Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Anyway, I was mentally trolling those waters this morning at 7:18 and then I smelled the coffee. It was like a Folgers commercial from the 80's. I rose, stretched, put on Highlander's robe, and snuck downstairs in my bare feet. Five minutes later and back in bed, I'm curled up with my Wi-Fi googling anything that comes to mind. And that, my dear sweet friends, is Luxury. Or rather, this is. This is the paycheck for the puking flu and the arguments over whether or not Zoe is going to eat her supper. This is the Good Stuff. I don't take the fact that my computer isn't "plugged in" for granted. I know. Easily amused.
Which reminds me....the thing about Zoe not eating. I made a new form of "crapola" in a desperate attempt to ascertain whether my four year old was sick or just being picky. She stopped eating supper and started complaining loudly about absolutely everything I put in front of her about a week ago. She eats eggs for breakfast, clementines for lunch, and makes a mighty fuss about supper. We (and by "we" I mean Highlander) usually manage to get four or five bites down her whiny throat before we (and by "we" I mean me) give up. A couple of days before Christmas at supper, I pulled out the big guns and started describing the super fun time those two munchkins were about to have a bath time that night. What with the colored water and foamy purple spray soap...the array of new and exciting bath toys that were patiently waiting to be used up. The girls were Very Excited. Tori ripped through her dinner. Zoe ate one bite and exclaimed, "Oh Yuck! I Hate It!" She folded her arms across her chest and stared at me. Battle. On. I turned to Victoria, "You ready, honey?" We went upstairs without a word to madame pouty face. About three minutes later, I heard a tiny cry from downstairs, "Mommy! I'm finished with my supper!" Ah, victory for Mommy! Zoe came upstairs and climbed in the tub with her sister, who by now was covered in purple foamy shaving cream like soap and pretending to swim in the bright pink water. I went downstairs to work on the kitchen and noted that Zoe had in fact licked her plate clean. Wait. Licked? Charlie (suitably nicknamed the eight pound security system) was sitting in the corner with a big smile plastered on her face. That was a pasta-buzzed doggy if I've ever seen one. Ah, victory for Zoe.
Later, when Highlander questioned her about feeding her dinner to the dog and then lying about it, she said, completely seriously, "It was Charlie's idea." As if that would be the answer that would set her free.
The stunt put her on the naughty list for the day. The revocation elves showed up while she was neck deep in pink water and her stocking ended up disappearing. Before you gasp and judge me, know that my seemingly brilliant parental move ended badly for me. Victoria was the child most traumatized and apparently was deep in thought about what to do about her naughty sister while she was sitting on the toilet an hour later. She called me into the bathroom and earnestly pleaded, "Mommy, please put me on the naughty list and take Zoe off. I'll take her place. She's little." Meanwhile, Zoe was playing quietly; happily singing Jingle Bells to herself in their bedroom. Enter: Mommy-Guilt. Creative parenting is a minefield.
Here's how to make Tori and Charlie's favorite pasta;
About 2 inches of a Velveeta loaf (I won't go into why that's in my house right now. Different post for a different day.)
2 cups uncooked Bow-Tie pasta (or whatever you have on hand. Zoe picked Bow-Tie the night of The Incident.)
1/4 cup cooked and drained ground beef
Cook the pasta until it's about a minute from being done.
In a small sauce pan over low heat, melt the Velveeta and about a cup of the hot water from the pasta until it's creamy. Stir in one tablespoon of tomato paste and the cooked ground beef.
Pour sauce over cooked drained pasta and stir. I think I put in a little bit of dried oregano and a pinch of garlic powder in a vain attempt to make it more food-like. But that's totally optional.
Watch the dog.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
The mommies gather at Andrea's house on the First Snow Day of every Snow Event and it's been a long time since our last Snow Event. The kids show up in their footie pajamas and run around her mansion burning off the kind of energy that they usually can't burn off in the 11x23ft rooms of their own homes.
This morning, it was a reunion with bloody marys and potato leek soup. The local CSA is still spitting out greens, so we had fabulous little Iowa-lettuce salads while the snow blew sideways.
