Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Making Rice in a Crockpot

Did you know that you can make rice in a crockpot? I just found that out yesterday.

Sure you can make rice on the stove - but whenever I do I either burn it or hover around it and keep checking it to make sure it doesn't burn.

You can make it in the microwave - and I do sometimes - but it always seems to bubble over and make a huge mess.

You can use a rice steamer - and I do have a small one - but having a piece of kitchen equipment that only does one job - isn't the greatest.

Rice in a crockpot is super easy. I have only experimented with this method using white rice (which we normally do not eat...I had forgotten how absolutely wonderful white rice with a light smear of butter and salt and pepper tastes!) and it turned out perfect!

Step 1 - lightly grease your crockpot with butter
Step 2 - add rice and water (2 c of water per 1 c of rice)
Step 3 - turn on high

That's it! I made a HUGE amount of rice and it took close to 2 hrs to cook. I unplugged the crockpot and the rice stayed warm enough to serve, for about 4 hrs.

I'm not quite sure what I'll do with all the white rice...maybe some rice pudding...I will freeze some of it for future use as well.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Happens Next?

It's interesting to me, that while our nation is undergoing a huge financial crisis - not one of the many blogs I read (or shall I say scan - since I always tell my dh I'm not actually reading all the blogs) has talked about what is going on.

Perhaps it's because nobody wants to alienate their readers by talking politics...maybe it's because it's easier not to think/read/discuss what is going on. Sure there are blogs out there that focus on finances and the economy - maybe we figure it's best left to them - the experts - to write about.

Maybe I'm just reading the wrong blogs. Or the right blogs. I know I'd rather stick my head in the sand and ignore what is going on and hope congress comes up with a solution (today's failed) that will solve the problem real fast. I don't want to think about what all this could mean.

We are kind of in the thick of it all. My dh is a CPA and a registered financial advisor...so he reads all the right things, analyzes them, and then makes all the difficult decisions during these difficult days. He's responsible for investing other people's money and our money too...

I should add that this isn't all about super wealthy people who have invested money in the stock market like I just heard someone say on the radio. People think since they don't dabble in the stock market, that they are safe. But this all has far reaching repercussions...banks are afraid to loan money...so if you need a bank loan for a house or a car - might not happen. Small businesses might not be able to get a loan...might not be able to make payroll...might not be able to keep all their employees - so you might be out of a job.

Though none of us wants to experience hard times, an encouraging word from the Bible regarding this situation is found in Habakkuk:

"Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength…"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Piano Keyboard - Suggestions Needed

At the beginning of the year we made a list of things we wanted to do in 2008. One of those things was to purchase a piano keyboard and to begin teaching the kids to read music etc. Well 2008 is almost over and this item has yet to be crossed off our list.

We do not have the space for a full-size piano...we are looking for something with full-size piano keys but not a large keyboard set-up. Something with a fold up type stand so the piano can be put away when not in use.

We will be looking for something used - I know I see tons of them on places like Craigslist - but I don't know what I should be looking for.

I'd appreciate any suggestions/advice any of you may have. Thanks!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Coca Cola - In A GLASS Bottle

Coke in a can is mundane - Coke in a glass bottle, is special.

When we were almost home from our big walk yesterday, we were in need of some liquid sustenance. There was a Mexican grocery store on our route and I seemed to have remembered spotting something special in there the last time I stopped in...Coca Cola in GLASS BOTTLES.

This soda cost $1.35 - and the three of us enjoyed it. The kids, growing up with the lame cans, had a bit of trouble sipping the soda from the bottle...but thought it was cool!

They also had larger glass bottles that sold for close to $5.00.

Cemeteries, Seminaries and Peripateticism

Why walk when you can run...on walks the boy rarely walks...he jumps, skips, hops, runs...

Recently a friend of ours sent us a copy of some pages from a book that showed a "walking tour" in our area of the city.

The book has you walk throughout an area and lists points of interest along the way. When I read that the walk included a Frank-Lloyd Wright designed house, I knew we needed to check it out!

The walking tour began at a park we've been to before, but again one that we've never walked to. I Googled it online and it said the park was about a 35 minute walk from our home. I figured we could do it.


