Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Neighbor Gifts

“What am I going to do for neighbor gifts?” was the question that would cause me the most stress at Christmastime. Several years ago, we were given a cup of homemade glass candy by one of Scott’s co-workers. I got the recipe and made it for my friends and neighbors the following year, and it has become tradition ever since. Now some of my neighbors say they love it and seem genuinely excited when I bring it by, but I am sure there are some neighbors who just humor me and secretly wish that I would come up with a different idea. This tradition works for me and anything that relieves stress during the holidays, I say stick with it!

Glass Candy
3 ½ cups sugar
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 cup water
2 drams Lorann flavoring
Food coloring

Bring sugar, Karo syrup, and water to a boil on high heat. Reduce temperature to medium and cook to hard crack stage – 295 degrees. Remove from heat. Stir in food coloring and flavoring. Pour onto a marble slab that is covered with powdered sugar. Dust top with powdered sugar. Cut into ¼ inch strips with pizza cutter. When hard, snap into bite size pieces with hands.

We always get lots of candy, cookies, and fun treats. Sometimes we get homemade crafts and cute decorations.
This year the prize for the most unique present was a pair of scissors with the following tag: Whether you cut the paper or the cheese, we hope you have a ripping good Christmas!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My garden – the successes and failures

Success – I said I wasn’t going to plant a garden this year, until we built planter boxes. My husband did a fantastic job and had them completed by mid May!

Failure – Even though we laid down weed control carpet and brought in special dirt, the morning glory still found its way into my garden.

– This was the first year my cucumber plant survived. I love dipping cucumbers in dill dip.

Failure – and the first year my zucchini plant died. I am probably the first person on the planet who actually killed a zucchini plant. All of my wonderful plans for zucchini recipes died along with my plant.

– My cherry tomato plant was out of control.

Failure – My cherry tomato plant was out of control.

Success – I had fantastic luck with basil, eggplant, green peppers, and cilantro.

Failures – I love spaghetti squash and decided to give it a try in my garden. I planted one plant, and it looked like it wasn’t going to make it, and so I bought another plant. The first one began to thrive as my second one died along with my zucchini plant. The first plant lived, but it turned out to be cantaloupe. My husband is allergic to cantaloupe and I am not very good at knowing when they are ripe. Big Failure!

Success – Baked Eggplant Parmesan

I tried a new recipe, and it was fantastic! Well, it is from Martha Stewart, and so you know it has to be good.

Olive oil
2 large eggs
¾ cup plain bread crumbs
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, for topping
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into ½ inch rounds
6 cups favorite tomato sauce
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tablespoons water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, oregano, and basil; season with salt and pepper.

2. Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well; place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices; continue baking until browned on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven; raise oven heat to 400°.

3. Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Whenever we go to Zupa’s my husband usually orders the Tomato Basil Soup, and when he doesn’t, he is usually disappointed in his selection. I have tried making a homemade creamy tomato soup in the past without much success. This year I tried a new recipe, and my husband gave me a thumbs up! Not only did I use homegrown tomatoes, but the basil was also from my garden.

This recipe is not for those on a fat free diet, but I think it is worth every fat gram!

Rich and Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

4 tomatoes - peeled and diced
4 cups tomato juice
14 fresh basil leaves
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

Place tomatoes and juice in a stock pot over medium heat. Simmer 30 minutes. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves, and return the puree to the pot. Place the pot over medium heat, and stir in the cream and butter. Heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


On Monday, I decided that I really needed to pick tomatoes. I didn’t realize how many were ripe until I got into the plants. I probably picked over 70 tomatoes from my four plants. I couldn’t believe it. That would mean I would be busy making at least 2 batches of salsa. I love homemade salsa. I love it even more when it is all done and every one of the jars sealed.
24 large tomatoes
4 large green peppers
4 large onions
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tsp salt
1/4 cup taco seasoning
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
3 4 ounce cans green chilies
Dash garlic powder

Prepare tomatoes, remove skins and cores. Chop onions and green peppers. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Place in pint jars and process for 25 minutes. Makes about 14 pints.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Antioxidants

This past week I was in the mood for something chocolaty. I decided to use up some of the zucchini that was collecting on my kitchen counter and try a chocolate zucchini cake. I don’t have a favorite recipe for chocolate zucchini cake, and so I tried a new recipe that I found on the internet. There were literally hundreds of recipes that combined zucchini and chocolate. My favorite zucchini bread recipe was easily adapted to whole wheat flour, and so I figured whatever recipe I used would turn out well with whole wheat instead of all-purpose flour. I liked the flavor of the cake, but the texture was more like a quick bread recipe than a fluffy cake. My husband ate the majority of this cake. He loved the flavor and thought it was incredibly moist, but I think the middle section must have been a little too moist because he cut all around it.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa
2 1/2 cups hard white wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups zucchini, grated
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter then add oil and sugar; mix.
Add next 8 ingredients; mix well.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Put in greased and floured 9X13 pan.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until done.

