Thursday, November 26, 2015

Our Vegan Thanksgiving

After a couple of crazy busy weeks, with a lot of time away from home chaperoning field trips, I knew I would be too wiped out to handle Thanksgiving, so I handed it off to The Eldest. The Eldest is currently vegan and decided to do a vegan dinner for all of us; she was very excited and put a lot of effort and planning into the meal, and it turned out beautifully! And DELICIOUS!! I didn't miss the turkey at all. She started out with a "cheez" plate of really yummy nut based cheeses, along with fixins' like apple based "honey", fruit, crackers, and so forth. That was followed by butternut squash soup and the rest of the meal; I don't have the names for every recipe, but it was all very fancy and very tasty. Here are some pics:

The "cheez" plate; many of these are from Kite Hill, which makes delicious nut based faux cheese. We also had a tart from Kite Hill which was also most yummy.

She's got the presentation thing down! Apple slices and pomegranate seeds on a bed of spinach leaves, drizzled with vegan faux "honee" that is just as good as honey from bees. There's no weird after taste like you get with agave, that other honey substitute. (I detest agave.)

Stuffing; I don't have a link to this recipe.

Vegan mac and cheese in the back; vegan mashed potatoes in the front. I helped out with the 'taters and we just kind of made the recipe up as we went along. Martha Jr. started working on them and put in a little vanilla flavored almond milk (she was supposed to put in regular unflavored almond milk but grabbed the wrong stuff by mistake, but it worked!) and soy free Earth Balance. I added a LOT more Earth Balance, which I melted for a few seconds in the microwave, and veggie broth. (We use 365 brand from Whole Foods.) Salt and pepper to taste. I kept mushing it up with the potato masher and adding more stuff until I had the consistency I wanted and it tasted yummy! Another ingredient to include to make mashed potatoes delicious is mayo but I didn't put it in this time. We are using a new brand of mayo called Just Mayo but I was too lazy to open up the new jar; it's really good and soy free, which is good for me because I try to avoid soy and good for The Eldest because it's vegan.

Close up of the vegan mac and cheez. I'll try to add the link to the recipe later. It was OK; not as good as regular homemade mac and cheese, but better than the stuff out of the box. It was a little dry but flavorful.

The whole table!

The main dish, Vegetables Wellington! This was a delicious vegan take on Beef Wellington, all wrapped up in phyllo dough. (The Eldest swears she will never work with phyllo again; it was challenging, shall we say.) The dish was very elaborate, involving multiple steps and recipes-within-the-recipe, and she pulled it off like a champ. It wasn't wrapped up as tightly as the one in the picture that accompanies the recipe but that didn't affect the taste one bit, and it was quite impressive as the centerpiece on the table! (I wish I'd thought to suggest that she use a spray olive oil instead of trying to brush each piece with a pastry brush; I think that would have made things easier, but of course that light bulb went off well after the meal was done!!)

The Eldest did an incredible job on this meal, from planning all the way through execution. She was impressively organized too- she assigned jobs to her dad and Martha, Jr. and had the ingredients for their dishes in paper bags with the recipes stapled to the outside, then she lined up the bags on the kitchen table so everything was ready to go. She even shopped and paid for everything!! I am pleased as punch with her and so proud of all of the hard work and creativity that went in to this meal. This is one young adult who can do anything she sets her mind to, that's for sure.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Common Core Rant

A friend of mine posted yet another anti-Common Core meme on Facebook today, and here's my rant in response:

This is so ironic to me. Everyone is all nuts about STEM this and STEM that, which includes the M for MATH, all because those are where the jobs are. School is supposed to prepare kids for jobs, right, and everyone wants their kids prepared to work in tech, right, because those jobs pay well and all? OK, so then the tech companies sit down with... whomever they sat down with, and come up with a MATH program that will prepare kids for TECH JOBS, by making them better at math, more able to see how numbers work instead of rote memorization, and they call it Common Core, and now it gets all politicized and seen as some horrible liberal agenda, when it isn't, it's just the TECH COMPANIES saying "hey, this is how you can prepare your kids to work in our field". And now it gets distorted and mis-represented and spun as something bad, when the entire goal is to prepare kids for STEM jobs! Just sayin'...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why We Should Teach Kids Not to Curse

