Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Moving Status Update- Volume 2

We found a house!!! Hurray! It looks as if we will officially be Iowans sometime around the 20th of July. That's a smidge later than they originally wanted us, but it's the best we could do. I have not actually seen the house, but I've seen the pictures George took when he was there. It looks like it's a cute little place with a lot of space, in a great neighborhood, and owned by a really reliable family. The only snag in all of it is that we can't keep our cat. I am not sure that has sunk in yet. Fortunately, my very dear younger sister has offered to take him in, and I am hoping he will be very happy in Arkansas. The good news is that I will be able to see him when I visit her and get updates on his adventures in between, and possibly, get him back someday.

We aren't just downsizing to no pets; we're going to be selling a lot on Craigslist. If you have any random little (or big) thing you need, let me know- I just may be willing to part with it!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mac and Cheese, Please

In the last little while, I have switched from Kraft mac and cheese to Annie's. I think the main reason is because of how often my kiddos started wanting "the blue box." I wanted to try a "healthier" option. Unfortunately, healthier can be more expensive, but I try to stock up when they're on special. So, right after a purchase of six boxes, my family chose to tell me that they didn't actually like Annie's because it doesn't taste like Kraft. Perfect timing, right?! Well, the next five boxes gave me plenty of chances to experiment with butter and cream, but the fam held firm- they wanted their Kraft back. I held off on the last box because I was not up for the whining. But last week, I was so low on groceries that I broke it out with promises to pick up some of "the right kind" when I went to the store. So, for the last box, I decided not to even try- just make it like the box says and have it done with. And then I went to the fridge and discovered there was no milk, there was no cream, there was no butter. I grabbed the only dairy substance to be had, sour cream, and whadaya know? That was the trick! It passed the kid test, it passed the George test (no small feat!), and it definitely passes my test because it means I can keep buying Annie's.

I found an article that compares the two brands based on cost, nutrition and taste. Kraft won because it beat Annie's in both cost and taste, but they didn't know about my sour cream trick. Don't worry, I told them about it in the comments. (I'm such a dork.) But I am pretty excited about my serendipitous save.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sunday Night Solution

I am sure I have mentioned before that I am terrible at implementing structure or routine in my life. My poor children must feel like waves tossed by the wind. Without an outside force, I sleep till whenever, serve meals whenever I can get them ready after people start talking about being hungry, and go to bed at all hours of the night. Exercise might happen at 7am or 1 am or any hour between (or not at all!). I'm a mess. I don't really mind it so much, it just makes it hard to work with other people. I have often supposed that if my life had a report card with a comment section, I would have "does not work well with others" written there. Sad! I so want to work well with others... Enter my constant state of stress, trying to keep up with everyone else's time frame and "rhythm of life." I give people a hard time if they are super strict with their routine, but I truly do see structure as a good thing. I just think the angels passed me by when they were handing out internal clocks and concepts of time, and always trying to make up for that is a case for major stress. Well, as usual, I have belabored my point. I really was just going to write about how I have established one little consistent thing in my overwhelmingly inconsistent world.

While I am generally hopeless when it comes to meal plans and schedules, one night had become a particularly hard night to ever pull anything together for, Sunday night. Sundays are just hard all around. Unless church happens to start at the exact same time as your school or work day starts (and is the same distance away), and unless you always get up at the same time on Saturdays too, Sunday starts off frantic. It's a total removal from the norm. Every week, it comes crashing in telling you to do everything differently. For one thing, you need to look nice. While I try to iron dresses and make sure everything is clean and ready on Saturday, it is easy to forget at least one thing because of all the things that are usually going on on Saturday. It seems like someone is always running around on Sunday morning, half dressed, searching for a hair bow or a pair of shoes or some other something that no one has seen since last Sunday. Once you finally make it to church, you will probably realize that, even if you fed your kids, you and your husband have had nothing but half a cup of coffee. By the time the worship service, Sunday school hour, and fellowship between and after is over, you are all about ready to eat your hands. Maybe you head to Qdoba (like the Edemas do from time to time), maybe you go through the drive through at a burger joint, maybe you had the foresight to actually prepare something ahead of time that will be waiting for you at home. It doesn't really matter what you eat for lunch, you eat much of it, and it is late when you finish- likely after 2:00- and you will not be hungry at normal dinner time. In all probability, you won't be hungry again until almost 7:00 or later- which is fine if you have night church, because you aren't home yet anyway. But school starts at 8:00 tomorrow morning and Sunday was exhausting because we missed nap times and had to spend all day in the car and sitting in services and everyone needs to go to bed soon! What are you going to do?!