The girls and I got home at 1:00. I meant to clean up around here since the universe answered my shameless plea and Zoe did not get the puking flu. I would like to note that the universe got the last laugh. It was me who spent the weekend contemplating the ugly bathroom fixtures from the floor. And I thought Mommies couldn't get the flu. Anyway, I lost five pounds, but my house looks like I didn't lift a finger all weekend. Even after my dear sweet confused hungry husband tried to put it back together again for me. See, we live here. Things don't stay put for long. One of the reasons I was so excited about the First Snow Day was because Ambition reared it's goal oriented head and planned to clean the house. I ignored it and spent the afternoon cruising the internet looking at furniture. And shoes. And chicken coops.
Anyway, it's 4:38pm and my kids are still in their pajamas. To my credit, I did ask them (around 2:00pm) if they'd like to get dressed. They looked at me like that was a stupid question. Real Clothes? Footie Pajamas? Duh Mom.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I officially send this humble plea out into the universe: Please Please Please don't let the other one catch this bug and Please Please Please let my eleven year old washing machine make it through this challenge and into the new year.
Zoe just brought me something small and brown. "Mommy what is this?"
It is poop.
I have no idea.
I have to go now.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
OK, so you can catch up, here's a link to the article that our local newspaper picked up off of the AP.
If you are still reading, then you are either killing time pretending to work and your boss can't see your computer screen, or you might be just a little concerned about the hens.
Here's the thing about doing a study to figure out if caged hens, forced to lay an egg every day for 18-24 months and then gassed and ground into dog food (or fast food chicken nuggets) are miserable. It's a stall because the industry that is responsible for this process makes a lot of money. They give us those dollar a dozen grocery store eggs. And between their need to make money and our need for cheap groceries, there's going to be some backlash when the chicken farms get shut down and our crappy grocery store eggs go up in price. So we do a study to determine if the hens mind being caged until they turn two and then ground up. I can't wait for the results. Who knows, maybe we'll find out that the hens really don't mind at all. And we can move forward with our dollar a dozen crappy grocery store egg buying ways.
Which is really actually good for me. I like the big colorful eggs I get from local farmers. They treat their hens well, feed them kitchen scraps, let them roam around a bit, and never ever put them in a tiny cage. These hens lay eggs for 5+ years. Their eggs are full of nutrients, don't cause heart disease, and taste divine. My little family eats between 3 and 4 dozen a week. For awhile we were even trying to rehabilitate our rescued white labrador retriever, Max, by cracking a raw egg on top of his dog food every morning. I wouldn't feed grocery store eggs to my dog. Even Max got the good stuff.
At some point, people are going to wake up and realize that cheap groceries are also mostly crappy groceries. Or not. Maybe Darwin had a point.
Good luck with the study.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Our groundswell (as requested by council member Monica Vernon) is sure swelling. The facebook page has been up for exactly one week and we have 325 fans.
Did you know that you can breed pit bulls in your backyard here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa but you can't yet have 6 hens? Hmmmm.......
Here's a few other things that most folks don't seem to know;
Roosters crow. Hens do not. Ever. A hen has never crowed in the history of the world. I promise.
The poop from a hen is useful as garden compost. The poop from a dog needs to be sealed off in plastic and taken to the landfill. It's toxic. And while we are talking poop....5 hens create as much as one 25 pound dog.
You don't need a rooster on site to get a hen to lay an egg.
If you don't have a rooster on site, there will never ever ever be a baby chick in your omelet. I promise.
Hens do less to attract rats and raccoons than your open trash bin does. Let's ban trash.
Hens don't want to run away. They like it at home. If they get loose, they'll be headed back to the coop at sundown. They have no desire to be out in the world when it gets dark.
My lovely children have asked if they can go to the meeting to see the people who are going to vote about whether or not we get to have chickens in the spring.
I said yes.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
We went last night. It makes me truly happy. Seriously thrills me. The smell is divine. I love to sit and wait for my food, just concentrating on the smells.
I get so very confused when anyone disagrees with me about how wonderful their food is. It happened over lunch this week at Phong Lan (another favorite place to eat...more on that later.)
I now understand what the problem is.
I only eat there at night. I've never had their buffet. The folks that disagree with my assessment of Taste of India as the only place in town to get food from the heavens have (so far) only eaten lunch there. I think supper must be a different deal. I always order my food "medium" and Highlander gets his "spicy." It makes his eyes sweat. This cracks me up.
Last night, my head felt like it was glowing for hours after we left. I wish they could send smells through their website.
