Thursday, December 31, 2009

well, poop.


It's what I've waken to twice this week. Max (our beloved mascot) is perfectly housetrained. Sometimes he just has tummy troubles. When we started doggie shopping three years ago, I insisted that I did not want a PUPPY IN MY HOUSE. Wouldn't it be easier to just have infant twins? I asked in all seriousness.

The kids were 2 and 4 and the time. Mentally adding a puppy to that mix was enough to reduce me to tears. Max was a year old when we found him at the dog pound. He weighed 40 pounds. They found him in a trailer park and the people who called weren't irritated by him. They were worried about him. Said he was wandering around and kept falling over. Max should rightly weigh 80 pounds. Max was starving. The day the city pound worker picked him up, he couldn't stand. The man took him to a vet who gave him an IV and a few days to live. Two weeks later, he was at the pound, eating lots of dog food and taking visitors. The kids fell in love with him, Highlander gave his OK, and I was just so thankful that he wasn't a puppy.

Max is a gentle dog and when we brought him home, it quickly became obvious that he had a few quirks. Little things like not eating out of bowl, not accepting food from a person's hand, ducking away when we tried to pet him. It's safe to say he hadn't been around people much. He soon discovered the joy of his life; running away. He's escaped our home about 200 times by now. He never goes far, never lets anyone touch him, and comes home when he feels like it. Or when I get a piece of chicken out of the fridge for him and stand on the front step holding it high in the air. I'm sure he can smell chicken from a mile away. For him, there is no mischief to be found greater than the pull of a big strip of chicken held up by mom. I don't worry about him unless I have to stand outside holding the chicken for more than a minute.

Once, he jumped a chain link fence to get into someone's yard, but then couldn't muster the confidence to jump back out. I went to find him that day. I've never seen an animal so happy. Of course, when I opened the gate he ran right past me to continue his neighborhood romp.

I've apologized for this dog as many times as I've held up the chicken for him. Everyone kind of loves him, anyway. When Highlander and I put him on a leash and take him for a real walk, people stop us and say things like, "Oh, I know that dog. Doesn't he run off a lot?" or "I've always wondered what his name is. He seems nice....lots of energy, huh?"

Yesterday when Victoria was letting the 8 pound security system outside, Max rushed the door and took off. He wasn't ready to come back right away, so he ran big loops around the house while I held up the chicken. It was very cold, so I went back inside and that confused him. He stood in the driveway for a moment with his head cocked to the side, staring at the front door. "You no wanna play?" Then he shrugged, laughed, and took off down the street. Tori and I stood by the front window. I was fuming a bit, as she totally ignored my pleas to "watch Max when you let Charlie out!" and she was concerned that mom was mad at her. Then animal control drove by. "Great." I whispered. "Animal Control has arrived." Tori said, "Don't worry, Mom. They'll never catch him."

Highlander takes him for runs. 6 miles, 9 miles, it doesn't matter. The dog comes home, naps on his footstool, and by supper he'd really like to go for another run.

Ya know that movie, Marley and Me? We took the kids to see that last year. Every time Marley did something destructive, Victoria would lean over and whisper to me, "Max did that once." When it was over, she commented, "Marley's got nuthin' on Max." I had to agree. But I also have to say, that in spite of my no-nonsense approach to pets, Max is loved by all of us here. Lotsa love.

So he shat all over my living room floor last night, and I heard Highlander find it this morning, his swearing combined with the click click click of Max's nails on the hardwood as he paced. I got out of bed, got dressed and pulled on by big pink gloves. I grabbed the papertowels and the watered down bleach and got to work. I'm not even mad at the dog for his tummy troubles. I've heard once you starve your belly's never quite the same. And I did give him an entire ham bone last night when Highlander and I left him home alone, which he not only ate the meat scraps off of, but crushed and knawed until there were only two little pieces left. I believe he would have eaten those, too. But we were only gone for an hour and a half.