I'll tell you what you're going to do because it is what I have been doing for weeks now, and it is fantastic both during the school year and during the summer! You are going to send your children upstairs to put on their pajamas while you make breakfast- brinner, to be exact.

If you are a plan-y person, you can always make a breakfast casserole that will be ready to pop into the oven. You will have thought of this ahead of time, so the hour and a half bake time is nothing to you because you will also have thought of that. If you are that sort of person, I apologize. I am sure I must drive you totally crazy. Why are you even reading?! If you are not that type of person, I have help for you. The fabulous thing about most breakfast foods is that they are fast. Scrambled eggs? Bacon? French toast? Grits? Biscuits? All of those can be ready in less than 20 minutes. Ah! It's finally starting to feel like a day of rest isn't it?

You may remember two of my favorite pancake recipes from past posts. Polenta Pancakes with Warm Berry Sauce are a always huge hit (though, the 1 hour sit time for the batter makes these not so great for Sundays unless you remember to do it the night before or any time up to an hour before you want to cook). My father-in-law took the rest of the berry sauce on a 10 hour drive in an un-air-conditioned car all the way back up to Michigan last time he was here because he was delighted with it and determined it would be fantastic on vanilla ice cream. And, as my children say "it smells like Christmas" every time you make them. Spiced Apple Pancakes are almost my very own creation. I am never much for the pancakes with stuff in them. For some reason, I prefer toppings. So, I found a recipe with apples in them and changed it a up a little to have an apple topping. Incidentally, my love of toppings is how I discovered the Polenta Pancake recipe as well. So many recipes just want you to throw perfectly good berries into perfectly good batter and create mediocre pancakes! What will you top them with? Syrup? How will you be able to really taste the berries? It makes no sense. No, the fruit must be the topping. And for Spiced Apple Pancakes, I also recommend a little freshly whipped cream! In the original post, I recommend the pancakes from Joy of Cooking. I totally stand by that for that particular recipe. They are almost crepe like, and that is perfect for the apple topping. However, Joy of Cooking pancakes are a little too rubbery for just plain old pancakes. I wanted Cracker Barrel pancakes- big, fat, fluffy, buttery pancakes that sop up the syrup and taste like sunshiney mornings on the farm (or so I should think). And that's how buttermilk finally became a staple in my home. I'm not sure if you can accomplish those kinds of pancakes without buttermilk. And so, I give you, from the kitchens at Southern Livng, Pamcakes. Dinner is served:

Pamcakes

1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 c. buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/4 c. butter, melted

- combine first five ingredients in large bowl.
- in a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk and eggs.
- gradually stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture.
- stir in melted butter.
- pour 1/4 c. scoops for each pamcake onto hot buttered griddle or nonstick skillet (set an electric skillet to 350). cook 3-4 minutes on each side (I actually set a timer because this is so accurate).
- if your family is not eating them as swiftly as you can get them off the griddle, store them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven until they're all ready and you can all sit down and eat together. Famtastic! (see what I did there?)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Market Pantry Making My Day

I have tried and tried, but I never can get on the Aldi train. I also jumped off the Walmart train over six years ago. But I do like to save money while shopping. I also value stressless shopping though, and feel that the experience is worth a little bit of cash. (You have to remember that pretty much everything is an emotional experience for me.) Therefore, my favorite place to shop, as you probably all know, is Target. The lighting is cheerful, the stores are clean, the selection is varied, the (clothing and home) products are cute, the prices are low.

Have I mentioned the enjoyable facelift the Target cafe menu has had lately? (Opening new window... searching blog.....) No, I haven't. First of all, the kids' meals have improved. They cost a very reasonable $3 and come with a choice of a beef hotdog, chicken fingers, or mac and cheese as the main entree, apples or carrots for the side, and milk, coke, or an Icee for the drink. The prize is a curly straw. I used to get my kids the hotdogs in a pinch, but I would have to buy some sort of chips or popcorn to fill them up. I love that they get veggies instead of something greasy and gross. I suppose I could be even healthier and give them milk. In the summer, I usually let them get the Icee though because it is a reward for good behavior in the store and a fun way to cool them off.

