If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

I've been so sick...

Like flat in bed sick.

I've had a horrible virus, still do.

The kind of virus where taking a shower is a huge accomplishment that results in shaky legs and the need to lie down before putting on some mismatched sweats that once belonged to your husband. The kind where the Type A in me just has to let go and let D just try to be both mom and dad.

My goals today: to get a little laundry done and drink a gallon of juice and let my brain melt from daytime TV.

Back soon.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Comb Over

I was a teenager in the eighties. Not a decade that I would recommend going through that awkward stage of life. Big shoulder pads ala Linda Evans on Dynasty, jelly shoes, Duran Duran haircuts, black rubber bracelet by the dozens, acid wash jeans. Well, I suppose all were very fine and good on their own, but when you're thirteen and you decide to combine all of these looks. Um. That's bring the photographic evidence out for the surprise fortieth birthday party good.

One of the fads that I never quite got the hang of was the Jordache jeans with the fat handled comb in the pocket. This may have been a trend that bled over from the seventies into the eighties. No matter what the date of it's relativeness, it's still a source of deep and conflicted shame for me. (Not really, but teen angst is so exquisite and hysterical in it's pain, I just can't come up with the words well enough to describe it. Not without waxing on too much or laughing a bit anyway.)

You all know I come from a long line of frugal fanatics. As kids, we always had everything that we needed, but not everything that we wanted (a pretty good balance that makes for good kid rearing if I do say so). The Comb Debacle, as I like to think of it now, is a great example of need vs. want. I wanted the big fat comb that would fit in the back pocket of my deliciously embroidered pocket of my almost close, but not quite Jordache wanna be jeans. I discussed the requirement of this fat comb with great detail with my mom while she cooked dinner. We talked about it in the car on the way to some miscellaneous school activity. For good measure, I talked about it again before bed. On first awakening, I mentioned, yet again, the importance and relevance of a fat handled comb peeking out from one's right cheek pocket. (For some reason, it had to be the right side. I'm a rightie. This worked for me.)

Mom listened intently. Or, as I now know as a mom, she appeared to be listening while nodding, smiling, and agreeing, all the while most likely thinking about how many eggs are left in the fridge and whether the washing machine would make it through just one more year.

She made a trip to the drugstore that day. We lived in a small town, pickings were slim. You had either the Ben Franklin ("Dime Store") or Woll's Pharmacy. When I got home from school, I rushed into the house, eager to see my new. fat. handled. just like the cool kids had. comb.

I'm such a good daughter. I know that now. I know that what took place that evening was an Oscar worthy performance. For mom, in her thriftiness had purchased the cheaper, multi-pack of combs. In it, was a wide variety of combs in many colors. One even was marbled with purple and blue. There was a small fat handled comb, that most certainly would not peek beguilingly out of my right back pocket, but would merely create the outline of a short, fat handled comb in my pocket. Not. Quite. Right.

I smiled. I said a quiet thank you, holding back tears. I knew, money was tight. I couldn't complain, and I most certainly couldn't demand that the combs be returned in exchange for just one comb that would cost more than this entire package. We could use these combs, and, after all, mom had brought home a fat handled comb, right?

And then I saw it. The pink, rat tail comb. Do you know what a rat tail comb is? It's a regular, close toothed comb, with a long, sharp, pointed handle capable of parting hair within an inch of it's life, or poking your eye out.

A light bulb moment long before Oprah coined the phrase: I would start a new trend. I would be the girl with her own individual style. I would put the rat tail comb in my right back pocket and legions of teens would begin to follow ME. There would be a rush on rat tail combs and I'd manufacture my own sparkly brand. I would have a featured article in Seventeen Magazine. Maybe I would even meet Michael Jackson and he would fall madly in love with me and we'd live together on Neverland Ranch and sing Thriller together with our matching white, sequined gloves.

(Insert dream sequence blurry lines here...)

You see where this is going, don't you? Do I really have to talk about sitting down in my first class with Mr. Erhart? That first sit after carefully placing my new trend setting comb in my right back pocket? The one where the rat tail scraped a six inch gash up my back and being too cool for school, I suffered quietly through.