The park was originally part of the estate of a wealthy paper manufacturer and then became a Catholic seminary for 50 years. The old home and some of the seminary buildings still stand...and a very small cemetery (less than 50 inhabitants) is in a corner of the park. We enjoy walking along the trail circling the lake, looking at the old buildings, the crumbling bridge and the cemetery. I think old cemeteries are generally interesting...this one was not too interesting b/c all the headstones were quite identical - but yet it was interesting b/c it was so small and dedicated to only men associated with the seminary.

It was fun to see another Frank Lloyd Wright building...I had actually ridden past it (on my bike) earlier in the week, not knowing it was a FLW, - and was intrigued when I saw it the first time.

There were about a total of 6 or 7 houses and 2 parks, that we read about and viewed.

Park path

You may wonder when we fit school into our day...well this walk was school. Supposedly Aristotle taught while walking throughout a garden...if Arty could do it - why can't we?! Peripateticism is defined as "the philosophy of Aristotle, who taught while walking." and "the philosophy of Aristotle that deals with logic and metaphysics and ethics and poetics and politics and natural science...". Well I'm not embracing Aristotle's philosophy, but I am teaching and the kids are learning as they walk up and down the road. We do discuss logic and metaphysics (if you can include Biblical Christianity in that term) and poetics (well the kids do sing) and politics (the other day the boy saw an Obama/Biden sign and misreading it he said "Look someone is trying to make fun of Obama - the sign says Obama Bin Laden"...the Biden name does look similar, just remove the NLA), and natural science (such as the frogs and caterpillars).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Newest Family Pets

A Playmobil park set is just the right size for these frog brothers.

I wonder if he can do more chin-ups than me?

Even frogs need to rest awhile.

When I went outside to call the kids in for lunch, they were reading to the frogs. And what would an appropriate read for a frog be? "Frog and Toad are Friends" is what the kids chose.

Enoki Mushrooms - Product of China

Here are some more mushrooms that are little and cute - but these ones are real and not chocolate covered (though they might not be too bad dipped into some milk chocolate).

Enoki mushrooms are long and thin and spindly, kind of reminding me of bean sprouts. The mushrooms grow together in a big clump and can be eaten raw or cooked.

This little clump of mushrooms cost me about $1.25.

The mushrooms grow naturally on tree stumps but also are cultivated indoors in a manner that produces the extra long, thin stalks.

I thought the enoki was very mild tasting, crunchy, and cute!

My son who doesn't ever like to eat mushrooms thought they were cute enough to try...he didn't like the flavor.

My daughter who is a fungus-lover said "I like mine - sort of bland - all stem and no head."

Speaking of products made in China...what with the recent melamine in milk scandal in China, it does make me a bit leery of consuming Chinese products. If the Chinese are willing to sell to their own countrymen, watered down milk filled with a chemical in order to make it look like it has more protein, what "shortcuts" or "money-saving devices" are they willing to do to the products shipped to other countries? Just a thought...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chocolate Mushrooms - Product of Japan

This was one type of mushroom that not only was the boy willing to try - but asked for more and more!

Japanese products always seem to be esthetically pleasing. They are cutesy and fun.

When I saw this little box of mushrooms I wasn't quite sure what I was getting, but I'm pretty good at recognizing chocolate, so I figured these would be safe.

The outside package is unique in that you don't just tear open an end, but rather there are perforated edges on the front that you press down on and "cut out" a kind of circle design to open the box. There is a little notched tab on the front that allows you to seal the box back up. There are even directions (in Japanese) on the inside to show you how the tab works.

The inside package is even decorated.

What a fun surprise it was for the kids (and for me!) to see the cute, miniature cookie mushrooms. The stem is cookie and the top is a piece of chocolate. A great combination.

I think this box of cookies cost about $2.00...it is made by the same company that made Yan Yan. And as the boy pointed out - "the stem is like the Yan Yan stick and the top is just chocolate."

I just checked and Amazon.com sells these if you want to try them for yourself. A fun little gift for someone.

Our Trip - Part 2 By GroovyGirl

A highlight of Lincoln's New Salem was the horses.

Here is the rest of GroovyGirl's trip review. It is interesting for me to see what she really remembered and thought of things.

Illinois Museum: I won't write much about it. I liked it a little but mom and dad hated it and thought it was so boring. Later they wished they had skipped it.