Anyway, the thing that still bothers me is that there isn't anything for me to eat there. The salads are what you'd expect- small, expensive, and not that great. I don't really like hotdogs, and ever since I learned that there are 23 grams of fat in a small popcorn, I steer clear! Yesterday, I noticed something new on the menu though. It may have been there for a while, but this was the first time I spotted it, pita chips with hummus. Yum! There are two choices, plain pita chips with roasted red pepper hummus or seasoned pita chips with plain hummus. I went for the first option and it was delicious. While I sat munching my snack (lunch), I took a gander at the nutritional information, 200 calories, 6 grams of protein! I'm no dietician, but I thought that was pretty good. The protein really held me over for the rest of my errands too.

Speaking of Target and protein, I also picked up a couple of boxes of the Market Pantry nutrition bars that I have been enjoying lately. It started with Zone bars, the high protein bars that I found to be the best tasting in my taste test a couple of years ago. For a while, I have had my friend Ami pick them up for me in bulk at Sam's- $20 for 24 bars (83 cents a bar). Once we started the church plant, I have seen Ami a lot less, and I had to figure out a more accessible option. I decided to give the Target brand Zone bars a try. They come in boxes of 5 for $4 (so 80 cents a bar) and sometimes even go on sale! Let me tell you, they taste even better than Zone bars. One thing I haven't done is compare all of the nutritional information side by side. I know both kinds of bars have 14 grams of protein in them. Both bars are loaded with vitamins, though I haven't compared to see which is more loaded. The Target brand bars have 210 calories, and I think Zone bars have fewer calories. Nonetheless, 210 calories is not much. I started eating these for breakfast with a piece of fruit or a glass of milk after morning runs a couple of years ago. Since I don't always get a run in in the morning, I sometimes save them for an afternoon snack after an afternoon run (which also doesn't always happen). Run or no though, they are yummy and more nutritious than a lot of options.

Posts that should follow (but likely won't) the fantastic Target return policy, the new store design pros and cons, Des Moines area Targets and how I feel about them, and how Target at Christmas feels like home.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pasta Post

Alright, Jessie asks us for no-bake entrees, and I have to say that the thing that comes to mind for me, besides grilling, is pasta. I also thought of paninis and various other sandwiches, so I will do a post on that soon as well. Ooh, and salads. I need to collect some good salad recipes and post them. This is (clearly) the pasta post though. I have a friend whose husband will not eat pasta in the summer. I think that is tragic. Pasta screams summer to me when it's mixed up with herbs and fresh garden vegetables. I am hoping Jessie is not opposed to pasta, but if so, take heart, I will post on sandwiches soon (and salads and anything else I think of).

Before I post recipes, let me just remind you that pasta dishes are like salad- you can throw any combination of veggies, herbs, nuts and cheeses together in pasta and it will probably be pretty good. Generally speaking, I'm an olive oil and parmesan girl. Get you some steamed broccoli, grilled zucchini (ooh, or eggplant!), spinach, asparagus, peas, fresh tomatoes, kalamata olives, chopped herbs, toasted pine nuts, any kind of grilled meat, etc. mix it all up with cooked pasta, parmesan, and olive oil, and feast! I really don't need to post recipes after that thought, but just in case:

Easiest Cold Pasta Ever
That's what we're calling this because it doesn't have a name. I think my sister made it up, or else she inspired me to. It is loved by all. You can make this a side, or make it the main course by either adding a little grilled chicken or serving a green salad and a baguette alongside.
2 lbs. packaged cheese tortellini from the refrigerator case at your grocery
1 recipe sun dried tomato pesto (follows)
- boil pasta according to package instructions. drain. run under cold water until cooled.
-dress pasta with sun dried tomato pesto to taste

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
How is it that I have never posted a recipe for pesto before? If you want it without the sun dried tomatoes, just omit them. I make it that way even more often. This recipe actually came to me from Rebekah without the sun dried tomatoes. It is right for about 2 pounds of pasta.
1 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. ? (I'm totally guessing at this amount) sun dried tomatoes (I have used both the kind in oil, drained and patted dry, and the other kind- whichever you have. If you're buying them just for this or have both, go not in oil)
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts (toaster over or pan- no oven!)
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
> 1/2 c. olive oil (hoping that reads less than, not greater than- yes, I just finished teaching this to first graders!)
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan
- process first five ingredients in food processor, then add olive oil down the feed tube slowly
- add parmesan and stir in by hand.

