Monday, December 31, 2007

Yorkshire Pudding


I needed some sort of bread for our supper of "left-offs" and so decided tonight was the night for my boxed mix for Yorkshire Puddings. The mix came from Goldenfry Foods in Wetherby, W. Yorkshire.

All I had to do was add one egg and some water...the mix is poured into a muffin tin that has had oil warmed up in it.

First of all I decided maybe I could just use cooking spray in place of the oil. Nope! When I took the tin out of the oven there was just some blackish liquid inside. I took out another muffin tin and this time put in a small amount of corn oil. Wanting to save the calories - I just put a dribble in each opening which I think was a mistake.

The puddings never did rise much about the edge of the tin, which I'm thinking was due to the lack of oil (??) - I may have also opened the oven before they were finished - which is a "no no".

When I tasted the yorkshire pudding it had a very familiar texture. Ds said "it tastes just like french toast without anything on it". And actually it did. Ok I just realized the texture - like biting into one of those twisty shaped donuts (cruellers?) that are super soft...kind of a moisty chewiness inside, but not sweet like the donut.

It didn't taste like a biscuit at all. The kids did not ask for seconds as they normally would with biscuits or homemade buns or rolls - and dd said "it has a strange taste".

Here is a recipe for making yorkshire pudding from scratch (most foods taste better from scratch - so I imagine the puddings would). Also, typically the puddings are served with gravy or baked in a pan with some beef drippings - that would definitely improve the flavor. Here is another version of the recipe - this one baked in a small square pan instead of muffin tins.

Here is an explanation of why it's called "pudding", and here is some additional information on yorkshire puddings.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Snake Beans or Yard Long Beans


Snake beans go by a bunch of different names - yard long beans, asparagus beans and Chinese long beans. The most fun name of course if you want to entice the kids, would be "snake beans".

The dried black-eyed pea or bean comes from this fresh bean.

These snake beans were sold in a bunch the size of which was large enough to feed our family of four.

I blanched the snake beans first, then just before dinner I stir fried them. I just looked through my "cookbook" (more on that later) to see if I could find the recipe I used for the stir fry but, not surprisingly, I could not find it. I cut off the tips and weeded out the "bad" looking beans - ones that were too wrinkled or had black spots. I had obviously left these in the fridge too long before using - so who knows how much more wonderful they could have tasted if I had managed my fridge contents a little better.

I think I used garlic, beef stock, soy sauce (which incidentally did you know it is called SOYA sauce in Canada? My dh thought I was always pronouncing soy sauce incorrectly until we found out that it really is called two different things in Canada and the USA), cornstarch, pepper and ??

You of course can cut the snake beans into smaller, more manageable pieces - but don't cut them into too small pieces, or you miss out on the fun! If you don't cut them at all, you may have to throw caution to the wind, break table etiquette - and eat them with your fingers, like french fries.

I really liked the flavor of the snake beans and would definitely buy them again. Seems like the kids liked them about as much as they like "normal" green beans. To me, the flavor was similar to a green bean, but actually better tasting (and better looking!)


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bento Box in the Heartland

Over the past couple of days I've been reading "Bento Box in the Heartland - My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America" by Linda Furiya.

Due to my interest this past year in the whole Bento Box "thing", I did a search at the library for Bento Box books and came up with Linda's book. Not quite what I was looking for - I was hoping more for a pictorial type of book - with color pictures and "how to" procedures for coming up with cool bento lunches.

Nonetheless, this book has been interesting. As you can guess by the title, it's the food memoir of a Japanese American girl growing up in the USA. She talks about how uncomfortable she felt in school being "different" from all the kids around her. Scared to bring friends to her house b/c they might see how "strange" her family was...they talked differently, ate differently and looked different.

The book also contains Japanese food recipes.

Here is Linda's dad's theory on eating new foods.

"All we had to do was taste the dish three times, but not at one sitting. By the fourth time, he claimed, our palates would have grown accustomed to the new taste and texture and we'd be ready for a full serving. I can't say that his theory worked every time, but more often than not it nudged my taste buds toward unusual foods...".

She said it worked better than her friends' parents strategies... "expecting their kids to finish a heaping plate of liver and onions, as though they inherently enjoyed the stinky dish."

--
I wish it did only take three or four times to get accustomed to a new food - by that theory my ds would be deeply in love with potatoes by this point :)

One of the things that I like about Bento Boxes is that there is not a lot of space dedicated to just ONE type of food. There is a mini smorgasborg for you or your child to feast upon. Some foods taste better in small helpings - you know how you feel when you eat too much of that overly sweet fudge - blech!

But anywhoo - I liked Linda's comment about nudging the taste buds toward unusual foods. That is what our family is trying to do. Growing up I don't remember tasting any kind of "ethnic" foods at home (well outside of our ethnicity that is), and the same for my dh. It was pretty much "meat and potatoes".

I'm not expecting that by my children tasting a little of this or a little of that - that they are going to turn into gourmands. So far, out of all the new foods we've been experimenting with - there has not been a huge desire for repeat tastings. But if we can "nudge" their little taste buds now - I'm all for that.

I don't want the kids to be picky eaters as children, but even worse - picky eaters as adults. I've witnessed that and it ain't pleasant. I'm sorry but seeing a grown man picking red peppers off his pizza - that is NOT very manly.

--
This morning I got to thinking about my kids' dislike for potatoes. And I think I know a big part of the reason. I do not heap on copious amounts of butter, cheese or sour cream. The one time I remember my ds really liking potatoes was at a friend's party where there were DELICIOUS scalloped potatoes drenched in butter and melted cheese. They were great! And I do love butter and cheese. But at the same time - I don't want my kids to only eat the food because of the taste of butter and cheese.

My kids are thin little creatures (not overly thin - but healthy looking) - they eat a lot, but we do try to limit the amounts of fat and sugar. I'm not worried about them getting fat at this age - they have too much energy for that. But I know from personal experience - the habits wrought in youth are hard to break during the lower metabolism of age.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Finger Lickin' Good Fingerling Potatoes


Today I cooked up a mess of "Fingerling Potatoes". They are little and cute. "Irresistibly cute" says the package. And they were and are.

Even regular foods can seem "exotic" and exciting when they are miniature. At least I thought so.

Until I saw this bag in the supermarket, I didn't even know they existed. Of course I have had the little red "baby" or "new" potatoes before...but these were smaller and fun shapes.

The fingerlings came in a 2 lb bag that contained an assortment of 4 different varieties - Rose Finn, Russian Banana, French Fingerling and LaRatte.

I especially liked the yellowish Russian Banana, that yes, did look like a mini banana.

I didn't have much time today so I just ended up boiling the fingerlings, which was probably the most unexciting way to fix them - but at least we'd have the true flavor.

I really liked them...they seemed creamier and less dry than your garden variety potatoes.

The kids were not too thrilled. As noted before, ds HATES any kind of potato unless the word chip follows it or it's disguised as a French Fry. Dd used to like potatoes but now she insists that she ONLY likes sweet potatoes. All other potatoes are eaten with a grim face.

The cuteness didn't work for the kids.

I would love to roast a batch of these in the same pan with chicken or beef - so I think that's what I will do the next time I buy them.

The kind of haze you see in the picture below is the steam coming up from the potatoes - I LOVE my new camera!


