Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Playing cards

I played cards with my friend Lisa yesterday.

My friend Lisa plays cards a little ... unconventionally.  In an atypical, unusual, and uncommon way. My friends, if Lisa invites you over to play cards, you might want to run the other way.

Or not.  This might be the most fun I've ever had playing cards.

You know my friend, Lisa, right?  Lisa Rambo, from the Biggest Loser season 14?  Yeah, that's her.  She lost over 100 pounds in 7 months, and now she's inspiring countless people in our community.  She's a rock star.

And she plays cards a little strange.

Want to play?  You'll need a standard deck of cards and a smallish clear area.  Here's how it works:

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Draw a card.  The suit determines which exercise you do, the number indicates how many.  Face cards are worth 10.  

Hearts = burpees
Spades = squats
Diamonds = jumping jacks
Clubs = push ups

So if you draw an 8 of hearts, you would do 8 burpees.  If you draw the King of spades, you would do 10 squats.  When you draw an ace, you get to rest for 2 minutes.

It takes about 30 minutes to play through the whole deck, and when you've finished, you will have done 84 burpees, 84 squats, 84 jumping jacks, and 84 push ups.

If you have another 30 minutes, try playing again to work your core.  

Hearts = fish tails
Spades = side to sides
Diamonds = plank
Clubs = crunches

When you draw a diamond, plank for double the number of seconds--so the 9 of diamonds would mean an 18 second plank.

Since it takes just half an hour and you only need a small area, this is a terrific workout to take on the road when you're traveling.

So, wanna come along next time I play cards with Lisa?

Your turn: how do you workout away from home?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Menu plan for the week of February 23 and beyond

As I was putting together my menu plan this week, I asked each of the boys in turn what their favorite meal is.  They all chose beef-centric meals, so next I asked their favorite chicken meal, and finally I asked what their favorite grilled meal is.

AKD kept saying grilled pizza.  That is so funny, considering AKD is one of my cheese-averse children.  Also?  He really likes steak, although Bubby had already covered that base with both his favorite meal and his favorite grilled meal.  AKD is always a little mopey when pizza is served at events, because cheese.  And organizers keep serving pizza at these youth events because everybody likes pizza.  Right.  Not my kid.  AKD is so lucky to have a mama who makes her own pizza: a mama who leaves the cheese off for him.  That's right.  The boy's pizza consists of crust, sauce, and toppings.  He kept saying, "but grilled pizza is so good!"

He's right.  Grilled pizza is really yummy, but it's also more work than regular in-the-oven pizza or even stromboli or calzone.  I told him I would only put it on the menu if he would promise to help me with it.  At first, he flat-out refused, but by the third or fourth time of him asking for it and me saying I would make it only if he would help, he allowed a maybe.  We'll see.  In the meantime, that's why you'll see grilled pizza, stromboli or calzone on the list for next week.

I'm taking next week off from menu planning, or at least posting about my menu plan.  See you back here for more menu inspiration in March!

Here's what's on the menu this week:
--Homemade angel hair pasta with meat sauce, green beans, salad, garlic toast
--Chicken chili verde, homemade whole grain tortillas, taco toppings
--Beef stroganoff, corn, bread
--Tuscan chicken sandwiches, buns, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Pizza, salad
--Grilled bone-in chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, grilled broccoli
--Beef and veggie kabobs, salad


Next week:
--Rice burgler (browned ground turkey or beef with brown rice and mixed vegetables)
--Slow cooker chicken and gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots
--Out to eat
--Chicken bundles, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Grilled pizza, calzone, or stromboli, salad
--Fish.  Just fish.  Hubby's in charge of sides.

Other:
--Large batch taco seasoned beef and turkey to freeze in meal-sized portions
--Angel hair pasta
--Whole grain tortillas
--30 minute rolls
--Peanut butter bread

Friday, February 20, 2015

Fever

First, let me assure you that all is well, and Bubby is back to school.