Lincoln's House: I thought it was so fun. Mom liked it and so did dad. It was quite cold there. I learned that at first it only had one story. But a few years later Lincoln added an extra floor.

Inside Lincoln's Outhouse

New Capitol: It was beautiful - silver colored. We took a 20 minute tour. It was just as beautiful on the inside as on the outside!

Old Capitol: Not quite so pretty as the new one. The dome on top is red. Mom did not come in (she looked at a store instead). When the air conditioning blew on some scales inside they move up and down all day!

Cozy Dog: A restaurant with yummy fries and corn dogs. Cozy Dog is supposed to be the first company to invent corn dogs (there they call them cozy dogs, thus the name).

Lincoln's New Salem: I like it. There are lots of old buildings (well not old they were made like the originals). I hated how some you couldn't go into (most of them). There are real horses, cows and sheep.

Lincoln's Tomb: It's massive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Beautiful too. There is even a balcony. We were disappointed it's blocked off. Amazing they would do it for a man just because he was President! On the tip top there's a smaller Washington Monument and near the base are metal sculptures. The material is from melted down canons!

Wendy's: We hardly ever go to Wendy's. We used to but all the Wendy's around us closed up then earlier this year one finally opened but it's in a part of town we don't go to very often. The "Frosties" were yummy!

The New Capitol Building

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A King, A Ring and A Prickly Thing

I know these beautiful fall mornings won't last forever - so we need to take advantage of them while we can.

We usually begin school at 8:00 AM - but around 7:30 AM I decided that a walk to a far-away park would have to take place first. When I say far-away park, I'm speaking in relative terms...it's a park we've driven to many times, have biked to as well - but have not walked there.

We did find some interesting treasures on our walk...a king, a ring, and a prickly thing.

THE KING. "King" is the name of this GIANT caterpillar the girl found. She has a thing for caterpillars. I have never seen such a huge caterpillar before. The girl was somewhat convinced that she had stumbled upon a new "breed", heretofore unknown. He seemed partially dead...and being dropped a few times on the way home, may hasten his demise, but the girl was intent on bringing him home dead or alive. The kids decided to name him King (b/c he is so large). Well that was until they decided his name should be Caliber (as in bullets...the boy came up with that name). The girl said when she touched him, he felt scaly.

THE RING. A diamond studded, gold ring was found on the sidewalk on the way to the park. It is actually very ugly...the photo doesn't show the "diamonds"but they are there. Most likely fake. It would have to be fake because I would never find a real diamond studded, gold ring that I could sell on eBay for thousands of dollars. Fun to find anyway. The boy said "Well what if you just assumed it was real (his rationale) and said it was gold and diamonds and sold it." I told him that would be dishonest.

THE PRICKLY THING. Just a purple thistle that the girl was willing to risk physical injury, in order to obtain. It is pretty.

Ribbed Cracklings

As far as junk food goes - there isn't quite anything to match a bag of Salt n Vinegar potato chips.

I recently found a more healthy alternative to an old favorite - Salt n Vinegar Cracklings, which is a product of the Philippines.

This bag of "chips" cost approximately $1.

They were surprisingly good (I guess just about anything covered in enough salt and vinegar would taste great).

Dd - "Mmmm it's delicious - spicy though - I love these cracklings."

Ds - "Mmmmmm" - and he kept eating more.

Me - not as salt n vinegary as chips...and crisp like a rice snack.

The cracklings are product of Oishi .

Main ingredients are: wheat, tapioca starch...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Our Trip - Part 1 By GroovyGirl

Just visiting with Abe and his family...

It will take me awhile before I get settled back in and caught up on things - so I thought I'd let my daughter, a.k.a. "GroovyGirl", share her thoughts on our recent trip. This is part of a writing assignment she has been working on.

This is all in Groovygirl's own words...I'm just typing it for her.

"Like I have said before my family loves trips. On New Years we talked about the trips we wanted to go on. "Springfield" was on the list. These are the places we went to and what we thought of them.