Mystery of the Well Worn Collar


Kelli at "There's No Place Like Home" is hosting a Show and Tell Friday, that I thought would be fun to participate in.

I came across this old lace collar at an estate sale, about 4 years ago. It was mixed in with some new "old" pieces of lace collars, fancy cuffs and long pieces of lace - some with the original price tag still pinned on. Some of those pieces I sold or got rid of, some of them I kept.

This one that I kept was not the most beautiful. It wasn't new and "showy" and yet it was the piece that seemed to be the most interesting. I know nothing about the person who made it or wore it. Or do I?

You need to click on the picture to enlarge it b/c when you do, in the bottom right hand side you will see a delicate patch job and some darning. There are quite a few other areas that you can barely see that have also been darned. The collar is cotton and very thin.

It makes me wonder about the woman who wore this collar? Did she make it herself? Did it perk up her "one good dress" or was it worn on her "everyday dress".

The stitches are so fine, the patch job barely noticeable from the front.

Why didn't this woman throw away this old collar when it first showed signs of wear? And was the woman who saved this piece along with other "new" pieces, the woman who once wore it? And if not - what was the value in saving this old "rag"?

I'd love to meet the woman who fixed up this old collar and continued to wear it, despite the condition it was in. Did she live during the Depression? Did she live 100 years ago?

Why am I keeping this piece? I don't know. It doesn't hold the same kind of meaning as it would if it belonged to my grandma or great-grandma. But all the same it is precious. It hearkens back to a time when society didn't just throw things away, they lived by the proverb:

Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Botan Rice Candy


I found these cute little candy boxes at the world food store and bought a couple to put in the kids' Christmas stockings.

There are about 4 or 5 individually wrapped chewy candies inside the box. My ds was needing my help to remove the plastic wrap from his candy - but it was so entwined with the candy that I said, I guess you'll have to eat the plastic too. Which he did, after we tore off as much as we could.

The next day he comes to me with the same problem and by this time I decided that it would not be good for his digestive system to eat all of these candies with the plastic wrap still on them (hey I saw the film when I was in school about what happens to dolphins when plastic bags get thrown into the ocean). Seems like I remember having a habit of chewing on (hopefully not swallowing but you never know) bits of plastic bread bags. Anyway - so I had my son pitch his last candy :(

Well then later - after it's too late to retrieve the candy from the trash I read a little notice on the tip of the candy box that is tucked into the box "each candy has an edible inner wrapper that melts in your mouth." We went and checked out sister's candy b/c the boy's was all gone (mother having thrown the last in the trash) and I tore off some of the "plastic", put it in my mouth and sure enough it melted!

So much for worrying about someone's innards becoming clogged with plastic!

Anyway - now we all had a taste of this chewy candy and liked it (I of course being careful to chew on the side of my mouth that did not contain the broken tooth!). Dd said "it tastes just like an orange slurpee". Orange slurpees by the way, are pretty much right at the top of the slurpee flavor chart in my opinion.

It had a good orange fruity flavor. Nothing scary - dd was worried it would taste "strange" and kids of course do not want strange tasting candy.

Do I feel bad about throwing away my wee lad's last Botan Rice Candy? Well being that he has been on a constant sugar high since about the beginning of the month, plus he still has a stash of other Christmas candy - I'd say definitely not.

Here is something odd - the box says "free children's sticker inside" and shows a picture of a flower (for a girl) and a racecar (for a boy)...also shows on the other side a cat and an elephant.

So what fun sticker did my 5 yr old boy receive in his box - a tattoo. Now normally he likes tattoos. But a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon was not quite what he was hoping for.

Medjool Dates


On a quick run to a grocery store we don't usually frequent, I saw a box filled with loose dates in the fruit section. The dates were being sold by the pound - at $5.00 per pound. I thought dates would be a fun thing to try - so I bought three of them. One for each of the kids and one for me...ended up costing about 25 cents each.

The only time I've ever tasted dates was all chopped up inside some type of "date bar" my mom used to make - and to be honest - it was never one of her "dainties" that I liked. The kids had never tasted dates before - and I was careful not to say "they're just like raisins" because dd HATES raisins.

For some reason they were apprehensive to taste the date...the girl took one bite and said "it's awful" and then quickly popped one of her canned water chestnuts into her mouth (she could eat almost a whole can in one sitting). The boy was scared now - he took a small nibble and and said "it's halfway" - which didn't make sense to me, so I asked for clarification... "half good and half bad".

I wish I could have "made" them eat the whole date because if they really tried to have an open mind about it, I think they could like the taste.

It looks like a giant, puffy raisin - very wrinkly, which adds to its charm. It was very sweet and chewy and had a kind of brown sugar or caramel taste to it. Hmmm I wonder if I had told the kids it was a chewy candy if their reaction would have been different.

Inside the date there is a pit or seed that looks like a walnut piece.

Reading about dates - I did not realize they grew on a type of palm tree. Here is a cool picture of the dates hanging on the tree.

Seems like quite a bit of the date palm tree can be eaten...the leaves are eaten as vegetables and the seeds can be ground up and mixed with flour to make bread and the flowers and flower buds can also be eaten. In some countries they harvest the sap from the tree and can make a type of sugar or molasses from it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Dinner With a Twist

One thing I enjoyed about Thanksgiving and Christmas in Canada, was that Thanksgiving is held in mid-October, so you have a bigger break between the two feast days. In the USA - it seems like you barely finish your turkey/dressing/mashed potatoes leftovers, before you start in on the next round.

Do you usually prepare the same kind of meal for both holidays - or how do you make it different?

Did you prepare a "traditional" Christmas dinner this year - or did you serve something unusual? If your Christmas dinner contained something different than the usual fare (turkey, gravy, dressing, and mashed potatoes) - I'd like to hear about it. Please post about it below.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Dinner - Chinese Style


I hope it doesn't seem too pathetic that I am blogging Christmas evening. But you see the kids are in bed and we are home alone (our extended family gathering not until Saturday) - and I have been having fun with my new camera and want to try posting some new pictures here. And of course I want to blog about our Christmas Dinner - Chinese Style.

As I mentioned here, we decided to break with tradition and instead of a home cooked meal for Christmas - we decided to go a Chinese restaurant for our main meal.

It was great!

The kids had never been to a Chinese restaurant before, so it was fun having them try out different foods. It was buffet style - so they could pick and choose what they wanted...or thought they wanted.

When we first arrived, dd asked the waitress if she could have chopsticks :)

Dd tried crab ragoon - didn't like it. She thought it was going to be something like a pierogie and I think she was surprised at the sweet taste. PS - I don't like it either.

She also tried some squid - she liked it some, but it was very spicy. Ds had a small taste and said "yuck". I was put off by the fact that it was cold, but I liked it otherwise.

Crab legs were a favorite for dd. She enjoyed using the "crackers" to snap open the legs and dig out the meat. She had a few portions of crab legs (with a generous helping of melted butter). And when she was finished eating, including dessert - this was one thing she went back and took more of.



Fried shrimp was the highlight of the meal for both children. They LOVE shrimp! And of course breaded, fried shrimp is the best. But dd also tried some unbreaded, cold shrimp and some unbreaded shrimp mixed with some veggies. Both kids ate as much shrimp as their little tummies could hold...and dd was popping the whole shrimp in her mouth - not caring that she was eating the tail as well.

Dd did not like the black pepper chicken.