Next, may I tell you how I feel about fevers?  If the answer's no, you can stop reading.  I'll probably talk about something else a little later in this post, but if you don't want to risk accidentally reading something about fevers, feel free to click the red X now.
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I hate fevers.  Actually, it's not fevers I hate, fevers are a good thing--our body's way of killing off invaders.  It's our school's policy toward fevers I hate, which is that a child must be fever-free, without medication, for 24 hours before going back to school.  This pretty much guarantees that if your child wakes up on a school day (unless it's Friday) with a fever, they will be out for at least 2 days.

I get it.  I really do.  The school wants to protect the children, and one of the ways they do that is by trying to prevent the spread of infection.  And I'm all for preventing the spread of infection.  But here's the thing.  People who are sick are usually contagious before they show any symptoms.  That means my Bubby was passing his whatever-germ-was-making-him-sick off to other healthy children before his fever struck.  And whoever gave it to Bubby did the same.  Not letting kids come to school with a fever is kind of like shutting the coop door after the chickens are already out.  Whoever was going to be infected by my kid was already infected before I kept him home.

The other thing about fevers is they don't make my kids miserable.  Well, the fevers do, but once we knock it down with Tylenol or Advil, my kids are fine.  There is absolutely no resemblance to a sick child once I've drugged up a feverish kid in my household.  And there is absolutely no reason (once we get past the spreading of infection piece) for them to miss school.

So when Bubby still had a high fever on Tuesday evening, I knew he would need to stay home the entire next day, even if he woke up fever-free, was perfectly fine and wanted to go to school because it was Phy. Ed. day.  Seriously.  The only thing my kid likes about school (or the only thing he admits to liking about school) is Phy. Ed.  And he only gets to have Phy. Ed. once every 3 days.  Ugh!

You're going to think I'm weird, but I was actually a little grateful when Bubby threw up early Wednesday morning, because I'm a little more accepting of the 24-hour vomit-free rule than the fever rule.  'Cause vomit, unlike fever, makes my kids miserable, and no one wants vomit at school.  No one.  And since I already had to keep him home because of the fever, it was nice to have another reason to keep him home as well.

Oh, yeah.  That morning, when he woke me to tell me he felt like he was going to throw up, it wasn't just Bubby-code for I'm hot.  But I do think the hotness is what caused the other, though.

Wednesday night, I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about all the stuff I needed to do the next day, and worrying about how much more difficult it would make today if Bubby needed to stay home again (he didn't).  Today marks 4 days in a row that Bubby has woken me in the wee hours of the morning.  I am wiped.  Yesterday I went to bed at 8:15, and fell asleep by...well, not really sure when, but it was early, and I must have fallen asleep with my book on my chest, after reading less than a full chapter, because my bookmark was in the wrong place, and I don't remember Hubby coming to bed.

Yesterday I was gone from 7:55 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., with a few short stops at home to get the crock pot started and then to explain to my oldest son what he needed to do to get dinner on the table for his brothers.  The house is a disaster, and I am amazed.  Wednesday night when I went to bed, everything was in order, and this morning when I walked out into the kitchen, I yelped and then ran right back into my bedroom again.  I'm hiding from the mess right now, hoping it'll magically disappear while I'm typing away...

Let me go check...

Nope.  Still there.  Well, if it's not going to magically disappear, I guess I'd best get going.

Have a great day, y'all.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Adventures in Mommy-Hood

My middlest son woke me at 6:08 this morning, asking for help with his belt.  This was the second time one of my children had woken me today.  MC was getting dressed for his first day of work.  He's an engineer, like his daddy.  We're not really sure how this came to be, since it wasn't his 1st, 2nd, OR 3rd choice, AND none of us can really picture MC as an engineer.  I guess his interviewer saw something we didn't?  Perhaps he will surprise us.

The first time, I was awakened by my youngest son at 2:21 a.m. He felt like he was going to throw up, which is Bubby-code for, "I have a fever."  He's realized that he always feels hot when he throws up, clever boy.  But to me, "I feel like I'm going to throw up" means get the bucket, 'cause the upchuck's coming.  "I feel like I'm going to throw up" wakes me instantly, as effectively as a bucket of cold water on my head.