Cursing is everywhere these days! It seems like everyone is cursing all the time. On several occasions I've even heard parents cursing like sailors in front of young kids, and kids cursing in front of parents with no correction from them whatsoever. Now, don't get me wrong, I can curse with the best of them given the right set of circumstances, so I'm no puritan when it comes down to it, but I didn't curse in front of my kids until they were much older, and then only once or twice for the shock value of it. (Usually to make them so horrified they would laugh, more than anything.) I was always a stickler about it when they were young, and here's why. Cursing is not acceptable in many, many situations. It's not acceptable at school, in front of people you don't know well, in front of younger children, and, depending on the workplace, at work. By teaching my kids not to swear in front of me, I am teaching them how to filter their language appropriately so that when they are at school, or on the job, or in front of young kids, they'll automatically apply that filter that keeps them from cursing. It will just be second nature to them. If you don't believe in teaching kids not to curse you are hurting them in the long run. They'll get in trouble in school and on the job when they don't know how to apply that language filter and they'll offend people without even realizing it.

A story comes to mind from this- remember the book and movie "Julie and Julia", about the blogger who cooked her way through Julia Child's "Mastering The Art of French Cooking"? At one point Julie, the blogger, learns that Julia Child does not think well of her and she laments that it's probably because of all the cursing on her blog. The cursing cost her!

One more story about my son. A couple of years ago when he was maybe 9 or 10 he was outside playing with some kids in the neighborhood. They didn't know I could hear them from the open window, but it was like they were in the same room. One of the older boys said "sh*t" for some reason or the other, so my son pipes up with "don't say sh*t, that's a bad word". That gave me such a chuckle because, by correcting the other boy this way, he had to say the word too!

So parents, teach your kids not to curse!! Make them clean up their language around you so they'll know how to clean up their language when you're not around; they'll thank you for it one day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chicken Soup with Rice

I've been sniffling and sneezing all day so I decided to make a pot of chicken soup. Since DH is vegetarian I also made a pot of carroty rice to go with it, then I put the two together in my bowl to make chicken soup with rice. This is the second or third time I've tried to make the soup and rice like this, and this time I nailed it! Here's what I did:

Chicken Soup with Carroty Rice


For the soup:
Whole chicken
Dill (fresh or dried; fresh is stronger)
Olive Oil
Vegetable Bouillon Cube, large
Vidalia Onion, 3/4 of a large onion

You'll notice I haven't given many amounts and that's because this is a "throw it together without measuring" kind of a recipe. I'll give you some ideas about amounts within the recipe directions.

For the rice:
Olive Oil
Dill (fresh or dried; fresh is stonger)
Vidalia Onion, 1/4 of a large onion
(You can also add some celery but DH doesn't like it, so I left it out)
Rice, 1 cup (use a rice that is on the sticky side, such as aborio or sushi rice, to get a risotto like consistency; I tried basmati once and it just isn't as good)

Soup Directions:
Prep the chicken by removing the giblets and cutting of any big fat globs, then plop it into a really large soup pot and fill the pot with enough water to cover the chicken by an inch or two. Add in the salt and pepper to taste. (I use probably a couple of teaspoons of salt and a few grinds of pepper from a pepper mill. One of the kids is not a fan of pepper so I don't use a lot of it.) If you're using fresh dill, chop it up into little bits and throw, oh, say, a tablespoon in there if you like dill, less if you don't. Actually, if you don't like dill very much, you may want to use dried, then even if you use a lot it won't taste too dill-y. The fresh dill is really strong so a little goes a long way. Glug in a good amount of olive oil, to taste. I used a decent amount today, maybe a couple of tablespoons, and it was yummy. Toss in a bouillon cube. Don't leave it out- even though the chicken gives a lot of flavor, when I skipped the bouillon cube once everyone complained. Let all that start cooking on high heat at a fairly good rolling boil while you prep the veggies. Keep an eye on it, stir occasionally, and add water as needed to keep the chicken submerged. (You can also put a lid on it so you don't have to add as much water.) Turn the chicken a couple of times so it's good and cooked through on all sides. While the chicken is bubbling away, peel and chop up the carrots, celery, and onion. How much? To taste! I use a bunch of carrots because I like them, probably a pound (one small bag) and a half, a couple of good sized stalks of celery, and a large Vidalia onion. Reserve a handful or so of the carrots and about a 1/4 of the onion for the rice. Once you get it all prepped, go ahead and gently (so as not to splash yourself with boiling soup) place the veggies in with the chicken.

