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Monday, 08 July 2013 15:00

Michael Smith's Cornbread

I gotta say, I love this guy.  He likes to explain everything he does, and WHY he does it, which makes him an excellent cook to learn from. The other night I decided to try a different recipe for cornbread than the one I had been using, and found one by Michael Smith, and so I had to try it. 

You can find his recipe here. I won't bother writing it out again, but it was absolutely delicious! My husband isn't a really big fan of cornbread, and still only ate one piece of this one, but he rated it higher than any other cornbread he had tried. It has more eggs than other recipes I've used, and so it had a really moist, almost custard-like texture.

Unfortunately we don't have a usable cast iron skillet. Actually we HAVE about 3 of them, but they were passed down to us from a family member and have been sitting in our garage waiting to be cleaned for two years... one of these days... 

If you love cornbread - check this one out! 

Published in Recipe
Thursday, 30 August 2012 22:02

Creative Snack Idea - Grape Butterflies

I got this idea from a friend who was making snacks for 60 kids attending a church day camp, and I thought it was a good one.

First, you take a bunch of grapes...

And a bunch of paperclips...

And ziploc sandwich bags... I forgot to take a picture of these...

Using whatever you have around, or have the energy for, decorate one side of the paper clips.  I could have done a better job using pipe cleaners, googly eyes and puffy paint, but I just did this with a few different sizes of markers.

Then fill the ziploc bags about 3/4 full with the grapes, and separate the grapes between two sides of the bag.  Clip with the paperclips to separate each side - creating butterfly wings.

And Voila!

Published in Blog

I am reaching that point in pregnancy (the point that actually hit me two months earlier while I was carrying Clara) when it becomes difficult just to remain upright during the day.  My energy is just too low.

Thankfully, I have only a day and a half of work left this week, and then I am unofficially done! Except for the three Fridays I agreed to work to give them a bit more time to replace me, but we'll call that 'Future Sam's' problem...  Next week, I start teaching piano again (16 returning students, when I really only expected about 10) and babysitting a few hours every morning for a little girl who is the same age as my daughter.  I agreed to babysit for a couple of reasons - 1. Since I was only going to have 10 piano students, the extra income was kind of necessary, and this little girl and her family felt like a comfortable fit for me so despite my aversion to babysitting for strangers, I agreed... and 2. Having an additional toddler around MIGHT just make it actually easier to parent a toddler while taking care of an infant.  I have heard it said that having twins is easier than singletons - after the first year - because then they are better at entertaining each other than only one child would be.  I'm hoping this will be the case, because I'm starting to feel a bit overwhelmed terrified.

ANYWAY...

Partly because I am needing to boost my energy, and partly because I have been neglecting this for far too long and let's face it - one can only eat so much KD and hot dogs - it is time to start meal planning again.

I am usually good at this for about two months before I flake out and we spend a few weeks eating fast food and whatever we can scrounge around the house, and this fall will likely be no exception since I have about two months before I will be having another baby...

My first step is usually to determine a framework for my meal schedule, and to determine what sorts of meals I want to include.

This involves making lists :)

This go around, I want to make sure I include a lot of high-energy foods to boost my energy right now, and along with this I think I want to try to reduce our gluten intake, so I've been looking into gluten free meal plans for ideas.

We definitely need to eat more veggies, so I am making a list of either veggie-filled dishes, or veggie sides to include daily.

For cost reasons, I also need to consider a few meals each week that are low in price.  This means we can't have steak and salmon every day, as much as I would LOVE that :)  So, I make a list of meals that are lower in cost - pasta dishes, for example which also often make enough for two meals, and other possibly meatless meals that use ingredients on hand like waffles or pancakes.  If I'm being pretty healthy otherwise, I usually don't feel too bad about throwing in the occasional $1 box of KD either. 

Then I make a chart for the month, and take note of which kinds of meals I should make on which days - early in the week I choose meals that make more leftovers for lunches, and on days when I'm teaching piano I choose meals that can be made ahead of time or quickly during my supper breaks. 

Then I start slotting recipes in, while paying attention to which category each meal falls into and trying to avoid scheduling any of the same kind of food within one week.  Usually I have at least 1 chicken meal, 1-2 vegetarian or 'egg' meals, 1 beef meal, 1-2 seafood meals and 1 pork meal per week depending on what we are doing.  I also typically leave at least one supper free each week for an impromptu family event, or simply to eat any leftovers we may have accumulated. 

I try to do one big shopping trip at the beginning of each month, and then weekly trips for produce and bread.

Someday I hope to organize myself enough to spend a day or two at the beginning of each month making freeze-ahead meals like meatballs, chicken breasts and lasagna, but I'm not there yet!

What are your meal-planning strategies?

What foods do you eat to keep up your energy levels, or lower fatigue?

