Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We're Certified!

Our little butterfly garden is going to be certified as an official Monarch Waystation! I found a website tonight called "Monarch Watch" and poked around, only to find out that they have a certification program. They need as many people as possible to plant milkweed and other nectar plants for the Monarchs since they are losing so much of their natural habitat. Butterflies are yet another casualty of modern farming practices; sigh. The evil corporations that brought us genetically engineered crops made it possible for farmers to use Round Up as much as they want; it won't kill the corn or whatever the farm is growing. What it does kill is milkweed. Get the connection? No milkweed, no Monarch butterflies. Well, all in the name of profits, right?

Anyway, the website explains it better than I can given I'm coming down with a cold and my brain is foggy anyway, so go check it out for yourself. Remember anything underlined is CLICKABLE and will lead you to something interesting!

Meatless Monday Report

Our first "Meatless Monday" was a success! We had Black Bean Patties with rice, applesauce, and carrot salad for lunch and Pasta and Bean soup with a baguette for dinner. The kids were happy, DH and I were happy, and I don't think anyone was even tempted to sneak any meat products. It was a vegetarian day as opposed to vegan since we had mayo (made with egg) in the carrot salad and DH added butter to the pasta and bean soup. No creatures had to die for us to eat yesterday, though, so that's a good thing, and definitely a step in the right direction for my family.

One of my fondest hopes for my kids is that one or more of them will turn out to be vegetarian (or vegan). I'd be so proud! :)

On a side note, I did have kind of a funny moment at the grocery store. I realized I needed to buy chicken for today, not a meatless day, but it was Monday. Does "Meatless Monday" mean I can't buy meat on Monday, either? Of course I have to decide for myself, and I decided it would probably not be honoring the spirit of our promise if I buy meat on Mondays, so I didn't. If we didn't have what we needed already in the freezer, we would have to figure something else out.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Beat-the-Blahs Basic Black Bean Patties

Here it is, at long last, our favorite vegan recipe. We usually eat this once a week and pair it with a carrot salad, rice, and applesauce. I use the applesauce like an actual sauce and spoon it right over the bean cakes and rice.

Beat-the-Blahs Basic Black Bean Patties

From Apocalypse Chow: How to Eat Well When the Power Goes Out
By Jon Robertson with Robin Robertson
Reprinted with permission from Robin Robertson

“These incredibly tasty patties can be served with a variety of sauces. It all depends on what flavor you’re in the mood for. The spicy peanut sauce works great, but so do the salsa and barbecue sauce.”

One 16-ounce can diced white potatoes, drained
One 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained (and rinsed, if possible)
1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
1 teaspoon dried parsley
¼ cup dried bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a large bowl mash the potatoes and beans with a potato ricer until broken up. Add the onion, parsley, and bread crumbs, and then salt and pepper to taste. Mix until well combined.

2. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and use your hands to shape into patties.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bean patties until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with your favorite sauce.

Makes 6 patties.

Apocalypse Chow is one of my favorite cookbooks since it has recipes that use non-perishable ingredients AND, since the recipes are delicious and filling, oh, and vegan, it has opened my eyes to the possibility that we might just be able to start phasing meat out of our diet. It also has lots of advice about emergency preparedness and how to, as the title states, eat well when the power goes out, which is a situation you can easily find yourself in living in a hurricane prone area. The power not only can go out, it can go out for an extended period of time! Unfortunately the book is now out of print.

Fortunately Robin Robertson has several other cookbooks. I'm currently enjoying reading through the recipes in Vegan Planet. I haven't tried any of them out yet because I haven't had it very long, but several of them look promising for our Meatless Mondays.

PS: I actually tried to do the picture thing for the Black Bean Patties but they didn't come out well so I'm not posting them at this point. My photography skills need some work if I'm going to live up to the food blogs!! ;)

Friday, July 24, 2009


We have caterpillars on our milkweed, and LOTS of them! The Middle Child counted 15 of them yesterday all in various sizes. We can't wait to see our first chrysalis. You can see two of them in the first picture and one in the second hanging from the back of a leaf, where we find them most often. They are just like The Very Hungry Caterpillar (except they only eat milkweed).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Meatless Mondays