I don't usually have much dessert at Chinese restaurants, but ds enjoyed two "sugar biscuits" (like a sugar donut), both had ice-cream, and dd tried some "cake" that she did not like.

The dessert below is what I had (well there was more - but this was from one of my visits to the dessert buffet). The pink "cake" was yummy - kind of a strawberry flavor...the chocolate had a coffee taste also...and the cream puff was yummy too. Would have been better with some chocolate drizzled over it (what wouldn't benefit from chocolate drizzles?).



"All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth"


Ever hear that song? Well that is my theme song for Christmas 2007 - but it's not my two front teeth but rather "All I want for Christmas is the two broken pieces of my tooth that just broke off - fixed".

I was sitting happily at my desk, installing the software for my new and very cool digital camera, and eating a "cutie" orange (seedless) when I felt like I was biting down into a seed. Yet somehow I knew it was not a seed. Right. It was two little bits of one of my side molars. Sigh.

So far no pain - so I'm hoping it will stay that way, at least until I can get it fixed. A call to the dentist is in order for tomorrow...hopefully he's not sunbathing in the Bahamas or some such place.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tradition - Tradition!

I’ve been thinking about traditions lately since Christmas is the “BIG” time of year when old traditions are resurrected…and some new traditions begin...or try to begin.

As TEVYE, the father in "Fiddler on the Roof" would say, “TRADITION – TRADITION!” Papa had a conflict with tradition...especially as his children were growing into adulthood. He felt he had to follow the old ways of doing things, because they had always been a part of his life. Yet at the same time - he was seeing that the traditions were causing problems between him and his children. "Tradition!"

Are you stuck in a tradition rut? Are you doing something the same year after year – whether or not you enjoy it? Are you sticking with something just because that is how your mom or dad or grandparents did something? Are you doing it because you’re afraid that your old spinster aunt Jane is gonna be grouchy if you don’t? …Or are you doing it because you really like doing it and you can’t think of anything you’d rather do?

Do you have some old traditions you'd like to fling out the door because they don't really fit your family anymore? Maybe they were fine before you were married or had children. Maybe they were fine as long as dear old dad was in the picture, but he's been gone for 2 years now.

Or are you so busy with your old traditions, that you have no room for new traditions? Your cousin invited you to a Christmas Operetta but you declined because of tradition…you ALWAYS pick out your Christmas tree on that date…or some new friends ask you to come over to their Christmas Eve potluck but you decline for the same reason – tradition.

Are you willing to break an old tradition in order to begin a new one? Or to skip a year or two of a tradition in order to try something new?

Once you get married and join yourself to another family – it can be kind of tricky to meld together your traditions, your spouse’s traditions and also have room to make some new traditions.

Maybe you have spent Christmas morning with YOUR family every Christmas since you were, well, born. But now you are married and have children of your own and in-laws (or out-laws as it may be).

You really don’t like dragging the kids away from their newly opened presents to head out for an hour drive to your mom & dad’s house…and after lunch at their house, you’ll be rushing over to your husband’s Aunt Aggies for an evening Christmas dinner.

What would happen if you just decided to do something different? Guess what? The roof won’t fall in. Your Christmas won’t be ruined. Maybe Aunt Aggie will be grouched for awhile – but really that’s her problem, not yours (and really what doesn't Aunt Aggie get grouched about?) Maybe your brother will be grouched b/c you’re not bringing your made-from-scratch Cinnamon Chocolate Ginger Bears…again – that’s just his problem.

I believe we ought to honor our parents even when we are old and gray ourselves, but what about honoring your spouse and honoring your children too?

If you do plan on breaking a tradition that affects other people, don’t wait until a month before the event. Finish that tradition one last time. Then wait at least a week or two, or maybe a month and then bring up the subject.

Discuss the positive aspects of that tradition and some happy memories from it – then explain (don’t ask permission) what you’ll be doing in the future.

My family lives 1000 miles away up north, so due to the distance and the close proximity to the north pole, and therefore possibly bad driving conditions, we never get together with them for Christmas. We do not get together with my dh's family until almost a week after Christmas, so Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and Boxing Day (for the sake of my Canadian readers) – we are home alone.

In past years, when it’s just been our family of four, I would make a nice Christmas Dinner…maybe a turkey or cornish hens...

So what Christmas tradition am I going to make or break this year? I’m not going to fix a Christmas Dinner for just the four of us. Instead we’re going to go to a Chinese restaurant.

My dh and I love Chinese food (well American-Chinese food) and our two kids have never been to a Chinese restaurant. Oh yeah – and Chinese restaurants are some of the ONLY restaurants open Christmas Day. Will this be the start of a new tradition? Too early to tell - but I like having the freedom to do something different...and to not be tied to doing something just because it's the traditional way of doing things.

Here is part of one of my favorite songs from “Fiddler on the Roof”…

[TEVYE & PAPAS]
Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,
Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers?
And who has the right, as master of the house,
To have the final word at home?

The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.

[GOLDE & MAMAS]
Who must know the way to make a proper home,
A quiet home, a kosher home?
Who must raise the family and run the home,
So Papa's free to read the holy books?

The Mama, the Mama! Tradition!
The Mama, the Mama! Tradition!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Beautiful Bitter Banana Blossoms


Beautiful Bitter Banana Blossoms – try saying that fast 5x.

Banana blossoms are a beautiful purple – wine color. Here is some information I found about it:

“Banana Blossoms - Also know as Banana Hearts. The flowers are a purple-maroon torpedo shaped growth that appears out of the top of usually the largest of the trunks. Banana blossoms are used in Southeast Asian cuisines. The blossoms can be cooked or eaten raw. The tough covering is usually removed until you get to the almost white tender parts of the blossom. It should be sliced and let it sit in water until most of the sap are gone. If you eat it raw, make sure the blossom comes from a variety that isn't bitter. Most of the Southeast Asian varieties aren't bitter.”

I peeled off the outer layers and this is how it looked.



The shape is so unusual - kind of looks like a Christmas lightbulb.

I sliced it up – unsure from what I read, whether or not the actual flower looking part was edible…so I refrained from tasting that part. The picture of the blossom sliced up – was about 10 min after I cut it up – as you can see it browns very quickly.



It was quite sticky as I cut it up – there was some type of sap dripping out of the top when I sliced off the tip.

I wish I had read ahead of time “if you eat it raw, make sure the blossom comes from a variety that isn’t bitter”. It didn’t have much of a flavor itself – the only sensation after taking one bite is bitterness and mouth puckering. Reminds me of when as kids we would pick and eat some pin cherries from a tree out at the lake. Just from a very tiny piece in my mouth – it felt like all the moisture in my mouth was being sucked out. I could not swallow it.

I gave tiny portions to the kids and their comments were “it tastes weird!” and “bitter!”

I know there are ways you can cook it up and make it taste better – but I decided to cut my losses. I could not imagine adding this to a salad, as many recipes suggested.

Homeschool Humor

This is funny. It's really funny. I am not one to pass along "jokes" or funny stories and I don't usually enjoy comedians ...but this is such a great spoof of homeschooling...and a very catchy tune - the kids were singing bits and pieces of it throughout the day.

The funny thing is - and this is true, yesterday afternoon, before she even saw this video clip, my dd made her own "laptop".

At lunch we had been talking about wanting a laptop (right now we have 2 desktop computers for 4 people...and sometimes that is not enough)...and dd announced she still wanted her own (she's 8). I told her I would still determine how much she could be on it.

