Monday, December 27, 2010

Thanks Paul! It’s just what I needed.

 

I am meated out! It is like Paul McCartney just knew I would need a meatless day after the long holiday weekend. I guess it is his gift to me. This weekend my family ate a prime rib roast that seemed questionably raw on Christmas Eve, several pounds of bacon, ham, and sausage for Christmas breakfast (see above photo of my goofy son), and then more ham and a roast for Christmas dinner. I am not sure how many animals were slaughtered for our celebration, but it was way too many for my taste. After spending many hours in the kitchen over the past month, I am not excited about cooking dinner, but I have the perfect solution. Veggie Quesadillas will be on the menu tonight. They are quick, easy, tasty, and most importantly meat free.


Veggie Quesadillas

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, drained
1 can green chiles
shredded colby/jack cheese
8 tortillas 

Mix beans, corn, and chiles. Place about 2 tablespoons of cheese on half of the tortilla, 1/3 cup bean mixture, and then more cheese. Fold tortilla over. Place on cookie sheet and cook under broiler until toasted and browned. About one minute. Flip and cook other side. Serve this with a yummy green salad for an easy and tasty meal.


Another Cranberry Salad
 
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 6 oz can mandarin oranges
1/4 cup sliced almonds
 
Dressing
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried onion
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
 
In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, cranberries and oranges. In a blender combine first six dressing ingredients and process until blended. While processing, gradually add oil. Add sesame seeds and poppy seeds. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Sprinkle with almonds.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What makes you tired?


Turkey and pumpkin are usually on the list of things people are tired of come December. I don’t think my family could ever get tired of pumpkin desserts. I am tired of the dishes that come with making desserts, but not the pumpkin itself. Along with scrubbing pots and pans, I have two things that have grown weary with me lately - The Kardashians and Jersey Shore. I don’t have cable and have never watched an episode of either of these reality shows, and yet I am sick of hearing about them. I am rather confused as to why these people are fascinating. I happily left the TV off this evening and made this scrumptious dessert, and my family was thrilled.


Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cp canola oil
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup hard white wheat flour
1 cup barley flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer, mix eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until light and fluffly. Sift together dry ingredients and stir into the pumpkin mixture until combined. Spread the batter into a 10X15 inch jelly roll pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese. Stir in vanilla. Add sugar a little at a time, beating until mixture is smooth. Spread on cooled cake.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What’s for dinner?

I hate that question! You would think that since I have been cooking for my family for over 25 years that I would let that one just roll off my back. The problem is that even when I have an answer there will always be a critic. And when I don’t have an answer, and I fire back, “What would you like?” I usually don’t like the response. I don’t even know what I would like them to ask instead. I guess I just want them to stand happily by the oven and see what comes out at 6:00PM, and eat without any complaints. Well, I guess if I was really going to get a miracle at my house, I wouldn’t waste it on that silly idea, so I guess we will stick to our same old routine. Child asks. Mother gets irritated. Child learns not to ask for a few days. Mother makes a plan. In case I don’t have a plan, I like to have a few meals that work with things mostly from my food storage. And being since it is Monday, no meat is required!



                      Southwest Vegetarian Bake

               1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
               1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
               1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained
               1 (4 ounce) can green chiles
               1 pint salsa
               1 cup sour cream
               2 cups cheese, divided, preferably colby/jack but cheddar will work
               1/4 teaspoon pepper
               1/2 cup chopped onions, red, green, or yellow will work
               1 small can olives, sliced and drained

In a large bowl, combine rice, beans, corn, chiles, salsa, sour cream, 1 cup of cheese, and pepper. Transfer to a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with onions and olives over top. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Serve with chips and salsa or guacamole. This is seriously good and easy. I usually don't have any whiners when I serve this!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gratitude

I love Thanksgiving. I love eating all the good food. I love being with family. I love pies. This year I played host to 24 family members for Thanksgiving dinner. It seems as if I spent the week before preparing for the big day, and the week after recuperating. With so much to do, it left little time to contemplate the abundance of blessings in my life.

 I just recently finished reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. My favorite part of the book focuses on finding gratitude in everything God gives us. Betsie who is Corrie’s older sister tells her the Bible instructs us to thank the Lord in all things. As Betsie encourages her, she begins to express gratitude for all things, but stops short with thanking God for flees that infest their barracks. She doesn’t believe there is any reason she could ever be grateful for flees. Weeks later Betsie and Corrie learn the reason why there is almost no patrolling by the guards in their new barracks which enables them to conduct worship services with little fear of being caught. It seems as if the guards are afraid of getting flees. Often times it is hard to recognize the blessings in all things especially during difficult times. I began to think about the things in my life that cause me frustration, heartache, or just seem to be an annoyance. Could I find the reason to be grateful for these things?