Lincoln Museum: After spending 2 hours sitting in the back seat we finally could get out of the car. We had just parked in a parking garage. It was large, quite empty, and had bars on the windows. "This must be what jail feels like!" exclaimed my brother. Inside the first thing I saw was Lincoln, his wife, and 2 kids (not real guys). Then we went into "The White House" a few rooms in the museum with statues all around! Before we were done we had to go see some movies - the first was a cool drama called "The Ghosts of the Library." The secret? Holograms. The next film was in a different theater. It was called "Lincolns Eyes". At some parts the chairs jumped! It was a lot of fun.

Let's see what my family thought. Mom: "I liked the ghost thing and the room decorated like a funeral." Brother: "I liked it - I loved everything." Dad: "I thought it was super!"

Maid Rite: A hamburger restaurant with loose meat - I loved it! (great rootbeer too!) After lunch I called it a "Cute Little Country Diner."

Dana-Thomas House: An old house - it was huge. I think it was mom's favorite thing! It's amazing how bit it was! It had a bowling alley, a billiards table, 3 main levels but 16 floors in all! Three musicians porches, a breakfast nook, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom, icebox room, library and more - super fancy."


The daikon is a large, white radish. It smells like a typical little red radish you'd find in the grocery store - and it tastes almost the same - a bit milder.

I sliced up the daikon and served it raw...the girl thought it tasted like a "radish or a turnip...it tastes OK." She did have seconds.

The boy did not like it at all.

I'm not a big fan of radish at all...whether its little red and cute - or large and white and carrot like. I think red radishes are cute as a garnish - but other than that - I don't like adding them to my menu.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"I'm Going Out To Smoke My Pipe..."

"I won't be back til Saturday night - so don't let the witch in!"

We're taking a family trip for the rest of the week, to Springfield, Illinois to take in the typical touristy Lincoln stuff....Lincoln Museum, Lincoln's Tomb, Lincoln's New Salem etc. as well as miscellaneous other Springfield activities (Dana-Thomas House...Corn Dog Drive In??...State Capitol...Illinois Museum).

Spaghetti Squash

OK, this is kind of cheating b/c we have had spaghetti squash before...but it seems like it's been a year or two, at least - and when you have young kids - a year or two can be half a lifetime and so I wasn't too sure if they would have remembered tasting it.

The first time I ever heard of spaghetti squash was about 16 years ago...I was single and working in an equipment leasing office (my first "real" job). My boss (male) had hired a new receptionist/admin person...a job that required typing. The new hire was a young, attractive woman, with I'm not sure what kind of experience, but she COULD NOT TYPE and she even told my boss that. It's not really the type of skill that you can just pick up on the fly - you kind of need to know how to type, and to type quickly and accurately when you are in an admin job.

Well I remember she brought her lunch to work one day and it was spaghetti squash - a new food to me, and an unusual one, especially being that back then my lunches often consisted of a bag of Salt n Vinegar chips and a Coke.

I'm happy to say Miss-I-Cannot-Type didn't last very long at the company...

The spaghetti squash is kind of a deceiving creature...it looks boring and tasteless and just has an unpleasant sounding name - squash. You don't start out with real high expectations - but you ed up surprised.

The first task in preparing the squash isn't very easy - especially when you have a hodge-podge of knives that are not suitable for cutting into a very hard, large, vegetable. If you microwave the squash for a minute or two before the attempted cutting, it makes it easier.

Cut the squash in half, scoop out the messy innards (similar to a pumpkin) of stringy/gooey stuff and seeds. Place the cut sides down in a glass baking dish, add about 1/2 cup of water, cover, and microwave for about 15 minutes. Now I'm certain you can do this all in an oven, but I have a microwave and it's quicker so that's what I do.

Remove the squash from the baking dish (they will be very hot so you might want them to sit and cool their heels for about 5 minutes), flip them over and begin lightly scratching at the inside of the squash, with a fork. The little spaghetti like strands will come apart very easily - my daughter enjoyed helping with that part.

You can eat the spaghetti plain, but it's best with a bit of butter, salt & pepper. My kids love plain pasta or pasta with a bit of parmesan cheese sprinkled on it - so I thought they might want to add some cheese, but they declined.

Everyone loved the spaghetti squash!! I figured the girl probably would (she loves carrots, raw pumpkin, zucchini and the like) - so I was pleasantly surprised at the boys relish for it. Guess I'll be adding it to our meal repertoire (such as it is) more often than once a year or so.