I got the bucket.  He did not throw up, but he does have a high fever.  Well, high to me, the mama, but to healthcare professionals, it's more of a meh level fever.  He feels fine, after having taken a dose of Tylenol in the night, but can't return to school until he's been fever-free for 24 hours.

Which reveals a vulnerability in my carefully sculpted routine.  I am so thankful to have the flexibility to set aside my plans and to be here when my children need me, but...

Tuesday is grocery procurement and errand day.  Due to work, school, and extra-curricular schedules, if the Bubmeister continues to be feverish, I will not be able to get out of the house to get groceries, and more importantly, the 24 cup mini muffin pan, until Friday evening.  That is, unless I leave Bubby in the care of his older brother for a few hours after school, which, if said older brother wants to eat, I might have to do.  Oh, we won't starve--there's plenty of food in the house--but there goes my menu plan...

Speaking of our oldest son, he shared with us a little about what he did at school yesterday.  In English.  Just the important stuff.  I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but it involved a chair with wheels, a short length of rope, and several teen-aged boys--they took AKD for a ride (with his permission).  

What are they teaching our children over there?   And why wasn't he wearing a helmet?

When we pressed for more details, he admitted that the incident didn't actually happen during English class, or even in the English classroom.  It was during passing time in the hall.  But it was the English teacher's wheely chair, presumably with the English teacher's permission.  I fear I laid the groundwork for this stunt myself years ago.  AKD and I used to have great fun together, me spinning him around in the wheely chair and him laughing breathlessly for minutes on end.

There was cake at the Cub Scout meeting last night, purchased from a local grocery store, and decorated with a camping theme.  The extra cake came home with my boys (one of the perks of being the Cub Master's family--we get a lot of the extra food).  One of my children, who shall remain nameless, missed the meeting due to another commitment, so he was given permission to have a piece of cake when he got home.  He thought the plastic cake decorations were actually cake, so that's what he decided to eat.  He was quite disappointed to find that they were not cake after all.

I told him not to be upset.  It was an honest mistake.  I mean, those grocery store cake bakers just aren't as talented as me.  My boys are used to edible decorations, 'cause that's how I roll.

That same child plugged the toilet not long after the non-cake situation.  This is a depressingly frequent occurrence in our household.  At least he told us this time instead of leaving it for us to discover hours later.  I told him this was the perfect opportunity for his daddy to instruct him in proper plunger use, but said daddy did not take advantage of the opportunity.

The third time one of my children woke me this morning, it was 7:56 a.m.  Bubby nervously pointed to the light pouring through the windows and said, mom, it's...it's got to be at least lunch time.  He was concerned that we had slept in and missed the bus.  He was relieved when I informed him that he wouldn't be going to school courtesy of his fever, and even more relieved, bordering on thrilled, when we realized that today is Music day instead of Phy Ed day.  Those of you with children in Ms. S's classes--you'll understand.

So that's it--my adventures in being mommy.  So far.  Today.  Next-up: adventures in toilet plunging.  Yay, me.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Menu plan for the week of February 16

I think I told y'all one time that if I buy bananas for a specific purpose, like making banana muffins or green monster smoothies, they're always gone before I get a chance to use them.  But if I buy bananas just for eating, with no specific purpose in mind, they usually get over-ripe before they're eaten.  Anyone else have this problem?

That hasn't been the case for the past several months, as my youngest, Bubby, has discovered a love of bananas.  I've seen that kid eat 3 bananas at one sitting and then reach for a fourth.  I've been buying around 5-6 bananas a week for months now, and they're usually gone within 3 days.  So it was with confidence that I bought a bunch of 10 bananas last week.

This morning, there are still 7 sitting on top of the fruit bowl, looking very yellow and developing lovely brown polka dots.

Just when I thought I had this whole feeding my family thing under control.  Humph!

