Saturday, January 31, 2009

An even easier bread

I was talking with a dear friend and she mentioned that she wanted to make a chicken recipe that she had seen but they don't really drink beer. So in order to make this chicken, they would have to buy a 6 pack and then have 5 beers sitting around for however long.

The recipe they were wanting to try is Beer Can Chicken. This is a chicken that you season with whatever (I use Tony Chachere’s) and then stand the chicken up with the beer can open in the cavity. Yummmmmm.

So I offered to give her a beer but then later remembered one of my favorite quick breads and so gave her 2 beers plus a recipe.

Southern Living came out with this a few years ago and it is such a simple recipe with a flavorful bread. I have made it half whole wheat / half all-purpose but it doesn't always turn out. Sometimes it is too dense that way (I think you have to add baking powder or baking soda to make it with the whole wheat).

So if you are wanting to make beer can chicken and want a way to use up the extra beer, this is a great recipe.

Sweet beer bread

3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 (12-ounce) beer*
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

Stir together first 3 ingredients; pour into a lightly greased 9- x 5-inch loaf pan.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Pour melted butter over top. Bake 10 more minutes.

*Non-alcoholic or light beer may be substituted.

Cheddar-Chive Beer Bread: Add 3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives to dry ingredients. Proceed as directed.

I will say that different beers give different flavors. My favorite beer to make this is Shiner Bock, but it is also my favorite to drink. But I made it with a different beer (Killian's Red or Sam Adams I think) and the bread had a sharper taste. So if you don't like it, the beer that you used could be the problem.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Even a flaky blond can bake bread

And now, so can the daughter of a flaky blond.

Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures.

Let me back up a bit. Daisy is doing bread pudding for youth fair and she has to make the bread for the bread pudding.

Lucky for her, she has a weird mom who has experimented with bread-making before. I knew just the recipe to try for french bread.

Wednesday was a cold nasty day outside so having a warm kitchen filled with the smells of bread baking sounded wonderful.

If you have one of those wonderful Kitchenaid mixers with the doughhook then this is almost as easy as a bread machine recipe. If you don't have one, well the bread will be almost negative calories from the kneading.

So first you want to proof the yeast. I buy the jars of yeast and then keep it in the freezer. My jar said it expired in 2005 but when I proofed it, I could tell they were still alive.

So you take 1 1/2 cups of warm water that is at about 105-115 F and add to it 1 packet active dry yeast with 1 teaspoon sugar. The yeast love their warm bath and eat the sugar and grow. Let it sit about 5 minutes so that it gets foamy.

Then pour it into the mixer bowl along with 2 cups of all purpose flour. Let that mix a bit, and then add another 2 cups of flour plus the 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt.

Don't do what Daisy did. The measuring cup does not want to be in the mixing bowl. The mixer will break the measuring cup (thank goodness it was plastic or it would be a broken mixer.) Flour went e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e!!!!

Now here is where it gets tricky.

You might need to add more flour or you might be perfect. If the bowl is almost completely clean and the dough is in a wad climbing up the hook and then falling back down, then you have enough flour. You don't want a dusting of flour left in the bowl, but you also don't want it to have tar baby consistency. Let it knead for a few minutes. What gives bread its wonderful texture is thee gluten and air bubbles. The yeast produces bubbles (remember proofing it?) and the bubbles would escape the bread except the gluten acts like a chewing gum and holds the bubbles in. Also like chewing gum, you can't pop a piece in your mouth and expect great bubbles immediately. You have to chew the gum and stretch it for a minute or so before you can blow a bubble. Gluten needs to be worked too.

Take your ball of dough and place it in a bowl twice as big as it seems to need. You can oil the bowl first, place the dough in and turn it over (so that the dough has got a light coating of oil) OR you can put the dough in the bowl, spray some Pam on it, turn it and spray again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warmish place for 1 1/2 hours when it should be about doubled.

Preheat the oven to 475- 500 degrees.

Grab the lump of dough and knead it, and stretch it and roll it into a loaf
that is about 21 inches by 3 inches. Place it diagonally on a cookie sheet that has been lightly greased (I don't know that greasing it is necessary).

Let it rise for another 30 minutes and then take a sharp knife or razor and cut diagonal slashes on the bread (think of the french bread you buy at the store, they just cut the surface of the bread before it bakes to make it look like that.)

Bake for about 30 minutes. If you want a chewy crust, place a small baking dish with water in the oven to keep the moisture level up.

The bread will be a lovely golden brown and will sound hollow when done. Let it cool at least somewhat before cutting.

That's all there is to it. Next time, I promise to get some pictures and post them.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Redeemed -- almost

This morning the kidlets were singing Little Rabbit Frou-Frou and added some verses.

If you don't know Little Rabbit Frou-Frou, I am sorry but you had a deprived childhood.

I'll sing it for you, but my voice isn't the best. The hand motions are the best part.