Here's a break from the museum posts for a moment to bring you this public service announcement about Meatless Monday. Meatless Monday is a movement trying to get everyone to pledge to go meatless on Mondays which will benefit the planet by reducing the amount of meat we consume and therefore the amount of meat produced. The website contends that the meat industry is highly inefficient and uses vast quantities of our natural resources for very little relative return. It's also a health initiative since our high consumption of red meat in the US contributes to many illnesses such as cardio vascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

If you've jumped on the green bandwagon, if you take your own bags to the grocery, if you have fluorescent light bulbs in your lamps, if you recycle, if you use recycled products or you've made any type of commitment to help our planet, then this is a natural next step for you. (Unless you're already a vegetarian or vegan, of course, for which you have my applause!) My family has a favorite vegetarian meal that we will be scheduling for Mondays (and I'll type up the recipe for the main course for an upcoming post) and I'll be hunting for more recipes on my favorite vegetarian/vegan websites. The kids are even on board- we talked about it at dinner today and everyone agreed that we won't eat meat on Mondays anymore, and they watched while I filled in the pledge on the website.

I've always admired people who've made the commitment to be vegetarians and I've kind of wanted to move in that direction for a long time but I like my dead cow, unfortunately, and I don't know what I'd EAT if I gave it up. By going at it one meal at a time, and now one whole day at a time, I can move in that direction and figure out what my family will eat at a more manageable pace. The new term that's being bandied about now is "flexitarian" and that's what I'm aiming for. Not vegetarian fully or all at once, but moving towards the vegetarian end of the spectrum in our overall diet both for the health of my family and the planet.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Musée de l’Orangerie, part 4 of 13ish

Musée de l’Orangerie, Wednesday, May 13:
This small museum located very close to the Louvre in the Tuileries Gardens contains my favorite work of art from the trip, Monet’s Water Lilies. According to the audio guide the two rooms containing the Water Lilies were designed by Monet himself specifically to hold those pieces. They took my breath away. (The Eldest laughed at me for crying over paintings, but they moved me!) There are other works at the Orangerie; they are all a blur, but I will never forget the Water Lilies.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Musée d’Orsay, part 3 of 13ish

The Eldest looking at the sculptures of the women from every continent.

Me on one of the walkways; there are a lot of stairs to get to the upper rooms, which are located around the sides of the building leaving the center open.

The railroad clock; you can't sense the scale from this picture but it's giganto!

Some of the elaborate architectural detailing. This isn't one of the exhibits, it's part of the ceiling!

The nymph sculpture; I think she's charming.

There were a couple of rooms with home furnishings. (You can see me in the mirror; mostly The Eldest said "move, you're in the picture", but she got me inadvertently this time!)

Musée d’Orsay, Tuesday, May 12:

This was one of our favorite museums; it's so much more manageable than the Louvre since it's much smaller and I like the art from the time periods it covers. When we biked by the outside of the d’Orsay our tour guide told us the d’Orsay picks up where the Louvre leaves off chronologically. When we got there we found that the art starts outside the museum with the native women sculptures, one from each continent. (Pictured above) Inside, we saw a ton of impressionist works including a self portrait by Van Gogh. (I was disappointed that Starry Night wasn’t there since it was on tour; I found out later that it was an earlier version of Starry Night and not the famous one from 1889. I would have liked to have seen it anyway.) We also saw Whistler’s Mother which surprised me because of its size; it’s huge! I really liked it though; I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time studying it but the colors were so crisp, even though he mainly used blacks, grays, and white, and there was such richness and detail, even in the curtains. The museum itself is a converted railway station that was built back in the day when these kinds of things were treated like luxuries. They left many of the railway station trappings such as the large clock, and although there aren’t any train tracks, you can see where they were by the alley like depression that runs through the middle of the bottom floor, which is now full of sculptures. The rooms off to the sides of the main display area, presumably where the rich folks waited for their trains, are full of elaborate architectural detail. This was no government issue, standardized boring train station; this place was ELEGANT. (And still is.)

One of the more unexpected exhibits was the scale model of the Opera District. It’s designed to be viewed from the top and is placed down in a well in the floor with Plexiglas over the top of it so you can walk over it, and it’s huge! It takes up a very large space. There’s also a cross section of the opera house as well that’s fascinating in its intricacy; I was enchanted. I was also enchanted, as so many have been before me, by the Degas sculpture Little Dancer, Age 14 they have on display. She is so small and lovely; I was happy to find a pink T-shirt with her image on it to send home to The Middle Child. I also liked the sculpture of a young girl or nymph pulling her hair back as if she just rose up out of the water; she has such an impish look on her face. (Pictured) I remember so many of the works at this museum; while I enjoyed and appreciated the older works at the National Gallery and the Louvre, for some reason I responded more to the art work from the time period covered at the d’Orsay.