We brought home left overs and Highlander forgot to take them to work with him this morning...lucky me!
Eat there at night! And don't ask for your food "mild." Especially if you look like an Iowan. The waitress always looks at me and then assumes I'd like my food to be completely lacking in flavor. It's racist. I'm working my way up to "spicy." Not bad for a redheaded chick from the land of cream of mushroom soup based casseroles.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Here's where we started:
2 cups gluten free flour (Bob's Red Mill)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 tablespoons lukewarm milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1. mix yeast and milk and let it sit for 15 minutes
2. sift flour, xanthan gum and salt together in a large bowl
3. add yeast and milk mixture, vegetable oil, yogurt, and egg to the flour. mix until a soft dough forms. add lukewarm water to moisten if necessary
4. knead for 10 minutes (that's a really long time. my arms got sore)
5. let the dough rise for about an hour and preheat the oven to 475 degrees, or hotter if you have an oven that will do that.
6. knead for 2 more minutes
7. divide into four pieces and shape into thin teardrop shapes that are about 1/4 inch thick
8. bake the teardrops in a 475 degree+ oven for 3-4 minutes on a preheated baking stone one at a time
I think my oven should have been hotter, but it's acting up lately. Next time, I'll try adding another tablespoon of yeast. It needed more salt, too. I need to do some research on gluten free dough and how to get it to rise. Maybe it's always just going to be heavier. Oh well. It was my first taste of bread in many days and I'm sure I was suffering from a little "Oh How I've Missed You!" syndrome. It'll wear off and I'll get this down. Then...on to bagels!
Also, I made a yellow lentil dish that is really flavorful. We ate it over cardamom flavored basmati rice and the kids actually didn't freak out. They ate it slowly. Tori said it wasn't good, but she didn't mind it. Zoe had a fit on principle. I explained to them that this is the macaroni and cheese of India, and they expressed pity for Indian children. Let's call that progress. We'll try again next week.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Just in case you really do come here for the food, here's the new thing I eat a lot of. It's pretty easy. It's also quite yummy and it helps me not think about bread.
Taco Rice (but not the salty kind from a bag)
This recipe makes as much as you want to make. So far, it's a hit with the kids, too. I like the Mexican Rice that you just buy in the bag and then dump in boiling water, but Highlander complains that it's overwhelmingly salty. He has a point. This isn't salty. It is cheap.
Line up a bunch of 2 cup Ziplock containers on your counter.
Put this in each one:
1 cup white rice (not instant)
2 teaspoons chili powder (the normal cheap american kind)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
a little less than 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or more if you like it spicy
Now put the lids on and label with these directions:
Heat 1 teaspoon cooking oil over medium heat and add the dry rice mix. Stir frequently until rice starts to sizzle. Add one full container of water (your containers should hold 2 cups) and 1 8 ounce can of tomato sauce. Put a lid on the pot and simmer 20-25 minutes.
I have a stack of these in my pantry. Well, I had a stack of them in my pantry. Until I started eating it every single day.
I do miss bread.
Photo shamelessly lifted from www.simply-glutenfree.blogspot.com
Their recipe is also better than mine, but it's not quick. We're going for quick, here.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Freaked me out, too.
Whatever. She came up with Very Low Iron and Pernicious Anemia. It's not Lupus, or arthritis, or any of the Hepatitis's. Oh Joy.
So I chugged some greenish red foul smelling supplements for a few months and slowly started to feel....better. But not all the way better. I still have "dumb" days and "sore" days and "what the hell did I eat????" days.
So then I started to shun the cow. (I am prepared to be sued by Big Dairy for this.) The Dairy makes me really sick. Always has. But I get all cheesy-needy and conveniently "forget" and then I pay. So buh-bye to the Cow!
And then it occurred to me that maybe it's not just a dairy-thing and an iron thing. Could it be (oh please don't let it be) a gluten thing? Please. Not the bread.
I've been kind of half way avoiding high gluten foods. I have to admit that I feel better when I eat several meals in a row that don't contain gluten. I'm less sore. Less sad. Less foggy. And my hair looks better. You think I'm kidding. I'm not kidding.
I've read a few books and although I don't recommend it to others, I googled Celiac Disease. Seriously. It'll give you nightmares. But so does a life without bread. It's a wash in my reality.