Flank Steak and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Linguine
16 oz. linguine, cooked
1 1/2 lb. flank steak
1 c. sun dried tomato pesto (from above)
4 c. loosely packed fresh spinach leaves
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- brush both sides of steak with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. grill 8-10 minutes and let stand. slice.
- heat 1/2c. pesto in skillet, add beef slices and cook, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes
- add spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes or until just wilted
- add linguine and last 1/2 c. pesto and cook 2 minutes or until heated.

Mmmm, I can just taste that pesto. How have I let summer go this far without making it? It is so good. But since you can't eat it every day, here's a few more recipes. The next two are repeats. The first one is definitely worth repeating as it is one of my favorite meals. I made it for Steve and Jen one time and instantly found myself with the reputation of amazing cook. It'll fool people!

Salmon with Herbs and Lemon Butter
Adapted from a Dierbergs (It's a grocery store.) sale flyer from a few years back. You might be thinking that salmon is expensive. But this recipe is so delicious and quick, and the other ingredients are so inexpensive, that it is a bargain!

1 1/2 lb. salmon fillet (You may have to adjust the recipe to fit your crowd. You do not need the whole 1/2 pound per person like they tell you because you have spinach and pasta in the dish too.)
2T butter
2T lemon juice
2T chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. dried dill weed (or more of fresh)
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed (it is really better to use fresh if you have it on hand, but again, you need to use more of fresh)
1/4 tsp. salt
ground black pepper

-Rinse fillet and pat dry.
-Melt butter in saute pan over medium high heat, blend in herbs and lemon juice, saute fillet on both sides until done.
-Cover a serving dish with baby spinach. Place cooked angel hair pasta (I like that multi-grain Barilla kind in the yellow box) on top of spinach. Place cooked salmon on top of pasta. Drizzle herbs and butter from pan over salmon, and squeeze extra lemon juice if desired. The spinach will wilt from the heat of the pasta and fish so put in lots!

Okay, that is bad recipe writing, but I actually changed this to an indoor recipe from an outdoor recipe, and the directions are in my head. Originally it was a grilling recipe which read like this:
-Place salmon skin side down (and see, I always have them take the skin off at the fish counter) 4 and 1/2 inches over hot coals.
-Melt butter and mix in seasonings. Brush over salmon.
-Cook salmon, basting frequently, 10 minutes per 1 inch thickness.

Mediterranean Chicken and Pasta
This is a recipe I got from Southern Living years ago. It isn't what I'd call "gourmet" and I rarely make it anymore, but it is quick and easy and pretty good, as I recall. Plus, you likely have all of this on hand at any given time.
8oz. penne pasta, cooked and drained
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1" pieces
2T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2c. sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/2c. chicken broth
1/2c. dry white wine
1tsp dried basil
1/2c. chopped fresh parsley
1T butter
1/2c. fresh grated parmesan
- cook chicken in oil for 8 minutes and remove from pan
-saute garlic in pan for 1 minute; add tomatoes, broth, wine, and basil and bring to a boil
-return chiken to pan, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 4 minutes
-add cooked pasta, parsley, and butter, tossing to combine and cook 2 minutes to heat
-transfer pasta to serving dish and sprinkle with parmesan

As promised, but never yet published:

Alfredo Sauce
This is not summery, but could become so if mixed with some of the seasonal veggies we mentioned earlier. Still, it is hot and heavy, but also quick and no fuss. This comes to us from The Joy of Cooking.
8T butter
1 lb. drained, cooked fettuccine
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
- melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.
- add remaining ingredients and toss.
- I often also add leftover roasted or grilled chicken.

This last one is just in case you really need something quick and new. You may take one look and say "no thanks!" It's slightly embarrassing to post, but people like it and it's easy, so I'm just putting it out there.

Mexican Pasta Salad
I started making this in college (perhaps the first thing I learned to cook besides Nestle tollhouse cookies) and my boyfriend loved it. When my new boyfriend, George, tried it a couple of years later, he also loved it, and still requests it, 11 years later, when I ask what he wants me to get at the grocery for dinner. I am pretty sure it is adapted from a recipe on the back of a box (note the first ingredient!)
1 box Classic Suddenly Salad* (coupon here)
3/4 c. of jarred salsa
1/3 c. sour cream
1c. cooked, cut chicken (grilled? rotisserie?)
1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 c. corn (fresh, frozen and thawed, canned if you must)
1/2 c. black beans (optional, drained and rinsed, of course)
-cook pasta according to package directions. drain and rinse under cold water until cooled.
-mix seasoning packet from Suddenly Salad with salsa and sour cream
-stir in chicken pieces, cheese, corn, beans, and cold pasta. serve with tortilla chips
* Okay, so here's what I'm thinking: I resist this recipe now because it uses a box which everyone knows is loaded with extra sodium and MSG. But really, you just need the tricolor veggie pasta, which can be purchased separately, and the seasoning packet. The seasoning packet is key. I am wondering if an Italian dressing seasoning mix wouldn't also work- yet, wouldn't we also run into sodium and MSG there? The only other suggestion I have found is to try it with 1T Italian Seasoning in lieu of the seasoning packet. I will try to do that soon and see if it works. Won't George be excited?!