Road construction, taxes, a wayward child, the death of a loved one, a bad hair day, the flu, dishes, and a broken washer are all on my list of things that would test my ability to be grateful in all things. As my heart aches for a child, I draw closer to the Lord in prayer. I enjoy the blessings of policeman and fireman because I am a tax paying citizen. When my washer died, I did my part to help the economy get back on track. As I mourn the death of a loved one, I find greater love and appreciation for my family. As for road construction, I think I will just be grateful when it comes to an end.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Almost as good as glue


Everyone has their favorite traditions during the Christmas season. One of my favorites happens to be building ginger bread houses with my family. My children have been very creative through the years. We have had a nativity scene with marshmallow sheep and camels, a candy land board game, an Aztec pyramid, a three story castle, and a Viking boat. It is amazing what can be made from graham crackers and candy. I think the trick is the right frosting and a wide assortment of candy. Before I found this frosting recipe, frustration would easily become part of our tradition as houses would easily collapse. This stuff is almost like glue.

Snow Icing

6 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 2-pound package powdered sugar


Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Add cream of tartar and mix well. Slowly add powdered sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks. Keep covered until use so it doesn't dry out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Check your closets

There is a saying that was probably started by Imelda Marcos about one can never own too many pairs of shoes. I learned last night that not only do I own too many pairs of shoes but pants as well.


My husband is a night person and I am a morning person, and so it is not unusual for me to go to bed a couple hours before him such as I did last night. About 12:45, I heard him crawling into bed, and then he fell into a deep sleep while my mind wandered for a while. At 1:15, we were both startled awake by a boom, boom, crash, boom, boom noise. Instantly we both jumped out of bed not knowing if we had an intruder in our home or if World War III had begun. I called out to my son whose room is across the hall from mine. He was frightened as well but safe. I immediately ran downstairs not knowing if my daughter was in trouble. I think I gave her a heart attack as I opened her door and ran into her room. Gratefully, she was safe. I found nothing amiss downstairs and headed back to our main floor where my husband was searching for the cause of the commotion. As I was climbing the stairs, I had a thought to check my walk-in closet. I opened the door and found a huge mess. A clothes bar that was heavily weighed down by mostly my pants had fallen and pulled down the attached shelf above it. On the shelf, I stored many of my shoes in their boxes. All of them falling explained repeated gun shot like sounds we had heard. We arranged the clothes so no additional falling would awaken us, closed the door, and comforted our children before heading back to bed. As we climbed back into our bed with hearts still racing my kind husband who knew he now had several hours of repair work to do just said, “I think you own too many pairs of pants.”


I am not sure why I hold on to pants that no longer fit when there are many charities that would love these gently used clothes. After I turned 40, a few extra pounds slowly crept on my body, and I dream that one day they will fall off, and I will be able to fit in my old jeans. It really is just torture to see them hanging in the closet. I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but without feeling much of a dent in my clothing pile so far I am donating 37 pants, shirts, skirts and sweaters to Deseret Industries. The sad part is that many a day I walk in to my closet and feel as if I have nothing to wear. Ridiculous, I know!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The perfect time to go meatless

Winter time is a perfect time to try some meatless meals. Why? Because cold winter nights and meatless soups go together just like Donny and Marie, ketchup and mustard, Charlie Sheen and infidelity, Kanye West and a little hissy fit, and well, you get the point. When you serve a hearty vegetable soup with wholegrain bread, your family may not even realize the meat is missing. I always dread the end of summer and enduring long cold winter nights, but a good bowl of hot soup can push the winter blues away for a moment. I love steamed cauliflower, but my family doesn't, however they love this cream of cauliflower soup.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, chopped
2 (14.5 ounce) cans vegetable or chicken broth
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Swiss cheese, grated

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in potatoes and carrots and cook 5 minutes more. pour in broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cauliflower, cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Puree in batches in a blender or in the pot using an immersion blender. Return to low heat and stir in cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Heat through. Top with Swiss cheese.

This creamy soup and homemade cornbread go together like Joan Rivers and plastic surgery, Lindsay Lohan and rehab . . . . well, those things haven't worked out the best, but trust me on the bread and soup. Enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

For my grown-up taste buds


I grew up eating Captain Crunch and Wonder Bread. We had shredded wheat cereal in our house, but there was absolutely no way I was eating that wheat stuff without the frosted side. I remember trying Triscuit crackers once when I was a kid and couldn’t believe people would choose to eat those shredded mini-wheat crackers as a snack. Now they are my absolute favorite cracker. I will eat them plain, but I love them topped with Muenster cheese.


The best part is that they are made with whole wheat and only two other ingredients. I don’t know if another cracker exists that the recommended daily allowance of fiber is higher than the sodium and fat percentage. If you tried them before and didn’t like them, try them again when your taste buds are all grown up.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I guess if Al can do it so can I!