If you are a spaghetti squash lover - how do you season and serve yours?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Limburger Cheese

I love cheese and so does my daughter. We have tried a variety of cheeses and for the most part we've loved the stuff we have tried.

I've always been curious about Limburger Cheese but up until now I haven't been brave enough to try it. I guess all the other experimental eats has helped build up my courage (and that of my daughter also).

I did make sure that my girl would be willing to try the Limburger Cheese before I purchased it for approx. $4.50. She agreed.

It was with some trepidation that I unwrapped the foil package and then the inner wax paper liner. It was smelly but not overwhelmingly so.

Like the good mother I am, I let my daughter have the first taste.

Dd takes a bite - "WEIRD! Smooth tasting...tastes - I don't know how to describe it...when I get close to it - it smells like a cow!"

I tried a small chunk and then another. It was very smooth and creamy and had almost a nutty flavor. I tried hard to like it - with no success. It smells bad - my daughter's description of it smelling like a cow, was correct - and why does the cow smell? Manure. It also has a kind of B.O. smell to it.

Even after washing my hands with some lemon kitchen soap (complete with scrubbing grit) - my fingers still smelled kind of nasty.

For some reason the smell of the cheese reminded me of a specific person - isn't that awful?! Of course it's no one that I have even seen in many years - so current friends and family have no need to fear it is them :) ....though I know my mom and sisters are going to be oh-so-curious. But of course it wouldn't be polite for me to mention any names, so they need not even ask :)

On the package it talked about how the consistency of the cheese would be different based on how many months it was past the printed date...I shiver to think of how it would taste and smell with the consistency reached the gooey spreadable stage.

The reason for the lousy picture...I didn't upload the photos and check how clear they were until the remaining cheese block had already been disposed of.

Even though we didn't like it - I'm glad to have finally had the chance (and courage!) to try it.

It reminded me of a book the kids and I read a few months ago - The Old Man Who Loved Cheese, by Garrison Keillor of all people.

Well no wonder I thought the cheese kind of had a B.O. smell to it - I just read this on Wikipedia..."Limburger is especially known for its pungent odor. The bacterium used to ferment Limburger cheese and other rind-washed cheeses is... this same bacterium (that) is found on human skin and is partially responsible for human body odor."

"Snowflake" Pancakes

Breakfast around these parts usually consists of cereal...it's what my husband prefers and it's easy for me. So whenever I make pancakes, I usually make them for lunch or supper...but since I was already thinking of pancakes even before I got out of bed, and my dh had left super early and wasn't going to be having breakfast with us, I made them for breakfast.

I usually make a batch of blueberry pancakes and a batch of plain pancakes. My boy can wolf down pancakes like there's no tomorrow.

My "Kitchen Tip Tuesday" is about making pancakes a bit more interesting for the kids.

"Snowflake" pancakes would be a nice way to celebrate the first snowfall of the year...hopefully not coming my way too soon - but up north it could happen any day I suppose.

I just used a boxed pancake mix and added more water than the instructions called for to make a thinner batter...I then filled up a condiment bottle with the batter.

Once your frying pan is ready - you just squeeze out a bit of batter into the center to form a filled in circle. Let it cook a few seconds before moving on to the inner design...squeeze batter into the shapes you want...connecting the heart shapes or ovals to the center circle. Make sure you let each "petal" or shape dry a bit before making another connecting shape next to it - or it will all run together into a glob.

The last thing you should do is the line around the outer or inner edges connecting everything together...let cook a bit and then flip over.

I know I have not explained this very well - but you just have to kind of play around with it and experiment a bit. It is super easy.

The kids enjoyed taking a turn at making things...we also made some flowers and butterflies.

I prefer syrup on my pancakes...the girl likes powdered sugar and the boy likes both. I think it looks pretty and more snow-ful to sprinkle on some powdered sugar.

For more Kitchen Tip Tuesdays - visit Tammy at Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stocked Up On Some Exotic Eating!...including Limburger Cheese!

Well it was our first trip to the world food store, in quite some time. We found some new things to try and we picked up some of our old favorites. The first thing the boy said he wanted to buy was "some of that stuff that was real salty" - meaning caviar. He was going to have to buy it with his own money if he wanted some more, so he declined in favor of some Tic Tacs and some Japanese cookies you dip in chocolate.