Then the kids had their "rest time". Not really the right name for it anymore - basically they need to stay in their rooms and be "relatively" quiet for about an hour.

After rest time - my dd wanted to show me the laptop she built out of a box. On the top she had a screen where you'd slip a different page in each time you wanted to change your internet page. She made her own mouse...and even had games and magazines and links to other sites.

It was done hurriedly and messily but it was so creative. I'm glad she can get an hour of fun out of creating something. Other times her and her brother have created their own "computer games"...what's so funny is again, it's all done on paper.

So yes, homeschoolers do build their own computers!

Decorating the House


The gingerbread house that is.

I found this cute gingerbread house at Aldi for about $8.00 - which seemed like a reasonable price, since it included all the icing, and candy for decorating it.

One time I bought a kit where you make your own gingerbread and cut out the pieces with cookie cutter shapes - don't remember how it turned out, but I only did it that one year.

Decorating a gingerbread house has become a tradition for us. I told my girl that if we do something three times, it's a tradition :)

I put the pieces together and helped a bit with the decorating - b/c it was fun for me too. And of course I assisted with the candy eating. One piece on the house, 2 pieces for me - you know how it goes. The kids also followed that routine.

I was happy how easily this house stayed together- we've had problems in previous years...I only had one brief collapse this time - when putting on the roof. The icing makes all the difference - this was Royal Icing. It did dry a bit too fast - so sometimes when squeezing it out it was pretty thick and not wanting to stick on the house.

Just in the past year I have started using powdered meringue to make my own Royal Icing - and I love it. The tin of meringue is kind of pricey - about $5 or $6 for a small tin but you get quite a few batches out of it. I was tired of having icing that would not dry quick enough or hold things on.

Friday, December 21, 2007

You Say Ugli, I say Uniq


Today we came across a grapefruit like fruit with a label on it that said "Uniq Fruit"...I had never heard of that fruit and wondered if it had another name.

As we were checking out the cashier mentioned that she thought the Uniq fruit was the same as the Ugli fruit - that it had been renamed.

I was excited to hear that it was an ugli fruit - b/c I've been wanting to taste one for some time.

I started wondering - did the name change from Ugli to Uniq all in the name of political-correctness?? What next - would Eskimo pies be renamed Inuit pies? Was the Ugli fruit suffering from low self-esteem?

Nothing nearly as exciting as all that.

The Uniq fruit is a hybrid of a grapefruit and a tangerine , and is trademarked under the name Ugli.

























The Uniq fruit was about the same size as a large grapefruit with greenish skin. It had a very thick skin and was easy to peel. After peeling, I separated the sections, then peeled off the "membranes". The inside was kind of a pinky-orange color and at first I thought "this tastes exactly like a grapefruit". But as I continued to eat it, I noticed it was less sour and the "membranes" were thicker, but not bitter like a grapefruit.

There was not a whole lot of the tangerine flavor that I was expecting...but you could taste it some.

If they were not so expensive - $2.50 for one - I'd rather buy these instead of grapefruits.

Not surprisingly as my dd LOVES grapefruits, she also enjoyed the Uniq fruit.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pita Bread


Today I baked my own "exotic" food. I found a recipe some time ago for making pita bread (pocket or kangaroo bread) - and have made it a number of times before.

From Wikipedia, "Pitta (also called pita or pita bread and pronounced "pitta" in Greek) is an often round, brown, wheat flatbread made with yeast. Similar to other double-layered flat or pocket breads, pitta is traditional in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. ...The original pitta is cooked flat without any rising. This type, known as the Greek pita, is the most well known and universal type; others include Indian pitas."

I like this bread because it is so amazing how it puffs up and makes cute little pockets - and because of course, it tastes great. Today I decided to use a mix of whole-wheat and white flour, to make it a little "healthier". This bread is actually very easy to bake - if you make your own "regular" type breads - you'll have no problem with this.

This is the recipe I use - I like the step by step instructions and the pictures. My bread never puffs up as much as the one they show - but it still works great. The pockets form perfectly almost every time. I do not use a pizza stone, but rather a cookie cooling rack...not sure where I go that idea and why I do not just use a metal cookie sheet. But it works - so I continue to do it.

This is really fun for the kids to watch - so turn on your oven light and let them watch. It also works on a grill - which gives you a better up close glimpse as it puffs up.

My kids love pita bread...we sometimes fill it with chicken salad, cheese, meat - whatever! Tonight at supper my son (who was by now feeling well enough to eat - at least to eat the foods he likes) wanted peanut butter spread inside his. My dd and I both ate ours plain with a bit of feta cheese inside the pocket - yum!


Field Guide to Produce


Today I received my "Field Guide to Produce" - "how to identify, select, and prepare virtually every fruit and vegetable at the market".

I was surprised at how small this book is - but it's just the right size to put in my purse and bring along to the market with me. So now, before I make a purchase, I can read a bit about it first and see if I really want to try it or not. If it says "very bitter", I think I'll just skip. You just can't make "very bitter" taste good. Plus it will help me to know how to pick out the fresh or ripe items.

This book is divided into fruits and vegetables and in the middle section it includes color pictures of both...though I don't think all the listed produce include pictures.

But it does include alternative names (good for researching), some history, storage and ripening techniques, preparation methods and some recipes.

This book does not include a whole lot of global produce - but it's still a good guide to the more likely items you'll find in a larger supermarket that carries some "exotic" produce.

Any Stocking Stuffer Traditions???

Is there any one or two or three items you are sure to include in your child's stocking every year?

Growing up I seem to remember there was always a "Christmas orange" (one of those easy to peel variety), a small can of juice, and a small box of cereal (those mini boxes that come about 8 to a pack).

Those items seemed to reappear stocking after stocking. And now I try to include those items in my kids' stockings.

The stocking was always my favorite part of the presents. My mom always seemed to come up with fun things in them...I remember one year getting an old fashioned kind of pen that you did in ink...and the bottle of ink I got was red. I remember a candy cane shaped pen that wrote with an ink that smelled like peppermint (and this year I actually found a couple for my kids!).

One new tradition I've started for our kid's stockings is a tree ornament...snowmen for my dd and nutcrackers for my ds. I began this when my dd was about 4 - hoping she'll have a nice collection of her own ornaments for her own home one day.

So what stocking stuffers do you do?

Elderflower Presse Beverage


I have to admit the cute bottle was effectively marketed to me.

The bottle was about 7 inches tall and the labeling was primarily black/white and was written in a fancy script.
Belovoir Fruit Farms in the U.K. is the company that makes these drinks.

I generally do not buy bottled water or bottled juice...if I'm going to buy a bottled beverage it's got to be Coke (or Pepsi)...or it has to have some form of carbonation. The Elderflower met with one of the criteria - the label said "gently bubbling".

With the elderberry, which is a kind of shrub - you can use the flowers or the berries. One thing I read was interesting, "The berries are best not eaten raw as they are mildly poisonous, causing vomiting, particularly if eaten unripe...all green parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cyanogenic gycosides" (whatever those are).
Why do they just say "best not eaten raw", if they are a bit poisonous and cause you to vomit??

The flavor reminds me of a freshly squeezed grapefruit - minus any of the grapefruit bitterness...even smelled grapefruitish.