So, it's banana muffins for us this week, 2 batches, hopefully one using my new, yet to be obtained, 24 cup mini muffin tin.  A 24 cup mini muffin pan would make a lovely Valentine's gift, don't you think? *Hint*Hint*

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

--Hamburger casserole, corn, peaches
--Baked Ziti (freeze extra), green beans, salad
--Chicken bundles, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
--Slow cooker Zuppa Toscana, toast, salad
--Pizza casserole (from the freezer), green beans
--Hamburgers, buns, jello, carrots, salad
--Pork chops, garlic toast, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots

Next Monday Supper:
--Homemade angel hair pasta** with meat sauce, green beans, garlic toast, salad

Other:

--Brownies
--No bake nut butter granola bars
--Salsa verde white chicken chili
--Banana muffins
--Large batch meat sauce for the freezer

**Excited and trepidatious about this meal.  I have made pasta before, and it was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.  I borrowed a pasta machine from Chip the last time I saw her, and I'm hoping the machine will tip the work/fun balance over to the fun side.

What's on your menu this week?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger


The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger chronicles the divorce proceedings of Mayflower descendant Mia Meikeljohn from her husband, Dr. Daniel Durkheim.  The story, from being served divorce papers along with her entree during lunch at an exclusive restaurant, to the final decree almost a year later, is told entirely through the correspondence between Mia and those around her, including her attorney, Sophie, and other papers generated in the process of becoming unmarried.

The book is well written, with humor and keen insight into human motivations.  The characters are masterfully developed, each with his or her own voice and style of communication.  It took me a while to get used to the format, but I do think the format was effective and intelligent.

Bottom line: I didn't really care for the subject matter of this book, but it was well written and interesting.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Twenty-four muffins

We're in a little bit of a rut when it comes to school snacks for Bubby.  See, I'm of the opinion that the ideal snack contains both a complex carbohydrate and a lean protein.  The trouble comes in the realm of protein.  Most proteins that I would send to school with my boy, like yogurt, cheese, eggs. legumes, or meat, require refrigeration (don't ask me why Bubby is unwilling to let me put his snack in his insulated lunchbox to be kept cold--I'm not really very clear on that myself).

There is one protein source that Bubby likes, that is not highly processed and does not require refrigeration.  The thing is, that particular protein source has been banned from his classroom.  Yup, he's not allowed to have peanuts or tree nuts.  So most days I send whole grain crackers for the boy's school snack, internally lamenting the lack of protein*, and feeling a like I ought to be trying a little harder to achieve variety.  Not that Bubby is too terribly concerned with variety in his snack or meal choices.

So why am I worried about this, again?  Ugh!  The Mommy-guilt.


Anyway, the other day I asked him for some examples of what other kids bring for snacks.  Because crackers.  He hasn't complained, but crackers.  Every day.  So boring!  Bubby responded almost immediately, as if he'd been thinking about it, "well, some kids bring those mini muffin things."

You know what those mini muffin things are, don't you?  You know: the tiny packages of sugar, processed ingredients, hydrogenated oil, and preservatives?  Made by Hostess?  Yeah.  Those.

I asked if he would like chocolate chip mini muffins for a snack, and he said that he would, so I offered to make some.  Here's the recipe I use (except I use white whole wheat flour and leave off the topping.  I also don't use muffin papers).  You can see that the recipe says it makes 12, but that is a lie.  A bald-faced, unabashed, blatant lie.  It really makes 18.  So the recipe would yield 36 mini-muffins.

However, I only have 12 mini-muffin cups.  Through no fault of my own, I might add.  I tried to buy another pan with 24 cups a couple of weeks ago, because mini is always cuter, donchaknow, but the store was out.  .


So I asked the Bubmeister if he would mind me making 12 mini chocolate chip muffins and 12 regular size chocolate chip muffins.  After he figured out what I was trying to ask him (because, really mom, who cares what size they are, as long as they taste good?), Bubby became quite enthusiastic about the idea.

So, mom, you're going to make 12 little ones and 12 regular ones?  That's 24!  Yes!  You should make 24!  Yes!  WhooHoo!  (with a little fist pump action)

Imagine how excited he would have been over 36.

In conclusion, add that 24 cup mini muffin pan to my birthday list.