Technical Difficulties... FIXED!! (I hope.)

I think I've fixed the pictures in the Louvre post. Do they all show up now?

(And now back to studying for my mid-term on Monday! Focus, focus!!) ;)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Of Butterflies and Milkweed

We have caterpillars on our milkweed! Well, on the new milkweed we purchased at the garden center today, anyway. We bought 5 new plants and the check out guy found two little teeny caterpillars already on one of the plants. The kids were tickled pink! We were so motivated we got the plants in the ground within a few hours of getting them home, and that's a first. (They usually have to languish for several days, umm, weeks until we get around to planting them, if they survive. Those plants have to go through plant boot camp to go in the ground around our house!) We also saw a monarch fluttering around the milkweed we already had a few days ago so maybe we'll get caterpillars on those plants, too. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Museums and Europe, part 2 of 13ish, The Louvre

The Eldest by The Pyramid (we don't know the guy being impaled but we chuckle every time we look at this picture)

The Eldest drawing one of the busts

The Eldest coming out of a mock up of an Egyptian chamber (like you might find in a pyramid) being a mummy or zombie, or... something. She says "rarrr".

Me by the fancy doors leading to the room with the crowns and jewels. I was carrying a lot of stuff- the audio guide, my purse, my cane/seat, (which helped me get through the trip since I have really bad feet; I can walk OK but standing kills me), and the bag with my jacket, scarf, and umbrella. It was cold and rainy out on the streets but HOT inside The Louvre!

The model of the medieval castle

The Louvre, Monday, May 11 and Wednesday, May 13:

We arrived at the Louvre via the Metro and didn’t enter through I.M. Pei’s Pyramid although we did see the bottom part of it. This is still a pretty cool entrance, though, since I was surprised to find the area between the Metro station and the Louvre is an underground mall called the Carrousel du Louvre. There are shops there like any mall, a kitchen gadgets store, perfume shop, Virgin Mega Store, clothing stores, etc., and Maison du Chocolat, a store we spent hours looking for on our last day in Paris only to realize we’d walked by it twice already. (Argh.) There’s also a food court, and believe it or not I got better paella there than we got in Barcelona. Go figure.

The Louvre is one overwhelming museum; it seems bigger than Disney Land! I would love to go back some day and spend more time there but given our whirlwind itinerary we were not able to do it justice even in two visits. We saw “the big 3” (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and the Venus de Milo) and then wandered around several other areas. I enjoyed the sculpture rooms where I particularly liked Artemis with a Doe, since we kept finding her in other places kind of like a classical Where’s Waldo. She makes one other appearance at the Louvre outside the Mona Lisa room and we also saw her at Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors. I could swear there was another copy of her at Dali’s Teatro-Museo, all altered of course, but The Eldest says no. We also ventured through some of the Egyptian displays and, right before closing, found an area with walls built out of large stone blocks in order to recreate the feel of a medieval fortress. There wasn’t much else in this area, like it’s still under construction, but there was a model of a medieval castle right by the exit. (Pictured above.)

The Louvre is where I figured out about the lighting- it’s terrible there. It glares on many of the paintings and frequently obscures parts of the images so you have to move around like you’re at a tennis match to see everything. I was also disappointed at the way the Mona Lisa is displayed. While I understand the need for security, there’s no crowd control so it’s just a mass of people standing in front of her glass barrier with no way to get a really good view. I can’t imagine that old Leo would be happy with having his masterpiece plopped up on a plain wall, either. He painted it for display in a richer setting, like over a fireplace mantel or in a study. They should do something special for her display, maybe drape some rich fabric behind the frame or paint in a trompe l’oeil room that would have been typical at the time she was created, or something.

As a final note, if you go visiting museums pay for the darn audio guide. We didn’t get one the first time we went to the Louvre but we did the second and the commentary added so much to the experience. It’s fascinating to learn about the history of the art as you are looking at it; there are so many stories.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Museums and Europe, part 1 of 13ish

As an extra credit assignment for my art class I wrote up a “museum report” that gave a brief description of my impressions of the 13 museums The Eldest and I visited in Europe. I’ve been working on expanding that to post here to get more in depth about our trip... finally. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to write up the trip since there was so much to it, like a giant size sandwich you can’t quite get your mouth around, so I’ve been procrastinating. I posted our calendar earlier with a minimum of details and a few garbled reports from the road; this is more organized and in depth and includes pictures. Since DH and The Eldest will divorce me if I upload too many pictures to the blog at once (it slows up THEIR internet) I’ll break this up into bits, a museum or two at the time, starting with the National Gallery in London.

