternoon and her fever was 102.7 when we were checking in; the nurse practitioner walked in and said "I hear you're cooking yourself". He checked her over then sent in the doctor, who declared it a sinus infection, wrote a prescription for antibiotics and a pain reliever/fever reducer and then sent us on our way. I'm partly relieved that it was a sinus infection since we were worried she might have a migraine, something I wouldn't wish on anyone since they are recurrent. Although potentially more serious right now, at least this infection should clear up and not give her anymore trouble later. I also spent all day yesterday thinking it was Tuesday when it was actually Wednesday, so I missed a doctor’s appointment for myself I could have taken her to. I have very mild asthma so it was a check up for that, and I could have asked that they take her instead. I would have preferred she see that doctor over the one at the urgent care place. Not that the urgent care doc was inferior in any way, it’s just that he’s a generalist I don’t know and my asthma guy is a specialist with the ear/nose/throat/sinus issues and I know him fairly well.

I HATE it when I get my days mixed up and miss stuff! I’ve done that to the kids, too- they’ve missed birthday parties they really wanted to go to, among other things, because I can’t keep track of the days. I finally got a calendar and started keeping everything written down about a 100 years ago and kept it in my purse so I could add to it as things came up, but then I’d forget to check it. To solve THAT problem I got a second calendar, a large wipe board calendar that I update at the start of every month. I keep that up at the entry to our kitchen so we can check it at a glance. The only problem this month is that I haven’t updated yet. I’m usually pretty good about it but this month has been hectic so it went on the back burner. I’m hoping to get to it today, though, so I don’t miss anything else!!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Helping Others

My blog friend Melinda over at "At Shore's End" wrote a lovely post about how she would like to help others. That reminded me of an article I ripped out of the January issue of Family Circle magazine with links to various web sites that help you help others. Here are the links: (I gave my kids $20.00 for Christmas, 2007 to "spend" at Mark Makers and they LOVED it. It's aimed at kids.) (excellent for increasing your vocab and feeding the world at the same time; I'm going to put the link under my "links I like" list)

And now I can help myself by reducing the clutter in my house and throwing the article away since I have all the info right here! :)

PS: DH just asked me what I want for Valentine's Day and, thanks to Melinda's inspiration, I decided I want us to make donations to in each other's names. I don't need flowers (although lovely, they die so quickly), I don't need chocolate, (the weight thing- I want to keep it off!), I've never been one for jewelry, and who needs more clutter in the house? A micro loan to a budding entrepreneur will be just the thing. :)

Menu Plan Monday!

We didn't stick to the plan last week; things went a little astray with most of the family catching that nasty cold. I've carried over a few things, and we'll see what the new week brings!

Monday Lunch: Jambalaya
Monday Dinner: Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloins, Rice, Garden Salad
Tuesday Lunch: Eat Out after we run the errand I've been trying to take care of for the past 3 weeks!
Tuesday Dinner: Chicken Orzo Skillet, Taste of Home Healthy Cooking Recipe Cards, current issue, page 3
Wednesday Lunch: Oven Fried Chicken, Fresh Fruit, Fresh Veggie to be determined when I'm at the store and see what's fresh
Wednesday Dinner: Spiced Beef with Rice (Browned ground beef and onions with random spices from the spice rack thrown in for flavor; quick and easy fall back meal.)
Thursday Lunch: Spaghetti with garlic bread and bruschetta (We use fresh basil from our HUGE basil bush in the backyard for our bruschetta, but I think the recent cold weather killed it off)
Thursday Dinner: Greek Chicken Dinner, Taste of Home
Friday Lunch: Shrimp Scampi
Friday Dinner: Saucy Italian Style Chicken Thighs, Cooking Light Superfast Suppers page 189
Saturday Lunch: Tasty Lentil Tacos,
Saturday Dinner: Soy Marinated London Broil, Real Simple Magazine; homemade mashed potatoes and a garden salad. The in-laws will be here so this is a nice company meal.
Sunday Lunch: Black Bean Cakes, Carrot Salad, Rice, Applesauce
Sunday Dinner: Date Night! Pizza for the kids and sitter

And that's the week! Please check out Organizing Junkie for more great menu plans.