Have you ever noticed that Hershey’s Cocoa claims to be a natural flavorful source of antioxidants? Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize free radicals and protect your body against their destructive effects. According to Hershey’s website, cocoa has more oxygen radical absorbance capacity than cranberries, grapes, or prunes. Prunes or cocoa – now that is a no brainer! Antioxidants, vegetables, and whole grains, and I thought I was simply making a dessert.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just a little food for thought!

So today we went to Sundance Resort to do some hiking. My daughter went into the store to purchase a magnet and saw this cute green bag for $3 and bought it for me. Some people collect spoons, thimbles, or charms, but a green bag is my kind of souvenir.

This bag comes from Robert Redford’s place so you know it’s not just an item to carry around your things but a product to help you be a well informed environmentally-friendly consumer. The following information was listed on the bag:

Use this bag twice a week for 2 years and each bag will SAVE:
- 11 pounds of garbage
- 832 plastic bags
- Enough petroleum to drive a car 60 miles

From 1BagataTime.com
- 14 plastic bags contain enough petroleum to drive a car a mile
- 380 billion plastic bags or wraps are thrown away in America each year
- 0 paper bags biodegrade in landfills due to lack of oxygen
- Cities spend up to 17 cents per bag in disposal costs, wasting millions of tax dollars

Monday, July 27, 2009

Zucchini Season

If you have a zucchini plant in your garden, and you have neighbors with a zucchini plant, you probably have a kitchen counter filled with oversized zucchinis just waiting to be shredded. I have a family tried and tested whole wheat zucchini bread recipe that I make each summer, but it is only the end of July, and I am already inundated with the squash. If I intend to not waste any zucchini, I will need to get creative and try more recipes. At recipeezaar.com, there are 2,890 recipes listed when the ingredient zucchini is typed in the search engine. Numerous recipes are available for pie, casseroles, salads, muffins, quiche, and even one for pancakes. Stay tuned for more recipes.

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

3 eggs, beaten
¾ cup oil
2 cups sugar
4 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups hard white wheat flour (red wheat also works fine in this recipe)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
½ tsp baking powder
4 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg

Mix eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients and then add alternately with zucchini to wet ingredients. Bake in two greased loaf pans for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New York - a once in a lifetime experience for me!

On my recent one and only trip to New York, I thought about many things:

- Filmmakers do a mighty nice job of making New York look cleaner and grander than it really is.

The fountain from the movie Enchanted!

- I like the sun way too much to ever live there.

When it isn't overcast, there are tall buildings everywhere preventing the sunlight on the streets.

- People in New York are not rude. I believe they are just in a hurry. In fact we had several kind gentlemen help us when we were lost and another nice looking business man bought us ice cream simply because he had never met anyone from Utah before.

If you go to New York, know where you are going, do not stand still in the middle of the sidewalk, and when you go to a deli, do not stand in front of the menu board to decide what you want. Just know before you go!

- New York is not a place for a family vacation.

- It made me a little uneasy that department stores felt it was necessary to post security guards at every door.

- Where does all the garbage go?

At the end of each day, there are piles and piles of garbage on the street.

- How many times does the average driver honk his horn in a day?

I came to believe that this sign was never enforced because there was a constant sound of car, truck, bus, bike, and scooter horns honking.

- It really is not necessary to wait for the flashing green sign to cross the street.

No one waits, and if you do, you definitely look like a tourist or Girl Scout.

- 99% of cars are either yellow or black.

And when you get into one it will cost you big bucks for the ride of your life! it was definitely more fun than Lagoon!

Summer Reading :)

Here is a little tasting of recent books that I have read while watching my son play at the pool.

If you are in the mood for just some fun lightreading try:
The Romantic Obsessions & Humiliations of Annie Sehlmeier by Louise Plummer
I have read three of Louise Plummer’s young adult fiction books and enjoyed all three. This one and The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkrnan are just goofy fun!