Monday, June 21, 2010

More Recipes

Well, we did a couple of appetizer-ish recipes last time with the salsa and guacamole, but here's a few more.

Baked Spinach Artichoke Dip
2 (6oz) packages baby spinach
1T butter
1 (8oz) package cream cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (14oz) can artichokes hearts, drained and chopped
1/2c. sour cream
1/2c. shredded mozzarella, divided
- microwave spinach in large bowl for 3 minutes or until wilted. drain and chop.
- melt butter in skillet. add cream cheese and garlic. cook, stirring constantly, until cheese melts. fold in spinach, artichokes, sour cream, and 1/4 c. mozzarella; stir until cheese melts.
- transfer mixture to a 1 qt. baking dish. sprinkle with remaining cheese.
-bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly. serve immediately with chips or baguette slices.

Aunt Laurinda's Cheese Ring
This is a recipe my friend Rebekah made last time we went to the River House. It looks sort of random on paper, but it tastes so so yummy.
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4c. mayonnaise
1c. pecans, chopped
1-2T minced onion
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. Tobasco
-mix all ingredients together and put in a mold. cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 days before serving.
-serve with crackers and raspberry preserves (isn't that what we had Bek?)

Cheese Straw
This is from the Oaklands cookbook. Oaklands is my ancestral family home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. My sister was married on its front porch about eight years ago. For the hospitality bags for the out of town guests at the wedding, I made about a kazillion of these cheese straws, another kazillion pralines, and another kazillion loaves of banana bread, all from recipes in the same cookbook. I sent some of my wares to my sister-in-law who was brand new in the Deep South just then, going through Rush at Auburn the very same week. She fell in love with these Southern delights and has frequently requested that I make them again. I misplaced the recipe for a while and just as I have found it again, I will be taking my recipe box and moving far away from Dear Katie Sue. I'll try to mail them from time to time as I did in days gone by, but here's the recipe for her and all of you, for those times when you just can't wait.
2c. flour
2T salt
1 lb. sharp grated cheddar
2 tsp. red pepper
1/4 lb. butter, softened
-cream butter and cheese, add salt, pepper, and 1 and 1/2c. flour.
-add last 1/2c. flour by hand.
-you can roll these out and cut them, use a cookie press, or shape them into balls and press them down with a fork like peanut butter cookies- pretty much whatever shape you like (I prefer long, thin rectangles with either ridges from a fork or little holes from a fork- you really should use a fork somewhere in there, though I have also used a cookie press from time to time).
-bake on parchment lined cookie sheets for 10 minutes at 425

Pralines
This is also from the Oaklands cookbook. Work quickly.
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2c. brown sugar
3/4c. cream or evaporated milk
1/4 c. water
2T butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4c. pecans
-combine first four ingredients and cook in a heavy bottomed saucepan until "softball stage" (238-240 degrees).
-add butter and vanilla and beat until creamy.
-add 2 cups of pecans and mix in. add the last 2 cups and mix in.
-turn pralines out on waxed paper and let cool slightly to set- so so yummy when still warm!

Banana Bread
Another from the Oaklands cookbook.
3/4 lb. butter, softened
3c. sugar
3 eggs
6 large, ripe bananas
4 1/2c. flour
3 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1c. sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
-cream butter and sugar.
-add other ingredients in order
-bake for one hour at 350

Friday, June 18, 2010

Late

The insomnia is out of hand, y'all. It has now morphed into the variety where you are able to sleep for a few hours, but then something wakes you up and you can't get back to sleep to save your life.

I was up from about 4:30 to 7:30 this morning watching all of Jimmy Fallon's "thank you notes" on this site. Don't ask me why that was the way I chose to use my time. Mostly, I was too tired to read or be productive. I should also probably admit to watching a lot of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon online lately. Somehow, George and I got really into his parody of The Hills, 7th Floor West, last summer. I guess it was back in the days where we stayed up all night- have we become grown ups?! With summer here again, I recently looked to see if 7th Floor West was back this year, and while it's not as of yet, I did find a whole lot of other parodies and other funnies that I have missed during the school year.