Little rabbit Frou-Frou (make bunny ears with your fingers and hop them around)
hoppin' through the forest (still bunny ears)
pickin' up the field mice (make a scooping motion)
and boppin' them on the head (bop on fist on top of the other)
Along came the good fairy and she said (sorry no motions here)
Little rabbit Frou-Frou (wagging finger like you are fussing at someone)
I don't wanna see you (still wagging finger, good fairy is hacked)
pickin' up the field mice (again with the scooping motion)
and boppin' them on the head (again with the fist bopping)
I'll give you 3 more chances and then I'll turn you into a goose (hold up 3 fingers, then wave your hand around like you have a wand)

Then it repeats until Little Rabbit Frou-Frou is turned into a goose, because he is more incorrigable than my children.


This morning after singing it, my children tacked on some more verses.


Little goose Frou-Frou (make walking fingers and waddle them around)
waddlin' through the forest (still waddling)
pickin' up the field mice (make a scooping motion)
and kissin' them on the head (kiss on fist)
Along came the good fairy and she said (sorry no motions here)
Little rabbit Frou-Frou (still wagging finger, 'cause she couldn't think of a new motion)
I'm so glad to see you (still wagging finger)
pickin' up the field mice (again with the scooping motion)
and kissin' them on the head (again with the fist kissing)
I'll give you 3 more chances and then I'll turn you back into a rabbit (hold up 3 fingers, then wave your hand around like you have a wand)

So this ended much like the other, except that when Little Rabbit Frou-Frou was turned back into a rabbit, he got rude. He said "geese drool and rabbits rule" which made the Good Fairy mad because apparently her family is full of geese. So the rabbit was turned back into a goose.

I kid you not, this is what they came up with.

I am just glad that God is more forgiving than the Good Fairy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sometimes you feel like you are doing something right

Motherhood can be rough. Some days you feel like a washrag that has been wrung out too tightly. Other days you feel like you are being pecked to death by chickens.

But sometimes, just sometimes, you hear about something your child has done and this indescribable wave of joy, pride, love, and gratitude washes over you. It's not a feeling of "I am an amazing parent" but a feeling of "thank you God for this wonderful little person that I have the privlege of watching them grow into the Godly person that you have designed them to be."

We had a playdate today with a little girl, I'll call her Rose, who is a year younger than Daisy. Both of my kids are very outgoing and so there wasn't any of that awkwardness that sometimes happens with kids who don't play together often. Rose's mom and I got busy talking and before we knew it, we had been there 3 1/2 hours at McDonalds.

As we were leaving, Daisy told me about some difficulties that Rose's family were having (dad lost his job in Nov) and both kids were pretty concerned.

Later I got an email from Rose's mom. She said that Rose told her about the conversation she and Daisy had about the job. She was glad that Rose was able to talk to Daisy about it, they didn't even realize that Rose was worried about it.

There are not too many feelings quite like finding out your child has blessed someone.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Because I need more chaos . . .

One of the benefits of participating in 4-H is that the kids also get to do the county youth fair. [ insert big fake grin here ]

Our youth fair is in Febuary and right now it looks like our quiet weekend will be Valentines day. Between a family wedding, tae kwon do competition, pre-teen camp and youth fair, the shortest month will be completely full.

For youth fair Junior will be making applesauce bread. I tried to get him to do a different one, like banana bread. Junior was adamant. Since I wouldn't let him do chocolate cake with frosting, he was going to do applesauce bread.

I know, now you are wondering why no chocolate cake.

I have never made a chocolate cake without a box mix of some kind being involved.

Shameful, I know.

The youth fair rules won't let you use any kind of mix, so a chocolate cake would be a bit difficult for us.

Daisy is going to be showing rabbits and making a bread pudding. The bread pudding is turning into a challenge of its own.

I tried to get Daisy to make rice pudding. I can eat rice pudding.

Nope. She was bound and determined to make bread pudding.

Fine.

So we enter her recipe, only to find out the fun news.

Remember the rule about mixes?

Well, that same rule also applies to pre-made products. So to make bread pudding, Daisy will have to make the bread.

From scratch.

She is delighted that she gets to bake bread. I do have a simple recipe for her to throw together, its just . . . .

It would have been so much easier with rice pudding.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lazy Sunday

I fell off the workout wagon.

I do have a good excuse though, some kind of stomach bug bit me.

So I didn't work out Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or today. The first 3 days, I really wasn't up to it. Today I was lazy.

I will get back to working out on monday.

I really will.

--------------------------------------


On the plus side, I was able to work on my 9/9/9 challenge.

2 books down.

In the "Books I Already Own" category, I read Deborah Bedford's book Blessing.
It was a good book, not anything deep, but I also had a stomach bug. I didn't want to have to think.