For the rest of the week I sat behind Woolley and weighed the risks of leaning forward and kissing the back of his smooth neck. The smell of his aftershave hovered under my nose, made me dizzy. What exactly would the rest of my life be like if I kissed that stunning neck? Planted both lips on his skin and left them there like some sucking leech? I pictured the newspaper headlines, GIRL’S LIPS STUCK TO BOY’S NECK. Once I craned my head forward, and Jack leaned over to ask if I had a headache.
Jack was the confusing thing. I still thought him attractive. I still wanted to be around him. He smiled at me, and a warm dizziness took hold of me.
I am crazed, I thought. Soon, I will love every boy in this school. I’ll walk with my tongue extended like a sloppy dog and drool over their looks, their smiles, their poetic greetings: “Hi ya, Annie.”

For a little spiritual thought provoking reading try:
The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

“You know that place: where there is just you alone – and maybe God, if you believe in him. Of course, God might be there even if you don’t believe in him. That would be just like him. He hasn’t been called the Grand Interferer for nothing.”

“I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.”

“Faith does not grow in the house of certainty.”

“I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

“Well, I sort of feel obligated to go in and talk to him” (Mack said referring to Heavenly Father)
“Oh” – now Jesus was serious – “don’t go because you feel obligated. That won’t get you and points around here. Go because it is what you want to do.”

If you enjoy historical fiction with some romance try:
These is my Words by Nancy E. Turner

“I keep looking in on him and touching his hands and he squeezes me ever so softly, then I go so he can’t see me crying over him. My head aches bad. I asked Papa couldn’t we turn back and go home. He set his hand on my arm, and said, Girl, there’s never any turning back in life. But don’t you worry, he says. The Lord is watching over us. Then I felt real hollow and low and mean. If He is a watching us, I wish He’d lend a hand now and then.”

“I turned to Jack Elliot and said, If you are too tired to haul water, you are too tired to bathe in it, and I am fit to be tied. Your supper is on the stove and your children are driving me to distraction and April has lost the scissors under the house through a crack in the floor so there will be no haircut tonight. If that don’t please you, then I will put on a uniform and ride out of here tomorrow morning and chase around the countryside and you can wear this apron and tend these crying children and this drafty house from dark to dark and then tell me you think I should haul you a bath.”

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
I had seen the movie years ago with my daughters. I didn’t realize the movie was based on a book - actually very loosely based if you want my opinion. The only resemblance the movie has with the book is that the premise and the names of the main characters are the same. My daughter said I would probably enjoy the book, and she was right. It was a fun and easy read.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Nothing says Happy Father's Day like a Golden Angel Food cake!

Several years ago, I made this whole wheat angel food cake for a family party. My dad said he really liked it. It takes several hours to make, and so it is made only on special occasions. The two events I usually make it for are my dad’s birthday or Father’s Day. It isn’t really hard to make just time consuming. I don’t think the calories of a dessert count against your diet when whole grains are involved. I’m sure I heard that on Oprah sometime!?!?

Whole Grain Golden Angel Food Cake

8 eggs, separated
1 cup cold water
2 cups sugar
2 cups hard white wheat flour
1/2 cup barley flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cream of tartar

Place egg yolks in a large bowl and beat until light colored. Add cold water and beat for 2 minutes. Add sugar and blend. Combine flours and salt and sift 3 or 4 times. Add to egg yolk mixture. Beat for 3 or 4 minutes. Do not skimp on beating. Add vanilla. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until very stiff. Fold into egg yolk mixture. Be sure the whites and yolk mixture are evenly mixed. Bake in an angel food cake pan for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Touch test the top of cake. Invert on top of a pop bottle to cool.

Serve with whip cream and berries. Yum!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Homemade Kettle Corn, nice guys, and the end of reality!

Well, I would have to say it was a year for the nice guys on the reality show circuit this season. Even though I wanted Steven to be the Sole Survivor, it was nice to see JT who seems like a genuinely nice guy take the prize. I think Steven was so good at masking his strategy that no one knew he actually had any. Just a little side note, I think both JT and Steven were better looking on the show with their facial hair and rugged outdoor looks.

Jerry and Helen? Really? Never would have thought they would be The Biggest Loser winners. Jerry is another nice guy and another winner. Many would argue that Helen was not very nice staying on the show and sending her daughter home. Without having been in on the full discussion, I would probably agree. Another mother on the show volunteered to go home if others would protect her daughter until the end. Remember Ron? He is not a nice guy and therefore not a winner.