I found a blog written by a woman who is a cook (like me hooray!) and she's gone gluten-free. Here it is: http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/
She's much nicer than I am, but I like her anyway. I am going to go buy 17 different weird ingredients that I've never heard of and try to make her English muffins. And then I'm going to give this bread a shot. I'll report back. And I'll probably be feeling more lively than I have been for oh, say, the last ten years or so.
Gluten-Free Flax Bread Recipe
My own recipe, comes out fluffy and nice and need not be frozen.
2¾ hours 2 hours prep
SERVES 12 -18 , 1 loaf
1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour
1/4 cup garfava flour<
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup flax seed meal
2 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 cup water or milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vinegar
Combine flours, flax, starches, gum, yeast, salt.
In the mixer, combine wet ingredients, then add the dry.
Scrape the sides, and mix on medium for 4-5 minutes.
Pour into 9x5 pan, and let rise to top of pan (took about 80 minutes). I always, always let it rise in a turned off oven.
Bake at 350F for about 40 minutes.
Remove from pan, cool, and slice.
*use egg replacer of choice to create a vegan loaf, as well as an alternative sweetener for the honey.
Friday, October 2, 2009
So I wrote mine down.
Here it is:
To get really good chicken meat and stock:
Get this stuff out of your fridge and cabinets:
A big stock pot
Some little containers for freezing the leftovers
Ziploc baggies for the freezer
Rinse a whole (not frozen) organic chicken well. Put it in a big stock pot. Cover it with water. Add one roughly chopped celery stalk, one roughly chopped onion, and one roughly chopped carrot. Bring water to a boil. Add 3 bay leaves, 4-5 black peppercorns, 2 T coarse sea salt. Reduce to simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Leave it alone for 2 hours. Remove the chicken (carefully!) from the broth. It should be falling apart. Cover lightly with foil and let cool. Turn the heat up on the remaining liquid and boil for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the vegetables and peppercorns. Reserve 5 cups of the liquid and after the rest has cooled, pour it into single serving sized containers and freeze for another use. Remove the meat from the chicken. Wrap the white meat tightly in saran wrap and then put it in a freezer safe Ziploc baggie. Label and store in the freezer for another use. Chop the remaining brown meat coarsely. Put the bones in a big Ziploc baggie and freeze. You can roast the bones and make stock another day.
Put the 5 cups of stock and the brown meat in the fridge if you are making the chili within 2 days.
To make the chili:
Get this stuff out of your fridge and cabinets:
A garlic bulb
Jalapenos or Serrano peppers or a small can of diced green chili’s
Ground black pepper
2 cans of white beans
5 cups of the stock you just made
The brown meat from the chicken
A little bit of red onion
Add 2-3 tablespoons of canola oil to a medium sized stock pot and brown 3 diced onions, 9 minced garlic cloves, 1-2 jalapeno or Serrano peppers and one diced stalk of celery. Add 3 T ground cumin, 3 T chili powder, 1 tsp soy sauce and ½ tsp ground black pepper and stir it all together. Cook 10-15 minutes. (Adding the seasoning to the vegetables as they are browning toasts the spices. This is really important for flavor development.)
Add the five cups of stock to the vegetables and stir well, scraping the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Bring mixture to a simmer. Add 2 cans of rinsed, drained white beans, and the chicken meat. If you don’t have fresh hot peppers on hand, add a small can of diced green chilis. If you like a decent amount of heat, or to add a smoky component to the dish, add one minced chili pepper in adobo sauce.
Bring the entire mixture to a simmer for 10-15 minutes and serve with warm crusty bread. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and finely diced raw red onion.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Pear Ginger Butter
60 tiny sweet (not quite ripe) pears
4-5 cardamon seeds
1 tsp celery seeds
4-5 inches fresh ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Cut all of the pears in half and put them in a large pot. Cover with water and add the ginger, cardamon, cloves, and celery seeds. Boil for about an hour.
Remove the pears and ginger with a slotted spoon and let them cool completely.
Remove the stems, woody ends, and seeds with a grapefruit spoon.
Blend in small batches until the mixture is as smooth as butter. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
I have enough for a winter's worth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I guess that's enough.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Video shows chicks ground up alive at egg hatchery
The undercover video was shot by Chicago-based Mercy for Animals at a hatchery in Spencer, Iowa, over a two-week period in May and June. The video was first obtained Monday by The Associated Press.