And then I also read Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon. I love that book. (I also love the movies, both of them but that's beside the point.) Not only do you get to step into another world, but also another century. I am a bit bugged though that it is a fictionalized account so I may have to read the memoirs of Anna Leonowens. Although some scholars are saying she might have not been completely truthful (who is?). So I guess this goes in the General Fiction category.

So 2 down, 79 to go.

Die hard fan

Grateful for Grace has asked a question on her blog, which product are you a die hard fan of. Which products do you insist on having a certain brand, no other will do.

So I suppose I ought to confess.

I have a thing for hot tea.

I like a wide variety of hot tea for different moods, time of day, etc. Celestial Seasonings Peppermint tea makes me smile to smell it; their Tension Tamer tea is wonderfully soothing; I love the floral notes to a jasmine tea; gunpowder tea is just fun and flavorful; I have some wonderful green tea brought from China that tastes fresh picked. . . . and on and on.

But the tea that I drink every day, my absolute favorite is English Breakfast.

Not any English Breakfast, but Twinnings English Breakfast.

If I don't have any of it for breakfast, I will just have coffee.

So I am not completely loyal as in I buy no other tea; but for for my morning tea, no other will do.

Oh and I am completely with Grateful of Grace on the Luzianne thing. Their ice tea is way better, although I prefer it with caffeine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I know I used to have a brain. . .

Because of this post by Jamie, I realized that apparently I read nothing last year other than twaddle, fluff and drivel. Or if I did read anything of importance, I forgot it.

Once upon a time, I did read good stuff. For fun. Like Tale of Two Cities, Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility, Hamlet and Jane Eyre (2 times for school and also again on my own). I even read Vanity Fair -- the longest book ever except for the Bible, at 1008 pages. And that was before the movie was made.

Most of them I read because I assumed that if I heard of them and they were old . . . they had to be good. Most of them were. The only book that I absolutely hated, loathed and despised was Lord of the Flies.

So then at Jamie's blog I read about the 9/9/9 challenge, which sounds great until you realize that it is 81 books. But I am going to try anyway.

It's got to be better than last year, where I don't remember anything I read.

Even if I only read 1/2 of them.

So anyway, the idea is to read 9 books in 9 different categories during 2009.

I don't have my list completely ironed out yet (because who knows what whims will strike between now and then) but here is what I am thinking:

    General fiction

  • to be honest, I am not going to try to guess anything that will go here. This one will be the easiest to fill though


    Non-fiction

  • Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv

  • Bringing up Boys, Richard Dobson

  • again, I don't know what all will go here


    Classics I want to reread:

  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte -- I haven't read it in at least 15 years

  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

  • Persuasion, Jane Austen

  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

  • Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson

  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne - one of the few American Lit that I liked

  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas


    Classics I may have missed: I don't remember these, but I may have read them. I tend to read all the books of a particular author I like.

  • Villette, Charlotte Bronte

  • Shirley, Charlotte Bronte

  • Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

  • Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen

  • Emma, Jane Austen

  • The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas

  • The Man in the Iron Mask, Alexandre Dumas

  • Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

  • The Wizard of Oz, Frank L Baum


    Classics I know I missed:

  • Swiss Family Robinson, Johann Wyss

  • The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper

  • King Soloman's Mines, H. Rider Haggard

  • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo

  • The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe

  • The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

  • Ivanhoe, Walter, Sir Scott

  • Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens

  • David Copperfield, Charles Dickens --I started either this or Oliver T and never finished. Might as well add it to the list.


    Books to read aloud to the kids:

  • Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

  • Junglebook, Rudyard Kipling

  • Kim, Rudyard Kipling

  • some of the Marguerite Henry books like Sea Star, & Misty of Chincoteague

  • Sarah, Plain and Tall, Patricia MacLachlan

  • A Door in the Wall, Marguerite De Angeli

  • Robin Hood, Howard Pyle

  • The Moffats, Eleanor Estes

  • The Burgess Animal Book for Children, Thornton Burgess


    Biography

  • The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom --I will be rereading it, but it's been over 15 years

  • To the Last Salute: Memories of an Austrian U-Boat Commander, Georg von Trapp

  • Maria, by Maria von Trapp (and maybe some of the others by her)

  • Any suggestions?



    Christian / Theology

  • The Shack, Will Young

  • Fox's Book of Martyrs, John Foxe

  • Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

  • The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis

  • Rumors of Another World, Philip Yancy


    Books I own but haven't read yet:

  • Poisonwood Bible

  • Blessing, Deborah Bedford

  • others in random places around, that I have been meaning to read


Anyone else up for the challange?

A new phone and other stuff

It is finally time for an upgrade on my phone, which should excite everyone because I won't be muttering "I hate my phone, I hate my phone. . . " anymore. I wouldn't take another Motorola if you paid me.

I will not get started on a rant about my former phone.

So I picked up a new phone yesterday.

And I love it.

Except one thing

It won't sync with my computer.