National Gallery, Wednesday, May 6:

This was the first museum we were able to visit and I was so amazed at the vividness of the colors on the paintings. How could they be so old and yet look so fresh and bright? The lighting was excellent with no glare on the paintings to interfere with what you were seeing, something I came to appreciate in retrospect when we visited other museums. While I remember the museum itself, unfortunately the individual works are all a blur. We ate at the restaurant and it was probably the best “museum meal” we had on the whole trip; I remember dining there more than I do the paintings. This is pretty sad considering the masterpieces we probably saw. (I looked at the website to type this up and I'm kicking myself that I don't remember more!!! There are so many incredible works there that I'm learning about in my art class. Oh well, I'll just have to go back.) ;)

The National Gallery faces Trafalgar Square where we had a blast. There were street artists hanging out everywhere making these elaborate drawings with sidewalk chalk, extending the art out of the gallery right into the square. (I was so busy sight seeing I almost walked right through one painting- chalking? - but The Eldest grabbed my arm and stopped me at the last second- whew!) This was also where we saw the Barca fans, much to our surprise. We found out later that FC Barca (the soccer team from Barcelona) was in town for a play off game with Chelsea. The Barca fans know how to PAR-TEE, let me tell you! They were roaming around in large packs singing the Barca fight song, all decked out in the team colors, then gathered in the square for a huge rally. We watched them while The Eldest climbed around on Lord Nelson’s lions.

On a final note, our cabbie on the way to the train station to leave London made me laugh when he observed that London is the only place where they charge you to get into the churches but the museums are free.

OK, one more final note about the one lonely picture with this post. I was ready to THROW our camera when I realized we only had room for a very limited number of pictures, like 30 or something ridiculous, on the sim card that day. It was the card that came with the camera; I purchased cards with room for a bazillion pictures on them but of course forgot to change to one of those on both the first AND second days in London. (MAJOR ARGH HERE.) That's why the only picture you have from our National Gallery day is the one of the Barca fans with the lions to the right and the gallery in the back on the left. (You can see the sideways banner between the columns if you expand the picture.) We took other pictures that day of The Changing of the Guard and various other sites, but Trafalgar Square, which we so enjoyed, only got the one. And a blurry one of The Eldest on the lions, but you can barely see her so it's not worth posting. ~:-P

PS: FINAL final note- I talked to The Eldest about the paintings and she remembers a couple of them, namely Whistlejacket which stood out because it's HUGE (roughly 9' x 8') and An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, which she remembers because she's seen a parody of it in The Art of Discworld, based a series she loves. All I can say is I was in a jet lagged fog since we went to the National Gallery on the first full day of our trip; I am so frustrated I don't remember every detail of every piece of art we saw on the whole trip. :(

Sunday, July 12, 2009


A few people have told me they tried to comment but were unable to do so. I finally got a chance to play around with the settings and made some changes, so hopefully I fixed the problem. If you've been unable to comment in the past please give it another go, and let me know if it still doesn't work. Kthx!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kid Parties, Part II

After last week's rant about birthday parties, I found myself at another birthday party today but what a difference!! This was the polar opposite in party terms; it was a pleasure to attend today's party, both for The Middle Child and for me. The hostess/mom was warm and welcoming (she's that kind of person; I think the world of her) and made sure everyone was comfortable. She took the time to chat with every parent as they arrived even though she was busy. She introduced parents to each other. The kids were well behaved for the most part, and supervised by attentive parents when they weren't, and were entertained with age appropriate activities. There wasn't a beer or cigarette or insult T or even a piñata in sight!