That would be Roker and not Gore. During the winter, my husband is obsessed with the weather. Since our business involves delivering each day, he wants to know if snow might be on the roads. So yesterday morning, he was flipping through the morning shows for weather updates, and I saw Al Roker with a bigger than usual smile on his face and a very large medal around his neck. Come to find out along with his colleague Meredith Vieira, he had run in the New York City Marathon. To be honest I am quite jealous. I ran the Snow Canyon half-marathon this weekend and about mile eleven I just wanted to cry. I have running a marathon on my bucket list, but the training schedule seems overwhelming. Maybe if I had a personal trainer, chef, and broadcast my progress on a TV show it might happen. Well, I don’t see any of those happening in the near or even very distant future so I guess I am on my own with that goal. As if Al Roker’s story of weight loss and marathon running wasn’t enough to inspire me, one of the Chilean miners also ran and finished the New York City Marathon. If he can train while trapped in a mine, I really have no excuse.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The reason I could never be a vegan


I love sour cream! I will eat it on just about anything. I always order a side of it when eating at a Mexican restaurant, and when my husband tries to share it with me; I usually give him the evil eye. At Sam’s Club, you can buy it in 3 and 5 pound containers and for me the bigger the better. I always thought sour cream was just sour cream until one day I happened to notice the list of ingredients on a container. Meadow Gold Sour Cream has 12 ingredients, and Daisy Sour Cream has just one – grade A cultured cream. It makes me wonder how many cancer causing chemicals I have consumed through the years. It is a little more money but I only purchase Daisy brand now, but it is probably cheaper in the long run when you factor in less health care costs.

I make these delicious Blueberry Muffins with my favorite sour cream. It is from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking with a little alteration.

Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
2 cups hard white wheat flour
1/2 cup barley flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups blueberries
Coarse sugar for sprinkling


Lightly grease muffin tin, or line with papers. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream, and mix well. Whisk together dry ingredients, and add to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed just until the batter is smooth. Gently fold in the berries and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scoop the batter by 1/4 cupful into prepared pans and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the muffins until a cake tester inserted in the center comes our clean, 22 to 26 minutes. Remove from oven and allow muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a rack to finish cooling.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Martha Stewart Meatless Monday

I love a corndog on occasion, and yet the thought of eating deep fried animal parts usually stops me from enjoying one. I used to be able to buy veggie corndogs in the freezer section but haven’t seen them lately. I began thinking about making my own and wondered if I could bake them instead of frying. Well, I googled baked corndogs and guess who had a recipe. That’s right – Martha Stewart. I decided to attempt the recipe with a change from all-purpose flour to whole grain flour. Now I wonder how Martha Stewart feels about one of her recipes being altered. I have never met her and I am not a faithful follower, but I can hear her in an ever so slightly condescending tone say, “Why change perfection.” That would not be a question but a statement. I am sure she is not pleased, but I changed it any way. She suggested 4 smoked chicken sausages, but I used 8 veggie dogs. These are a little time consuming when you consider most corndogs only require you to preheat your oven. I would definitely make them again, and they were a hit with my family. I also tried her speedy “baked” beans with no alterations. My husband and son loved them. The molasses taste was a little strong for my liking.


Baked Corn Dogs
 
1 1/6 cup hard white wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2/3 cup milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
8 veggie dogs
 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper. Make a well in the center; add milk, eggs, and oil. Mix just until combined.
Insert a stick into one end of each veggie dog. Dust with flour; tap off excess. Using handle, rotate each veggie dog over bowl as you spoon batter to coat evenly. Place on sheet; bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Using spatula, reapply batter that has slipped onto sheet. Return to even; bake until golden, 20 minutes. Serve with ketchup and mustard.
 
The recipe said prep time was 10 minutes. Maybe that is enough time for a true Martha Stewart fan, but it was more like 25 minutes for me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Good Day for a Chili Cook-off

In my part of the world, I woke up to snow. A nice bowl of chili is great for dinner on a blustery day like today. Most people combine big chunks of ground chuck and some kidney beans to make chili. That would all be good if today hadn’t been declared Meatless Monday by Paul McCartney. I have a chili recipe that would make Paul sing. I am not even sure where I got this recipe. I am not very environmentally friendly when it comes to recipes. If I see one I like, I print it off. I have a rather large stack of recipes to be tested. At least when I try one if I don’t like it I will recycle the paper. No recycling bin for this recipe. It is a keeper.