My girl said she would be willing to try some Limburger cheese if I bought some - so I did! I've survived Blue Cheese and found I really liked it - so I thought maybe I'd find the Limburger pretty tasty. I was of course apprehensive about buying it...even transporting it in my car (ummm actually my dh's car - sorry hub!).

I was quite eager to taste it - so at lunch today the girl and I had a sample. You'll have to come back tomorrow to see what we thought :)

Books for Kids

Last night I stumbled upon a blog that is right up my alley...it's called "Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves."

Scribbler blogs about - you guessed it - vintage books. I enjoyed reading one post after another, recognizing titles here and there - and then searching our library online to see if they carried any of the books I found intriguing. For the most part - I couldn't find the books. Sad.

So if you too are looking for some new, old books, to read to your kids - check out her blog...and then if something strikes your fancy, check your library (probably unsuccessful), then check eBay.com, check Amazon.com, check half.com and keep your eyes peeled at garage sales...those books are out there somewhere!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Katy Trail - Part 4

The weather seemed kind of "iffy" today, but we decided to hit the road anyway.

Today we did the part of the Katy Trail that connects with Creve Coeur Park. We drove to Creve Coeur Park (having already ridden that portion previously) from home and then cut through the park and got on the Katy.

It was a beautiful ride to the bridge...the weather was warm and humid but there was a strong breeze that brought some refreshment to our brows :)

The main point of interest, at least from the children's point of view - were the numerous fuzzy caterpillar sightings along the trail. A sighting that was significant enough to one member of our group, that she stopped suddenly on the trail, threw down her bike and picked up the fuzzy friend.

Thankfully no one smashed into her carelessly thrown bike...

We went 1/2 way across the bridge (we did the other 1/2 on a previous jaunt), turned around went back to the park and then around the lake a bit.

The trail along the lake is full of pedestrians and bicyclers so from that respect it wasn't very enjoyable...always a bit concerned that one of the children is going to crash into someone else. No fatalities...one bike spill, resulting in a bloody knee for the boy, but no one else was involved in the accident.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Do You Remember Where You Were When It Happened?

Do you remember how you found out about it?

September 11th, 2001...

I was at home with my daughter who had just turned 2. We were supposed to be going to a mothers' group activity at the park that day - but there were some potty training resistance issues going on - so we did not go. I was also in the throws of dreadful morning sickness so I'm sure that made the decision to stay home, much easier.

At home with my daughter I rarely had the t.v. on during the day and the radio was usually off, so I was oblivious to what was going on.

Then I received a telephone call from my mother - in Canada - letting me know what was happening. It was, and still is, an unbelievable event.

"Maybe we should get a book about it." My son said when I told them the importance of today. I ordered some from the library.

Approximately a week after 9/11 I was sworn in as a US citizen.

So - where were you when it happened or how did you find out about it?

Silly Sandwich

This was just a hurried creation yesterday when I had other things on my mind...I wish I had had more time for it...some bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts would have made some nice hair.

I love the tongue sticking out of the mouth :) This idea is not my own ...here is my inspiration and looking at it reminds me I've a long way to go!

Food for children - I love the idea of making it not only taste good but for it to be visually appealing. If it looks interesting I think they are more likely to want to consume it (or in the case of the angry sandwich BE consumed by IT). The whole "Bento Box" idea is very intriguing to me...my daughter sometimes makes her own bento meals and thinks it's great fun.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dinner for 30...

Tonight I will be serving dinner for approx. 30 people - not in my home, but in the church basement. Could be that more than 30 will show up or less than 30 will show up - so I'm preparing enough for 30+ people just to be on the safe side.

On Wednesday nights throughout the "school year", our church has dinner together. A group of ladies take turns making the dinner...either something they make themselves, or something that is "take out" - like pizza or fast-food...and then two other ladies bring dessert. As I'm also on the dessert "team" - I chose to bring a dessert the same day I prepare dinner, to make things more convenient.