I thought that Tammy and Victor were the nicest of the final four teams left on Amazing Race. And the nice guys crossed the finish line first too.

And I was hoping for either of the nice guys’ duo Danny and Kris to be our next American Idol. To even Kris’ astonishment he pulled it off. I think what is most amazing about his venture is that he really had almost no exposure in the beginning and people still voted for him simply because he is talented.

Another of the nice guys is my son Bryson. He wanted Homemade Kettle Corn to enjoy while watching the finales of some of our shows. Kettle Corn is super easy to make and tastes great too!


2/3 cup popcorn
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup sugar

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet with a tight fitting lid.
Add popcorn and continue to heat until first kernel pops.
Quickly stir in sugar until it is dissolved.
Cover and continue to shake skillet. Be careful so popcorn doesn't burn.
After popcorn is popped, pour in a bowl and lightly salt.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The cards just keep getting cuter!

Once again my cute daughter Ashlee out did herself and gave me an adorable homemade card for Mother’s Day. I am amazed at all the cute designs she comes up with. My mom is also very creative, and unfortunately I think that talent is like my dad’s diabetes that skips a generation. Each card is so clever. Hallmark better watch out! On the inside of the card, she has a fun “green” message. I LOVE IT!

My son’s favorite breakfast

Do you have a recipe that you have made so many times that you know you could actually make it in your sleep? I make whole wheat pancakes at least once a week. My son Bryson does not consider cereal a breakfast food. An after-school or bedtime snack yes, but definitely not for the most important meal of the day. So being the good mother that I am, I fix him breakfast most days. The funny thing is that I make pancakes, French toast, breakfast cake, waffles, scrambled eggs or German pancake almost every morning, and my husband pours himself a bowl of cereal. And my teenagers will grab a handful of wheat thins as they walk out the door. I don’t get someone who would choose cold cereal or crackers when a hot breakfast is ready and available, but I have to love them anyway.

Whole Wheat Pancakes

2 eggs
1½ cups milk
3 Tbls oil
3 Tbls sugar
1 Tbls baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 – 2½ cups hard white wheat flour, depending on the consistency you like. I like my pancakes more on the thick side so I add more flour. If you like them runny, add less. :)

Bryson, being the growing boy that he is, will eat four pancakes. He likes two with syrup and two with chocolate chips mixed in the batter before cooking.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Guess who is going green?

My daughter Ashlee was surprised by her husband with a trip to Disneyland for her birthday. They brought me home a super fun souvenir. I was so excited to add this cute green bag to my collection. Well, it doesn’t go with me to the grocery store. It is way too cute for just holding ice cream and bananas. Most green bags can be purchased for only $1, but this bag was $2.95 to account for Disney’s typical rate of inflation.

My favorite quotes:

“Life is not what you have or what you can keep. It is what you can bear to lose.”

Sarah’s father describes to her how the English scare away the crows from their fields, and compares that to their courts:
“They put pikes all round the perimeter of a field. The pikes are sharpened to a razor’s point. And on every pike, pierced through the breast, is a blackbird. Some yet live and flapping. The crows don’t like it. And as long as any part of the blackbirds cling to the poles the corn stays whole. That’s the English way.”
“It’s how the English run their courts. They sacrifice innocents, thinking to keep evil at bay, and call it a kind of justice. But they are no more just than this pole is a man.”

“I told him I would rather die than wind my days out only plowing and dusting clay off my shoes. Then he said if I were to die, a piece of him would die, too. He said I had to find one thing living that was greater than myself to cleave to, and in that would be my strength for walking upright like a man. A long time ago he was in despair and had sunk so low as to die from it. But he found Mother, and it was her that brought a quickening back to his living. I thought long on what he had said. And d’ye know what I told him, Sarah? I told him it was you. It’s you who are my strength.”

“I understood at that moment fully and suddenly why he would not carry me, and why he had not come to my defense in times past when I was battling for my place in the world. It was not because he failed to love me, but because he loved me so well. He had brought us food and clothing and kind words when we were imprisoned; he did not abandon us. But he would never seek to weaken me so that I could not withstand the burdens and cruelties or harsh judgments of the world. An infant must learn to walk only by cutting his lip on the harsh ground. Only by tasting blood is the toddler discouraged from falling.”