"We have to ask ourselves if these were puppies and kittens being dropped into grinders, would we find that acceptable?" asked Nathan Runkle, the group's executive director, at a news conference in Des Moines. "I don't think that most people would."
The group said that tossing male chicks, which have little value because they can't lay eggs or be raised quickly enough to be raised profitably for meat, into grinders is common industry practice. United Egg Producers, a trade group for U.S. egg farmers, confirmed that.
The hatchery is owned by West Des Moines-based Hy-Line North America and is one of many operations in Iowa, the nation's leading egg producer.
The video, shot with a hidden camera and microphone by a Mercy for Animals employee who got a job at the plant, shows a Hy-Line worker sorting through a conveyor belt of chirping chicks, flipping some of them into a chute like a poker dealer flips cards.
These chicks, which a narrator says are males, are then shown being dropped alive into a grinding machine.
In other parts of the video, a chick is shown dying on the factory floor amid a heap of egg shells after falling through a sorting machine. Another chick, also still alive, is seen lying on the floor after getting scalded by a wash cycle, according to the video narrator.
Hy-Line said the video "appears to show an inappropriate action and violation of our animal welfare policies," referring to chicks on the factory floor.
But the company also noted that "instantaneous euthanasia" — a reference to killing of male chicks by the grinder — is a standard practice supported by the animal veterinary and scientific community.
Company spokesman Tom Jorgensen said Tuesday an investigation was continuing, and once it's completed the company would release more information.
Runkle acknowledged that his group's ultimate goal was to get people to stop eating eggs. He said he believe many would refuse to eat eggs if they knew what happened to male chicks.
"The egg industry is perhaps the cruelest industry on the face of the planet," Runkle said.
Mercy for Animals also sent letters to the nation's 50 largest grocery store chains, including Walmart, Whole Foods, Safeway, Harris Teeter and Trader Joe's, asking them to include a label on egg cartons that says, "Warning: Male chicks are ground-up alive by the egg industry."
A spokesman for United Egg Producers called the proposal "almost a joke." Spokesman Mitch Head said Mercy for Animals had no credible authority, as well as questionable motives. "This is a group which espouses no egg consumption by anyone — so that is clearly their motive."
Mercy for Animals estimated 200 million male chicks are killed a year, which the United Egg Producers also confirmed.
"There is, unfortunately, no way to breed eggs that only produce female hens," Head said. "If someone has a need for 200 million male chicks, we're happy to provide them to anyone who wants them. But we can find no market, no need."
Using a grinder, Head said, "is the most instantaneous way to euthanize chicks."
There is no federal law that ensures the humane euthanasia of animals on farms or hatcheries, according to Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel of the Humane Society of the United States.
The Humane Society also says that virtually all egg farms, even those that sell cage-free eggs, get their hens from hatcheries that kill their male chicks.
Hy-Line says on its Web site that its Iowa facility produces 33.4 million chicks. Based on that figure, Mercy for Animals estimates a similar number of male chicks are killed at the facility each year. Hy-Line did not comment on that estimate.
Runkle, of Mercy for Animals, said most people would be shocked to learn that 200 million chicks are killed a year.
"Is this justifiable just for cheap eggs?" he said.
As to more humane alternatives to disposing of male chicks, Runkle said the whole system is inherently flawed.
"The entire industrial hatchery system subjects these birds to stress, fear and pain from the first day," he said.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I'm working on what to cook. I think Bruchetta Salad is a must. Rainbow BLT's can't be left out. Especially considering the victory that was recently won by Iowans on the gay marriage front. I may try to pull off the veggie red sauce in honor of Tori and Zoe; they love it! We'll be talking about dirt, and seeds, and why grocery store tomatoes are a definite Turn Off.
I Heart Tomatoes.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Sweet bell peppers. We'll leave them on the vine until they start to turn red.
Striped German tomato. They are a favorite around here. Makes an impressive BLT.
This is also my first try at broccoli. The bunnies keep crashing my party in this particular garden, so a few of the plants are missing whole leaves. The problem is that the baby bunnies are super cute. I just re-read Watership Down this past winter and I'm still a bit convinced that the rabbits in my yard have an entire society.