Healthy Black Bean Chili

          2 tablespoons olive oil
          1 large yellow onion, chopped
          1 large bell pepper, chopped ( the recipe called for a yellow pepper, I had a red one and used it)
          5 cloves garlic, minced
          2 teaspoons chili powder
          1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
          1 teaspoon dried oregano
          1/2 teaspoon salt
          1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
          4 cups cooked black beans
          2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
          2 cups mild salsa
          2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
          2 cups cooked wheat berries
          Juice of one lime
         
Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, salsa, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir in cooked wheat berries and heat through.
Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice. Garnish with your choice of sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and tortilla chips.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Have my taste buds been altered?

You know how people who give up sugar say that after a few weeks of no treats fruit tastes so much sweeter. Well, I have been wondering if eating whole grains has caused my taste buds to just expect the wholesome taste in my goodies. Last week, I made some Multigrain Snickerdoodles from a recipe in the King Arthur’s Whole Grain Cooking. I actually made them the previous week also, but I didn’t leave them in the fridge long enough and while baking spread too thin. My family ate and loved them anyhow, but they were not presentable to share with friends. Last week, I followed the instructions to leave them in the fridge overnight and they turned out perfect. They looked so good that I shared them with a couple neighbors. When my neighbor thanked me for them the next day, I told her that they were made with whole grains. She said, “Oh, I knew that.” Now I am perplexed. Did she know that because they obviously tasted that way, or did she know that because I have a reputation of whole grain baking? Either way, these cookies will definitely be in my cookie jar again!


Multigrain Snickerdoodles

Dough
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 large eggs
1 cup whole barley flour
3/4 cup hard white wheat flour
1 1/3 cup oat flour

Coating
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cream butter, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the orange juice and eggs. Add the flours and beat until well combined. Refrigerate the dough, covered, overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.

Combine sugar and cinnamon in a gallon size Ziploc bag. Drop the dough by tablespoons, 6 pieces at a time, into the bag. Zip the bag closed trapping some air inside. Shake gently to coat the balls with the sugar mixture. Place them on prepared baking sheets and flatten to about 1/2 inch thick, using the flat bottom of a drinking glass.

Bake the cookies, reversing the pans midway through (top to bottom, bottom to top), until they are beginning to brown around the edges, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Place them in an airtight container once they are cool. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Two Sense

1. If you haven’t seen the GQ Glee pictures, you must have been in a coma the past couple of days. So much talk about if they crossed the line. I just want to know why the girls are scantily clad sex kittens and the boy gets to be fully clothed and playing the drums? When are women going to unite and say enough is enough! We say we want equal rights, but then allow our value to be determined by our looks and sex appeal.


2. It was so exciting to see all the miners reunited with their families last week. Well, one wife decided to stay home when she realized her hubby not only had one but two mistresses. Now it is reported that this "gentleman" is going to receive $100,000 to work for one of the how-to-cheat websites. When are we going to stop rewarding bad behavior?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Take that Oprah!

Oprah devotes a whole show to it. Hoda and Kathie Lee talk about it every Monday. And so I thought I would join in the craze. I can’t guarantee that I will actually do it weekly like the Today Show, but you never know I might just have Favorite Things Fridays. I don’t enjoy celebrity status, but I am a real housewife from Utah with a list of my own favorite things. You won’t find me promoting a $50 t-shirt or a $200 bag that is designed to carry your coat when not in use because frankly I don't have the money for those things.



Being environmentally conscience, one of my favorite things is my reusable produce bags. Millions and millions of the plastic produce bags are used daily in the United States and most are probably just thrown in the trash. I purchased my bags from reusit.com for $3.45 each, and they make a great companion to my canvas shopping bags. The web site actually offers a variety of reusable items. So Go Green!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Suggestion for a Meatless Monday for Al Gore

I haven’t heard if Mr. Gore has joined the Meatless Monday campaign. I have been thinking about a meal that might be tempting for him to join. I make a Spinach Lasagna that my husband loves. In order to post this recipe for A.G., I actually had to figure out the exact quantities in this recipe. My daughter gets a little annoyed with me when she asks for a recipe, and I am not sure of the exact instructions. Sometimes I just cook, and the process is in my head. The other problem with that method is sometimes a dish turns out better than usual, and I don’t know what I did different. But enough about my life, I need to convince my planet saving friend to give up meat for a day, and I hope this recipe will do it. I spent extra time measuring and jotting down the amounts when I made this, and so I hope Al will give it a try!

Spinach Lasagna

Sauce
Saute the following:
small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Then add and simmer for about 15 minutes:
1 quart tomatoes, chopped
3 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon dried basil

Cheese Mixture
Combine the following:
24 ounces cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

9 uncooked lasagna noodles (whole wheat works great)*
8 cups loosely packed chopped spinach
4 cups grated mozzarella or Italian blend cheese

In a 9x13 casserole dish, layer the following:
a little bit of sauce to cover the bottom of the pan, 3 noodles, 1/2 the cheese mixture, 1/2 the spinach, 1/3 of the sauce, 1/3 of the cheese, 3 noodles, 1/2 cheese mixture, 1/2 spinach, 1/3 of the sauce, 1/3 of the cheese, 3 noodles, cover noodles with remaining sauce and cheese.
Bake covered for 1 hour at 375 degrees.
It is best if you let it sit for at least 1 hour before cutting.