AND also in conclusion, there still isn't a whole lot of protein* in Bubby's school snack, but, at least for the next few days, it's not crackers.

* Bubby can (and does) get milk through the school for his snack break, so he's at least getting some protein.

Your turn: what's your favorite snack?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Menu plan for the week of February 9

I am so tired of catering to the likes and dislikes of the disparate members of this household.

Those two don't like cheese.  Cheese!  Who doesn't like cheese, and therefore lasagna, pizza, cheeseburgers, quesadillas, mac-n-cheese?  I haven't had lasagna or manicotti in years because of those two.

That one doesn't like eggs.  He ate toast last week.  Just...toast.

The other one doesn't like fruit.  Of all the things not to like.  Fruit.  That one would eat all simple carbs if I would let him.

The husband recently declared, during a meal, that he wasn't going to complain about the meals I serve anymore.  Yeah.  That was great for my ego.  That he had to make a declaration about not complaining about my cooking.  While we were eating a meal.

If I am going to plan the meals, and shop for the food, and prepare the food, and clean up after the meals, I am going to make things I like, gosh darn it!

Except, the problem is, if I do that, everyone (except my husband, who is no longer complaining and is, therefore, just eating what's put in front of him) will eat toast.  All. The. Time.  *Sigh*  The other day when I was planning this menu, I actually found myself daydreaming about the day all the kids are out of the house, so I can make manicotti again.  It's got to stop.  But, toast.  I'm stuck.

I will say, my kids are great vegetable eaters.  So there's that.

Here's what's on the menu this week.

Pasties out of the oven, ready to eat!
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Supper:
--Tacos with homemade whole wheat tortillas, taco toppings
--Orange ginger chicken (make extra, freeze), brown rice, broccoli
--Pasties, beef gravy, salad
--Red pepper chicken (make extra, freeze), tortillas, spicy black beans, corn
--Pizza or chicken pizza, salad
--Peppered ribeyes with portabello sauce, salad, grilled asparagus
--Hot dogs or brats with buns, green stuff, cooked carrots

Next Monday Supper:
--Hamburger casserole, green beans, fresh fruit

Other:
--Windowpane/pinata heart cookies
--AKD's 5 layer peanut butter bars (peanut butter cookie dough, peanut butter cups, heath bits, more peanut butter cookie dough, chocolate chips)
--Wheat and flax bread (double, freeze)

Wheat and Flax Bread
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Saturday, February 7, 2015

A love like that

The other day, a friend of mine said this: 

I am so in love with a little girl named Natalie.It's nothing she does. It's just her. I love her.

Natalie is her granddaughter.  It makes my heart melt.  

Do you love anyone like that?  I'm guessing if you're a parent, you do.
  

I am lucky to have lots of someones whom I love like that.  Some of you are reading this right now.  And let me be clear, if I had to love some of these someones because of what they do, I'd be plumb outta luck, and out of love.  Because some of these someones, (not you, of course,) probably even all of these someones, do things that I don't love from time to time.  Or a lot of the time.  Or even most of the time.  And yet, I love them.  Love defies logic.

Does anyone love you like that?  Not because of what you do, but because of who you are?  Just you?

There is a Someone who loves me like that.  There is a Someone who says, about me:
I am so in love with a little girl named Scarlet.It's nothing she does. It's just her. I love her.
And that same Someone loves you like that, too.

*****


Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us--

he calls us children of God!  
It's true; we are His beloved children.
1 John 3:1 (VOICE)

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer


Y'all!  I'm supposed to be reviewing this book.  I loved it.  Loved it!

From the back of the book:

After Raine's dad walked out, Ginevieve Lightly never lived in one place too long--a rambling lifestyle that defined her daughter's youth.  When their car dies in Banister Falls, Wisconsin, Gin promises Raine they can stay until she finishes her senior year of high school.  Gin will do anything to make sure her daughter has a bright future...a future that's compromised when Raine reveals she's pregnant.