The chicken needs to boil for at least an hour. If the veggies are in the broth by about the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time they should be done with the chicken. You can test the chicken to see if it's done (and time will vary depending on the size of the chicken and the heat you use to cook it with) by CAREFULLY using a pair of tongs to see if it will pull apart. When it falls apart, it's done. I like to CAREFULLY lift the chicken out of the broth (piece by piece, because it's falling apart, right?) and into a separate bowl, let it cool until I can handle it, then pick the meat off the bone and throw it back into the soup. Before serving, test for salt. I tend to under salt in the beginning so I always need to add more at the end.

*Optional: if you are planning on leftovers, right after I throw the veggies in I'll also toss in a few frozen chicken tenders, the kind that are flash frozen so you can pull out only as many as you need. This is great for advanced meal prep- I can use that chicken for so many things! I love to eat the soup for a couple of days then use any additional chicken for a chicken salad. You don't have to defrost or anything- the tenders are small enough that they will cook quickly.

Rice Directions:
I use a medium sized pot for the rice and prepped it right along with the chicken since it used many of the same ingredients. First put in a good amount of water, at least 4 cups or so. Season it up just like the broth for the chicken- throw in salt and pepper to taste, add some of the fresh dill, and a vegetable bouillon cube. Also glug in some olive oil. I accidentally poured in way more olive oil than I planned on tonight and it came out really, really good and buttery; DH loved it. I'd say it was at least a couple of tablespoons. Let that all come to a boil then add the carrots and onion reserved from the chicken prep along with a cup of rice. (Or adjust the amount of rice to how many servings you are looking for, but make sure there is way more water than rice- you aren't cooking regular rice, you're making a rice soup.) Boil it for one minute then slap a lid on it and turn it down to a simmer for another 20 minutes. (Don't forget to turn it down!!) I like to use a pot with a glass lid so I can check that it's simmering without lifting the lid and letting out all that steam.

If you don't want to make the rice separate from the chicken, you can just throw a cup of rice in with the chicken 40 minutes in to the cooking time, make sure it boils for a minute, then turn it down to a simmer for 20 minutes more. The problem with this is if you are planning on leftovers- the rice will continue to absorb liquid and get mushy. You also have to make sure that the chicken is all the way done, and with simmering instead of boiling it may take a little longer than an hour. You can also wait until you pull the chicken out of the broth; put the rice in at that point and let it cook for the 20 minutes while you let the chicken cool and pick the meat off the bone, then throw the meat back in when the rice is done and stir it all up. Oh, yeah, I like that idea! I think that would work really well if your family is going to eat the whole pot of soup at once.

You can also scale this up or down depending on the size of the chicken and the size of your family, and how much you like leftovers. I've been watching meal prep/batch cooking videos on You Tube lately and this is a great option for meal prep. It's also really delicious, and the perfect thing to cook if you are feeling not so great. It's comfort food that's really easy to throw together and only takes a little over an hour from start to finish.