* I have used these whole wheat noodles in this recipe and my family didn't detect a difference in the taste from the regular noodles. One of the things I have hated about making lasagna is cooking the noodles before layering all the ingredients. This recipe works great to let the noodles cook during baking, and they actually absorb the taste of the sauce.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The View from Here


That is the view of part of my 6 mile run yesterday. Running this hill is always a challenge. It is only 1.6 miles to the end of the street, but every inch of the way it feels like my quads and calves are on fire. I have to tell myself to keep going because once I start walking part of the way, it is easy to stop and walk again. I have this little trick I do in my head as I am running a hard stretch. I pick a tree, light pole, or traffic sign up ahead and picture myself tied to that tree by a bungee cord. This seems weird, but as I do it, I can almost feel myself being pulled toward the tree. If I look at the entire street and focus on all I must climb to get to the end, I could easily give up.

Life is similar to jogging. Sometimes we are on an easy down hill path that feels like we could go forever. Sometimes we are just plugging along and doing the day to day mundane things like the flat trail without much of a view. And then there are the times in our lives when every step feels hard, and we have to convince ourselves not to give up and if we just keep moving that we can make it to the end. Sometimes we have to get through each day dealing with just one small step and not allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by the big picture, and then pray that somehow we can feel someone pulling us along.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

For Those Who Don’t Have Time to Read

Are you someone who loves to read, but doesn’t have the time? Do you wish that you liked to read, but find yourself just waiting for the movie to come out? Do you think all books should have cliff notes? Or do you hate to read an entire book when it’s just a small percentage of the book you end up enjoying? Well if you said yes to any of these questions, then this post is for you. Often times when I am reading a book, I will keep track of the lines in the book that caused an aha moment. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand had several.


     “The world is full of small ignorances. We must all do our best to ignore them and thereby keep them small.”

     “It was never a good idea to confide in people. They always remembered, and when they came up to you in the street, years later, you could see the information was still firmly attached to your face and present in the way they said your name and the pressure of their hand clasping yours.”

     “Don’t worry about it. I don’t have space in my head to put up with harmless old gits trying to make me feel bad. I’ve learned to tell the difference between the people who can really hurt you and those who just want to look down their noses.”

      "'Oh, it’s simple Pragmatism, Dad. It’s called the real world. If we refused to do business with the morally questionable, the deal volume would drop in half and the good guys like us would end up poor. Then where would we all be?'
     'On a nice dry spit of land known as the moral high ground?' suggested the Major.”

     “I think we wake up every day with high intentions and by dusk we have routinely fallen short. Sometimes I think God created the darkness just so he didn’t have to look at us all the time.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Dessert Dilemma

Sometimes it seems just impossible to please everyone in my family with one dessert. We have some who love nuts in their brownies and others who won’t eat them with nuts. My one daughter loves whip cream as a cake topping, and my son wants frosting. Hot fudge is a favorite with some while others just like a cold chocolate sauce. Pumpkin pie pleases three of my children, and the other two want chocolate. Even a simple chocolate cake brings the struggle between white or chocolate frosting. I love to make desserts, but I hate the look of disappointment on my child’s face when they ask what I am making, and it’s not what they like. It is hard to please everyone, and yet they all think that is my job!


Last week, I decided to make a dessert pizza. I knew four of my children would be excited, and one would be very disappointed. I had this great idea to make extra cookie dough and make sugar cookies for the non-fruit dessert lover. I also had been eyeing this cookie recipe in my King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking Book. And now I have created more dessert dilemmas. My husband and one daughter loved the flavor of this recipe as the crust, and another preferred the simple sugar cookie dough I made before. I am definitely in a cookie quandary!


Soft Barley-Sugar Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large eggs
3 cups barley flour
1 cup spelt flour*
2/3 cup sour cream
Coarse white or granulated sugar for topping

Cream the butter, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, nutmeg, vanilla, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add the eggs and beat until smooth.
Whisk together the flours in a separate bowl. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating to combine. Beat in the sour cream, then the remaining flour. Refrigerate the dough overnight.
Scoop out dough and form into a ball and roll in sugar. Bake on a greased baking sheet in a 450 degree preheated oven for 8 minutes.

I rolled out about 2/3 of this dough and placed on a greased cookie sheet for my dessert pizza crust.

* Original recipe called for unbleached all-purpose flour, but I used spelt flour instead.