Dan Moretti has only ever called Banister Falls home.  After losing his best friend in a tragic accident, Dan devoted himself to responding to fires, rescuing the helpless, and guiding Cody Bennett, his best friend's one, through life.  With Cody being the epitome of the good kid, it was an easy job.  Until he says four little words: "The baby is mine."

Knowing gossip of Raine's pregnancy will erupt sooner or later in the small town, Gin's reflex is to grab the suitcase and escape to a new city, and new life.  But with each passing day, Gin's feet stay rooted in Banister Falls, and she falls a little more for this local firefighter who shows her not all men abandon women at the first sign of smoke.

As Gin and Dan do the best they can to guide the two teenagers through their early entry into adulthood, they discover together that romance can bloom in the rockiest of situations.  And God can turn the pieces of a broken past into a beautiful new beginning.

The characters and their issues in this book are so real, I found myself drawn into the story, feeling their pain, and falling in love with them.  I so identified with Gin, wanting to pack up and run at the first sign of trouble.  Oh, I don't actually run, but I do distance myself when I sense danger.  The overriding theme of the book is that love conquers all--love of friends and family, but also love from a benevolent Creator.  Love can give us the courage to do the hard things in life, we just have to be open to receiving it.

Bottom line: if you like Christian contemporary fiction, you will love this offering from Kathryn Springer.

I received this book for free from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hanging with dinosaurs

I am pleased to report that there were no nasty surprises when I went to check on the little dinosaurs this morning.  Well, unless you count mounds of chicken poop as nasty surprises, which normally I would, but after yesterday, poop is nothing.

Once you've seen something, it can't be unseen.

I learned something about the girls today.  It's much easier to keep them contained when there's snow on the ground.  I arrived early this morning, said hello, and gathered my supplies.  I wanted to clean out the nest boxes, because cannibalism, ew, and I knew it would be easier to keep them out of my way if I let them out of the coop.  I stayed up last night thinking about my strategy.  Yes, I did.  Because these girls are fairly docile (when they're not eating their own eggs), and they're fairly easy to entice back into the coop, but there are 10 of them.  And I did not want to be hanging around for hours chasing chickens, popping one in and having 2 more escape while the door's open.

I noticed when my friend was explaining what to do for the chickens that they stayed around the coop as long as we were there, but some of them followed us and wandered further away when we went into the garage and then the house.  So I decided I needed to gather all of my supplies before I opened the door so I didn't need to leave them unattended.

Turns out I didn't need to worry.  Only one of the girls was brave enough to venture out in the freshly fallen inch of snow, and she regretted it almost immediately.  She stood on the snow-less arm of a nearby bench clucking mournfully and staring wistfully at the open door of the coop.  I suppose I could have shoveled a path for them, or put some straw down on the snow so at least they could get some fresh air, but that could have given them the courage to branch out farther.  They're sneaky little creatures.

I changed the bedding in the nest boxes to remove any trace of that egg, and I gave them a calcium supplement.  We girls can't be too careful with our bone health.  Or our eggshell health.  Hopefully that will solve the problem and they won't make egg eating a habit.  If not, I do believe we have some golf balls around here somewhere.  Apparently, if you put golf balls in the nest box, the chickens will think they're eggs, peck at them, not be able to break them, and that will make them decide not to peck at eggs anymore.  Sneaky, but apparently not very smart.

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I hung with the girls for a while, and right before I left, I stepped into the coop to count heads.  I found myself nose to beak with one of the girls who strutted over to see what I was doing.  I stared into those beady chicken eyes and was struck by how prehistoric these creatures actually look.  The alert, staring, ridged eyes, the pointed beak, the fierce sculpted features, the fleshy comb, wattle and ear flaps.  The scaly legs and feet, the sharp claws.  It's not hard to imagine them scratching around at the feet of dinosaurs millions of years ago.