The dog is happy. He's out in the cold right now until his tummy calms down, but I think he's happy. Maybe he wishes he had been adopted by a small town butcher. Or maybe dogs don't invent unrealistic alternate scenarios for themselves. Who knows. We're glad to have him either way.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

8:13 in bed with a cup of coffee

Strange how the definition of luxury changes after you have children. They are still asleep. Highlander pushed the button on the coffee maker, let the big dog out (oh, that's right. I need to not forget that he's outside) and asked me three or four questions that I'm pretty sure I answered but can't remember. Then he left for work. That was an hour ago. I listened for the kids and decided to take a nap while I waited for them to wake up. My half asleep mind wandered back to the olden days of yore in 2007 (also known as The Worst Year Of My Life) when they used to never ever ever ever sleep past 6:15am and I cried all of the time about the stay at home mom angst (Am I good at this? Why is my house such a mess? What the hell is wrong with me? Remember when I used to get a Paycheck? Yada Yada Yada.) My self-imposed cure for the post post baby blues was to rise earlier then my dear sweet children, sneak downstairs to get a cup of sugar laced coffee, and crawl back into bed with a stack of gardening magazines from the late 90's that my parents bequeathed to me. By spring of that year, poor Zoe was sharing a room with her sister and her former spot in the house was dedicated to growing heirloom tomatoes and an impressive array of herbs. I think we ended up with 218 viable plants that year. By the time it was time to put them in the ground, I had stopped crying. Yep. Growing things from seed makes you stop crying. I've done the study. Now the results have been published.
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.)
Tomato Paste
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.
Serve hot.
Watch the dog.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's 4:38pm and my kids are still in their pajamas

Yep. I know. I may come to regret admitting that in print. But whatever. It's a Snow Day. It's the First Snow Day of the year and the three of us were Very Excited this morning. Especially me. I was So Excited that when the auto-bot from school called my cell phone at 5:45 am to announce the news that school was cancelled due to fear of winter weather, I couldn't really go back to sleep.

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

they keep it a secret until it's too late.

My kid is sick. Along with everyone else's I suppose. She puked every twenty minutes from 9:00 last night until 3:00 this morning. Some kids will puke in the bucket. Mine won't. She likes to throw her six year old body about the room in a zombie-like fit while hollering, "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING!!!!!!" over and over. I respect the fact that even in the midst of severe physical trauma, she is outraged enough to ask the really big philisophical questions.....however, I ran out of antibacterial wipes, washcloths, pajamas (hers and mine) blankets, sheets (top and bottom) and she is now laying on a big towel under two more big towels in one of my tee shirts and her last clean pair of underwear. And she's pissed because the washing machine will only wash so fast.....

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.

R

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

are hens that live in tiny cages miserable? I don't know....let's do a double blind placebo study.

Let's hire a consultant, form a committee, call PETA (because they always have such helpful hints,) take a series of votes, write some letters, and discuss it until the problem solves itself. I'm frustrated by some people's unwillingness to make a decision. They don't want to make a mistake, get blamed, or move forward, so they opt for paralysis by analysis. Even when the answer to the question is so very obvious.

OK, so you can catch up, here's a link to the article that our local newspaper picked up off of the AP.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091119/ap_on_bi_ge/us_farm_scene_pitiful_poultry

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

CLUC




We have tee shirts! Head to the CLUC facebook page to find out how to get yours. If you live in Cedar Rapids, CLUC expects to see you at the next council meeting dressed in egg-yolk yellow. Got Eggs??

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

Cedar Rapids gets her Hens! It's All Happening....


CLUC (Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens) will address the Cedar Rapids city council soon. Then they'll talk about us behind our backs, ask questions, get answers, and if we think we can make it fly, we'll ask them to change the ordinance prohibiting backyard hens for egg-laying and pet-having purposes.


I get to address the council. I have promised to behave.


Oh, how I wish I had a chicken hat to wear to the meeting.