On the top there was a little sticker that read "drink me chilled"...that kind of worried me...the only time I have been told to specifically drink a beverage cold was when I was pregnant and needing to take the blood sugar test. I think you fast overnight and then need to drink some concoction - "drink it cold, it tastes better", I was advised.


No need to fear. It was tasty. The kids did not like it...though they agreed it tasted like grapefruit (I noticed the ingredients include lemon juice).

It's not going to make me give up Coke - but I think for a picnic or party, these would be fun to have. It would look lovely in a gift basket along with some cheeses and crackers and fresh fruit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cookies and Craziness






















I did something kind of crazy today, not that that is newsworthy or even all that unusual.

I baked about 240 cookies today. Thing is, I hadn't planned on making 240 cookies. It all started with The Sparrow's Nest having a cyber cookie exchange...and Be It Ever So Humble posted her picture of some beautiful peppermint pinwheel cookies from this recipe. When I saw these very cool looking cookies I knew I wanted to try making them.

So I did.

Except for some reason, my dough turned out more pink than red, but that was fine b/c my dd loves anything pink.

Then I thought I should make some cookies for a few people from church...and I couldn't just give one kind of cookie - so I decided to make some of my delicious (if I may say so myself) gingersnap cookies. So I made some of those.

This is about the point the craziness part sets in...

Meanwhile I got to thinking how I had about 15 bags of coconut (you know how it is when you are shopping without a list and you see something - coconut in my case - and figure you need one of those for your Christmas baking?). Well that shopping without a list or buying something that wasn't on a list that I had - happened a few too many times.

I used up some of the coconut on the CherryLICIOUS bars - but needed something else. I searched and found a recipe for some kind of white cookie with white chocolate chips that called for a cup of coconut - I was doubling the recipe, so that took care of 2 cups of coconut.

By this point I'm thinking I need to make one more kind of cookie b/c a variety of 4 cookies sounded nice - and I needed something with chocolate. As usual, I did not read through the recipe completely before I began and too late found out this was a recipe that had to be refrigerated TWICE. It is about 2 pm at that point, and I needed to have everything packaged up, labels made etc. by about 5:15 pm.

The chocolate cookie dough is EXTREMELY gloppy, hence the twice refrigeration. I move it into a flatter container and pop it into the freezer, trying to hasten the process. I'm moving fast now. Trying to find enough containers to package everything in b/c the little boxes I bought last year on sale, are too narrow to hold much of anything. So I try this and that - and end up with a hodgepodge of containers...some looking nice - some looking like they were those plastic re-usable or throw-away containers from Aldi (b/c they were)....but I perked them up with a colorful ribbon.

With about an hour to go - my ds starts complaining of a stomach ache...nothing unusual in that...at least at 4 pm.

At 5:15 - the kitchen and dining room and office areas are a mess - but the cookies are packaged (with some help from my dd).

We head out to church where we are having a meal - and where the kids will deliver the cookies to our friends. That all seemed to go well. Meanwhile ds is not eating - which does not bode well...but I also noticed it was grub he doesn't care much for anyway. Soon the boy tells me his stomach is hurting again and he feels crummy.

We head home.

He talks of being cold (which he never does) - I take his temperature and he has a slight fever. He falls asleep almost instantly.

I clean up the cookie mess.

Incidentally the chocolate cookies were the best...they tasted like brownies. And they actually look better than the photo shows.


Shanghai Bok Choy


I think the first time I ever saw Bok Choy was in a computer game similar to Pac Man. All these mysterious looking veggies would pop out of the center of the maze…

Bok Choy (a.k.a. Chinese White Cabbage) is, as you may have guessed from it's alternative name - a member of the cabbage family. It can be eaten raw or stir-fried. I voted to stir fry mine.

Bok choy is usually sold in a package of 8 or so little bundles and you can eat the leaves and the stalks, which is a good thing b/c once you start cooking the leaves, they shrivel down to almost nothing.

When I was cutting down the stalks I thought it looked like a beautiful rose and thought it would make a nice garnish for a veggie tray...have the "rose" in the center of the dish and surround it with all the other vegetables.



I really liked the taste- similar to regular cooked cabbage, but a much milder flavor and none of the nasty odor.

The girl thought it was “pretty good”, the boy just said “I don’t know what it tastes like”. They both ate a couple of mouthfuls of it and then asked if they needed to finish their portions (which they did not have to).

Here is a recipe I used to flavor the cooked bok choy (though I did not add the ginger). I would definitely buy bok choy again - and if you have any recipes in which to use bok choy - I'd love to have them.



Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Keeping Track of Medical Information - Works for me Wednesday

Rock's in My Dryer is hosting the last Works for me Wednesday of the year.

This is not only the "holiday season" but also "flu season". As much as we'd like to avoid making a trip to see the doctor this year, it's not always possible.

Here is a quick, easy way to keep track of your family's medical information... past illnesses, medical treatments, surgical procedures and the like.

Remembering previous illnesses and visits to the doctor, especially in a family where there are more than just you – is difficult. Before I had children I prided myself on my good memory – no need of a calendar for me. After children – I could not even remember what I was looking for in the fridge, let alone the date on a calendar.

My dh’s medical insurance at work has changed a few times and we always have to fill out forms detailing previous illnesses or medical treatments. I wasted a lot of time trying to remember as best as I could, as well as hunting through a messy file filled with various medical papers.

Then we came up with the idea of a medical log. We would record all the medical treatments as well as visits to the doctor for checkups and record when someone was sick, even if they did not visit the doctor.

When you go to the doctor because of a persistent problem with headaches, it’s good to know if the headaches began in January of 2007 or in the fall of 2006. Your daughter’s ankle is bothering her again - was her surgery in 2004 or 2005? Are your allergies worse in the summer or fall? Why is it that your son has been sick with a sore throat on and off for the past 3 months. Doctors like to know all these facts – and now you can have them at your fingertips.

I made up a simple table in a word document (you can use a spreadsheet program if that is easier for you).

There are columns for: dates of illness or treatment, family member, condition/diagnosis, treatment/meds, physician’s name and prognosis.

At least in our case, when completing paperwork for a new insurance plan – they wanted information for the last 5 years…so that is how far back we go. I don’t suggest you record every illness for every family member for the past 5 years – but all the medical procedures and major illnesses, would be helpful.

I’ve included a copy of our form – though with fictitious names and ailments for the most part.



Dosakai / Dosegai – Indian Cucumber


Now these interesting fellas, took me on quite an investigation.

I purchased them thinking that once I got home, I could do a google search and come up with photos and information on what exactly it was and how to prepare it.

No such luck. Dosegai????

Two searches came up – all the words were foreign.

I posted a search on a helpful board I came across – a wild and exotic food forum. They were very helpful - but with the limited info I gave, no one came up with a name.

So I did what I should have done originally – would have saved me a lot of time – I called the store. The woman who answered didn’t know and passed me on to produce. “It’s an Indian cucumber – except sour”. I inquired as to whether or not their was an alternative name spelling or name – “nope”.

So I began searching under “cucumber” and “Indian vegetables” and came across it. Though none of the spellings were the same as what was on the label of mine. I came up with names like: dosakai, dosakaya, vellarika.