Thankfully, the comb fad faded. I moved on to black fingernail polish on nine inch nails, fluorescent dangly earrings, and leg warmers. I still hold on to the defense that I was a fashion victim when the photos surface.

Funny side story, when I helped my parents move out of their five bedroom farmhouse, I found that pink rat tail comb. I almost kept it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Five

Here's what my five senses have been experiencing:


American Wife: A Novel (New York Times Notable Books) by Curtis Sittenfeld

This book surprised me. A novel, based on the life of Laura Bush. How interesting could that be? I never really thought about Mrs. Bush as anything other than in the background of a man I have no respect for. It was difficult for me to think of this as a novel. Of course I know that none of it could be trusted to be completely true. It was a novel after all, but throughout the book, I only pictured the characters as the Bushes.

True or not, this novel helped me to sympathize with Mrs. Bush. She's an extremely intelligent woman, so I can imagine her life has been challenging with her husband. This novel was a page turner. I'd definitely recommend, however, there were some parts of it that I found went a little too far. Perhaps it was because I had trouble separating truth from fiction, but some of the descriptions were a little disturbing. (Even I have respect for the office, even if I don't like the performance of the individual, so perhaps that was what bothered me? That in my mind, I couldn't separate the characters from their real life counterparts and just didn't want to delve into that part of them.) Alice's trip to the one bathroom at the Blackwell compound is one example. The description of Charlie in a wedding photo, another one. I just think the characters personalities could have been fully depicted without going this far. It didn't take much to figure them out, holding back a bit would have suited the novel better. I found myself revolted rather than enlightened. It's still a highly recommended read, but I had to discuss that to feel like I'd done a full review.

Mighty Queens of Freeville, The: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them by Amy Dickinson

Amy of the column Ask Amy hits a home run with this memoir. Divorce and single motherhood run in Amy's family. She eventually ends up right back at home surrounded by the people that love her most. Her wit and wisdom shine in every chapter. Claiming that she "makes all the mistakes so you don't have to" has made her relatable. She tells her life story with an irreverence that makes her oh so likable. Definitely recommend.

Testimony: A Novel by Anita Shreve

It's not often that I don't finish a book. I'll muddle through most whether their challenge is a difficult read or a fluffy story. I love language. I love each writer's individual style and voice. Shreve is a great contemporary author, but she misses the mark with this one. The book is not compelling even though it's premise is attention getting. The story of a sexual scandal at a private school told by many voices could have been riveting. I found it merely muddied and ill conceived and quit reading about 20 pages from the ending. At that point, I didn't care enough about the characters to see where they ended up.

Not recommended.


I took a bunch of books on cd out of the library to put on my iPod. Great to listen to while working around the house or out walking. I'm such a reader that this is a great way for me to fit in even more books!


Fresh baked bread.


Bread Machine Third Bread
Named for the three types of flour that this recipe contains, this is a very old recipe. Serves 8 at 6 WW Points per BIG serving. This is great toasted with honey.

2 1/2 tsp yeast
3/4 cup(s) light rye flour
3 cup(s) Flour, wheat, white, Bread
3/4 cup(s) uncooked cornmeal
1/2 cup(s) honey
1 1/2 cup(s) water, very warm

Place in your bread machine. Set at: 1 1/2 lb loaf, medium crust, regular cycle. Or knead, rise until double and bake.


The new cactus and palm trees that friends brought us back from Arizona. (And the sparkly rock that has a special place in the cactus pot!) How nice to get surprise souvenirs from friends!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cold Denial

I'm in denial and isn't it healthy that I'm aware of it?

I'm getting a cold, but I don't have time for it. I have so much to do and not enough time to do it as it is.

So, my throat isn't sore, my voice isn't gone, my head isn't throbbing, my body aching, and my nose running.

I feel like crawling back under the covers and hiding, but I can't. It's cloudy and rainowing or snaining (rain + snow). Oh it would be the perfect day to snuggle in.

Duty calls!

So it's Vitamin C, Zinc, Ibuprofen, and hit the ground running.

Will skip my workout, I'm not a complete glutton for punishment.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sad Mom

I just have a minute because I have a ton of things to accomplish today.