If you are a lover of all things chicken and would like to see some hens in my backyard (or yours, of course) please take this survey. We are using the results to help the cause.


Don't be afraid. It's only four questions.


Tori and Zoe have started putting chickens in the background of their family portraits. Never underestimate the power of a child and her crayons....they are manifesting their new pet chickens.

Monday, October 26, 2009

feeding me

I can't feed me on this crazy gluten free diet! I'm eating taco rice again. And again. And again. All my favorite treats that I eat when I'm alone are bread. Now when I eat I have to think first. It's cumbersome. I'm headed to New Pi this afternoon with madame Zoe to check out their flour selection. The sorghum in Bob's Red Mill gluten free mix is not a taste that I enjoy. I thought I'd get used to it. It's not happening. I think we're having lemon pepper chicken with quinoa salad for supper, which will be super yummy. I'm going to have to get better at this eating during the day bit, though or I'm going to look like I've been running with Highlander. I'd hate for anyone to suspect that I've started exercising regularly.

Peace--

Friday, October 23, 2009

Taste of India Misunderstanding

I love to eat at Taste of India!
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.
http://www.toicr.com/
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

Naan

I love the naan. I made it last night and tried to modify it to be gluten free. Highlander said it was good. But he loves me and wants me to feel well, so I suspect he was exaggerating. It was good enough to keep messing with until I get it right.

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 egg

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

It worked.

This is my seventh day without a stomachache.
Goodbye Bread.
And Good Riddance!

Monday, October 19, 2009

I miss the gluten.


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

breaking up with bread

OK, so I haven't been writing. At all. Not even in those dozen or so blank books I have stashed away that my sister SWORE she'd swiftly and secretly remove from my home and destroy in the event of my untimely death. Because I've been feeling like crap, that's why. C.R.A.P. I won't give you a long drawn out explanation of my symptoms because that would be boring, and because I'm not 94 years old. I will say that at one point, my lovely (bland obese) doctor told me it sure sounds like Lupus.

I KNOW!

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
http://www.recipezaar.com/Gluten-Free-Flax-Bread-190906
My own recipe, comes out fluffy and nice and need not be frozen.
by Laurie150
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 eggs
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

Inspired to come back-----

I just received an email from someone who must not know that I love food. It contained the most horrible recipe for chicken chili I've ever seen. Bland, colorless, silly.

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 chicken
Celery
Onions
Carrot
Bay leaves
Black peppercorns
Sea salt
A big stock pot
A strainer
Some little containers for freezing the leftovers
Saran wrap
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:
Canola oil
3 onions
A garlic bulb
Jalapenos or Serrano peppers or a small can of diced green chili’s
Celery
Cumin
Chili powder
Soy sauce
Ground black pepper
2 cans of white beans
5 cups of the stock you just made
The brown meat from the chicken
Fresh cilantro
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

60 tiny pears

Last night, the girls and I walked over to their Aunt Sarah's house to get a few pears. We came home with 60. They were the size of golf balls, but not quite ripe. Peeling them didn't seem like an option and most of the nutrients in fruit is in the skin, anyway. I looked around on the internet for ideas, but couldn't find anything about how to make food out of 60 tiny sweet pears. I think what I ended up with is quite lovely.

Pear Ginger Butter

60 tiny sweet (not quite ripe) pears
4-5 cardamon seeds
1 tsp celery seeds
5 cloves
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

Perhaps the cruelest industry in the world.


That's what they called it. I can't even bring myself to watch the video. But I can say this: if you are buying eggs from the grocery store and you live in the midwest, where it's very easy to find farm fresh eggs that weren't created via torture methods, then you are either very ignorant and there's room for improvement, or you are an ass.


Yes. I said that.


Here's the article.