We cut open the “cucumber” and it did taste like a sour cucumber. The consistency and flavor reminded me of a melon. Once we took out the seeds (I wasn’t sure if they were edible) there wasn’t much of it left to prepare. We were not so crazy about it plain – so I fixed it like we fix our cucumbers….sliced up, shake on some salt n pepper and add enough vinegar to cover them. My grandma used to do that with regular cucumbers and sometimes she would add some finely cut up green onion. Great!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our First Real Snow


This morning the children and I went sledding. Over the weekend we got about 5 inches of snow - a big snowfall for these parts.

Since Saturday morning the children have been asking if we could go sledding. There is a park close by with some gentle sloping "hills"...steep enough for young kids to be excited about...but not so steep that you tire yourself out, tramping up and down.

It wasn't too cold out this morning - so it seemed like a good time to "hit the slopes" - need to make hay while the sun shines, or in our case - go sledding before the sun melts all the snow.

We got good and bundled up in ski pants, boots, mitts and hats.




We were having fun - when after about 1/2 hr my dd started complaining of "exhaustion". She tends to be very dramatic - so I figured she was exaggerating and decided a change of hill might do some good. We started walking over to another spot we sledded on last year - but the kids never made it. The girl plopped down in the snow - said she was too tired and was ready to go home.

When I took her up on her offer - suddenly she wasn't so tired - but I figured we'd go home.

Once home, she told me that actually she had been feeling sick this morning...headache and such - but wasn't sure if she was sick ((I imagine some of it was she did not want to miss out on sledding). I took her temp - she had a fever...sigh I gave her some Tylenol, she lay down on the couch and fell asleep...waking up and feeling improved some. I didn't have any soda in the house, and I knew she needed to be drinking something (she didn't want to eat)...so we went out to pick up, what we like to refer to as "liquid sustenance" - a.k.a. a Slurpee.

If a child is sick - we get a slurpee...it's cold, easy to drink and they love them.

I figured "t'is the season" (for sickness that is) - and am hoping the boy and the parents can avoid sickness this season...and that the girl's health improves before Christmas.


Pelmeni - Russian Dumplings


I was happy to find these Pelmeni in the frozen food section of the world market. Some might call them raviolis or dumplings - they are from the same "family". Pelmeni is mostly a Russian dish that is filled with meat. I am partly of Ukrainian and Polish descent - so I have grown up with pierogies - and these seemed very similar to pierogies. Pelmeni look like cute, baby pierogies, so I had high hopes for them.

I decided to prepare them just like I prepare my pierogie supper (dump the frozen pierogies in some boiling water for about 5-10 min, until they float...then fry up some onions, add sliced low-fat kielbasa and cook for about 5 minutes, then throw in the pierogies and get them browned up. Sometimes to the onions I add some sliced up red pepper). I used to watch my grandmother make pierogies - and I have her recipe, written in her own hand - but mine were a big flop when I tried to make them myself. So now I have to depend on frozen ones.

Well while I was preparing the onions and kielbasa, I noticed that these Pemeni were meat filled (my pierogies are usually cheese/potato) - so I decided mixing them in with the kielbasa would be too much meat-dishy-ness. So, I figured I'd make up some spaghetti sauce (well as much making up as is required to dump a bottle of pre-made sauce into the cooking pot) and pour that over the top of the Pelmeni.

I tasted a Pelmeni plain and found it was more "slimy" than a pierogie - and decided to fry them in the frying pan for awhile before adding them to the sauce.

My dd, who hates spaghetti sauce, ate the Pelmeni plain and really liked them. My ds, who loves spaghetti sauce, ate his w/sauce and liked them. For me - I'll stick with pierogies. I didn't like the meat flavor (pkg. says "beef-chicken") - it was all kind of clumped together inside. Kind of reminded me of the canned ravioli for kids (surely it's just for kids - since I can't imagine adults enjoying it), that I have never cared for.

The Pelmeni package suggests serving them w/butter or sour cream (just like pierogies) or with vinegar ????? Now I love vinegar on my french fries, and I will even pour some on my fried potatoes - but on something like a dumpling - not a chance!



Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cacahuate Japones a.k.a. Japanese Peanuts























We found these little fellas at a Mexican grocery store.

They were over in the candy/snacks area...don't remember if the kids picked them out or if I did.

Japanese Peanuts? I thought maybe they were a variety of peanuts, rather than a regular old peanut coated with a shell that is flavored with soy sauce.

I tried looking for a recipe - thinking maybe you could make your own - but didn't find anything.

These peanuts have a hard shell - so it adds some crunch. The kids and I really liked them - and you can well imagine them being a bit addictive. They do have a salty flavor with a hint of sweetness and also some spicy hotness.

The ingredients on the package include: peanuts, wheat flour, rice flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, soy sauce and potato starch.

If you are wanting to give someone some homemade mixed nut or "nuts & bolts" party mixture - I think these would be a nice addition.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

CherryLICIOUS!!


The Sparrow's Nest is hosting a Cyber Christmas Cookie Exchange. These are not exactly what you'd call a cookie - but it's a "bar" - so I hope it counts!

I found this old recipe card for a "dainty" called Cherry Bars. A pretty bland name. So I am officially renaming it - CherryLICIOUS Chews! This recipe belonged to my mother, and I remember her making this treat on occasion - for Christmas or for church functions. It looks like the recipe was cut from a magazine or an old cookbook.

I thought I'd give it a try this morning. And man, am I glad I did (well the part of me that is NOT concerned about my weight, was glad I did).

These cherry bars remind me of those chocolate covered cherries. Or back "home" when I was a girl I'd buy these little chocolate confections called "Cherry Blossoms"...kind of like a chocolate covered cherry but much, much larger. There is a flat bottomed chocolate/coconut ball that houses a runny/creamy/cherry/sugary syrup and a maraschino cherry.

The original cherry bar recipe did not include any chocolate - I added that to make it more Cherry Blossom-ish.

If you are trying to lose weight/watch what you eat or suffer from hyperactivity - DO NOT try this recipe. It will only tempt you. Don't think you can only try a little nibble and be satisfied. It doesn't work. Oh I first was only going to have a "taste"...you know baker's rights...then I needed a bit more of a taste. Then I was eating the "bad pieces" or edges that had to be cut off to make the squares look more shapely (and me less so).

Here is the recipe:

CherryLICIOUS Chews

Base:
1 1/2 c flour
1/4 c icing sugar
1/2 c soft butter

Topping:
2 eggs
1 c brown sugar, firmly packed
1 c coconut
1 c cut-up red glace cherries (all I had was a jar of maraschino cherries so I used those)
1/2 t almond flavoring
1/2 a hollow chocolate Santa Claus (sorry but I didn't have any other chocolate that would work for melting and drizzling on top)

Measure flour w/out sifting into bowl. Add icing sugar; stir well to blend. Blend in butter w/fingertips until mixture is very fine and mealy. Pat firmly into bottom of lightly greased 7x11" oblong pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 min. Remove from oven.

Beat eggs well then add brown sugar and beat until well mixed. Stir in cherries, coconut and almond flavoring.

Spread mixture evenly over partially baked based.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 min or until golden. When cool - melt your chocolate Santa Claus (or some other milk chocolate morsels) and drizzle over top, cut into bars - and devour. You can use as much or as little chocolate as you want. I wish I had thrown the whole Santa in the microwave to melt.

Passion Fruit


The passion fruit is a berry fruit - and per berry, it's definitely the most expensive berry I have ever come across.