Thursday, October 7, 2010

I have a confession

I love pies. Apple pie, pumpkin, fresh strawberry pie, chocolate cream pie, and Marie Callendar’s sour cream lemon pie are among my favorites, but my absolute favorite would have to be a pecan pie. The confession isn’t that I love pies, but that I like my pies minus any whole grain. I have tried a whole wheat crust and to be honest it just ruins the whole pie for me. So, even though it is out of character for my normal baking habits, and it kills me to admit it, I choose to use white flour in my pie crusts. I think I can blame this issue on my upbringing. Every year for Thanksgiving, our home would be inundated with pies. My mother and aunts would make the best pies with the most incredibly flaky crusts. I wasn’t really fond of the pie filling back then; I was really just interested in eating the crust. In fact, if I am confessing, I remember sitting by the pies and hoping that a piece of the fluted edge would just happen to fall off if the pie accidentally got bumped. I think my mom was on to me because she repeatedly had to tell me to get away from the pies.

 
I tried a new pie recipe last week. I had quite a few peaches and wanted to try something a little different. I found a recipe for a Peach-a-Berry Pie on allrecipes.com. This pie was gone in less than 24 hours. I was craving it the following day and decided to make another one. It lasted a couple days.

Peach-a-Berry Pie
4 cups fresh peaches - peeled, pitted and sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pie crusts
2 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into pieces

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Place peaches and berries in a colander for about 15 minutes to drain any excess fluid, then transfer to a large bowl. Gently toss with sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Transfer to a pie crust. Dot with butter, and top with remaining crust. Cut vents in top crust.
    3. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven until crust is golden brown.

I can't wait for Thanksgiving!
And thanks mom for all the great pies through the years!

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Meat Free Monday

I was wondering the other day if Paul McCartney and Al Gore get together for a little meeting to determine what green advice should be shared with the world to help us little people be better stewards of our environment. And do they invite Robert Redford? Paul McCartney has launched a new campaign on his Help the Planet website. It is called “Meat Free Mondays”. Now I know Sir Paul is a vegetarian, but I just don’t see Mr. Gore going along with this campaign. He seems like a meat and potatoes guy to me. Usually most vegetarians are on the thin side, and well, Al Gore is not exactly slender. I think that we Americans eat way too much meat, and so I am giving Paul McCartney my full support and cooperation on his new campaign. Actually, we usually have meat free Mondays at our house. We also have meat free Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Typically we have meat twice a week. Now when I tell people this little interesting tidbit about our family, the first question is “What do you eat?” It takes a little more creativity to make meatless dishes that your family will like and give them the protein their bodies need, but it can be done. One of my all time favorite meat free meals is Baked Vegetarian Chimichangas. I found this recipe on a vegan website. It called for soy cheese and a non-dairy sour cream. I like the real stuff, and so that is how I make it.

BAKED VEGETARIAN CHIMICHANGAS

            1/2 cup chopped onions
            6 cloves garlic, minced
            1 tablespoon olive oil
            1 (7 ounce) can chopped green chilies
            1 (16 ounce) vegetarian refried beans
            1 1/2 cups of your favorite salsa
            2 cups cooked brown rice
            1 (16 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
            1/2 teaspoon salt
            2 teaspoons chili powder
            2 teaspoons powdered cumin
            3 tablespoons sour cream
            1 1/2 cups grated colby jack cheese

            8-10 large burrito size tortillas or 12-14 medium size flour tortillas (I like the uncooked flour tortillas the best)
            olive oil
            cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado for garnish, as desired

1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is soft.  Add green chilies, flatten mixture in bottom of pan and saute without stirring until onions begin to caramelize a little, remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Add onion mixture.
3. Depending on size of tortilla, place 1/2 to 1 cup filling on each tortilla. Fold the bottom over the filling, fold the sides in, then carefully fold it over to close. Brush each chimichanga with olive oil.
4. Place chimichangas on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
5. Add cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and tomatoes, and enjoy!

Beans and whole grain combined make a complete protein. These make excellent leftovers. Just place in the oven for about 15 minutes to reheat and enjoy for lunch the next day.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Every 20 Minutes Makes a Difference


So yesterday at my local fitness center they began their annual Fall Fitness Challenge. Each time you go in to work out, they give you a sticker to put up next to your name, and when you have collected seven stickers, you get a prize. Somehow a little acknowledgement of our effort motivates many of us to work out more. I know when I have a goal, I am more motivated to put my running shoes on. I have read that for every mile a person walks they add 20 minutes to their life. So after a 3 mile run, I will add an additional hour to my life. I would need to go 72 miles to add a full day, 504 miles for a week, and 2160 miles to add a full month. I have often wondered how many miles do I actually run, walk, bike, and swim in a year. If I averaged 15 miles per week, after one year, I would have added 11 days to my 79.5 year life expectancy. I think I would like to add 15 days to my life during the next year. That would mean that I need to average 20.76 miles per week. I am sure that I exceed that amount during the summer, but the winter is much harder for me to stay motivated. So my goal is set, and a year from now my life expectancy will be up .041. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when life is short, every second counts!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Now That's Italian