Video shows chicks ground up alive at egg hatchery


By FREDERIC J. FROMMER and MELANIE S. WELTE, Associated Press Writers Frederic J. Frommer And Melanie S. Welte, Associated Press Writers
DES MOINES, Iowa – An animal rights group publicized a video Tuesday showing unwanted chicks being tossed alive into a grinder at an Iowa plant and accused egg hatcheries of being "perhaps the cruelest industry" in the world.
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

Supper from my back yard






















We made the most amazing supper last night after a quick walk through our gardens. Sauteed broccoli, hungarian wax pepper, bright lights swiss chard, baby white onions, and garlic over pasta dressed with olive oil and lemon zest and topped with cherokee purple and yellow pear tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, toasted pine nuts and sea salt. Oh Yum. Highlander said it best. You can't get food like this ten months a year. Even if you have all the money in the world. You can't buy this in January.
What a lovely place in the world to live. We poke a few seeds in the ground in May and eat miracles in July.






Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Des Moines; You are Awesome.


We went to a little family get together this past weekend in Missouri. On the way, we stopped at the farmers market in Des Moines, of course. Highlander bought the most amazing breakfast burrito. It was overflowing with tomatoes, cilantro, potatoes, spicy chorizo, and scrambled eggs. I might have eaten well over half of it if he wasn't such a fast chewer. The little girls had a fabulous time, as little girls will when given the space to freak out and play in the street while an Ani DiFranco wannabe croons on and on about her broken heart and their mother wanders as if in a trance. Hey, that's free reign for my babies. They took advantage, as they should.


I think I bought the last 20 ears of corn in town. The third veggie stand I approached glared at me as I asked, "Sweet Corn?" She barked, "We're All Out!" Ah, Farmers. The lovely tiny Asian woman beside her croaked, "He just went to get some. He'll be back." I smiled and said that I would wait. And so I waited. Which really annoyed the obviously exhausted eighty year old corn farmer. Tori screamed, "I Want To Go Home!" Which of course, she did not. I said, "Sorry. Your mother loves the farmers market and we are staying until I GET BORED." She called me a knucklehead (thanks SpongeBob) and I told her to put her rear end on the curb. She cried. Zoe called her a baby. Highlander asked her why she was so negative and complaining here in the middle of heaven. She noted that she did not know why. Then she snapped out of it and we took some pictures of her and Zoe climbing on him like he wasn't the enforcer of their Mother's Rules. The farmer came back with the corn and I gave her an extra smile. She scowled. I paid her. We wandered away.


Farmers Are Not Marketers. Nor should they be. I'm glad they are just farmers.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tomato class at New Pi

I'm going back in for another marathon cooking class at New Pi. The Asparagus class went so well that I couldn't resist spending two hours talking about tomatoes. I get to wear a head set with a microphone, like the Sham-Wow guy. Of course, that means that the "students" can hear me muttering to myself. It also means I don't lose my voice by the end of class.

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

What's growing on July 5

July 5th vegetable progress:
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 my first try at red cabbage. I have a friend who just invented Buffalo Cole Slaw. It's not for the faint of heart. I think a nice fat head of happy local cabbage will make it even more irresistible.



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.



It's been a crazy weekend. We've been to parties and lunches and the little girls ran in a big race. We're headed out the door in a few minutes to another party. But I had to run out and see what's growing. Soon....we'll be eating out of the back yard. Hooray.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Chickens are coming....to my back yard



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.

Cluck.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Beer Broccoli Cheddar Soup

So I have all of this broccoli and cauliflower and Budweiser and Ranch dressing and cheddar cheese left from our big event last weekend. I invented a soup. I ate it for lunch and froze the rest. If there's any left in November, it'll be a welcome fall warm-up.

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.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Victory in the Garden



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

The Asparagus Class

Here are the recipes. I cooked it all in two hours and it could not have gone better. Great class, good time, and possibly the most rocking risotto ever.

Enjoy!

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
serve hot


Simple Grilled Asparagus with Sea Salt
1 pound washed and trimmed asparagus spears
sea salt
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.

Friday, May 15, 2009

If you build it....they will come


I know. But I couldn't help it. I found the dude who has the plans to my oh so cute chicken coop and now I'm going to share him....