This little fruit intrigued me because of it's name and it's cute little size (about the size of a small plum) and it's high price...$2.19 the sticker on it said (but the cashier rang it up incorrectly and when I later checked my receipt to the sticker I found out I was charged $2.79). The $2.19 was enough, without being charged an additional 60 cents...

I figured that for that price - it must taste WONDERFUL! I had heard of passion fruit - but didn't even have a clue to what it looked like.

As I said, it was small like a plum - and almost the same color as a purple one. It was lightweight and the outside was kind of wrinkled and when I pressed on it - it felt like I was pressing on something that was hollow, like a ping pong ball. It seemed quite fragile.

When I cut open this little gem - I was rather disappointed. It was filled with some jelly-like covered seeds (similar to a pomegranate) - and not many of them.

It had a pleasant, but not overpowering smell. It was crunchy because of course you eat the seeds, and it tasted a bit like a sour grape. The kids thought it tasted similar to a kiwi.

I imagine if I had had more than a teaspoonful to taste - I could give a better description.

I don't ever intend to spend that amount of money on a passion fruit again - but if I had never bought it, I'd always be wondering what it was like.

On a side note - I did call the store to let them know of the overcharge, as I only go there about once a month (1/2 hr from home) and wanted to make sure I'd be refunded for the difference. It wasn't that the 60 cents was going to make a financial difference in my life - it was the principle of the whole thing. This same cashier also rang up 2 different items 2x instead of once. She tried arguing with me when I pointed it out nicely. A few more items and then another item is double rung.

The point is - it's not our job to be making sure that the cashier rings up every item correctly. With keeping an eye on the children, or loading up the counter with groceries - who can see every item. But on the other hand, it IS our job to be making sure that our items are rung up correctly. If we don't - no one else will.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Frog Leg Friday


Well we finally got brave enough to try the frog legs. I guess I should say I got brave enough - because I'm sure the kids would have not had any problem crossing that gastronomical bridge. I did take a picture of the legs uncooked, but I thought the sight might be a bit much for some with tender stomachs. I've read that some people are turned off on the idea of frog legs b/c they look too much like their human counterparts - and they really did in their raw state.

I took the legs out of the freezer yesterday, to unthaw in the fridge. I knew I'd only have a day or two to get up the courage.

Most of the recipes I came across involved deep fat frying the frog legs - I wanted something that was not covered in a heavy batter and dripping in oil. So I found a recipe that was for baking the legs - I modified it a bit.

After baking for about 35 min the meat was falling off the bones ready. I grabbed the kids and three plates and we sat down to feast. Well not much feasting - as a pair of frog legs each would only be a feast if you were a small kitten. But it was enough to get a taste.

The meat was chewy. My first thought was not "this tastes just like chicken" because it didn't taste like chicken. To me it tasted like shredded canned crab - but less fishy. I felt like I had to chew for awhile - and the taste just before I swallowed also reminded me of a hint of tuna.

The coating and butter and some added salt gave it more flavor, as it didn't have much flavor on it's own.

The kid also liked it. My dd said, "It's hard to get the food out of the legs...a bit of fishy-ness...actually pretty good." My ds said, "Tastes like fish". After finishing her small feast, dd added, "I'd be willing to try frog heads, stomachs or arms." The boy added, "frogs do not have arms, only legs and feet."

I would be happy to try these again - only problem is I just have a bit uncomfortable feeling - all in the head of course...a bit hard to get over the fact that I ate a frog. Well his legs anyway.

Baked Frog Legs

2-4 pairs frog legs (I had 3 pair - just enough for a pair each)
2 T melted butter
1 c crushed soda crackers
1 c cornmeal
1 t poultry seasoning
dash of garlic salt
1/2 c milk

Mix together the dry ingredients and put in a plastic zip top bag. Dip the legs in the milk, then toss into the bag. Shake. (after doing this I noticed not much coating was on at all - so I repeated the dip and shake). Place on a foil covered pan - pour melted butter on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 min (I flipped them over after 15 min)

Frugal Friday - Is Frugality a Fallacy?

Crystal is hosting a Frugal Friday. Here is my Frugal Friday tip - does frugality even work? Is it a fallacy? Fallacy is defined as "a misconception resulting from incorrect reasoning ". Is your reasoning on pinching pennies incorrect?

Let me begin by saying that we do try to live frugally and responsibly with our money. We try not to waste food, spend inordinate amounts of money on fleeting pleasures, or to spend money to keep up with the proverbial Joneses. Once in awhile I do re-use my ziplock bags or my tinfoil (only if it’s been on dry foods). I shop at garage sales and thrift stores and I even used cloth diapers (though I was never totally convinced of the savings vs the work and hassle).

It seems like so often people that are trying to save money/make money – get out of debt - get so caught up in the little things, little ways to save money, to live frugally, that they miss the forest for the trees.

They become fixated on the nickel and dime stuff but they do not tackle the bigger issues. They give themselves the illusion of frugality but it doesn’t amount to much.

No one ever avoided the poor house b/c they washed their tinfoil, turned the thermostat down at night, saved every extra packet of ketchup from fast food restaurants, recycled their Christmas cards or made their own cleaning products from vinegar. These all are good things, “waste not, want not” and all that – but if you really want to make a difference – your whole lifestyle needs to change and you need to focus on the major issues.

Again to avoid offending anyone – I am not saying that you shouldn’t do the little things too, I’m always happy to save a couple of dollars – and I realize that some people are doing the little things because they have no control over the “big things”, and every penny does count. That’s right – but the bigger pennies count for more.

For a few years, my dh and I were financial counselors through a Christian organization. There was only one case that I can remember – where the financial problems were due to a lack of money (a young couple starting out, lots of college bills, and wife newly pregnant). Most of the financial problems were due to the following:

Too many cars – or expensive cars
Too big/expensive of a house
Paying for private school education or kids’ college

For the most part, the people we saw were not spending too much money on entertainment or on gifts or on vacations or in savings accounts – because they did not have the money to do so. Some of them had budgets, some did not – some probably kept track of every penny but it didn’t help.

The decisions you make on the choice of a house can mean hundreds of dollars a month once you consider all the costs of housing (more taxes, more work, more furniture needed, higher utilities). And a difference of $5,000-10,000 a year. If you are not right on the big stuff, saving $5 a week on brown-bagging it – isn’t going to make a difference. If you are buried 10 ft deep in debt, a spoon isn’t much help.

Nickel and diming will never make a difference when you are up against too much house, or too many cars, or monthly tuitions that are above your means. Take care of the big issues and then all the small things WILL make a difference.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Smoky Bacon Potato Crisps


O.K. - I have eaten potato chips all my life - but I have never eaten "Walker's Smoky Bacon Flavour Potato Crisps from the UK."

One word - delicious! Or "delishy-aw-so" as the boy likes to say (I guess he fancies himself bilingual).

I say potato chips, you say potato crisps - but it's all the same crunchy, goodness.

These crisps were a yummy, crunchy, bacon-ful snack. Only problem was that there were only about 10 crisps in the bag and there were three hungry vultures wanting to devour them.

Could there ever be a flavor of potato chips that was not tasty?? I have had dill, sour cream and onion, cheese, bbq, salt n vinegar (by far the VERY VERY VERY BEST), all dressed, jalapeno, and pretty much every regular flavor around - but I had never tried limon flavor until this past summer.