I am not sure if the low carb craze is over yet, like other fad diets that have come and gone, but I could never follow that type of diet because I LOVE bread. Love of bread runs in my family. My grandmother loved bread, my mom loves bread, and my sister is the queen of bread loving. At family dinners, she will always be found in the kitchen waiting for the homemade rolls to come out of the oven. It is definitely a genetic weakness. My love affair with bread is one of the main reasons I like to eat at Italian restaurants. Macaroni Grill has my favorite Italian bread. It has a variety of herbs baked in the bread and tastes wonderful dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  I found this recipe online one day when searching for breads and thought it might taste similar to the bread at Macaroni Grill. It called for only a small amount of whole wheat flour. I changed that and added olive oil instead of shortening. This bread is a hit with my family.

Italian Herb Bread

3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
7 1/2 cups hard white wheat flour
1 cup high gluten bread flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon dough enhancer
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tsp dried basil
2 1/2 tsp dried dill
2 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2/3 cup snipped fresh parsley

Dissolve yeast and one tablespoon of the sugar in warm water in large bowl or bread mixer. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and knead for 7 minutes. Let rise for 1 hour. Punch down and divide into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 10 x 8 inch rectangle. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal. Whisk an egg white and 1 tablespoon water; brush over loaves. With a sharp knife, make four shallow slashes across the top of each loaf. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. This bread works great to freeze the loaves before allowing them to rise. Just take out several hours before baking to thaw and rise and you can have warm homemade bread with your pasta.


I love this bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
It also makes great sandwich bread.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Crazy Thoughts of the Day

Whose crazy idea was it to have Katy Perry on Sesame Street? She certainly isn’t anyone I would want my preschooler to identify with fully clothed or not.

One of the craziest families on TV is the Heck family from The Middle. I had watched a few reruns of this show during the summer, and thought it was quite funny. Wednesday evening was its season premiere, and I was laughing crazy hard.

The "experts" featured on Nightline sharing their beliefs that all sugar is bad just seem a little crazy to me. Can you really put an apple and a package of skittles in the same category because they each contain the same amount of sugar? People who believe all sugars are bad, and therefore avoid fruit, but then think nothing of eating fries and a Big Mac just drive me crazy!

I have never watched Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. Even if I had cable I would probably find him a little bit of a potty mouth for my taste. As I watched him on Oprah this week talking about his Rally to Restore Sanity, I thought he had some good points. He said it is the craziest among us who get the attention in our society, and often lawmakers try to pass legislation to stop the crazies. But many of these laws seem insane and end up restricting the freedoms of the normal. His point - you just can’t legislate crazy!

One of my favorite children’s books is Flipped. I just happened to be watching the Today Show one day when Rob Reiner was on to promote the movie he directed based on the book. It was the first I had heard about the movie. He said it was in limited release, and so I began watching to see when it would be in the Salt Lake area. It came two weeks ago and is almost on its way out. This maybe a crazy idea, but it seems like Hollywood wants PG movies to fail. It had almost no advertising, and even many fans of the book weren’t even aware a movie had been made.

How many crazies are there on Survivor this season? Too many to count! I often wonder if some of these contestants have ever watched the show before they go on it. I am not sure who is crazier the person who takes a pair of shoes and after filling them with sand sinks them in the ocean and then confesses, or the person who brings a $1600 pair of shoes on the show.

How crazy would it be to be evacuated from your home and not know if your home will survive a raging fire? As my family watched the news Sunday evening about the Herriman fire, we were saddened for all the families who left their homes that day not knowing if they would lose all they had left behind. We listed all the things we would try to take with us. Of course pictures and keepsakes were the first things on our list. In my bathroom, I have a jewelry box that was handmade by a daughter and given to me on Mother’s Day during a time when I truly thought she hated me. Because it isn’t with all of our other memorabilia, it would probably have been left behind. I wonder how many things were left behind by the families who lost their homes, and just now they are realizing they lost something that was very precious to them. It is crazy how it is the things that cost the least amount that we would try to save.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Move Over Windex

Whenever I walk down the cleaning supplies isle of the grocery store, I feel a little nauseated by all of the chemicals and fragrances. I have always tried to buy fragrance free products, but even the chemical smells of many items would still make me feel queasy. My new thing lately has been to try homemade green cleaning products. For years, I have used vinegar to mop my floor and clean spills on my carpet, but it can be used for so many other chores around the home. The acetic acid in vinegar kills germs, mold, viruses, and bacteria. Vinegar is also a deodorizer, as you work with it; it freshens the air and neutralizes odors. A recipe for an all-purpose cleaner is quite simple and very inexpensive.