The site, http://www.backyardchickens.com/ is an excellent place to snoop around and learn a bit more about raising chickens in you backyard.


Mine are already named; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

When my sisters and I were little kids, we had a bad pet kitty incident that ended when kitty climbed the posh curtains in our living room. My father peeled kitty off the valance, well above his head, and calmly announced that she would be "happier on the farm." And so she went. As consolation, the three daughters got three goldfish, which we promptly named; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. How very P.K. So those are my chicken names. Bastian wants a chicken, too. His will be called Fred. Kind of reminds me of this guy I used to know named Mark. He had an older brother named Matthew, a younger brother named Luke, and years after the three were born, the fourth brother came along. He was named Greg. Sometimes Moms get tired.


I know it's still against the rules to have chickens in town, but I have faith in the chicken folks who are pushing to make it happen. They are screening the documentary film, "Mad City Chickens" on June 28th. Location TBD.


I'll start construction later this summer and the lucky four (Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Fred) will be clucking and pecking in their super cute coop by this time next year.
Now check this out; Louis Armstrong sings Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spring!

Spring does funny things to my ambition level. I have one month to make the yard perfect, coax all the summer flowers into full bloom, dress my family for the wedding (and myself. I'm on my third try), put together an asparagus class (Finally. June 12. New Pioneer COOP. Hooray!) I'm also logging 3 miles a day on the treadmill at the Y (that's a secret. i sneak in and sneak out and if they don't know I'm doing it, they can't keep me from it with their high maintenance tendencies. they being the family.) And just today, I made this deal with myself; I will buy the very cool green yoga pants, but I have to add some yoga to my day. Why? Oh why the over achievement? Because it isn't cold outside anymore and I've come out of hibernation with a new attitude. I know. I'm even annoying myself...

Spring!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chickens need a house, too.


And this is the chicken coop that will soon be in our backyard. The little girls are So Excited. This time next year, we'll have three awkward adolescent clucking wonders pecking around their new home.



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.

Avian Flu

Noise

Smell

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

here, the charlie doesn't creep. it sprints.

Well, the garden is growing. My pepper plants are two inches tall, the tomato seedlings are nestled snug in my dirt-bed, and the basil has started to show tiny green signs of life. I should be lounging in my outdoor living room sipping green tea and enjoying the peace and quiet. But no. I'm picking creeping charlie out of my coreopsis moonbeam. I'm pulling creeping charlie off of the borders of my front garden. I'm throwing armload after armload of creeping charlie in the yardy in an attempt to remove it from the premises. Today, I filled the fire pit with it. But then I couldn't find the lighter fluid. Probably better. I was pissed, so who knows what would have ended up on fire. Oops. There goes the porch swing.

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

swine flu




I know. It's so funny I almost fell off of my chair.

Also, that's not my kid.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Lamb Farm


Mom's Club went to the Lamb Farm. The kids got to feed baby lambs. Zoe was beside her self with joy. It was delightful. What was most delightful (for me), was the part where the owner of the lamb farm opened up her freezer and I bought ground lamb and lamb chops and lamb steaks.....oh my. More to come on that later. I'm thinking Lamb Sliders on Sourdough buns drizzled in a mint rosemary sauce with a side of spicy radish and beet slaw over roasted asparagus. Yes. I was thinking that when this picture was taken. I'm a carnivore.
The meat (and lovely lamb feeding kid delighting farm experience) came to us courtesy of Pavelka's Point, Inc. Lois Pavelka was our hostess. Their meat can be found at most local farmers markets around here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter

All the little girls in pretty little dresses with their hair curled and their tiny white shoes sitting in a row in the church pew singing along with the choir.


And then I woke up.


Or rather, I didn't. Apparently, I slept through the alarm and so did every other breathing being in my home on Easter Sunday morning.