While you likely won't have three hours in the middle of the night to waste watching his thank you notes any time soon, you may have fifteen or twenty minutes to watch both episodes of 6bee, Jimmy's parody of Glee that is spot on. "Robert is bothered" is another recurring sketch that George and I watched through the other day. Most of them are really strange and therefore more confusing than funny (though still funny or we wouldn't have kept watching), so I'd recommend one of the other series if you are at all interested in any of this. Perhaps the most fun little gem to me is one that I wish I had found earlier, Late, a Lost spoof complete with dramatic music, numbers, whispers, cryptic non-answers, and characters satirizing Jack, Kate, Sawyer (and Sayid combined?), John Locke, Benjamin Linus, Michael, Walt, Christian Shepherd, Desmond (played by Mick Jagger), and even Vincent/Jacob (as a gold fish instead of a dog). There are 7 10 minute episodes, so this too is more of a time commitment. However, I need to laugh at Lost (as opposed to shake my fist at it), so watching it was time well spent for me. Probably would've been better if I hadn't wasted about an hour and a half this morning watching it when I should have been packing... but still, time well spent.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Little Horror on the Prairie

George has been out of town yesterday and today to look for houses for us in Iowa. The problem is, he hasn't found one! Yikes! We have a big family and a not-so-big budget. Plus, the university and church are in a sort of nice area. If there is something that happens to be in our budget, it usually turns out to be student housing. So it looks like we're going to go small. And I don't mind small so much- there's less to clean! And there's less to decorate in small houses too. I think it is much easier to have a cute, small home. We have been blessed to live in a very large home for the last two years, which is nice and roomy for entertaining and for accomodating energetic children. But in the day to day, it has always felt rather empty to me. It is a really lovely home, but it is too big for me to manage in a lot of ways. Y'all can remind me I wrote this when I am feeling packed like sardines this winter! We're still looking, but we sort of need to hurry up.

Anyway, the point of my post is that since George went out of town and took our laptop with him, I ended up reading and watching a little television last night instead of catching up on emails, online shopping, or watching something on Hulu or something or another dot com. We only have the antenna, so we don't pick up many channels out here, and especially not when it's raining like it was yesterday. There is a random "Christian" channel that we pick up that shows Little House on the Prairie from time to time. I have seen the title on the blue bar when I flip channels in the past, but I have never stopped to watch it. But last night, there was nothing on, so I stopped and watched a little LHOP. (I felt like Sawyer.)

Oh my goodness, y'all. It is really bad! The acting is really bad. The hair, as we always knew, is really bad. The story lines are horrendous! We also always knew that there were only about two episodes that even remotely resembled Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, but I suppose I always thought they were nice little family episodes about pioneer living even if they did veer from Mrs. Wilder's original series. She would be spinning in her grave if she knew what I watched last night had the same title and main characters as her beloved books (and her own family!)! I saw an episode last night about Albert's girlfriend (right, girlfriends in the 1870's- also, at least Albert was not a real person from the books or Wilder's life) being raped and getting pregnant. What in the world?! It's like it was the era of after school specials and they made what was ostensibly a period drama into a weekly public service announcement for kids in the early 80's. What is even the point of having them live in log cabins and ride in wagons if their behavior and situations paralleled an entirely different era? Not that teenaged girls couldn't have been attacked back then, just that the whole town knew about it and thought it was Albert's baby because she was his girlfriend and of course, the Ingalls were very progressive in how they handled the situation. Goodness gracious!

Well, I saw last week (before last night's unfortunate viewing) that both Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary) and Alison Arngrim (Nellie Olsen) have both recently come out with books about their experience on Little House on the Prairie. Melissa Sue Anderson's is entittled The Way I See It, and has received sort of mediocre reviews on Amazon because it isn't very juicy. It sounds like it is more or less a pleasant stroll down memory lane. Arngrim is evidently a standup comic now, and her book, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, was released yesterday. Given the choice, I'd undoubtedly pick Arngrim's book (could you have guessed that?), but I doubt I'll do more than flip through either one of them. I'd link you to them so you can take a look at them on Amazon, but this crazy PC is not doing what I want it to do. Can't wait to get the MacBook back tonight! George will be home a little late though- dare I check in to see what's going on in Walnut Grove tonight? I'll let you know if I do.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Recipes from the Right Brained

I'm finally getting around to posting some recipes tonight. George is out for a meeting and I stayed up until 2am packing last night, so I am taking it easy tonight. Of course, I couldn't sleep even after I got in bed at 2 so I don't know what I'm complaining about. Wait, I'm not complaining. Now that that's settled, recipes:

These first two are repeats, I think. And again, they are not for people who like specifics- hence my title.