If every party was like this one DH wouldn't get stuck on party duty all the time. ;)

Europe: Favorite Dessert

Ah, the gaufre. Pictured above, this is the dessert that emerged as my favorite while in Europe. I ate them in both Paris and Barcelona and they were delish. There were two stand outs; one is the half eaten picture above (and it was all I could do to stop eating long enough to snap the pic) from the Cafe Musee near the Rodin Museum and the other was from a street vendor we found when we took a wrong turn a few blocks from our hotel, also in Paris (not pictured). The picture of the two together was taken in Barcelona, and while pretty they weren't as good as the ones in Paris; they were a bit heavier and slightly burnt. (I got a bad one and several mediocre ones in Paris, too; the worst was from a vendor outside the D'Orsey Museum; blech.) The best ones were light and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, served fresh and warm from the waffle iron. The one from the Cafe Musee was topped with powdered sugar and a vanilla ice cream (yes, the yellow stuff is vanilla ice cream) that was to die for; the contrast of the cold ice cream and the warm waffle was heavenly. The toasty warm gaufre from the street vendor was topped simply with powdered sugar and was the perfect dessert to eat on the walk back to our hotel on a cold Parisian night.

I was so excited to have fallen in love with something I thought was so very French, but I've come to learn these are actually a type of Belgian waffle. I've looked for recipes on-line and there are quite a few, but I'm not about to invest in a waffle iron so the gaufre will have to remain the stuff of memory. (And since you can see I ate many, many of them while in Europe, is it any wonder I gained 9 pounds while I was over there!?!)


I get very envious when I see other blogs that talk about their lovely vegetable gardens. I don't have a green thumb, and even if I did our homeowner's association strictly forbids growing plants of an edible nature. (Shh, don't tell them about the basil and oregano I have growing... sort of... in the backyard!) I do believe it's important for kids to get out in the dirt, though, so even though we've got several strikes against us, I keep trying to get the kids involved in garden projects. Although I think growing food is more fun for kids, we've developed an interest in growing edible plants for some non-human types, namely butterflies. Our interest was sparked after a visit to a butterfly garden with The Middle Child's Brownie troop. They told us how easy it is to attract butterflies if you put out the right plants. Several trips to the local garden center later, we're in business. So far no butterflies, though. We can, however, count sore thighs (mine) and lots of mosquito bites. (Mine and The Middle Child's.)

Here's how everything turned out in our little butterfly garden:

PS: The kids were so excited when we saw a monarch butterfly on our half dead milkweed today!! (July 14th) The milkweed is across the yard from the flower garden so it's close by, but not pictured. The 5 plants have been sitting out in the planting bed in the pots we bought them in but we got them in the ground and watered them pretty quickly after that so most of them perked up a little. I have room for 5 more plants so it's time to head to the garden center again; if we get caterpillars we need more food for them!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Youngest

My baby boy is 7 today. No more babies in the house, not even close. I reminded DH what happened when The Eldest was around this age (a touch younger, actually)- my biological clock went crazy and we had to have two more kids! He asked if I wanted him to slap me around until I got over it; I said I'm over it already. My biological clock is DONE, the shop is closed, and whatever other metaphors would be appropriate in this situation. Now the long wait for grand kids. (Hopefully VERY long; as much as I would love grand kids my own are too young for quite some time yet!)

PS: Photo credit goes to DH who loves to play with lighting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kid Parties

So I took the younger two to a party for one of their friends this weekend. DH usually has birthday party duty but he had a soccer game so it was up to me. It was a pool party at a small house in a neighborhood not too far from us. Things did not go well, at least on my end of it. We get there and go to the backyard (it's a pool party) where we are greeted at the gate by a guy with a cigarette and a beer in his hand. Great! My favorite things- beer and cigarettes at a kids' party! We're off to a terrific start. We head inside the house to deposit the present but it's not clear where it should go; someone gestures in the general direction of the living room and we see one other present there so The Middle Child puts ours next to that one before we head outside again. There's a table full of party food on the way out which looks very nice, but the kids are too excited about the pool. They jump in the pool with about a billion other kids all jumping around and screaming, and The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, immediately finds one of those giganto super soaker water guns and proceeds to squirt anyone and everyone. We're not gun people, not even water guns, so he can't resist the novelty. There are nerf bats and water noodles out there too, and I see several kids hitting each other with them. Oddly enough, there don't seem to be any other parents supervising the little darlings. I'm parked in the screen room where I have a clear view of the pool; I'm not taking my eyes off my kids. There's one other mom watching her child too so we chat a bit. Other than that, I didn't really talk to anyone. I mean, hasn't anyone heard of hosting anymore? As the host of a party, shouldn't one of the birthday child's parents, mom or dad, at least make sure each guest and their parents are greeted in some fashion? Unless the beer and cigarette guy was dad, I never was welcomed. It was the oddest thing. It's also a wonder none of the kids drowned. There was an adult in the pool when we first arrived but she quickly got out, and after that there wasn't anyone officially watching the kids. There were some other adults in the screen room but they were talking and eating and definitely not watching the kids. I was horrified, truthfully. Oh, and the adult guests! Lovely sorts- the kind with T-shirts with insults written on them. Oh, what did it say? I wish I could remember so I could share the eloquence with everyone. The guy with the insult T really made an impression on me, let me tell you! So witty and clever. He's the one who corrected a kid for calling a watermelon rind a rind. "It's not rind with a 'd', it's rine, r-i-n-e." Such genius!