This is my first year on the dinner making "team", and my first time preparing the dinner for this year. And yes I'm nervous about it. Preparing the dinner in a "foreign" kitchen alone, feels kind of stressful to me...I have done a lot of the prep work at home (with much help from my daughter) - but the actual cooking will be done at church. At home, you know pretty much how things work - whether your oven tends to cook a bit on the slow side so if the recipe says 375 you do it at 400...and you know where everything is... and can grab that fire extinguisher in a jiffy if the stove goes up in flames.

Here is the menu:

Tortellini and Italian Sausage Soup
Angel Biscuits & Cornbread
Orange slices and grapes
Cheese slices
Chocolate Cherry-Choo-Choo Pie (a favorite with my children)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cutting Homemade Pasta Without a Pasta Machine

Steaming Bowl of Hot Pasta

Kitchen Tip Tuesday:

I like making homemade pasta but I do not have a pasta machine. I don't like having around a kitchen gadget that is large and good for only one thing, as my storage space is very limited.

In the past I would cut my homemade pasta with a knife or with a pizza cutter - but I wasn't able to get uniformly sized noodles.

For some time I had been looking for a little kitchen gadget that I saw at the grocery store one time. I didn't know what it was called or what it was used for - but it looked similar to a pizza cutter except it had more wheels or blades on it.

I finally found one at Garden Ridge for $7.00...and it's actually an herb mincer.

Fresh Herb Mincer

I used my normal recipe for pasta, rolled it out, let it dry for about 1/2 hour and then ran the herb mincer down it. Worked great...at least the first batch did. When I made it today using the same recipe except included some whole-wheat flour it tended to gum up the mincer...I think it had more to do with the consistency of the dough...I sprayed some cooking spray on the mincer and continued and it worked fine.

Uncooked Pasta

You do have to press down hard on the mincer and run it down the dough really quickly to get the cuts all the way through the dough.

Here is a link to another post I wrote on homemade pasta and it includes the recipe I use and my preferred method for drying the pasta.

Visit Tammy's Recipes for more Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.

Incidentally I tried the herb mincer on some fresh herbs and it didn't work worth beans!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Who Needs a Cat or Dog When You Can Have An Insect

One of the benefits of children playing outside is that there is a plethora of "real science" going on around them constantly.

In the garden are butterflies and moths to observe and to try to catch...an enormous grasshopper that doesn't hop fast enough to avoid the hand of a 9 yr old... Into the cage...brother takes off the lid to observe - goodbye grasshopper.

Then I find a caterpillar while I'm cutting away some vines on the fence...I show it to the kids...I'm informed it's not a caterpillar but some type of worm (she's usually right). A thin thread of silk is coming out of it's mouth(?) and the girl pulls on it and more and more keeps coming out - cool...but kind of creepy! She did feel badly about it later - worried that she might have hurt the little fella :( She goes off to play.

Awhile later she is back and excited. "I've found some monarch eggs!" She had read how to look on the leaves of a milkweed pod for the eggs, and she did, and she found a leaf (photo above) piled with little eggs. The leaf and eggs are in a little insect cage.

The kids think they are playing, but they are observing and learning...

Garden Progression

From this....

May 17th

To this....

September 7th

I can't wait until the mums start opening up.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Scary Thought!!

Today I renewed my drivers license - it is good until the year 2014.

When my dd heard that, she remarked: "Hey - maybe by that time I will be able to get my license and we can both go and get our licenses together!" The thought of my daughter driving in only 6 years, is unbelievable! She says that she plans on getting her license AS SOON AS POSSIBLE so she can have some fun ;) Maybe I'll get lucky and she'll decide that she wants to wait until she is 27 and married, and then she will have her husband teach her to drive (like mom did!)

Dd turned 9 in August, so six years from now she will have just turned 15 and Missouri law does allow driving at 15 when accompanied by a qualified driver.

I checked out the MO law and this is how it reads: "Under age 16, you may drive only when accompanied in the front seat by a qualified person, grandparent, or qualified driving instructor."

My question - does that mean a "grandparent" is NOT a qualified person?

Authentic Mexican Soup - Product of Mexico

It must be authentic because that's what it says on the package!

I don't remember where or when I purchased this soup package...it might have been at the little Mexican Grocery Store, or the world food store, or it could have just come from the "international" section of our local Shop n Save.