Which is something I would really like to be able to do, sync the calendar on my phone with my computer. Plus I like having a backup list of phone numbers since my last phone would randomly delete numbers (did I mention I hate my old phone?).

So I am trying to decide between keeping my lovely new red phone that is missing one thing that I have really, really been wanting or exchanging it with a phone that should be able to sync with outlook.

Workout report
For my one skip day, I chose Sunday because I was on day 2 of this lovely headache and that day I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I did do the other days, maybe somewhat half-heartedly but I did them.

As for my headache, I ate too many flour products, which gave me a headache. Then by the time I had gotten the flour out of my system, I had/have knots in my shoulders. Last night I actually went to bed "at a decent hour" which if you know me, says alot. Today the headache is mostly gone, just the lingering effects.

Sad to say though
I was going to make Chicken and Dumplings -- almost worth a migrane -- but I would like to wait until this headache is gone. It is one of those meals that takes some effort but makes alot and is so good. It's my family's favorite.

Maybe next week.

For now we are practicing dishes for youth fair. Lucky me, both kids are making stuff with flour so I can't eat any of it!

At the very least, I have to be very careful on how much I eat.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An actual conversation

Today I slept late because a headache kept me from sleeping well last night. At the best of times, I am not a morning person. When I still have the remains of a headache, I am even worse.

So I am sitting there, minding my own business when Hubby says: "They still sell your coffee pot so we can buy another one."

me "You mean the french press that broke?"

Hubs "No the Corningware that you use."

me "but I don't want another one."

Hubs "why?"

me "I don't need 2 coffee makers." (I do have 2 coffee makers,the percolator and one of those with the thermal carafes that takes up about 6 feet of counter space. Its in a closet.)

Hubs "but we can still buy one, so that means we can get parts"

me "huh?"

Hubs "I got curious if we could get parts. Its a good little coffee maker with only 2 parts to go out, the heating element and the cord, so I got curious if we could get parts. They did sell one that sits on the stove top but that one has a recall because it would overheat and shatter."

me "oh."

Yep, that's me. Witty conversationalist.

Friday, January 16, 2009

various and sundry

Today we went and saw a production of Stellaluna at the community college and the kids loved it. It was funny and wonderfully done. I am amazed at the difference in behavior of these kids (K-4) compared to others we have been to (4th and up). You would think the youngers would have impulse control issues and so would act up more than the older ones (who should know how to behave better.) You would be wrong. There have been schooltime performances where I have regretted going during schooltime hours, but the kids at this one were very well behaved.

fitness update


The only day I missed completely was Sunday, but we had been out of town (and that's why I only promised to do 6 days a week). I did sort of wimp out a couple days and only do a 15 minute workout but that's it.

My next work out with "My Fitness Coach" will be another fitness test to see how I have improved. Or not.


New blog


In other news, I decided to move all my recipes to a new blog, and do nothing but recipes and cooking stuff there.

We will see how well that works.

Right now its kind-of skimpy, only about 19 recipes, but I am putting all my family favorite recipes. Some of them are gluten-free and most some are not. Many of these recipes are ones I loved before I started eating mostly gluten free. I can think of very few meals that were not based around pasta or some other form of flour. Thankfully, I am not craving wheat pasta like I used to.

Please ignore the template. I haven't quite decided how I want to design it yet so its just one of the standard background with some slight tweeks.

The address is chaos-in-the-kitchen dot blogspot dot com

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Because I am a total copycat

Jamie over at Oh Be Careful did this thingy, and I’m going to do it, too. It was fun and easy and made me realize I’m not as well-rounded as I think.

If you want to do this as well, just bold the stuff that you have done while leaving the rest of it normal.

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars--eww there could be bugs out there

3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland/world

8. Climbed a mountain.

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo--in the shower--totally counts

11. Bungee jumped -- are you insane, no way!

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch-- if knitting or tatting count

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables --if all we wanted to eat was peppers and tomatoes

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29 Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise

33 Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41 Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance -- almost got a ride home in one once though (worked at the hospital and car broke down)

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60 Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Gotten flowers for no reason

64 Donated blood, platelets, or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced on a trampoline

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79 Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book (a poem in a book, once)

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury --every time I have been called, I have been pregnant on bedrest

91. Met someone famous

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a lawsuit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

Monday, January 12, 2009

We need some Shirley Temple -- my only economy post

Have you ever watched any of the old Shirley Temple movies?

I used to love them as a child, I watched Heidi over and over.

Then as a teen, I thought they were silly.

Then as an adult, I liked them except found them a bit cloyingly sweet and cheerful, especially considering the time they were made in (Great Depression). With stories such as Bright Eyes where her dad dies but all is ok after a few songs and dances, it makes Pollyanna seem like a grump.

However I think things have gone a bit too far the other way.

If we have a depression or the market worsens, I lay most of the blame on the media. A portion does belong to congress if they don't change the CPSIA law, check out the "Save Handmade" link to the right for more information.