Zoe is usually the first one awake. I had to really work at getting her out of bed. She had a creased face and one red cheek, chapped lips, and a scowl on her face. We were dressed and out the door in under an hour, but Zoe never really woke up. We went to the early church service so we could get out of town for the annual traditional Easter Egg Hunt at Mom and Dad's house. As far as Tori is concerned, the Annual Easter Egg Hunt is not optional.


Zoe crawled onto Highlander's lap about five minutes into the church service, curled up, and fell asleep. It's not very Zoe-like to sleep through anything. But it was pretty cute. After church, we had pancakes, which was very exciting for the girls. We have pancakes most weekends (even when I have to send Highlander to the store four times on a Saturday morning) but for some reason, pancakes at church was really something to look forward to. So we ate pancakes. Or rather, they ate pancakes. I got up to get juice. I got up to get napkins. I got up to scoot forward when a large man tried to squeeze between me and the woman behind me. And then, I got up to catch the half chewed pancakes and somewhat digested orange juice that Zoe spewed across the table. She wasn't sick. She was just really excited about the pancakes. Nothing like puked up syrup and juice stuck in the delicate fabric and ribbon flowers of an Easter dress to make mom wonder if she's on candid camera. 

But we lived.

We went to the Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Grandma and Grandpa's and had a lovely day. The puke washed out. 

I think winter might be over and my peas are poking out of the ground. No worries.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

my new favorite joke




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
night long.

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

meatballs

See, we always get back to food.

There are meatballs resting in a bubbling sauce of Iowa tomatoes on my stove right now. Here's a non-specific recipe for making rocking good meatballs.

Mix together (use your hands):
One pound really good, sweet, pork sausage
One pound lean ground beef
about two cups of seasoned Italian bread crumbs
two eggs from happy chickens
one chopped sauteed white onion
7 cloves of minced garlic

Form a bunch of 1.5 inch meatballs (with your hands) and line them up neatly in a single layer in a casserole dish. Put the lid on the dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or so.

Let them cool and then freeze them on a cookie tray, uncovered, for about two hours. Once they are solid, remove them and put them in a big Ziploc baggie.

To reheat, drop frozen meatballs in simmering sauce and cook for 40 minutes or all day. All day makes your house smell good.

I love meatballs. I make no apology. I wasn't ever a very good vegan, anyway.

Friday, April 3, 2009

sleepless on the southeast side

There is a lot going on in the world and it has me all tied up in knots. To top it off, there are various, ah-hem....large male persons on small bicycles cruising around my neighborhood between 11am and 2pm. They cruise slowly, pants drooping down their backsides far enough that I can see where their girlfriends shop (KMart...Joe Boxer) and it's all very unsettling to me. See, our neighborhood is quiet. You don't drive down our street going from point A to point B. Unless those points are two tiny city parks and you have five kids and a picnic lunch with you. I've started locking the doors during the day. 

So anyway, there are these guys. I've seen four of them so far. They ride slowly, front wheel leaning right then left then right then left. Like a twenty three year old, unemployed man goes for a freaking joy ride on his little brother's bike at 11am on a Tuesday. By himself. 

The Mom in me wants to march up to him and ask questions. "What are you looking for?" and "Why are you here?" and "Are you LOST?" and "Would you like to meet my very large, territorial, moody dog?" What am I going to do? I could call the police. But what would I say; "Hi. I'm a Mom and I live on the really nice side of the south east side of Cedar Rapids and I have a bad feeling. I wake up at 3am and I can't get back to sleep. I feel nervous. And there are strange men wearing ill-fitting pants riding small bicycles around my neighborhood in 32 degree weather. Could you come over and arrest them, please? What? Oh, OK then. I'll call you after we are robbed and shot. No Problem." 

I think the best thing to do would be to start greeting them when I see them. I could look them in the eye, wave, smile just a tiny bit, and look as if I am memorizing their faces. I could take their pictures. I could take notes. Oh. I think I will do all of the above. And then I will post the photos on my blog. 