All-purpose Cleaner

Fill a spray bottle one-third full with white vinegar. Fill with cold water. Add 10 drops of your favorite essential oil (lemon, eucalyptus, orange, or tea tree are great for the kitchen and bathroom). It works great on tile, countertops, mirrors, and appliances.

Other ideas for vinegar include adding ¼ cup white vinegar to your washing machine’s rinse cycle to help rinse out detergent completely and leave clothes soft and reduce static cling. To freshen a toilet bowl, pour two or three cups of white vinegar into the toilet bowl, let it sit for a few hours, then scrub and flush. Vinegar can also be used to remove underarm odors from clothing. Vinegar is great for the hair after the pool to get out chlorine. Rinse hair with vinegar and then shampoo as normal. Equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle make a good fruit and vegetable wash. Spray on produce, rub and rinse. The acetic acid in vinegar kills bacteria and helps to dissolve the wax and pesticide residues found on the skins of many fruits and vegetables. It is funny that Windex now boasts that it contains vinegar when actually all you need is vinegar to keep windows and mirrors clean.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The True Test of a Good Dessert

Many times I will try a new dessert and my family will say that they like it, but then it sits on my counter uneaten. I believe that I am to assume that they were just being polite, and I don’t need to make that dessert again. Every summer I seem to be trying to find the perfect chocolate zucchini cake recipe that will taste good when I convert it to whole grain and quite possibly the search has finally ended. I wasn’t so sure if the cake I made this past week was really good until it was gone in just two days.


Whole Wheat Chocolate Zucchini Cake

                          2 1/2 cups hard white wheat flour
                          1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
                          1 teaspoon soda
                          1 teaspoon baking powder
                          1/2 teaspoon salt
                          1 cup brown sugar
                          1/2 cup sugar
                          1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
                          1/2 cup buttermilk
                          3 large eggs
                          1 teaspoon vanilla extract
                          2 cups shredded zucchini
                          1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9x13 cake pan or bundt pan. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugars and butter until smooth. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla; mix well. Add half the dry ingredients, stirring until evenly moistened. Stir in the zucchini and then the remaining flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. For bundt cake, allow to cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before removing cake from pan. Cool completely and drizzle with chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons corn syrup

Heat the heavy cream to a simmer, and pour over the chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir in corn syrup, and keep stirring until there are no more lumps and the mixture is smooth. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Produce Surprise

Several months ago, a friend told me about bountifulbaskets.org. It is a produce co-op run primarily by volunteers. For fifteen dollars, you get about 12 different kinds of vegetables and fruits. The baskets need to be ordered on Monday evening and picked up Saturday morning. The fun thing is that each week it is a surprise as to what interesting produce my family will get to eat. Sometimes it is something that I wouldn’t normally buy, and I get to find and try a new recipe. This week waiting for me was a cabbage. I have bought cabbages in the past, but I don’t buy them on a regular basis. I decided to make coleslaw. I tried a new recipe, and my family thought it was great.

Creamy Coleslaw

1 head green cabbage, chopped into small pieces ( I use the shredder attachment to my Bosche)
1 large carrot, peeled and finely shredded

Whisk together the following for the dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
dash garlic powder

Pour the dressing over the veggies, and mix well to combine. Store covered in refrigerator for several hours to blend flavors.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

No Disappearing Act


For the past several years, I have been collecting a pile of glass containers in my garage with the intent of recycling them someday. The pile was beginning to impede my daughter’s ability to get from her car to the house. The time had come to figure out where to take this load. It was really simple enough. There are several glass recycling drop off locations in the Salt Lake area. The easiest for me was at the Salt Lake landfill located at 6030 West California Avenue. They have several very large bins for glass, cardboard, plastics, and aluminum. The amazing thing about glass is that it can be recycled an indefinite number of times without losing quality or purity. When it ends up in the landfill, I have read that it can take up to a million years to break down. I am not sure how they figure a million years, but that seems to be general consensus by Al Gore and friends. Here is an interesting list compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy of how long it takes certain items to decompose in a landfill:
Banana peel: 3-4 weeks
    Paper box: 1-2 months
 Cotton sock: 5-6 months
           Wood: 10-20 years
    Leather belt: 40-50 years
    Aluminum can: 200-500 years
Disposable diaper: 500-600 years
                Styrofoam cup: 1 million years or more
                   Glass bottle: 1 million years or more

I was feeling a little bit of guilt for all the previous items that I have sent to the landfill. Well, maybe not for the disposable diapers. I like being green, but I don’t think I could ever do cloth diapers, so I am glad that I am past having to make that decision.  :)