DH stumbled across this the other day and I thought it was a hoot:
"I'm CDO. It's like OCD only in alphabetical order the way it should be."

...I can totally relate.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Random Navel Contemplation

I stumbled onto a blog about introverts that I've found to be quite fascinating (I have a link to Living Introverted over there under "My Blog List".) Recently the author penned a post about the calm in the storm that introverts can be, which got me thinking. Am I calm in a crisis? Well, yes and no. It depends on how fast things are happening and how chaotic they are; I get flustered with lots of noise and people and chaos. (See the post about "What a Day".) I don't know how evident it was to everyone else that I was flustered at that particular Girl Scout meeting, but I was definitely not at my best, thus forgetting about the deposit. I think that may be due to my relationship with details as much as or even more so than introversion. I've discovered this about myself- I am NOT a detail person, especially in the thick of things. I can plan for details and make lists in advance with the best of them, but in the thick of things the details either take care of themselves or get lost, because I'm just not going to (be able to?) deal with them. Don't get me wrong- I like Girl Scout meetings and running events (and I've chaired a bunch of them) and so forth, but I'm not one of those people who can focus on 40 things at once. I'd make a lousy event planner; I thought about pursuing that as a career at one point in my life, so thank goodness I gave up on that idea a long time ago! What I am good at is the pre-planning and figuring out things when I have time to think. I can usually find a logical course of action for working through any crisis as long as I don't have things coming at me all at once; I'm a great idea person and pretty good at brainstorming. My parties and events usually turn out well and I hope the details I miss aren't noticed by anyone but me! I'm also not into the melodrama, so even if I'm mentally flustered I'm not outwardly going to pieces, or if I do it's only momentary then I pull myself together and soldier on, which may be what the post on Living Introverted is talking about. I may not be thinking clearly or making the best decisions or remembering the things I need to remember, but I'm not a quivering heap of jello over in the corner either.

Living Introverted is a fascinating blog and I love the link to the explanation of introverts vs. extroverts, which is the same definition of the two terms I learned in one of my psychology classes in college. It's a how-you-recharge-your-batteries thing that has very little, if anything, to do with shyness. This concept has been at the forefront for me lately now that The Niece is living with us. She's definitely an extrovert, fully and completely, who's found herself in a family of introverts, poor kid. She's eager to go and do and be around other people and gets markedly anxious when we're all just sitting around, whereas we all want to stay home either glued to the computer or with our noses stuck in a book! Even The Eldest is quite the bookworm/computer nerd. I feel for The Niece, I really do, but I can't meet her socialization needs! Thankfully a good friend of her mother's lives nearby and has sons near her age so she's going to pick her up for outings, which will make things easier for all of us. (They all went out together tonight for the first time, which was good.) I was talking to a good friend of mine about The Niece and she said she is the same way- it's like the walls are closing in or she's claustrophobic or something if she's stuck at home without other people around for too long; it drives her bonkers! That is such a concept for me to grasp; putting myself in an extrovert's shoes. Seeing it in action has really driven it home, though. It's not that being either way is better or worse, but it's good to understand the yin and yang of introversion vs. extroversion so that we have a better understanding of nieces who need to go out and look at us like aliens when we say we'd rather stay home. ;)

Jamie Oliver's Tender & Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes

Delicious, delicious, delicious! I made what I planned on making tonight and it turned out so good; wowee wow wow. Check out the recipe here. I tweaked it a bit, which I'll share. I've already mentioned that I throw in cannellini beans; I used THREE CANS of them tonight along with triple the amount of chicken legs since I can't find "jointed" ones at my grocery. (I've also used thighs in the past which are quite good.) I used a whole 6 ounce jar of pre-peeled garlic cloves to save the work of getting those ready. I don't mind a couple of cloves, but mass quantities- no, thanks. You want them in the recipe, though; the kids even fight over them they are so good, especially spread on bread or crackers like butter. It takes WAAAYYY longer to cook than the recipe calls for. He says an hour and a half; it's more like two and a quarter, although I'll admit it could be the pan I use or my oven that makes it take longer. ??? I stir it at the 90 minute point and see how it's looking before I add the extra time. I leave out the "fresh red chilli" since my kids wouldn't like it; we don't miss it at all. We don't go for the optional potatoes, either. I tried it once and the potatoes were good, but the beans are better and a lot less work. He doesn't say anything about using a lid; we leave it off.