In the not very good movie, "I Think I Love My Wife" the not very talented actor, Chris Rock, has a line where he's waxing poetic about women in the city. I'll paraphrase, "You know why I love the city? Because you can look at the women. In the suburbs, if you look at a soccer mom, she'll put your name on the Internet." So there it is. 

I may still wake up at 3am, but at least I'll have something to do while I fidget. 

Coming soon: Photos of the Men in ill-fitting Pants on small bicycles. 


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Margaret and Helen....the blog


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.

I used to feel a little cheated that I never found a "hero." 

That was then. Now there's Margaret and Helen. 

And please let me note, before I start getting a bunch of nasty emails from people who have their personalities confused with one political party or the other; Margaret's politics are beside the point. The point is that she's hilarious, she's old, and she Gives Me Hope. 

Now go here: 

http://margaretandhelen.wordpress.com/about/


Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring Break here in Reality

My kids are sick. Tori's been S.I.C.K since Sunday. Zoe is almost over it, but it started on Saturday. We've missed swimming lessons, church, yoga and a weeks worth of fun spring break stuff like afternoon movies and slow walks to the park. And yes, I am feeling quite sorry for myself. I feel sorrier for the girls. They are going stir crazy and Tori's nose is very chapped. Oh, and now I've got the creeping week long crud, and I am hoping that it doesn't mean more missed swimming lessons, church, yoga, and the rare chance I have this coming Saturday to clean out the garage. My house looks like a Kleenex bomb hit it. Sick five years olds don't care where their dirty tissues land. We've been into the play dough, crayons, glue, and had breakfast in the last hour. And it's early, folks. Mommy wants to lay down. 

I was thinking of calling in sick, but then I remembered that there is no such option. 

Onward. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

On the Road Again

I haven't driven to Clear Lake in two months. That'd mean I haven't seen my dear teen aged son for....two months. As with most things in life, one does not plan to be absent from one's child for two whole months. It happens one snow storm at a time. Today, there is no snow. I'm leaving for the five hour round trip about 55 minutes from now. I think he will most definitely be taller than he was at Christmas. Last I checked, he was wearing a size 13 shoe. Which reminds me....I wonder if I have any ham in the fridge.

OK, enough with the rambling. 

On with the food. What I really wanted to say is that I made Eggplant Parmesan last night and I was underwhelmed. It was a lot of work for a not very impressive meal. That's all.

Happy Weekend. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Black Bean Salsa Polenta


I see the Sun! I do! I see it! It sees Me! Hooray!
OK, I'm not usually that jovial but wth (that'd be what the hell.)

Cook this:

Stir together one cup of cold water and one cup of white cornmeal in a small bowl.

Boil 1 can (or 1 3/4 cups of your own superior) chicken stock and a cup of water in a medium sized sauce pan. When it's at a rolling boil, carefully spoon in the cornmeal/water mixture. Turn the heat way way down and stir slowly for five minutes. Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and keep stirring for another 2-3 minutes. Add Salt and Pepper to taste. Remove the pot from the heat and put a lid on it.

In a separate saute pan, put one small diced onion in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. While that is cooking, mince 2 cloves of garlic (or 5 if you like it like I like it) and add that to the onion. Stir in 2 tablespoons of regular old boring chili powder, 1 tablespoon of ground cumin, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Pour in one can of diced tomatoes with chili's, and one can of rinsed and drained black beans. Stir it up, turn the heat down to low, and let it sit for about ten minutes.

Spoon your cornmeal magic into a casserole dish, pour the black bean stuff on top of it, hit it with some lime zest, and slide it into a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes or so. You can't really overcook it, so if you need to wait longer to eat it, cover the dish with tin foil but give it a little poke with a fork so the steam doesn't build up and rain on it. If you need to eat it right away, skip the oven part. Garnish with Cilantro and Lime juice.

That's all for now. Go make this. It'll warm you right up in case the sun isn't shining on you at the moment.

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The missing muffins


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.

Max.

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.

For now.

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....