What else do you do to increase your energy while pregnant?

 

Published in Blog
Friday, 23 March 2012 11:32

My Picky Eater

There are a few people in my family (grown-ups, even) who are picky eaters.  Really picky eaters.  Honestly, my Grandpa still refuses to eat anything with onions in it.  And my Grandma tells stories about my uncle and how he would sit at the table refusing to eat until bedtime. He hasn't really grown out of his picky-ness either...

When I was pregnant with Celia, I could eat anything.  I was vaguely nauseous occasionally, but it didn't really have any effect on what foods I found appetizing.  There were, however, a number of foods that I had never enjoyed before that I all of a sudden craved - like ribs and chicken wings (I had never before liked eating meat directly off the bone).  And as I could have predicted, my daughter eats everything and anything.  She even likes a degree of spice that I have only recently worked myself up to.

This next child, I don't think will be the same.

I think I am carrying my picky eater.

In this pregnancy, every bit of nauseousness is directly related to food.  Looking at food.  Smelling food.  I have had to pick onions out of soups because the thought of eating them made me want to puke.  Foods I used to love I simply can't stomach anymore.  There was one day I took some leftovers out of the fridge and had to run to the bathroom to throw up because I just couldn't handle the smell that I had enjoyed only the day before.  

I am not excited about this.  I have this theory that if you simply expect a child to eat everything, they will.  I may be wrong on this count.  But I still don't intend to indulge this child's picky-ness.  At least not when it can no longer make me physically ill...

I'm going to fight with this one, I can see it already...

 

Published in Blog
Monday, 13 February 2012 12:25

Happy Birthday to ME!!!

I love having my birthday near Valentine's Day.  I know that a lot of people hate the holiday, and I agree that it's really just a marketing gimmick created by greeting card companies, but hey.  I love that I know my birthday is coming by the decorations in stores.  It's as though everyone is announcing with their big pink and red hearts how much they love ME! 

Not to sound egocentric or anything...

Anyway, my husband and I are a bit low on cash this year, but for my birthday he decided to make me a fancy French dinner at home.

The picture is not overly clear, but this was lamb chops with braised leeks on an almond coulis, dates and a chocolate infused tangerine reduction. He also made french-fried baby potatoes and chanterelles with shallots as sides and a thin apple tart (with homemade pastry) for dessert.  

My husband is incredible!

This morning my parents showed up at my door with a mocha and scone from Starbucks.  I'm procrastinating because I really need to get some house cleaning done because I teach piano at 6 today and I'm the only one here to do it, but it's just not an exciting thing to do on your birthday, so I'm putting it off.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 09 February 2012 21:10

Fast Food Craving Wins Battle

So what I was going to write about was that it has been over 2 months since my husband and I have succumbed to a fast-food craving (particularly the late-at-night kind when we're too lazy to actually MAKE anything, and none of our leftovers look appetizing...), and so I feel ok about the fact that my husband is - right now - out there driving to pick up a couple of Big Macs.

It's acceptable, right? I thought so...

Anyway, when I uploaded this photo, it reminded me of another, probably somewhat more amusing, story. 

We went on a trip to China a few years ago, and while we were visiting a 'small' village in the mountains, we were taken to a fast-food place that our hosts were fond of.  They jokingly called it the chicken burger place, because they guaranteed that no matter what you ordered, you would get a chicken burger.  I should note that our hosts spoke fluent Mandarin, so it couldn't possibly have been a translation issue.

When we got there, one of the guys decided to order a burger on the menu that advertised two beef patties.  He laughed and speculated that it would probably come with one chicken and one beef patty.  He was right, and I wish I'd taken a picture.  We safely chose to order chicken, just so we wouldn't be disappointed, but a number of our friends ordered other things and most of them were given chicken instead...

:)

Published in Blog
Sunday, 18 December 2011 00:58

Heirlooms... sort of.

Last weekend was my daughter's first birthday party, but I'll get to that later...  during preparation, my Grandma offered to make cupcakes for the party but ended up being unable to ice the cupcakes herself due to time constraints.  She did, however, make her classic decorating icing that I remember from my childhood and dropped off the cupcakes, icing, and a small tupperware container holding her set of Wilton icing bags and tips.

This may not seem like an overly big deal, but I think my feelings toward these icing tips may be similar to the way some people might feel about holding their mothers wedding dress - and being told that they could actually USE said wedding dress. 

I spent large parts of my childhood with my Grandma.  She was my replacement 'Mom' for almost the first decade of my life, and so I feel just as close to her (I think) as I would if she were my Mother.  Some of my clearest memories are of watching my Grandma decorate my birthday cakes, make icing flowers that she would stick in the freezer to harden faster, and of sneaking into the back of the cupboard where she kept these icing supplies to sneak some of the tiny icing flowers she always had a stash of. 