This is one of the Brussels sprout plants. These are my favorite. Now that we've got tomatoes figured out, Brussels sprouts may be the next big project. I have six plants this year. If all goes well, there will be a new garden in the spring waiting for 36 little Brussels sprout plants.
Monday, June 29, 2009
We finally got to see Mad City Chickens yesterday at Indian Creek Nature Center. It was a good time. I recommend it if you are considering adopting a few hens as pets. I also recommend it if you think that's a stupid idea.
The filmmakers were there, too. The project took three years and they say they have enough extra footage for a sequel.
Here's the thing; I'm not much for those Humane Society tear jerker ads full of shocking footage of bald, starving cats. I'm sorry that any animal ever has to suffer, but really, I'm thinking the starving children in Iowa probably take precedence. I admit that the story of Consuela, the rescued "spent hen" found at the dump in Waterloo had me by the throat. "Some of the chickens they gas don't die." This was the explanation given by the person at the dump when questioned by Consuela's rescuers.
So, not only are those anemic, sad little thin shelled cheapo grocery store eggs not as GOOD as the real eggs from happy backyard chickens, but they come from hens that are pretty much tortured until they stop laying, and then gassed to death right before the "farmers" drop their bodies off at the city dump. Oh. Yum.
I was already a little inclined to go behind the city zoning people's backs, build my little coop and adopt three chickens next spring. Now that the husband and kids are fully on board, I'm unstoppable.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Beer Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Over medium heat, in a large sauce pan, cook 1 large white onion (diced), 5 cloves of garlic (diced), 1 cup of carrots (diced), 1/2 cup celery (diced.) Stir every few minutes for 15 minutes.
While that is cooking, make a small roux (6t salted butter + 6T flour, whisked together over medium-high heat until it turns the color of caramel.)
Add 1 12 ounce can of a dark beer to the vegetables and stir. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add 2 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, 4 cups of water and bring mixture to a boil. Add the roux one spoon at a time (if you pour it in, it kind of explodes; I proved this theory today.)
Add 8 cups of finely chopped broccoli or a mixture of broccoli and cauliflower and stir in a cup of Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Dressing. Stir for a few minutes until the broccoli turns bright green.
Add 4 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and stir for a few more minutes. Let mixture cool a bit and blend with a hand mixer or pour 2-3 cups at a time into the blender. Re-heat the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.
This makes a lot. Use big pots.
Oh, and buy your broccoli at the farmers market. It makes the soup taste better.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
They are cropping up in the alleys in our neighborhood. Little gardens tucked in behind a garage or running along the wrong side of a privacy fence. Their owners seem tentative. They hide their first try, but tend their peonies and petunias proudly in the front yard. This is the first year I've really noticed people trying to grow food. The same people who bought the green peppers at Hy-Vee and never gave it a second thought are now experimenting with a little Victory Garden of their own. I see them when we go on our night-time walks with the little girls. I feel proud of my neighbors. Like we all know the same little secret. You can grow your own organic food. You can teach your kids how to eat from the back yard. Your own green peppers are the best ones in the world.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
And take a New Pi food class. For goodness sakes.
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Tips
10 strips bacon (thin sliced)
30 thin-medium sized asparagus spears, trimmed and washed
preheat oven to 425 degrees
wrap 3 asparagus spears with one strip of bacon and secure with toothpick
cook 20 minutes or until bacon is crisp, turning 2-3 times throughout cooking time
Simple Grilled Asparagus with Sea Salt
1 pound washed and trimmed asparagus spears
good quality olive oil
Preheat grill so that it's very hot. Place asparagus on grill so that the spears do not fall in between grates. Cook 3-4 minutes per side. When the spears have little blister marks on both sides, remove from the heat into a large plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Dress with lemon juice. Eat immediately.
Asparagus Pasta with Peppered Feta Sauce
1 pound box of penne pasta
5 ounces of peppered feta cheese
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, washed, and cut into 1" pieces
Cook the pasta according to package directions. 2-3 minutes before the pasta is done, put the asparagus into the boiling salted water with the pasta.
In the serving bowl, wisk together the feta and one cup of the boiling water from the pasta until a sauce forms.
Drain the pasta/asparagus mixture. Mix the sauce and pasta together in the serving bowl. Garnish with shredded fresh mint or basil and shaved parmesan cheese.
Asparagus Lemon Risotto with Mint
Finely chop your asparagus stalks into tiny discs, keeping the tips whole. Then start making your basic risotto recipe.