Salsa
Your amounts will just have to depend on how much you want to make.
Tomatoes, most seeds removed (don't be a perfectionist about it, just get a lot of them out of the way to avoid bitterness) and diced
Red onion
Cilantro, finely chopped (I always use Parsley instead)
Lime juice, freshly squeezed
Jalapenos, finely chopped
Kosher salt

Guacamole
Again, your amounts will just have to depend on how much you want to make. Clearly you want the most of avocados. Adjust everything else accordingly. For the mini tortilla cups, you have to really finely dice everything.
Avocados, peeled, pitted, diced
Tomatoes, chopped
Cilantro (again, I always use Parsley instead)
Jalepeno, finely diced
Red onion, finely diced
Lime juice
Kosher salt

Chipotle Mayonnaise
This is a Bobby Flay recipe. It has been a big hit around here this summer so far.
1 c. mayonnaise
2 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 T adobo sauce
juice from 1/2 lime
-add all ingredients in food processor and puree; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Black Bean and Corn Salad
People often use this as a type of salsa when they come to my house, but it is meant to be a side dish, and that's how I serve it. Still, it's hard to keep from scooping it up with a chip instead of a fork. I have posted it before. It came to me first from my friend Lauren.
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (Again, fresh parsley works great!)
-Place lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small jar. Cover with lid, and shake until ingredients are well mixed.
-In a salad bowl, combine beans, corn, avocado, bell pepper, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro. Shake lime dressing, and pour it over the salad. Stir salad to coat vegetables and beans with dressing, and serve.

Alright, we seem to be going in a Mexican-ish direction and to round off our recipe register for the evening, I give you two bootlegged recipes. It's absurd to me that theses actually could be categorized that way, and I actually paid good money for an online subscription to the website where I obtained these (if I didn't actually find them in the magazine which my brother-in-law pays good money to send me every two months.) I may be exaggerating, but if you know the publication to which I am referring, you'll know that friendliness and goodwill toward man is not anything like the first thing that comes to mind in dealings with them. Nonetheless, really good food is something that definitely comes to mind, and their recipes, while overly persnickety and detailed (and just all around left brained in nature), are really too good not to post from time to time. I think my blog is low profiled enough (as in, extremely) to fly under the radar with these, so with that in mind:

Refried Beans
I rarely make these because they are such a pain, but they are also really good and therefore worth the trouble every so often.
1/2c. low sodium chicken broth
2 (15.5 oz) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1T vegetable oil
3oz. salt pork, rind removed and diced very small
1 small onion, chopped fine (about 3/4 c.)
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1 poblano, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1T minced fresh cilantro (optional)
2 tsp. fresh lime juice (also optional)
- process broth and all but 1 cup of beans in food processor until smooth (about 15 seconds) scraping sides of bowl. add remaining beans and process until slightly chunky (about 10 1 second pulses).
- heat oil in 12 inch skillet over med. heat until shimmering. add salt pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and pork is browned (about 10-15 minutes). Transfer pork out of pan with slotted spoon (you won't need it again). There should be 2T fat left in pan.
- increase heat to med. high. add onion, chiles, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown. add garlic and cumin and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant (about 30 seconds). add beans and stir until thoroughly combined.
- reduce heat to medium and cook until beans are thick and creamy (about 5 minutes). stir in cilantro and lime juice, if desired (I never do), and serve.

Mexican Rice
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
3 medium jalapenos
2c. long grain white rice
1/3c. canola oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2c. low sodium chicken broth
1T tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2c. minced, fresh cilantro
lime juice (optional)
-adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350
-process tomatoes and onion in food processor until smooth and thoroughly pureed (about 15 seconds). you should have exactly 2 cups.
-remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 of the jalapenos and mince the jalapenos.
-rinse rice in colander under running water for 1 1/2 minutes and shake out all excess water.
-heat oil in an ovensafe 12 inch skillet with tightly fitting lid over medium high heat for 1-2 minutes. drop grains in oil and if they sizzle, it's ready. fry rice until golden and translucent for 6-8 minutes.
-reduce hear to medium, add garlic and seeded jalapenos, cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant about 1 1/2 minutes. stir in pureed tomatoes and onions, chicken broth, tomato paste, and salt. increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
-cover pan and transfer to oven. bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30-35 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.
-mince remaining jalapeno with seeds and stir in rice with cilantro. season with lime juice to taste.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Moving Status Update

Sorry about my lame post. I mean, not that anyone would have read it yet. I should have entitled it "I can't sleep and feel like writing but I don't really have anything to say."