So, I felt absolutely HONORED to be given these icing bags to use.  My Grandma even made a comment about possibly passing them on to me, because 'no one else uses them anymore'.  I haven't heard more on that yet, but I'm excited that this could be a possibility...

ANYWAY, I set to work icing my daughter's birthday cupcakes, trying to emulate the style my Grandma would have used on all of my birthday cakes as a child.  I began imagining myself going to bulk barn to rent one of their many cake pans and decorating it using my newly practiced skill.  They didn't actually turn out too badly, and it was fun in a nostalgic sort of way to be doing this.

A few days later I recruited a couple of my piano students to help decorate some mini-cupcakes for the annual Christmas recital, and completely without thinking, I set them up to use my Grandma's wonderful icing bags.  I recall, when I was younger, that keeping the pressure off the icing so as not to burst through the bag was much more difficult than I find it now.  I recall this because both of these girls reminded me by bursting large holes through these icing bags! 

I really couldn't be angry, and neither was my Grandma - thankfully.  The bags were old, and well used, so it was all too likely they would weaken eventually.  It made me sad though, to see these 'heirlooms' break, and to know that I can't always hold on to everything.

I can buy new bags.  And the tips should last forever.  Maybe someday I will have an even bigger collection that I can pass on to my daughter and tell her that 'these used to belong to your Great Grandma...' It's pretty sappy, but it makes me smile. 

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 11:27

Changing my Attitude

Lately my husband and I have been eating out - a LOT.  Which would be ok, except that we don't have a ton of cash right now, since we're still recuperating from Brian being jobless in September, and we're not eating out for fun and to places we enjoy but because we're lazy, and we're going to places like McDonalds and TacoTime. 

In November and December, I spend a lot of time doing Christmas baking.  As I have been baking this year, I have also been watching online documentaries from my computer.  Mostly historical and religious stuff, particularly if they're controversial, but I happened to stumble on 'Supersize Me'.  Every one has heard of it, I'm sure.

I was surprised at how taken in I was by what this guy was saying.  It hadn't occurred to me that ANY kind of food could be THAT bad for you, or cause that kind of damage.  And although it's one thing to fill your own stomach with crap food and damage your own liver, it's entirely different to give this stuff to a child who has no say in the matter.  I decided that it was time for a change. 

We were mostly eating out because after a long day of baking and cleaning up after baking, I was tired and didn't want to do any more kitchen work.  And the option is always there - at the back of my head - when I'm tired, I can always resort to fast food...

SO - I decided to remove this variable completely.  I have forbidden us from eating out - at least for the foreseeable future - to give myself time to develop better habits, and to force ourselves to choose homemade food instead.  Even if we have to go out to the grocery store to get something because there's nothing in the house - we would have gone out for fast food anyway.

There is a new tab on this website - for recipes.  I have been scouring my family and friends for quick and easy recipes that they use, as well as recipes they use regularly simply because they really like them.  So, for every day that I use a new recipe, I will add it to my Recipes page.  I'm a bit behind, since I started this a couple of weeks ago, and some recipes will be without pictures - I hope that will be ok. :)

Published in Blog
Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:04

Celia's Mittens

I'm a pretty meticulous cookie decorator, so I had a bit of difficulty deciding what kind of cookies Celia should decorate - because of course, I still wanted them to look good :) Snowflakes have to have a snowflake pattern - really, they HAVE TO! And if you just smeared icing all over a gingerbread man, snowman, santa or any other living thing it might just look dead... And candy canes have to have stripes...

So, what can look blotchy and multicolored and still be potentially accurate...?

Looking through my cookie cutters, I found a mitten!  So I iced them initially with white icing and let that dry.  Then, I gave Celia a paint brush and a little pot of blue icing, and this is sort of how it went.

Using skills developed on the Buddha Board...

She usually hit the cookies.  Sometimes her mouth...

She even knew how to dip the brush to get more icing!

Obviously my daughter is a genius ;P

I forgot to take pictures of the finished cookies and now they're buried in the deep freeze.  We did this with blue, pink and purple icing, letting each layer dry in between.  Ok, I did some of them myself - she got pretty tired after awhile, and after she discovered how yummy icing was it was hard to keep the brush out of her mouth.

I think we will make 'Celia's Mittens' an annual tradition.

Here is a picture of the finished product - they were in the freezer for awhile, so they look a little more blotchy than they did at first.  I forgot to take pictures of painting the pink or purple icing.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 01 December 2011 21:51

I Do Not Like Them, Sam I Am...

We had leftover ham one day, and decided to make ham and eggs for breakfast.

And I could not, would not, make them without dying the eggs green.

Yup... Green Eggs and Ham...

And then I got what was probably the most joyful picture I have ever seen of my daughter...

I Do! I Like Them, Sam I Am!

Published in Blog
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