The soup had a mild tomato taste but was not spicy or very flavorful. It was quite salty - and if I, a great salter of foods before I even take a bite to see if it needs it, say it's salty - it must be plenty salty. Probably didn't help that I crushed in some salted crackers.... There wasn't much "bulk" to this soup - very thin broth - but it was fine for the children's lunch along with some crackers and apples smeared with peanut butter.

We all enjoy uniquely shaped pastas, so I think the attraction of this soup was primarily the little pasta stars floating around in the bowl.

The kids loved it!

Ds "Mmmmm this is good."
Dd "Fun to swallow without chewing because they are so small - it's great!"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sarah's Speech

Just have to say how much I enjoyed Sarah's speech last night. I am totally not "into" politics (but yes I do vote and know what's going on) and usually cannot bear to listen to long-winded speeches or to listen at length to others discuss politics - but I was enthused about Sarah speaking.

I also enjoyed seeing her little children in the audience...the little girl holding her baby brother, was sweet...at one point it looked like the girl was putting the baby's pacifier in her own mouth and another time she was licking her hand and trying to flatten the baby's hair - cute!

I've never been too thrilled with McCain and think the Republicans blew it by not having some better candidates to begin with...but with Sarah by his side, he looks a lot more attractive.

Peter Rabbit's Natural Foods Cookbook

I came across this cute looking cookbook at a recent library sale. Twenty-five cents was the price.

I've always had a place in my heart for Beatrix Potter works - I'm not big on animal movies/books but her critters are so cute, and yet not overdone.

I thought this little cookbook would be a fun book to use in teaching the children to cook. The recipes have such endearing names like "Pigling and Pigwig's Hot Rice Breakfast Treat" and "Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise's Spinach Salad" and "Samuel Whiskers' Roly-Poly Pancakes."

I have had some frozen bananas mouldering in the freezer for a couple of months...my dd only likes bananas that are hard and greenish (shudder), ds won't eat a banana to save his life, and I only like bananas during that brief window when they are no longer green, but not mushy either. Thus we tend to have bananas mouldering in the fruit bowl before they are thrown into the freezer.

Yesterday I was cleaning out the freezer to make room for some bread and saw the blackened corpses of the bananas and knew that I just needed to go ahead and do something with them. Banana bread - something I rarely make - sounded very tasty.

In the Peter Rabbit cookbook there was a recipe for "Squirrel Nutkin's Banana-Nut Loaf. Looked easy so my daughter and I got to work. The recipe seemed pretty standard but then to then in parenthesis it said you could use a mix of white flour/whole-wheat flour/oatmeal and wheat germ. I'm all for making it a bit healthier so we used the alternative ingredients (minus the wheat germ that I was out of).

Well I was disappointed in how it turned out. It was NOT banana bread...at least not the banana bread I was thinking of...the dark, speckled look was missing and the sweet, full banana flavor was missing too.

Then I looked again at the title of the book

"Peter Rabbit's Natural Foods Cookbook". The title of the book should have given it away. Probably if I had never, ever tried REAL banana bread before, I could be convinced it was OK. That's part of the problem when switching from unhealthy eating to healthier eating...until you get used to it the healthier stuff doesn't taste as good, doesn't taste quite right.

Having said all that - there are just some things you ought not to mess with and banana bread is one of those things! I'd rather have no banana bread than "faux" banana bread.

I compared the recipe from Peter to a recipe I found on a popular recipe website to see what was the missing link:

Peter's recipe:
2 bananas
3/4 c sugar
2 T shortening
1 egg
3/4 c milk
3 c flour (or the 1 c white/1 c whole-wheat/3/4 c oatmeal/1/4 c wheat germ)

Online recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bamboo Rice

I found this jar of Bamboo Rice at Target, of all places. It was on sale for about $1.50. We love trying new types of rice - so we were eager to try the "green rice".

Bamboo rice is not a particular variety of rice, instead it is white rice infused with the juice of young bamboo plants. “While milling the rice, the chlorophyll from the bamboo is added. This process causes the rice to be high in vitamin B, and gives it a flavor and aroma much like that of a jasmine green tea.”

I personally couldn't tell much difference in flavor between the bamboo rice and the regular rice we eat - but the kids liked it - whether for the taste or for the cool color, I'm not sure.