Friday, April 24, 2009

Bumper sticker moment :)

I love it when a bumper sticker puts a smile on my face and makes me forget all about the horrible traffic for just a moment.

Just do it Donny Osmond!

My TV habits are rather funny. I like news programs and reality shows. Most of the reality shows are winding down. I thought I would share some of my thoughts:

I seriously can’t stand Ron. Why haven’t they voted him off yet? With Sione gone and Kristen being voted off last week, I am now pulling for Filipe or Tara. I am so glad Kristen didn’t think Ron was really so innocent of his son’s actions. I think Ron’s deceiving and manipulative ways would make him an excellent contestant on Survivor, and the bonus is that most players have found that show to be a successful weight loss program.

I hate it when all the competitive guys are voted off quickly after the merge. With Brendon last week and Tyson voted out this week, it allows someone like Erinn with no strategy or hope of winning individual immunity to sneak into the finals. I liked Coach’s idea of all the strong alpha male players in the final four. That would have been fun to watch. I am just thankful that the cute Jeff Probst can never be voted out.

I actually don’t watch this show, but I might if Donny Osmond would quit teasing us and get on his boogie shoes.

Most of the teams are whiners. Seriously, does it really matter who pulls the clue out of the box first? I wonder if these teams now regret how incredibly petty they look. I hope at this point that Tammy and Victor are VICTORious.

I hope Kris and Danny make it to the finals. My daughters LOVE Adam. I do find him interesting, but I just can’t get the camera mugging over the top “Ring of Fire” performance out of my head. I think my husband might be starting a write-in campaign for Susan Boyle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today is Earth Day

Do you know what last Wednesday was? Yes, the dreaded tax day. This year was sad for me. No refund. I had to pay because I didn’t give the government enough of my money during the year, and so I was one of the unlucky ones who had to give more. Give might indicate that I willingly did it, and in all actuality it was done merely to stay out of jail. But look what a new week can bring, the sun is shining, and we have a little annotation on our calendars encouraging the celebration of planet earth. Being a wannabe green guru, I really should have something exciting planned. I did fill up my recycling can and put on the curb for collection, but I do that every Wednesday, so I guess that doesn’t count. I watered a dying perennial in my yard that I transplanted last week. That probably doesn’t count either. I should have done it days ago and now it will probably die. Well, if you want to do something fun and struggling for an idea, click here for a website with recyclable craft ideas.

Warm out of the oven melt in your mouth chocolate chip cookies :)

Who doesn’t love warm out of the oven chocolate chip cookies with a tall glass of cold milk? Whether your mom made them from scratch or sliced and baked from a Toll House tube, it seems everyone has a memory of coming home from school and smelling chocolate chip cookies baking. Every once in a while I love to surprise my children with the scrumptious smell of baking cookies as they enter our home after a long day at school. Many years ago, I tried to convert a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe to whole grain. The mouth watering smell was easily duplicated but the taste was more like chocolate chips stuck in a slice of not very good whole wheat bread. I remember being so excited that I was baking something so healthy for my family, but after one taste I was feeling defeated. This experiment was long before I owned a wheat grinder, and I had used store purchased whole wheat flour. That is never a good idea. Since that time I have experimented with a variety of grains. This is my favorite whole grain recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

The dumbed down kid version:

1 ½ cups shortening
1 ½ cups brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
3 eggs
3 tsp vanilla
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups hard white wheat flour
3 ½ cups spelt flour
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips

Cream together shortening and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well. Whisk together dry ingredients and mix with wet ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

My favorite chewy version:

Decrease hard white wheat flour to 1 cup, spelt flour to 2 cups, and chocolate chips to 1 cup. Add 3 cups oats and 1 cup chopped nuts.

Did you know that the chocolate chip cookie has only been around since about 1934? According to Wikipedia, there are two conflicting stories about how the cookie came about. Both involve Ruth Wakefield the owner of Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant in Massachusetts at the time. One version states that she put chunks of chocolate in a batch of sugar cookies hoping for it to melt as it baked, and the other states the chocolate accidentally fell into the dough while she was mixing and because of frugality on the part of the head chef at the time, he encouraged her to bake the cookies instead of tossing the dough as she had planned. Regardless of the origins of their discovery, chocolate chip cookies are fantastically delicious.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A cop out or environmentally friendly?