We were on a trip to Santa Monica, CA and on a little side trip to 7-11 to procure slurpees, we came across limon flavored potato chips. I bought a bag and the kids and I had a taste. It was very similar to salt n vinegar but instead of the vinegar flavor you get a sour lemon flavor. A bit odd. I think we did finish off the bag - but it's not a flavor I'd be purchasing again - unless it was the only bag of chips in the store.

Works For Me Wednesday - Gingerbread Hair


Rock's in My Dryer is featuring a "Works For Me Wednesday".

A few years ago, we came across a procedure for making hair for gingerbread men and women.

Around this time of year everyone likes to make gingerbread people - and this is one way to make yours a little more special. Adding edible hair.

It is very simple. Using your usual gingerbread recipe, cut out your gingerbread men & women and then roll the scraps into a ball and place inside a potato ricer. Press down and little "wormy" strands of gingerhair come out the holes.

Gently remove the "hair" and using either short or long strands - place gently on the gingerbread woman in the style you desire. Press down gently so that the hair attaches to the head - then pop in the oven and bake as usual.

I tried something different this time - not only did I make the hairy gingerpeople, but I made some sugar cookie gingerbread people and instead of using sugar cookie dough - I used gingerbread for the hair to give more of a contrast. I used one of these for the picture so you could see the hair better.

Having hair on the gingerpeople gives them more personality! It works for me!

Later today we will be having a "cookie decorating party" with some friends - and the gingerpeople will finally get some clothes!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pepino Melon



"But it's EX-O-TIC", pleads my daughter. She was campaigning for me to buy a pepino melon. There was no price listed but I figured it was probably going to be close to $2 - and it was very small (about the size of a large apple).

We bought it - $1.50.

I was surprised at how thin the peel (or is it called a rind) was - unlike any other kind of melon I've purchased - the knife slid easily through cutting it in half.

There were some seeds and some stringy-ish portions that were easily scooped out. We sliced up the melon and had a taste.

It was very watery and soft like a ripe cantaloupe. Not very sweet at all. It tasted similar to a honeydew melon. The children did not like it - they didn't think it had much flavor at all.



My Little Phantoms of the Opera


My kids are obsessed with "Phantom of the Opera" (POTO). It began a few weeks ago when my POTO arrived in the mail. My dd cabbaged onto it rather quickly and began playing the songs over and over. And of course whatever the girl is doing, the boy becomes interested in also - so soon they were both humming, singing or listening to POTO.

Over Thanksgiving our family had a reunion and the reunion features a talent show. Dd wanted to sing one of the songs from POTO - but her brother would not agree to sing the Phantoms part and neither would her father or I.

After Thanksgiving we checked POTO dvd out from the library. I wasn't sure how kid friendly it was - so at first I only let the children watch the musical selections. Of course that only made them more interested in finding out what the whole story was about.

We let them watch a portion of the movie one night, and that night ds was scared - so we told him he'd have to wait until he was older to watch anymore of it. Sister got to stay up a few nights later and finish watching the movie. Afterwards she thanked her dad for letting her watch it. She enjoyed it. She told the brother what he missed.

Then this morning before school the children came to me and told me they wanted me to watch their skit. A skit that was based on some of the musical scenes from POTO. Costumes and mask courtesy of the girl.

Their skit lasted about 15 min - there was singing, there was acting and at the end there was a request for autographs (I think they got that backwards) and some money!

I like moments like these...children learning to enjoy good music, learning to act and put together a show all on their own...no adult intervention (except when the boy's mask would not stay on and I had to get it re-attached with dental floss).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Children's Book Monday - We Help Mommy & We Help Daddy



A Path Made Straight is hosting a "Children's Book Monday" that I am participating in again.

Reading to our children is important. Reading GOOD books to our children is very important. These two books are very good books. I'd say these books for the most part, show the parental roles of Mother and Father in the traditional manner. Mom is a stay-at-home mom taking care of the children and doing the housework, baking etc. Dad goes off to work in the morning and does the fixing jobs around the house, outdoor work, chopping wood etc.

These are great toddler books - teaching children at a young age that everyone in the family is a helper and that even though they are little - they can help out...even if it's just getting dressed in the morning.

In "We Help Mommy" and "We Help Daddy" - a little girl and her brother go through a typical day and show all the ways they can help around the house.

We Help Mommy
We Help Daddy
Written by Jean Cushman
Illustrated by Eloise Wilkin

I know it's supposed to be a one book review - but these two books are more like a set.

In "We Help Mommy", the children begin the day helping mom by getting themselves dressed as much as they can, helping with breakfast, making the beds, cleaning house and on and on. At the end of the day, DADDY comes to tuck in the children and says thank you to the children for helping out.

In "We Help Daddy", the children go through a day helping dad with projects around the house - like handing him tools, pulling out weeds, washing the dog, cleaning the car etc. At the end of the day, MOMMY tucks the children into bed and says how pleased she is with their helping. And the children feel good about having been little helpers.

The illustrations in these two books are very sweet.

My children, 5 1/2 and 8 have outgrown these books, but I will be saving these books for when other little children visit or for my children to share someday with THEIR children.

Blue Cheese



I need to start by saying I LOVE CHEESE!

I have not consumed a wide variety of cheeses in my life, but I don't think I've ever tried one that I did not like. Well except if you include those Kraft single slice sandwich slices of "cheese"...the ones that come individually wrapped in plastic and taste about the same as the plastic.

How could anyone NOT like cheese? Well you could ask my son, because he is not fond of it. Unless it is in a melted, gooey heap on his pizza and then he LOVES cheese.

If it were not for the fact that cheese has a high fat content (and MY fat content is already higher than I desire) - I could eat cheese all day.

The other day we purchased a small tub of Blue Cheese. I conferred with my dd to make sure she'd be willing to try it, before I decided to buy it. She was willing. The unusual foods we are trying are not meant to be tasted, then thrown out if no one likes them - so I do include the children in the decisions.

My dd has tried Feta cheese and LOVES IT. She even used her own money once to buy a package and then was heartbroken when it started getting moldy before she could finish it. So I figured there was a good chance that she would like Blue Cheese.

Speaking of moldy cheese - let's get back to the Blue Cheese. Yes it is "moldy" cheese. The cheese has had cultures of Penicillium injected into it and that is what causes the blue veins, the strong smell and sharp taste.

It is a bit hard to get past the idea that you are intentionally eating something, that as my children would say - is spoiled or rancid.

I got past the I'm-eating-mold long enough to taste a small crumble and LOVED IT! Alas, both children barely ate one of the crumbles and declared that it was nasty! I'm thinking if the girl tried it a few more times, she might learn to like it...but since the boy can't even stand the smell of Feta cheese - I figured that one taste was all he'd ever give it.

The cheese was very smooth and very sharp tasting. I did not find the smell to be overpowering. I ate some plain with my fingers, I ate some on crackers, some on bread and some in salads.

I wasn't sure I'd be able to eat the whole container of Blue Cheese (or if I did I would regret it) - so I made a Cobb Salad and served it when we had some company. Here is a recipe similar to the one I used for the Cobb Salad...I did not include any meat in mine(was already being served with soup), nor did I include any eggs (no time to hardboil them) or tomatoes (b/c I forgot to buy them). Also I included some fresh spinach and used an almost fat-free type dressing similar to Italian.

I came across a website about how to make your own Blue Cheese...I'm not brave enough to attempt to make and eat my own - but maybe you will be.