Lots of yummy deliciousness left over and ready to go in the refrigerator!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hurricane Prep 2015

It's been 10 years since we've been hit with a hurricane, and that one was Wilma in October of 2005. I still prepare, though, because it only takes one to turn your life upside down! So far this year I've been updating some of my food storage. DH and I invested retirement money in a second house a couple of hours away so I've stocked our storage room there with emergency food supplies. (We rent it out seasonally but we keep one room locked where we can keep personal items.) I inventoried what I have, removing things that are either expired or close to expiration, and made a list of everything that's up there. I keep a 10 meal box there as well as one at home with everything I need to make five recipes twice each, as well as other supplies like boxed macaroni and cheese, jars of pasta sauce, pasta, rice, oatmeal packets, seasonings, oil, and so forth. I listed every single item from cans of beans to a can of peanuts and their expiration dates, along with a list of items I'm now missing since I cleaned up my inventory. I spent extra time going through the 10 meal box; I need a bunch of items for that. From my lists, I now have a shopping list that I can take to the grocery with me, buying a little at a time until everything is up to date with fresh stock, then I'll take it back to the house the next time I'm able to get up there.

I feel very organized now! Everything is sorted and neatly packed away, the 10 meal box is ready to pull out and use, and anything bugs could get into is stored in air tight containers. Now I have to do the same thing at home!

Other things on my prep list to do at home:
~ go through the bug out bags, especially since the kids are older; I'll need to trade out the clothing and entertainment items
~ call the tree trimmer!! I used to get the trees trimmed yearly but I've neglected them for a couple of years now
~ update my food inventory at home, which is a job with multiple parts:
*go through the 10 meal box and rotate the stock
*go through the pantry, donate any items we haven't used, refresh the things we do use
*inventory the items in the freezer and make some meals to use up the frozen food; I don't want to loose a full freezer of food if we are without power for some time, so I try to keep it fairly empty during storm season (plus that way I have room for making more ice and freezing bread, which we can thaw out and use after a storm- you can't find bread in the stores when a hurricane is on the way!!)
~ catch up and keep up with laundry (if you are without power for some time it's nice to have clean clothes!)

Purging and Organizing:
This counts as emergency preparation because if you have less stuff, then there's less to deal with in the aftermath of a storm, plus you have the space you need to store prep items. I've cleaned out cabinets in our computer room but then I piled everything in boxes in my living room, which is a disaster. I was thinking about trying to sell some of it since there's so much (a lot of homeschooling/educational items, much of it not even used) but I'll never get around to it so I'm going to donate it all, most likely to a local non-profit after school program. Both of my daughters have given their rooms a good clean out so that's all piled in my living room too, and it's all going to go!! I can't wait. I actually am waiting right at the moment, however; The Eldest was planning on having a yard sale of some sort (we're not allowed to have them at our house due to city zoning) at a friend's house, or work, or on-line, to raise money for a volunteer trip she's going on, but it's not happening and she leaves in a week, so that's my deadline. Once she's gone, I'm loading up the car and getting that stuff OUT of my house!!! It will be so good to have my living room back to normal again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


I haven't been blogging, but I have been busy pinning! Yesterday I hit a milestone- 500 followers on Pinterest, and the 500th one was rather exciting. The New York Times!! They are following ME on Pinterest!! Woo hoo! I mean, I know they probably follow practically everyone, and a lot of my 500 followers are actually spammers, but I can ignore that for a minute and just bask in the glory. Shhh- don't burst my bubble, please.

I've pinned 14,339 pins, which seems kind of improbable, but there it is. I don't feel like I spend too much time on it, although I probably do, and it's taken a while to accumulate those numbers, but I've done it. I find pins all over and it's all stuff I'm interested in and want to go back to and look at... some day. I'm not really one to pin a lot of crafts, although I do have a crafts board, so it's mainly articles, informative videos, recipes, TED talks and NPR stories. I haven't read all of the articles or watched all of the videos I've pinned by a long shot, but I have given them all at least a once over to determine which board to pin them to, and I've read or watched a significant number. I find the information I pin endlessly fascinating. I love finding information and sharing it with others who may find it useful- I was probably a librarian in a past life.

Well, there you have it- I'm a Pinterest-a-holic.