On my birthday last week my husband thought he was being cute and thought his actions were blog worthy. So I am not sure if his true intentions were to be environmentally responsible or if he was being lazy. Several minutes before it was time for me to open presents, he left the kitchen with one of my “go green” bags. He then returned with my present inside the bag. I believe he may have forgotten to wrap my present, but I’ll give him the benefit and believe he was being clever. It was better than him just handing it to me. Ashlee said he could accomplish the same purpose of not wasting paper by reusing a birthday gift bag like she did. I don’t think I will ever not wrap presents to save paper because opening them is too much fun.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I love it when the first time you try to adapt a recipe that it turns out perfect. My life has been so incredibly crazy the past month that I was so grateful that when I found the time to make these cookies that they weren't a flop. My daughter Hollie had requested some chocolate crinkle cookies, and I decided to surprise her with them when she got home on a day she had to stay late at school. It made 36 cookies, and they were gone in 2 days.

1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 Tbls melted butter
12 Tbls cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups hard white wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Mix oil, butter, cocoa, sugar; blend in eggs.
2. Add vanilla, salt, baking powder, and flour.
3. Cover and chill several hours or overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheets.
5. Roll 1 Tbsp dough into a ball and roll around in powdered sugar to coat.
6. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
7. Remove from baking sheet and cool.
8. Have plenty of milk on hand to enjoy with cookies.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My favorite breakfast. No grinder required.

It is funny the things you believe as a kid. I thought that oats grew the way they come in the Quaker canister. I’m not sure when I realized that oat flakes were made from oat groats, but I am glad I discovered it because steel cut oats is my favorite breakfast. And it’s not just because Oprah recommends eating them. I boil about 1/3 cup steel cut oats in 2/3 cup water for about 10 minutes. Once they are in the bowl, I add about 1 tablespoon brown sugar, some milk, and a handful of chopped walnuts. Yummy!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I asked "paper or plastic" against my better judgement.

It was Harmon’s PTA days on Tuesday, and I volunteered for Copper Hills High as a grocery bagger. Just a couple thoughts I collected during my two hour stint as the up and coming Harmon's employee of the month.
Most people reply “plastic’s fine” when asked their bagging preference. If they didn’t care, I used my personal preference and snuck in paper bags. I was informed by my checker that that wasn’t the norm. Apparently paper is harder to work with, so that’s why checkers usually say, “Is plastic okay?”
My chattiness annoyed the checker.
Two customers out of about twenty brought in reusable bags.
We gluttonous Americans use way too many plastic bags. Why do we need to put meat in one plastic bag, produce in another, and ibuprofen in still yet another plastic bag? Really what is it going to hurt to share a bag? All of these items sat without controversy in the shopping cart.
Bagging is hard work.

I can't find the right grain.

So I have been using spelt flour with great success in a variety of recipes and was beginning to think it was a miracle grain. So I thought I would try it in German Pancake. It only calls for 1/2 cup flour, but it has bugged me that I can't find a whole grain that works in this recipe. Spelt flour definitely had the same flavor as hard white wheat. Not bad, but it has a strong wheat flavor. I would like a grain that doesn't over power the egg taste. My son didn't even notice because all he can taste is syrup. I have tried barley flour and soy flour. Soy flour was beyond horrible. There isn't enough syrup in the world to hide that taste.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hey Al Gore, can I get a new cell phone?

If you have read any of my previous green blogs, you know how much Al Gore’s approval means to me. I often think to myself “What would Al Gore do?” Okay, I don’t really think that, but I do like to make green choices. I checked out a book from the library that gives tips to reduce your carbon footprint. One of the tips was about cell phones and not to purchase a new one simply because your phone company suggests an upgrade. I didn’t know that. Seriously, who needs to be told that? I guess the same people who accept and use to the limit every credit card that they are approved for, or purchase a home simply because their loan officer tells them they can qualify for the mortgage. So if your phone just needs a little duct tape to hold the battery on don’t let your phone company sell you an upgrade, and if you can’t make the payment, don’t purchase the home. Stay tuned and I will keep you updated on more useful hints to keep the resources of the earth and your pocketbook plentiful.

Presentation! Presentation! Presentation!

I make homemade wheat rolls on Sunday quite frequently. I usually just shape them in a boring regular roll because you can use the leftovers for sandwiches. And, to be honest I am lazy, and it is just easier that way. Well, every once in a while I get fancy, and it is funny how the rolls taste so much better. Same recipe, different shape, and many more compliments.

Is a perfect society possible?