As an added bonus, all that garlic roasting with those tomatoes makes your house smell amazing! It's hard to wait for it to get done. ;)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chicken Soup Recipe

I thought I had this recipe on the blog already but couldn't find it when I went back through to link it to my last post, so here it is. I cheat a little with the mix but then I doctor it up. This is one of those "throw it in there without measuring" recipes.

Chicken Soup:
1 box Manischewitz Matzo Ball and Soup Mix (I totally had to get a box to know how to spell that!) *You could use homemade broth instead of the mix, but if you are a dedicated enough cook to do that then you won't need this recipe! ;)
Lots of water
Drizzle of olive oil (use a little more if you are using skinless chicken)
Salt, to taste (I use a pretty hefty amount- a good grab or two out of the kosher salt jar which I'm guessing is around a tablespoon?)
Dill, maybe a couple of tablespoons or so (my family LOVES their dill)
Large cube of chicken bouillon
Carrots, a whole bunch of them peeled and cut into discs
Celery, 2 or 3 stalks (more if your family likes celery; DH and 2 of the kids don't care for it so I only put enough for me and The Middle Child)
Large sweet onion, cut into "rustic chunks" as they say on the Food Network
Chicken: we like 3 or 4 drumsticks, with or without skin, and a few chicken tenderloins, but you can put in whatever pieces-parts you like, and in the amounts your family will eat

For the matzo balls, which are optional: (you either love them or hate them; they're little dough balls so what's not to like, IMHO) ;)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons oil
matzo ball mix

Fill a large dutch oven or stock pot about 3/4 full with water. Throw in the contents of the broth packet (don't mix it up with the matzo ball packet) from the Matzo Ball and Soup Mix along with the bouillon cube, olive oil, dill, and salt. (Depending on the size of your pot and how much soup you want, I might leave out the bouillon cube for a smaller pot or add another one for a larger pot. You just want a decently flavorful broth.) I usually slice up the veggies at this point and throw them in the pot as I cut them, but if you do your prep in advance then throw the carrots, celery, and onion right in the pot and let it rip. Next throw in the chicken, and since I use smaller pieces of chicken I throw them in the pot frozen; you don't have to defrost! (You don't want to over cook the chicken; it will get tough.) Once the chicken goes in make up the matzo ball mix following the package directions, which include letting the dough chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. (Be sure not to over mix the matzo dough; it gets really tough if you do anything more than just barely incorporate everything. I scramble the egg and oil together first then add the dough, stirring as little as possible.)Once the matzo dough is ready, make up the balls and throw them in the soup too. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes and that's it!

We also make noodles to go in the soup because we love our carbs, but it is very important to make them in a separate pot and add them only to the individual bowls of soup. If you cook the noodles in the soup they will over cook, expand, get mushy, and you won't have any broth, you'll just have noodle mush; blech.

This makes enough for my family to have at least 2 meals, so I'll make it at night when I know we need to get out the door the next day and will need a quick lunch. Or when we're under the weather; it really is comforting.

Change in Plans...Menu Plans, That Is

I was looking forward to trying the new recipe from the Taste of Home booklet for dinner today but there was a change of plans. My family members (namely DH and The Eldest) decided to go and get colds and were whining all over the place and demanding chicken soup, then my MIL said I should make chicken soup for them, then my MOM said I should make chicken soup too. (Traitor.) Talk about pressure! Harumph. I wanted chicken orzo skillet, but I made chicken soup. ;)

It came out pretty good today, too, if I do say so myself, and DH said he's feeling better already.