I've officially started packing. I have been busy today! It took me a while. As of last night, my farewell girls' night out dinner, I had only packed one box, the winter coats. We all thought it was quite amusing over margaritas and sangria, and indeed it is. It's classic Abby- so much so though that I have memories of moves (several of the eight, soon to be nine, in the last ten years) where people were moving things out of my house and onto a truck and I was still packing boxes. Maybe that is slightly inevitable in terms of sheets and towels, but I remember having all the kids' clothes hanging in the closet of my children's already empty bedroom the day we moved from seminary housing and my girlfriends walking in wondering what in the world I had been thinking. What I was thinking then is the same thing I am thinking now, "moving is overwhelming and a total pain in the butt!"

However, this is a very exciting move for our family and we are ready to get going! The only problem is that I have trouble realizing that that is going to happen because we haven't found anywhere to go. We want to be close to the church and the university in a house big enough for the five of us but inexpensive enough for an intern. Have I said all of this? I feel like a broken record. And you know, while we're looking, we're also keeping things in mind like the fact that we do have a cat, that we don't have a washer and dryer, and that we will be home a lot because of homeschooling and want to have a pleasant environment (this just means that I really hope we can find something cute ;) ) Wish us luck or say a prayer for our search if you think of it. Once again, I find myself humming the apropos Paul Simon, "Well, I'm on my way. I don't know where I'm goin'. I'm on my way. Takin' my time but I don't know where..." Except that I do know where-ish. And that is still a very happy thing :)

Insomnia

Agh! Every now and then, I have insomnia issues. I had them all the time as a kid. I have them when I am expecting, both at the beginning and end of pregnancy (and no, I am not expecting- and yes, I am sure). I have them at very inconvenient times, really. This week has been less inconvenient than it could have been, but still, I'd like to be asleep right now. I have read a lot the past two nights, so tonight I got a wild hair to stalk people on Facebook. I'm still a conscientious objector when it comes to Facebook, but George recently broke down and got an account. I have to say that I was close, very close in fact, to caving in and just getting an account myself. In just a few weeks, I will move somewhere where I know no one and my best chance of maintaining friendships in some form will be, let's face it, Facebook. I decided that keeping up via one line updates is really okay. And that just because the nature of friendship has degraded to a very strange and technological status, doesn't mean that mine have to- Facebook can just be a tool to maintain friendships between more lengthy emails or phone conversations or annual visits (sad, are these my friends or my dentist?!). But then, George got an account.

Okay, so I'm too tired to go through all the reasons I still object, and I am sure you all have some very good points for why I shouldn't. But I'm just not able to cross over. "However," I thought to myself after staring into the dark for 40 minutes or so tonight, "I could try to find people through George's account!" And so, I hopped out of bed, came downstairs, and got online thinking I would find my long lost best friends from seventh and eighth grade before we moved back to Nashville, wondering if I could finally see if I could get any information on that one guy I had a crush on that I think might have been gay (is he married now? or possibly "out?"), and hoping to see what all the hype is about. Do you know, I can't even find my sister on Facebook? And let me just say that there are over 500 results when I type in the name of my best friend from high school. I totally didn't need to see her Facebook page since I still keep in touch with her and don't actually have a Facebook account (a novel idea, I know, keeping in touch with people in a world without Facebook), but if I did want to, I'd never be able to find her!

Meh! I should have read again tonight. I don't know why I'm posting this except that I just haven't posted in a while and because I think I mentioned the possibility of getting an account to some of y'all. I wanted to let you know that you can get off the edge of your seat now (since I know that's right where you've been), because I remain a foe of Facebook. I know, I know, I will miss out on so much. But you can always find me here on my pretty pink page, or, you know, email, telephone, my house...

I'm hoping I can actually sleep now. And if not, there's always Anne of Windy Poplars (which, I also am not much of a fan of- 3 books of Anne may have been enough). Maybe I'll write again in tomorrow's wee hours of the morning. This is starting to look very much like I have my days and nights mixed up!

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