Everytime I turn on the news, it is yammering about how the economy is going to get worse. Even sitcoms are talking about the economy.

While complete oblivion is bad, this hyperfocus is only making things worse.


While I am on the subject, please consider writing to your congressmen about the CPSIA law. While protecting our children from lead is vitally important, this law goes too far. Small cottage businesses will be forced to close, which even I know is bad for the economy. We won't be able to purchase anything for our children that is not mass-produced.

Friday, January 9, 2009

fitness update

I haven't been posting daily about whether or not I have worked out but I have been. 30 minutes every day.

I thought I had gotten past the sore phase.

Nope. After the 2 million squats yesterday and the couple hundred today, my thighs are mad at me.

I am improving though. To start working out with MFC you have to do a fitness test that includes how many crunches, girly push ups, and squats you can do. My first test was pretty bad.

One girly push up -- maybe. It wasn't a good one.

I had to retake the test day before yesterday, and didn't really expect any improvemnt (it is only day 7 today--when I took the test it was day 5).

I can now do 8 girly pushups!!

My number of squats improved some and the number of crunches stayed the same. I was a little tired though and so could have done more.

Anyway, that is days 3-7 with a work out each day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Once again with Facebook

I have to say one more time that I love Facebook. When you have moved as much as I did, you just don't keep track of people.

I have mentioned that I found my best friends from high school because of facebook.

A good friend found me. We met when we were 10 and then were really good at writing each other until our 20's. We reconnected about 5 years ago but then lost touch again. So it was great to hear from her.

I have now found my best friend from junior high (I moved away in the 10th grade).

I also found someone I have been wanting to apologize to for at least 15 years.

I try to be nice usually. If I am not nice, most of the time its an accident. But to this girl, I was pretty mean. I didn't beat her up or anything like that, but I really wasn't nice to her.

She and I were friends with someone else and I was insecure and jealous. So I was mean.

So when I found her on facebook, I really thought about whether or not to write. If she had forgotten me, then I would be bringing up old wounds. But I also thought of one person I really wanted to be friends with and she apparently couldn't stand me, I would be interested in knowing what it was.

So I wrote a message. (You can send messages to people that aren't your "friends" and I didn't know if she would want to be friends -- gosh that sounds juvenile).

And she wrote me back a most gracious message forgiving me.

Hopefully you have no idea what a burden that lifted.

So yet another reason I love facebook.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Update on the baby bunnies


Well, the last female gave birth on December 11th to 4 kits but only one lived.

Because I was planning on keeping them inside for awhile, I just combined the litters. Now I can't really tell which one is from the other litter.

Opps.

Oh, well its not a really big deal.

Anyway, they stayed inside until this week being carried out every day to eat. At first I kept them in their nest box, but when they started getting more mobile I moved them to a 5 gallon bucket.


They stayed in this bucket until this week, when they started escaping. Now they are outside in their own cage -- Mama Nim likes having visitation only. They have plenty of fur so they should be ok.

Before they went outside, I did take some pictures and a short video. Just so you know, baby bunnies are like toddlers busy, active and won't stay still. So the video is then hopping out of the camera range and me putting them back in.
video

What happened to customer service?

Once upon a time, when you had a problem or a question you could call and talk to a person and get your question answered. It's true! It really did happen!

Now you have to call at least 2 different companies 2 or 3 different times.

Our medical insurance is one of those with a checking account (CDHCP not Flex which means what we don't spend, we get to keep in the account.) I went to go fill 2 prescriptions on the 30th because this year we actually met our deductible and so wanted to get all the refills we could before we went back to paying full price.

Not a big deal, right?

Well, the only problem is that Hubby's employer decided to switch which bank the account was with.

Again, not a big deal.

Except, it occured to me the check I wrote on the 30th couldn't possibly go through before the 31st when the account closed. And when a check goes through and the account has been closed, it gets returned. And then people start getting cranky and charging fees etc.

So I called human resources at Hub's employer, the first person I talked to said she didn't know but surely there was something in place but I needed to call this number.

Called that number (we'll call it #2) and talked to a guy couldn't answer the question. He kept saying I need to call the bank but as long as it went through before April, insurance would cover it (that's not my question).

Called the chain pharmacy because that was something else person #1 recommended. They had no record of a bounced check, but I could wait 2 weeks and find out for sure.

Called the new bank, they said they had no record of this transaction so they had no ideas.

Called the old bank, knowing they wouldn't really speak to me because . . . it's pre-tax money and I am not allowed to talk to the bank about his pretax money -- some federal law thing. (I am also not supposed to write a check but we felt more comfortable with me signing his name to the check than me carrying around a signed check.)

So the old bank tells me, they can't speak of specifics but if there is a check out when the account is closed it goes back to the person who deposited the check marked as "returned- account closed."

So called the pharmacy again and they can't do anything until the check is returned to them. Once it is deposited, it's out of their hands.