They are awfully miserable, poor things, and going through tissues like they own stock in Kleenex. DH worked from home and didn't go in at all today; I'm thankful he has a job that allows him that option. Heck, I'm thankful he has a job period!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Roasting Pans

I went looking on the internet for a picture of the roasting pan I use to make my chicken, which I found (only this shows the larger size), but it seems I've been using the wrong pan! I found a review of roasting pans here and it was most illuminating in light of our Thanksgiving turkey disaster. I've made a few turkeys now and I make roast chicken all the time so I figure I've got it down, right? Well, not so much this past Thanksgiving. I got overly ambitious and picked out a 17 pound bird, the biggest I've ever tried. I seasoned it all up like I have in the past, popped it in the large roaster, (I have 3 sizes), placed it in the oven, and went on with the rest of the preparations. Baste the turkey, baby the turkey, tent the turkey, love the turkey, feel oneness with the turkey, watch it turn a delicious golden brown, then take it out to eat. DH starts carving and gets part way in and announces "it's not done, not even close". ARGHHHH! We throw it back in the oven and it takes TWO HOURS more to finish cooking all the way through! How did I miscalculate? Where did I go wrong? I'm not a newbie to the turkey thing; how could I make such an error? I couldn't figure it out until I read the review- it's because of the LID. The bird was too big for the pan and the lid wouldn't fit on, thus the need for extra time; mystery solved.

As to the roaster, I haven't had the same experience with my enamel lidded roaster as the reviewer (when I can actually get the lid on), but I don't use the flip-the-bird method of cooking. (I'd drop it and send the turkey flying across the kitchen, so while it sounds good in theory I'll skip the flip, thanks.) (It's supposed to make it more moist by letting the juices flow to the top of the bird while it's upside down, then you turn it over to finish the cooking and brown the skin. I first heard about it on a cooking segment on NPR.)

And as for Thanksgiving, DH managed to carve enough from the outer portions of the bird for us to go ahead and eat so it really wasn't a total disaster. Gives me a good cooking story to tell, though! ;)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What a DAY!

Ohmygoodness; what a day! The kids, both my kids and the girls in my Brownie troop, were WILD. One of the Brownie moms is a middle school teacher and she said her students were WILD too, so much so they gave her a migraine, poor thing. :( I think it was the weather. Today was absolutely gorgeous but cold and getting colder as the day wore on, and that's about all I can figure as the cause. It was still a good meeting except for the girl who went home crying because a ball hit her in the face. (It was an accident but I know it still hurt.) :( I introduced the girls to the patrol system and had them do the planning for the meeting. They picked out the songs and the games, led the opening and closing ceremonies and the Pledge of Allegiance, and decided on the discussion question for the day. I was very proud of them for taking charge. :)

On another note, my cookie mom is a total saint for not killing me, even though she has just cause. (When I told DH what happened he said he'd hold me down if she changes her mind.) ;) See, it's like this. I try to be all organized and together but I'm really quite scatter-brained, especially when things get hectic. So for the last meeting we met at the cookie mom's house and it was hectic, giving out cookies, going over what the girls were supposed to do at booths, working on our "Cookies Count" Try-It and some other projects, and so forth. During that time the Saintly Cookie Mom hands me an envelope to deposit. I say OK, I go by the bank all the time so I'll get it in there ASAP, I put it in my financial folder for the troop, then promptly forget about it. THEN when we are in the thick of it and running cookie booths she gives me another deposit. I dutifully get this one in the bank (thank heavens) and get the receipt back to her like I'm supposed to, thinking I'm done with the deposits I was supposed to make. Now today she goes to reconcile everything while she's at my house after the meeting. She works on it for a couple of HOURS and it's not reconciling! She's short almost $200.00. We hold "recount after recount" but it still comes up short. I'm kind of at a loss and I'm fooling around with other things, getting a deposit of field trip money ready to go to the bank, etc., when I notice an envelope in my financial folder. Oh, must be money from our Fall Product sale since I know I have some outstanding balances on that. I open it (you totally know where this is going, right?) and I'm still saying "nut money", but then I look at the note lines on the checks which say "COOKIES" very clearly. I'm still thinking this must be a mistake, this is nut money, right, so I look at the dates, which are all from January, and...DING...the light bulb goes off. THIS IS THE MISSING COOKIE MONEY I HAD IT ALL ALONG I'M SO EMBARRASSED AND I'M SORRY I'M SUCH A GOOFBALL AND PLEASE FORGIVE ME!!!!! So she adds it all up and indeed, it is the missing money and everything balances and I THINK she's still my friend...