***********

I'm making pickled dinosaur eggs today.  Here's my friend, and fraternity brother, Jim's recipe.  I discovered that it really is true that fresh, like 2 days from the chicken, hard boiled eggs are harder to peel than older ones.  Next time I'll follow Betty's advice.  In her recipe for baked eggs and artichokes, she suggests:
Hard cooked eggs are less difficult to peel if you pierce the large end of the egg with an egg piercer, thumbtack or pin before cooking.  The small amount of water that seeps in during cooking makes egg peeling easier and also can keep the egg shell from cracking during cooking.
Pickled eggs are definitely an acquired taste, but what else do folks who live up in da UP, eh, have to do all day except sit around acquiring a taste for pickled eggs?  Ah, memories...

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Opal Apples


Did you notice a new kind of apple in your grocery store this winter?  Opal apples are only available from November until March (my grocery store sold out of them before Christmas), but if you are able to find them, you are in for a treat!

Opals are a cheery, bright yellow color and are grown exclusively in Washington by Broetje Orchards.  This variety stems from a cross between Golden Delicious and Topaz and is verified by the Non-GMO Project.  The taste is just the right marriage of sweet and tangy and the texture is crisp, but what is remarkable about this variety is that it naturally resists browning.

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I was given the opportunity to try Opals for free (thanks BzzAgent), and was thrilled to find them in my local grocery store (click here to find them near you).  I was immediately struck by the bright yellow color, which was much deeper than the Golden Delicious apples nearby.  They looked so lovely and cheerful sitting heaped in a bowl on my kitchen table.

My 14 year old son spotted the Opals and asked if he could try one.  He was immediately hooked; he said they tasted like candy, so of course I had to give them a try, and I had to agree.  The taste is tangy and sweet, juicy and delicious, and texture is just perfectly crisp.  In fact, this was probably the tastiest apple I've ever tried.  Taste good?  Pleasing texture?  Check and check.


I was most intrigued by the claim that these non-GMO apples naturally resist browning.  I was skeptical, but hopeful, so I cut an Opal and a Red Delicious in the morning, and checked in on them (and tasted, of course!) throughout the day.  At lunch time, the Opal still looked and tasted freshly cut.  By the end of the day, there was slight browning with the Opal, but nothing compared to the Red Delicious, which my kids declared inedible.  This means that Opals are perfect for on-the-go snacks and sending to school, as well as for inclusion in recipes.  Non-browning?  Check.

The icing on the cake?  A portion of Opal Apples’ sales goes to their Youth Make a Difference grants, which support youth-led non-profits involving food, nutrition and agriculture.

Bottom line: Opal apples are a delicious treat--it's kind of hard to believe they're good for you!  Highly recommend.  For more information about Opal Apples, click here.

I was given the opportunity, by BzzAgent, to try Opal Apples for free for the purposes of this review.  All opinions are my own.

Psycho cannibal chickens

Remember how I said I'm taking care of a friend's chickens for a week or two?  I've really been enjoying it.  My friend says that she finds caring for the chickens to be almost meditative, and I can see what she means.  They don't ask for much--just food, clean water, and a safe place to call home.  And in return they provide companionship, entertainment, and fresh, delicious eggs.  I've been bonding with the girls, and I thought they felt a connection to me as well.  On a deeper level.

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Imagine my shock and horror when I stopped in to see the girls this morning and discovered that they had eaten one of their eggs!  I kind of think of chickens as docile, unassuming creatures with simple needs and simple appetites.  I never, in a million years, expected them to turn into cannibals!

I texted my friend for advice.  Should I take drastic measures?  I wasn't sure what those drastic measures would entail, but I knew there had to be something I should do. I mean, cannibalism.

Her response?  It happens.  Don't worry about it.

Well, OK.

THEY ATE THEIR OWN EGG!

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OK, breathe, just ... breathe...

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that chickens are so fierce, with so little regard for the sanctity of life, so little respect for chickmanity, and that they're, well, psycho cannibals, considering they're dinosaurs.  I mean, everyone knows dinosaurs are fierce.  And like to eat their young.  And hardly anyone holds it against them, the fierceness, the young-eating.  It's just the way they are.

Oh, chickens!  You have shattered, destroyed, annihilated, even, my idyllic, pastoral chicken-raising fantasy.  I don't know if I can forgive you for that.