Called #2 again and this one sounded kind of puzzled, like she hadn't thought of that. But told me the only people who could answer my question would be the people at the old bank who won't talk to me.

This is when Hubby walked in, saw me crying -- over an hour on the phone, no answers, and a bit of hormones -- and called old bank.

The person he spoke to, listened to what type of account it was/is and told him that the check would be automatically forwarded to the new bank.

No problem.

Why couldn't one of the 8 people I talked to have told me that?

I'm telling you, customer service has gone in the toilet.

Don't even get me started on cell phones.

12 more days that I have to carry a motorola piece of . . . junk.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Absolutely Yummy Gluten-Free Cornbread

First let me say, I did work out for 30 minutes today. Although I have to admit, I was 1/2 asleep when I picked the first 15 minute work out so I don't know what I did. I am feeling somewhat sore still but not horrible. AND I lost 4 lbs today.

So what if it is all water weight.

It's still 4 lbs.

I'd do a happy dance but that might hurt.



So now for some good stuff.

The Absolutely Yummy Gluten-Free Cornbread recipe came from my Grandmother's Mexican Cornbread dish. Its a wonderful meal and really isn't hot. I have made it somewhat healthier than her original which called for bacon drippings and I am pretty sure more than 1/3 of a cup (I think it was 1/2). I am pretty sure this could be done even healthier but I haven't really puttered with it too much.

First the Mexican Cornbread recipe and then I will do the regular cornbread. Oh, i make this in a number 8 cast iron skillet (which for some reason means 10 inches) and it fits perfectly.

Grandmothers Mexican cornbread



1 can cream-style corn
2 well beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 Cup oil (vegetable, olive, etc) or bacon drippings
1/2 pound ground beef
1 large onion finely chopped
1/2 pound cheddar cheese grated
1 can mild green chilies -- you could leave these out, but I promise you don't want to

MIX & SET ASIDE first 7 ingredients

Saute ground meat. Drain on paper towel

Place in a separate mounds: onion, cheddar cheese, and chilies

Grease a large black skillet. Heat, sprinkle a very thin layer of corn meal in skillet and let it brown slightly.

Pour 1/2 batter in skillet

Sprinkle cheese evenly over batter, Meat, onion and finally peppers

Pour remaining batter on top.

Bake 45-50 min.@ 350. Serve with salsa, and maybe a salad.


So I took that recipe and found my cornbread. YUM! Unfortunately for you, I forget to time stuff when I cook it so the bake time is a guess.


Absolutely Yummy Gluten-Free Cornbread



1 can cream-style corn
4 well beaten eggs
2 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups yellow cornmeal
2/3 Cup oil (vegetable, olive, etc) or bacon drippings

MIX ingredients, if it seems too soupy to you then add some more corn flour. I usually do (to both recipes) but I have a bad tendency to also not measure, so I don't know how much more (maybe between 1/4 - 1/2 a cup). I will try to figure it out though.

If you have a seasoned skillet, just pour it in. If not, you may want to grease it.

Bake 45-50 minute at 350. Although you might want to check it after 30.

You probably could leave out the creamed corn but I think its part of the reason it's so moist. You could add sugar for those of you that like sweet cornbread, but this one doesn't really need it. The creamed corn adds a subtle sweetness but not like Yankee cornbread for my fellow southerners.

Although I like Yankee cornbread.

By the way, I cook somewhat like my Great-Grandmother. I use measurments as a guideline but I do tend to eyeball alot. Or throw other stuff in that appeals to me that day. That's why my recipes are somewhat vague.

I am a bit more precise about baking though. With alot of baking, there is science involved and it's not worth the hassle. In this case though, its not as big of a deal.

If you want to try a real southern treat: cut a good sized slice of cornbread and put in a bowl, pour milk about 1/2 way up the cornbread and then break it up. Let the milk soak into the cornbread and eat (you can heat it or eat cold.)

My grandparents and great-grandparents would do this with buttermilk instead of milk but . . . ewwwwwww. I don't like buttermilk.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Extreme Measures

Well, it has gotten to a very drastic point. I think that this is the only way that the situation can be remedied, even though I really hate to resort to these measures.

I am talking about exercise. Yep, I have lost almost 20 pounds since last January just by eating healthier but the weight loss has stopped. So now I have to start exercising if I want any more of it to come off.

Don't try to stop me.

It's got to be done. I've got about 50 more to go before I get to my "ideal weight"( as defined by BMI and various sources).

So anyway, here is the deal: I don't like exercise and at my size its not easy. Thing is, right now I am extremely bloated so its the ideal time to start really trying to lose weight. When else can you easily lose several pounds without effort? But since I will be making an effort, it will be almost like seeing instant results.