• 34 ounces vegetable or chicken stock• 2 tablespoons olive oil• 1 tablespoon butter• 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped• 4-5 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped• 2 cups risotto rice• 1 cup dry white wine• 2 pounds of asparagus, trimmed and sliced into thin disks• 2 1/2 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock• 1 tablespoon butter• 1-2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus a block for grating• a bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped• zest and juice of 2 lemons• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper• extra virgin olive oil
1: Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Put the olive oil and butter in a separate large pan, add the onion and celery and cook very gently for about 15 minutes, until soft. Add the rice and turn up the heat. To keep the rice from sticking to the pan, keep stirring it. Cook 1-2 minutes.
2: Pour in the wine and keep stirring 1-2 minutes.
3: Add the stock to the rice one cup at a time, stirring and waiting until it has been fully absorbed before adding the next.. Turn the heat down to low and continue to add stock until it has all be absorbed. This should take 15 minutes or so. The rice should be al dente. Set the pan aside.
Now put a large saucepan on a medium to high heat and pour in half the stock, followed by all your risotto base and the finely sliced asparagus stalks and the tips. Stirring all the time, gently bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until almost all the stock has been absorbed.
Add the rest of the stock one cup at a time until the rice and asparagus are cooked. You might not need all your stock. Be careful not to overcook the rice - check it throughout cooking. Turn off the heat, Stir in the butter and Parmesan, mint, almost all the lemon zest and all the juice. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Put a lid on the pan and leave the risotto to rest for a minute. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a little bit of lemon zest and a block of Parmesan on the table.
Creamy Asparagus Soup with Egg sandwiches
• 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and washed• 2 medium white onions, peeled and chopped• 2 sticks of celery, trimmed and copped• 2 leeks, trimmed and chopped• 68 ounces good-quality chicken or vegetable stock, preferably organic• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper• 10 small very fresh free-range or organic eggs• 8 slices of ciabatta bread• a knob of butter• extra virgin olive oil
Cut the tips off your asparagus and put these to one side for later. Roughly chop the asparagus stalks. Get a large, deep pan on the heat and add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Gently fry the onions, celery and leeks for around 10 minutes, until soft. Add the chopped asparagus stalks and stock and simmer for 20 minutes with a lid on. Remove from the heat and pour into blender. Blitz several times until it's the consistency you want. Season the soup bit by bit with salt and pepper until just right. Put the soup back on the heat, stir in the asparagus tips, bring back to the boil and simmer for a few more minutes until the tips have softened.
About five minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the eggs and turn them out onto tasted ciabatta slices. To serve, divide the soup between eight warmed bowls and place a piece of toast into each. Season to taste and drizzle with olive oil.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
For more information about the chicken movement in Madison, check out http://www.madcitychickens.com/
Here are a few really dumb reasons that people are trying to oppose the Cedar Rapids chicken movement.
Hatred towards Happiness
I can't do anything about that last one, but avian flu doesn't hit small flocks (certainly not a flock of three), no one in their right mind would try to keep a rooster in town and they are the noisy ones, and a chicken can't make more of a smell than a dog. Which brings me to the next thing on my list. If I can't have three chickens in my yard as pets, then I also shouldn't be able to have three large, barking, pooping, maniac dogs as pets. Hmmm.....
I don't think the complainers will show up to complain out loud. They just make anonymous comments here and there on The Gazette website. Chickens.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Anyway, 11 years of chemical free lawn has its disadvantages. Last years creeping charlie put the world out to its out of town relatives that our place is very friendly and they've all immigrated. Seriously. I wish it was edible.
OK, I'm headed back out to pull some more weeds.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Three women: one engaged, one married and one a mistress, are
chatting about their relationships and decided to amaze their men. That
night all three will wear black leather bras, stiletto heels and a mask
over their eyes. After a few days they meet up for lunch.
The engaged woman: The other night when my fiance came over he found
me with a black leather bodice, tall stilettos and a mask. He saw me and
said, 'You are the woman of my life. I love you.' Then we made love all
The mistress: Me too! The other night I met my lover at his office
and I was wearing the leather bodice, heels, mask over my eyes and a
raincoat. When I opened the raincoat he didn't say a word, but we had wild
sex all night.