And speaking of dinosaurs, I know you've been waiting for me to get back to you on the whole Everything You Need to Know About Snakes and Other Scaly Reptiles thing.  Well, I've read the whole book, and now I know everything I need to know about snakes and other scaly reptiles.  And what I know is, there's too much that one needs to know about snakes and other scaly reptiles for me to tell it all to you in this blog.  So you're gonna have to go get your own copy and read it yourself.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Menu plan for the week of abundant eggs

I am caring for a dear friend's chickens this week. I must admit, I have been a little jealous of the folks we know around here who raise chickens. How cool is that, to be able to head out to the henhouse in the morning and grab some fresh eggs for your breakfast? For several years now, I've wanted a few chickens of my own, so I am thrilled be be borrowing my friend's ladies for several days. I get all the benefits of owning chickens, including several dozen fresh, organic eggs, with none of the expense and very little hassle.  I'm almost hoping they decide to stay away a few extra days :)

The several dozen fresh, organic eggs is why this week's meals are heavy on the egg dishes.  In the 3 days that I've been hanging out with the girls, they've already provided me with 30 gorgeous eggs.  Thirty!  And there are a lot more where those came from!

Here's what's on the menu this week:
--Breakfast burritos, with sausage, mushrooms, peppers, spinach and cheese
--Spaghetti or spaghetti squash with meat sauce, garlic bread, green beans
--Warm me up sausage quiche, salad, carrots
--Sausage, egg sandwiches on English muffins, peppers, peaches
--Breakfast pizza, salad, green beans
--Mexican frittata, broccoli
--Fend for yourself/leftovers

Next Monday:
--Tacos, homemade whole grain tortillas, taco toppings

Other:
--Pickled eggs
--Double chocolate friendship bread
--No bake nut butter chocolate chip granola bars

What's your favorite way to use eggs?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Eating Healthy

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she had made a goal to eat healthier.  She said she was planning on making one new healthy supper each month this year.

I immediately thought, but did not say, because that would have been judgmental or rude or something, "only one?!  Really?"  I mean any effort to eat healthier is a step in the right direction, right?  And I want to support and encourage that.  So I kept my mouth shut.

But then she said someone else had said that exact thing to her.  So I felt ok saying that I agreed.  Only one?  Really?  Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I asked if she was putting the emphasis on "new," as in, she already eats pretty healthfully and she just wants to try new things, but no, that wasn't it; the emphasis is definitely on the healthy here.
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But what is healthy, exactly?  And what's unhealthy?  I mean, some people think cutting out whole food groups, like grains, or dairy, or meat, is healthy.  Some people say low fat is healthy.  I know at least one person who insists that real butter and whole milk are healthy foods.  Some people avoid saturated fats at all costs, but now coconut oil is all the rage.  Solid at room temperature = saturated fat.  Some people say low carb eating is the way to go.  A quick Google image search reveals that when people think of healthy food, they think predominantly of vegetables and fruits.

Who's right?

My older boys, when they were in 5th grade, had a health class assignment that really annoyed me.  They were tasked with bringing in nutrition labels from a healthy food and an unhealthy food.  My problem with this assignment was two-fold.  First, the foods that are healthiest (at least in my opinion), are much less likely to have nutrition labels.  When's the last time you saw a nutrition label on Brussels sprouts?  I begged both the boys to let me print out a "nutrition label" for broccoli or something, but no dice.  I think AKD brought in a label from a can of green beans, which was, of course, healthy, but less healthy than fresh green beans because of the added salt.  My second problem with this assignment was, who decides what's healthy?  I mean, AKD thought those canned green beans were healthy, but I knew those green beans had issues.

I think my friend, possibly subconsciously, even, associates healthy with boring, or tasteless, or even downright yucky.  And unhealthy means scrumptious, which is a shame.  I think that's why she's not willing to commit to more than one "healthy" supper a month.

The truth is, we need healthy fats.  We need complex carbohydrates.  We need lean protein. To me, eating healthfully means eating whole, unprocessed foods, in moderation.  And that, to me, is delicious.

What does healthy eating look like for you?
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