Right now I am pretty gung ho but I am sure that won't last long. So here is my plan, I am going to commit to at least 5 days a week of 30 minutes. Most weeks I am going to be doing 7 days a week but I have some events coming up that will make it difficult (trips out of town) so I am giving myself a little wiggle room.

But back to THE PLAN: I know in a week or two this isn't going to be sounding like fun and I will be coming up with all sorts of excuses to not work out. So, I am going to post here whether I worked out or not. See I am not going to post my whiney excuses, so it will be an added incentive.

So for the next 29 days expect to see a report of my workout. Why 29? Well there are 31 days in this month and I worked out yesterday and today and I say those 2 days count!

And here is my report:

Saturday Jan 3 -- I just got a new program called "My Fitness Coach" that works with the Wii and between that and the Wii Fit, I should be worked into shape (besides round). I did some with the Wii fit and then I did 15 minutes of yoga and 15 minutes of "core body workout" with the MFC (My Fitness Coach). Felt tired but pretty good after finishing.

Sunday Jan 4 -- I got up early and did a 30 minute aerobic workout with the MFC. It wasn't easy but I wasn't miserable. Hours later though, my muscles are talking to me. My legs, thighs, lower back, stomach, and shoulders are a little sore. Not too bad, but I am much less flexible now with the soreness than I was before. I am not looking forward to tomorrows workout.

I am still going to post that cornbread recipe, but not tonight. We are starting school again tomorrow so I need some rest.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sweet potato casseroles

Another post I was going to do before Christmas but didn't. I love sweet potatoes and it doesn't have to be a major holiday for me to make them though, so I will go ahead and share.



Well, I was over at A Year of CrockPotting and found this lovely looking recipe for Pecan Topped Baked Sweet Potatoes. I had planned on making My Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole but was intrigued by the slow-cooker version with cranberries.

Since I couldn't decide and WAS NOT making two dishes of sweet potatoes -- see how well that worked-- so this is what we did. One night we had just sweet potatoes for supper -- the kids wimped out and also had a sandwich --and tried out both recipes. Here is what we came up with.

The Crockpot Pecan-topped Sweet Potatoes



Ease of preparation:

They were both fairly easy. The slow- cooker required the potatoes to be sliced and stagger-stacked. Once it was assembled, it required nothing more for 4-6 hours. For someone with perfectionist tendancies, the stagger-stacking was a bit tiresome -- I kept telling myself it wasn't Christmas dinner and didn't have to be perfect.

Appearance:

To be honest, the cranberries in the slow-cooker made it very dark, I would have thought it overcooked if it had been in the oven. Also the milk did some funny curdled looking things. Now it is possible that I did something wrong to account for this but I am not sure what.
Also there was a big pool of liquid that went most of the way up the potatoes. As someone who doesn't like their food to touch, all this liquid is disturbing. (I know, I know. I am strange.)

Taste:

You know, I didn't really taste the cranberries and the sweet potatoes were a bit bland as well. Sometimes two different flavors play together really well and seem to highlight the best in both (like chocolate and peanut butter). Other times they just wrestle each other into blandness. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't as flavorful as I thought it should be. Now again, maybe it is just me or I did something wrong. I don't really know.

This also made alot and reducing a slow-cooker recipe can be tricky. So I am not really tempted to try again.

Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole


Ease of preparation:

This recipe needed the potatoes mashed, but for someone with OCD tendancies this was much faster than the other. Really just peeling, and then chunking the potatoes to boil them and mash seemed easier. This is a dish I would feel comfortable letting my 9 year old make (maybe with help getting the potatoes out of the hot water).

Appearance:

I thought this looked very pretty, the orangey color of the potatoes peeking out through the topping. The topping made a lovely crust that was slightly crunchy which leads to taste . . . .

Taste:

I love plain mashed sweet potatoes but these are better. (Its like comparing fat-free ice cream to the regular. You might be fine with the fat free but the full fat is soooooo much better.) The topping is crunchy and sweet (like the streusel crumb topping on the really good muffins) and a great contrast to the smooth mashed goodness.

The Final Verdict




I really wanted to love the Pecan-Topped Sweet Potatoes (on the left) because I could just pre-assemble and then turn on the crockpot that morning. But we just didn't. It wasn't bad, and if someone else fixed it we would eat it (well, except Daisy who hates nuts). But it just didn't work for us.

So we made Mom's recipe. Actually made way too much, but it was delicious.

Again the recipe links are (click on the title) Pecan Topped Baked Sweet Potatoes and My Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole.

My Christmas menu

I was going to do this post before Christmas . . . but it didn't get done. Since it was full of goodness, I finished it and am going to run it now. I know, its after Christmas but really except for the turkey these would be good any night.

Just not all at once.

So here it is - - - My Christmas challange Menu


Every time I have a holiday dinner at my house I tend to go a little nuts. See the thing is, while I hate to cook dinner every night, I love to do something like Thankgiving or Christmas. I just don't know when to stop.