Mommy's Famous Roast Chicken & Broccoli

Here's the recipe for The Youngest's favorite food (that I cook) which he dubbed "Mommy's Famous Roast Chicken". He's so cute.

One whole chicken, apx. 3.5 to 4 pounds
1.5 to 2 pounds skinless chicken thighs

Poultry Seasoning (I like the store brand from The Fresh Market)
Garlic Powder

Pre-heat oven to 465 degrees; 475 for a larger chicken. Trim the whole chicken and thighs of all visible fat and place in a roasting pan with a lid. (I use a black one with white speckles I picked up at Wal Mart; they come in different sizes and I think the one I use is the medium size.) Sprinkle the seasonings as follows:
Heavy on the dill
Salt to taste
Heavy on the poultry seasoning
Sprinkling of pepper
Sprinkling of garlic powder (I put this only on the thighs since DH doesn't like it but I do)

Cover the pan and cook in the oven for 80 to 90 minutes depending on the size of the chicken. When you take it out of the oven and remove the lid let it rest for 10 minutes or so before cutting it up. We pair this with plain pasta and steamed broccoli for an everyday family meal or homemade mashed potatoes and gravy for company.

If you are going to use the leftovers for another recipe the easiest time to "pick the chicken" is while it's still warm. We use the leftovers for several recipes the next day; our current favorite is the Turkey Philly Sandwiches, only with chicken. We had them tonight and they were YUMMY.

Steamed Broccoli:
One to two heads of broccoli; make sure there are no brown or yellow spots
Water to go in the steamer pot

Rinse the broccoli and trim it into roughly bite sized pieces, discarding any brown or yellow bits if there are any. (I just read an article that says you should plunge broccoli into a bowl of water and swish it around then rinse it to get it clean, just FYI. I only rinse it.) Meanwhile bring water to boil in a steamer pot, making sure the water level is below the floor of the basket when it's in place. Put the broccoli in the steamer basket and salt well. Steam with the lid on for 5 to 7 minutes, depending on how full the steamer basket is and how large the broccoli pieces are. Check at the end of 5 and a half minutes to see how done it is by grabbing a piece with tongs, running it under cold water, and tasting. I like mine soft; you may like it more al dente. Cook further according to your preference. When it's done the way you like it, get it off the heat and out of the steamer immediately or it will get mushy on you.

My kids LOVE broccoli this way; I don't use any cheese sauce or butter or anything and they eat it up. The comparison to "little trees" doesn't hurt!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday!

Hot off the presses, here's my weekly menu plan:
Monday Lunch: Breakfast sandwiches (eggs and cheese on either a bagel or an english muffin)
Monday Dinner: Roast Chicken with Pasta and Broccoli (will post recipes for chicken and broccoli following, probably tomorrow)
Tuesday Lunch: Healthy Burgers, Waldorf Salad, Oven Fries
Tuesday Dinner: Chicken Philly Sandwiches
Wednesday Lunch: Shrimp Scampi from "There's a Chef in My World"
Wednesday Dinner: Beef-a-roni
Thursday Lunch: Spaghetti with garlic bread and bruschetta
Thursday Dinner: Chicken Orzo Skillet from "Taste of Home Healthy Cooking Recipe Cards", current issue, page 3
Friday Lunch: Eat Out
Friday Dinner: Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes from Jamie Oliver's web site*
Saturday Lunch: Grillades and Grits
Saturday Dinner: Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloins with rice and a salad
Sunday Lunch: Jambalaya*
Sunday Dinner: Mom and Dad eat out; order pizza for the kids and the sitter

*Notes: When I make the Jamie Oliver chicken I add the cannellini beans that are mentioned as optional ("if you fancy") in the recipe, and I add at LEAST 2 cans of them. They are absolutely DELISH! We make our JAMBALAYA from the Zatarain's mix and throw it in the rice cooker with cubed pork tenderloin (I buy a 2 pound pork tenderloin and use half for this recipe, half for the Brown Sugar Glazed Pork), a chopped onion, a chopped pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. The rice cooker does the rest; it's one of the easiest meals we make.

Make sure to check out the other Menu Plan Monday links on Organizing Junkie's web site!