Suffice to say, it was an introvert's nightmare and I couldn't wait to get out of there. The party was supposed to go from 2:00 to 4:00 but as of 4:20 the kids were still in the pool. It was crowded, it was hot, and I was miserable, so I gave the 10 minute warning; no way was I waiting around for the kids to sing Happy Birthday. We were out of there by 4:30 just as they were getting ready to beat up on the pinata, another of my favorite party activities- encourage kids to hit something with a baseball bat and then push and shove each other in a mad dash to grab candy. Let's encourage violence and greed!

The party made me realize something about myself. I'm a snob, a total snob. I can not stand ill mannered people. The guy with the rude T-shirt, setting a bad example for kids by drinking beer and smoking in front of them, lack of parental supervision... it all sets my teeth on edge. Shudder.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Recipes for Doctored Baked Beans and Mashed Potatoes

My mom used to cook up "doctored" baked beans when I was a kid. She would buy the baked beans in a can (usually Van De Kamp's) and add brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard then heat them on the stove. When my grandmother made baked beans she would do the same thing only she put everything into a casserole dish, added strips of bacon to the top, then cooked them in the oven for an hour on 350. I made baked beans to go with our shish kabobs today only I switched brands; I used a large can of Bush's Fat Free Vegetarian Baked Beans. They have some brown sugar already in them but I added a heaping tablespoon or so more, a tablespoon or so of ketchup, and a couple of teaspoons of mustard. I mixed that all up then layered bacon on top and cooked them in the oven for an hour on 350, just like my grandmother. DH said he liked them better than he has in the past; I think it's the switch in brands. Bush's makes consistently good canned beans, I've found. We were all using the "juice" like ketchup and dipping our meat into it. I've also used baked beans and the cooking liquid like ketchup in the past, even on burgers; yummy.

Mashed potatoes are another dish we don't make very often, but The Eldest is especially fond of them. The kids wanted them with dinner tonight so I said OK as long as they did the peeling and chopping. Once chopped up into roughly uniform cubes (when I cut them I make them into disk shapes; whatever, as long as they are all about the same size) put them in cold water with a generous bit of salt. The water should cover them by almost an inch, I'd say. Put them on the stove on high heat and bring to a boil. Let them boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. You have to watch and test the potatoes towards the end of cooking time; depending on the size it could take more or less time. Test by pulling out one of the larger chunks (because try as you might they will not really be uniform in size), cool it off under running water, and bite into it. If it falls apart easily and it's all soft then it's done, if not, let them cook a little longer. Drain in a colander and do not rinse. Transfer into a bowl and add the fixins' to taste, salt, pepper, butter, and milk, and the secret ingredient my grandmother used to add for creaminess, a little bit of mayo. You can also use evaporated skim milk; it's optional. I've also mistakenly used condensed milk instead of the evaporated skim and that was pretty good, too, funny enough. Mash it with a potato masher until everything is mixed together and the consistency you are looking for. You just about can't mess up mashed potatoes, in my opinion. If you don't particularly care for lumps then smoosh them up with a blender. I personally like lumps; lets you know they are REAL potatoes instead of store bought glop.

Ah Ha!

I figured it out! After much aggravation over not being able to organize my old posts, I had a light bulb moment and figured out a way to archive my menu plans, recipes, and food posts in one easy to access area. I can use the "links I like" widget, re-name it, and link back to my own blog! Not very elegant or efficient, and I have to manually add each post that goes in that category, but it works. :) Scroll down the right hand side, just under the regular chronological blog archive, and you'll see all of my food related posts all in one place in alphabetical order for your viewing pleasure. (Well, all of the ones through January. I'll get to the rest of them eventually.)