For example, one year we had mashed sweet pototoes, candied yams, mashed potatoes (regular baking), a sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie (yes I know pumpkin isn't a potato but sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie are so much alike I am including it anyway.) That was in addition to all the other food.

If I was cooking for alot of people it wouldn't be as big of a deal but I have never served more than 8.

So my Christmas Challange is to not enlarge this menu.



I mean it.



This is all that will be served. If I serve any more things than this, I will fail in my challenge.



If I have a recipe I am going to link to it.



For an appetizer, I will serve maybe some store bought hummus with vegetables and/or crackers. . . But that is it!




Then for dessert
  • peanut butter pie

  • buttermilk pie

  • sawdust pie I decided to drop this one as we had enough desserts
  • And Daisy is making a flourless cakefrom here.


Now the update: Hubby made the sweet potatoes and in our trial it didn't seem to make very much . . . so we tripled it. WAYYYYY too much. Plus he peeled and boiled too many potatoes so there was a large bowl of plain mashed sweet potatoes. Good thing we like sweet potatoes.


My wonderful in-laws also brought over mashed potatoes, in addition to the rolls and the dressing.


So we had way too much food, but it was all really good. And this year I didn't keep adding things to the menu, even dropped two.


Yes, one was an accident but doesn't it still count!?!


While stores still have fresh cranberries, you ought to go over to Amie's Blog - Life with the Boys and look at her Cranberry Salsa recipe.


Oh


my


goodness!!!!


This stuff is incredible!!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hoppin' John

For some reason I have never had this classic Southern dish and so thought I would try it this year. I had gotten the recipe after reading A Year of Crockpotting and reading some of the comments on her first trial of black eyed peas. Anyway the recipe I sort-of used is right here.

I say sort-of because I added way too much cayenne. The recipe called for 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and since I couldn't find that I used ground red pepper.

A little over 3/4 of a teaspoon.

I should have used 1/4 teaspoon.

Even my pepper-belly hubby said it was hot.

I read that lemon could cool down the heat and so I added that. It wasn't enough.

I added 2 bell peppers, and an extra 1/2 cup of rice, and heavy cream and it was still a little warm.

I do want to try it again though, using the right amount of cayenne.

I also changed the recipe so that I could use the crockpot. Here is my recipe (and what I am going to do next time is all italics. The last 3 things are all about fixing the pepper and really not necessary.)


HOPPIN' JOHN

1 cup dried black-eyed peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 smoked ham hock (those are sooo gross looking)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes OR 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
only add heaping 3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper if you want to set your mouth on fire
1 teaspoon salt
14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
oops, just read that it was supposed to be drained. Oh well, I needed to add other stuff anyway.
1 1/2 cups uncooked rice I bulked it up with extra rice (2 cups total), however it seemed too much rice so I will go back to the recommended amount
2 bell peppers, chopped
about 1 tablespoon powdered garlic
I didn't measure
about 2 ounces of lemon juice (to counteract the pepper)
1/2 cup of heavy cream (to counteract the pepper)
1/2 cup of sugar (both to counteract the lemon and the cayenne)

Pick all the rocks and bad peas out, then wash and soak them over night.

The day you want to eat this, eat some oil in a pretty good sized pot and brown the ham hock (may not be necessary but I did it).

Then add the onion and let it cook until softened. Then into the pot went 6 cups of water, and the black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder and salt and bring it to a boil.

Let it boil for about 10 minutes and then dump it into a crock pot (you can cook it stove top but I am less likely to scorch it in the crock pot).

Add the peas and bell pepper and cook until nearly tender . . . I have no idea how long. Kind-of depends on how tender you want them. Since you can choose low or high . . . and I really don't know how log for either of them . . . .

When the peas are tender-ish, pour in the tomatoes -- you could drain them but I honestly don't know if I would or not. I looooooooove tomatoes. The more tomatoes the better.

And while you are stirring in the lovely tomatoes add the rice, reduce heat to low and cook, covered for 20ish minutes (or until the rice isn't crunchy).

The final directions to the original recipe reads "Turn off heat, and allow Hoppin' John to steam in pot, lid on, for 5 minutes. Serve." Since that sort-of describes crockpot cooking, I just skip that part.
Yield: 6 servings.

There you have it. The flavor I could get through the flames on my tongue and throat was good before the lemon and the sugar (it was good after but I liked it better before . . . except the heat . . . if that makes sense). The cream was a lovely rich addition but makes me a bit nervous because of the tendency for milk to curdle in the presence of acids (like tomatoes or lemon.)




Because I feel like I need to redeem myself as a decent cook, I will let you know later about the cornbread I made to go with the meal.

Gluten-free.

No weird ingredients.

And met the approval of people who don't need to eat gluten free -- including my mother-in-law who is a picky eater. She might deny that she is a picky eater but she is. That's why I also had them bring cornbread - in case mine didn't turn out well.

But. It. Rocked.