This is one of my all-time favorite books. The first time I read it was because my daughter Hollie was reading it for school many years ago, and she didn’t understand it. I initially began reading it just to give her some help in understanding the story, and I ended up enjoying the book and read it in about a day. I suggested it for my book club, and so I just finished reading it again. What would your perfect society be like? Would the world be better off if people didn’t have so many choices? How does history and memory shape our future? Just some questions to ponder when you read The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Friday, February 6, 2009

You can hide almost anything in these applesauce oatmeal cookies.

One time I made these cookies with white bean flour and nobody was the wiser. My children ate them up, but after my husband told them what was in them, they were leery to eat anything I baked for months. For some reason they thought cookies made with bean flour was just plain sick. They acted as if they had been tricked into eating dog food or even worse. I promised them I would not put bean flour in cookies again, but I think I might have had my fingers crossed behind my back.

These are actually my husband’s favorite cookie. His mother used to make them when he was little. I have experimented with various grains and beans to make them healthy. Tonight when they were warm out of the oven, my husband ate almost a whole dozen.

This is the basic recipe:

2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 cups applesauce
2 tsp soda
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups flour - you can be creative :)
3 cups oatmeal

Cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs and applesauce. Mix well. Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Stir in oatmeal. Drop about 2T for each cookie on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Tonight I put in 1/2 cup wheat bran and 3 1/2 cups hard white wheat flour. I have tried various combinations of wheat, grain, and bean flours. If you want to sneak something healthy into your children’s diet, these will do the trick.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Deal Breaker.

So I started reading this clever little book on Tuesday. I saw it on a shelf of recommended books at the library and thought it sounded cute. Not because I am a fan of any particular breed of dogs, but because of how the quirky relationship between the dog and its owner was portrayed. I was enjoying how witty this book was until page 85. Then the deal breaker happened. I have a hard time seeing some swear words in print, especially those beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet. I am tired of that word being thrown in a book for no apparent reason. I decided that there are plenty of other books to read, and this one made me mad, and so I was content to not know how it ended. How I wish there was a rating system for books, and then I would not need to waste my time with books that find it so cool to swear.

Summers at Castle Auburn

So I am not a huge fan of Fantasy/Science Fiction Novels. I think it is because Barney the big purple dinosaur never could get through to me as to how to use my imagination correctly. I read them on occasion, but my favorite genre is historical fiction. I would recommend this book if you enjoy a nice little fantasy book. I enjoyed the development of the main character as she matured and came to an understanding of the other character’s flaws and no longer saw things as a little child. There were also a couple of fun twists.
Several years ago, my oldest son read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and wanted me to read it because it was his favorite book. I drudged through it never really seeing what he saw in it. I don’t think my mind can quite imagine the characters and scenes the author intended his readers to envision. I like reading things that are more reality based.

Whole Grain Banana Bread

For many years I have been trying to find the right combination of flours to make my banana bread recipe 100% whole grain. When I use 100% whole wheat flour, it comes out too dry. The last few times I made it, I used about half whole wheat and half white flour just because I got tired of making it and nobody eating my experiments. Well, I can't blog a half whole grain recipe on a whole grain blog, so I was determined to try again. This time I used spelt flour and barley flour. I liked the texture, but the flavor was a little different than I was used to tasting. I think next time I might try a combination of whole wheat, barley, and spelt flours. I love my banana bread with lots of walnuts. My family, however, prefers it with lots of butterscotch chips.

2 1/4 cups spelt flour
1 1/4 cups barley flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup unsalted butter
2 cups mashed bananas (about 5)
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla

Mix first 6 ingredients with fork. Cut in butter. Stir in eggs, bananas, and vanilla. Add nuts or butterscotch chips.
Pour in two greased loaf pans.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Does Al Gore's can opener look like mine?

After 25 years of service, my electric can opener said enough already, and it has gone where all faithful can openers go when they pass on. It's been about a couple weeks, and I just wasn't sure what the respectful amount of mourning was for a can opener before I could purchase a new one. Last week, I did look a little at Wally World but none of them really screamed "I am the one." Well, on Monday, I was using my trusty hand held build up your muscles can opener when my husband asked if it was my new go green can opener. The light bulb went on! I thought why not just save a little energy and rid myself of unwanted arm flab every time I open a can. I'm not sure if Al Gore has thought of ditching his electric can opener. If he hasn't, I would like him to seriously reflect on having sculpted biceps like mine!