The married woman: I sent the kids to stay at my mother's house for
the night. When my husband came home I was wearing the leather bodice,
black stockings, stilettos and a mask over my eyes. As soon as he came in
the door and saw me he said, 'What's for dinner, Batman?
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Here I am again directing you to leave my blog. You know I don't do this without good reason (remember Gusto? I remember Gusto....)so go to this blog and realize that the author is 83 years old.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I see the Sun! I do! I see it! It sees Me! Hooray!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
So here's the update on the FLYLADY project I'm undergoing. My sink is clean 80% of the time. By "clean" I mean there is nothing in it and no food stuck to it. The family is starting to catch on. Last night, a pop can mysteriously made its way into the kitchen. That's a first. Part of my morning routine is walking around the house (upstairs and downstairs) and picking up beer bottles, pop cans, water glasses, and dirty clothes. Wow. Sounds like I live in a frat house. Anyway, after two weeks of making it my sole mission in life to KEEP THE SINK CLEAN, I'm starting to make progress. I certainly have Highlander's support. He's all about having a clean sink. In spite of the mental disconnect he seems to experience between the existence of the clean sink and the part where he mindlessly leaves dirty dishes/silverware/beer bottles in and around the sink. We're getting there. One little baby step at a time.
Last night was spaghetti night. Please refrain from making any comparisons between me and Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory." Spaghetti night is my easy night. The pasta is whole wheat dried from a box and the sauce is frozen from our own tomatoes. So I'm thawing and boiling. I do go to the tremendous effort to make crescent rolls and I even cut the dough in half so that they are super tiny, cute crescent rolls with Parmesan cheese crusted onto them. We have ice cream sandwiches for dessert. By 7:30 last night, the kitchen was clean. The little girls were working their way through their own evening routines, while singing the ABC's loudly and occasionally breaking into a boxing match in the upstairs hallway. Things were going well. So I decided to bake a batch of blueberry muffins to enjoy for this morning's breakfast. I was feeling very organized and effective.
The muffins were wonderful. I ate one almost immediately after they came out of the oven. I used our frozen blueberries instead of the can of sad little bunny pellet sized one's that come with the mix. I poured them into Dora the Explorer muffin papers. Proud. I felt proud.
Tori and Zoe were SUPER excited for their very special breakfast muffins upon waking this morning. Tori said, "It's like CAKE in the MORNING only it's GOOD for you and it's good for ME and it's good for ZOE and I want to have TWO of them. TWO. And I want to take one to school in my lunch in a baggie and I want a drink with it and a sandwich and I want Blueberry Muffins Always on Wednesdays. Is today Wednesday or Saturday? Can I wear a dress to school today...."
I had already had a muffin with my coffee about a half hour before Frick and Frack (as we lovingly call them) woke up. Even at 10 hours old, they were divine.
Tori and Zoe rushed downstairs in their pajamas and robes.
"MOM!" Tori hollered up the stairs. "WHERE ARE THE MUFFINS?"
"Toria....they are on top of the stove." I shook my head. The girl is sometimes quite blind.
"MOM! I DON'T SEE THEM! THEY AREN'T HERE!"
"Toria Joy. Yes. They. Are. Look again." I came down the stairs wondering if this child would ever be allowed to drive a car. I rounded the corner just as she yelled, "NO. THEY. ARE. NOT!!!!!"
There were no muffins on the stove. There were no muffins on the floor. There were no muffins anywhere.
I peered down the basement stairs and there, on his chair cushion, looking satisfied and delighted, was our lovely white Labrador retriever, Max.
I closed the basement door softly, took a deep yoga breath, briefly considered murdering the dog and roasting him over an open fire in the yard for supper, and said, "Victoria and Zoe, I am so sorry. Max ate the muffins....." Tori interrupted me. "I DIDN'T EVEN GET TO EAT ONE!" She disintegrated into tears. "I am so sorry. I'll make more this afternoon and they'll be here when you get home from school." This conversation went on for the next 42 minutes while we finished getting ready for the bus.
The dog is still in the basement.
I can't look at him yet.
I've decided not to murder him.
So the FLYLADY thing is working out, despite the occasional setback. I'm a little afraid to add a laundry routine to our delicate system, but I think that'll be the next thing I tackle. I may need to start a daily prayer for strength and wisdom. Or perhaps a second pot of coffee....