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th! How’s your day going? It rained earlier here but it's clear and sunny now; I hope it stays this way for the rest of the day! The day started late for us, as usual since we’re night owls, when The Youngest came in and joined DH and I in bed for an early afternoon snuggle. He asked about the 4th of July and why it’s a special day so we talked a little about the Declaration of Independence. He related it back to National Treasure and said he thought it was about secrets. No, it’s about our country and how we didn’t want a king taxing us unfairly anymore. The Middle Child joined us at that point so all four of us were snuggling; gives me warm fuzzy feelings just thinking about it. I had to get up first and I looked back at the three of them laying there talking and giggling with each other; sometimes you just about burst from the love.

Once we got up and going with our day, we celebrated with a festive lunch the kids planned. I asked them what they wanted to eat for the holiday and they chose a main dish of grilled shish-kabobs with mojo-marinated chicken and pork tenderloin, pineapple, bell pepper, zucchini, and sweet onion chunks. They suggested fruit salad but the watermelon was so good we ate it before the rest of the fruit could get cut up! We also had my mom's doctored up baked beans, grilled corn on the cob, and steamed green beans. We don't usually eat dessert but I picked up a package of mini cupcakes with red, white, and blue icing at the store so the kids had those. The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, ate two and swore his sister made him eat one, so therefore that one shouldn't count and he should get to eat another one. Kid logic.

We need to go for a family bike ride later to burn off some of the calories! It's still too hot and muggy outside to go now so DH and the kids are working off some energy on Rock Band while I type this up. Rock Band was a Christmas present for the family and they use it all the time. DH is musical; he was in a garage rock band that performed at local clubs when we were dating waaaaay back in the 80's. Both of the girls are taking piano lessons. The Youngest isn't taking music lessons yet but he plays along too. I’m the lone hold out; I tried the drums once and failed out miserably, and anytime I think I might want to practice someone else is hogging the drum set. They’re stinkers that way!

Now we have the rest of a lazy Saturday ahead of us. I hope you are having a great day, too.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Food Post! Leftover Chicken Quesadillas

And my own recipe! I so have to start taking pics like the food bloggers do, you know, here's a lovely picture of the ingredients with a few sprigs of something green, here's a lovely pic of step one, followed by a charming pic of step two, all the way to, ta da, a mouth watering photo shopped picture of the finished product. Yep, that's what I need to do. Yep, I'll get right on it. In the meantime, how about just the recipe? Actually it probably isn't original since it's some pretty basic quesadilla ingredients, but I've never seen it written down anywhere so I claim it!

Leftover Chicken Quesadillas

1 flour tortilla per person
1 large sweet onion
1 bell pepper (I prefer red, yellow, or orange)
olive oil, enough to cook the onions and pepper in
butter, enough to toast the quesadilla with
leftover chicken pulled apart into smallish pieces or strips (mine was from the slow cooker recipe for Saucy Italian Chicken Thighs so it was a little tomato-y)
shredded cheese (your choice; I like Colby-jack)

Start by slicing the onion and bell pepper into strips. Pour a little olive oil in a frying pan and get it heated up. (But not too much- you don't want the olive oil to burn.) Add the onion and pepper strips and cook over medium to medium high heat until nicely browned, caramelized, and yummy. (Patience; it takes a while, and it's really helpful to have little ones eager to assist by stirring occasionally.) I also throw on a lid so it's lower maintenance, and stir every few minutes as I'm moving around the kitchen. Once they are done set them aside.

Put a little bit of butter in a non-stick frying pan and swirl it around as it melts. Once the butter is covering the bottom of the pan add a tortilla. Toast it for a few minutes, turning a time or two if you'd like, then, on one half only, add a layer of chicken, some of the caramelized onions and peppers, and a sprinkle of cheese. Fold over the other half and continue cooking, turning once more, until it's all golden and toasty and the cheese is a little melty. Slide it out onto a plate and cut in half. (Or quarters, whatever.) Best eaten immediately, even if the kids are clamoring for you to help them make their pizza, since they are heathens and turn their noses up at quesadillas.

And, OK, so I don't have a photo, so you'll have to trust me, this is one delicious quesadilla. It's crispy on the outside with a sweetness to the flour tortilla, then you get the taste of the chicken and the other fillings in your mouth along with that slight crunch, and it's all about the mouth... yummmm.