I'm so lonesome for Young One though. I always get like this after school vacations, breaks, and especially at back to school time in the fall. We're just good friends and we enjoy each other's company.

We had such a nice, relaxing break, it's very hard to get back into the routine again. I took a ton of pictures and just yesterday realized that the memory card in the camera was out of room. So, I just have a few. Oh well! The memories, and not the pictures, are what count, right? (Please assure me that I'm not a complete idiot and that everyone does this at some point!)

Salmon is Young One's favorite meal. I came up with this marinade last week when salmon was on sale.

Sesame Citrus Salmon

1/4 cup soy sauce

zest of one orange

juice from one orange

2 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp sesame oil

lots of fresh, minced garlic (I used 1 TB at least)

2 tsp fresh, grated ginger

1 whole, salmon fillet

Mix marinade ingredients. Pour over fish in a zip bag or in pan. Cover or close zip bag. Refrigerate at least an hour, it's better if it has longer. Bake, broil, or grill until salmon is opaque, flakes easily with a fork, and has an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I'm Not Dead

Life is just happening. We've been so busy, and I've been neglectful of my blogdom.

Spring has seemed to have sprung, so we're rarely inside! It's Young One's Spring Break, so we're busy having a fabulous time enjoying our Staycation! Friends, friends, friends, an eye doctor appointment (yuck), Nerf wars, and relaxation.

We're enjoying having absolutely no schedule.

I'll be back to posting soon!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Today is my dad's birthday. He's been gone 4 1/2 years now. It's funny how grief works. You can be just fine and then, whammo, something hits you and the pain is just as fierce as ever.

My dad would have been 71 today. Somehow the seventies seems the beginning of being "elderly" to me.

I miss my dad every day. Our conversations often start with, "Grandpa would have loved this." Or, "Remember when Dad ____?"
My dad was a complicated man. He wasn't always easy to be around, but who is. No matter what, though, my dad always made me feel loved and protected.
He also:
  • Loved my cooking. It wouldn't matter what I made, he would rave. And have seconds.
  • Would patiently do all the work it entailed to take us fishing, including untangeling all the fishing lines, lures, handle the bait, move the boat around, and cleaned and cooked the fish. He never complained. Not once.
  • Always listened to me and sided with me, commisserated with me, even if I was wrong.
  • Made me feel treasured, the epitome of daddy's little girl.

Don't smoke people. It will take you from your family. You will definitely live a shorter life. And it's not just lung cancer that takes smokers. My dad died from pancreatic cancer. Not an easy way to go.

Click here to learn more about Pancreatic Cancer and how you can help.
I miss you Dad. Happy Birthday!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Needing Busy Minds

I knew my mom needed to be busy on this winter day. We were all waiting for the results of my Uncle Jim's biopsies. Mom and I love to look for antiques at thrift stores. I knew we could fill the day and our minds this way, so we headed out to the junk stores.

We found:

An antique quilt. (Can you imagine the patience it took to piece this baby!) Can't wait to display it.

A McCoy pottery planter in my favorite shade of robin's egg blue.

An old, primitive oil painting.

I spent less than $30 and got the above plus a pair of jeans, two pairs of crop pants, two pairs of shorts for D, a Simpson's book for Young One, and a Columbia shirt for me.

We had lunch and enjoyed a girl's day out. It's so fun when your mom is also your friend!

Jim's biopsy came back cancerous, not a surprise, but the good news is that it's localized and hasn't seemed to spread. We're continuing to pray for him. He's a tough cookie.


Homework Sucks

This is the face that greets me over homework every evening. I love his school, don't get me wrong, but at this point in the year, I'm ready to tell all the teachers to shove it.

When it comes to homework, being a parent requires striking a tenuous balance between helping and doing it for them. I absolutely refuse to do it for him, so sometimes, this means sitting back while imperfections slide on by. Young One is a great student. He's been in high performance classes the whole time he's been at this elementary school. He's been challenged, but not frustrated with the challenges. He's been taught with the love and caring that comes from truly dedicated educators.

We moved to this community because of the school district, but we moved to this specific neighborhood because of the specific elementary, middle, and high schools that Young One would attend. They're the best of the district. Routinely score in the upper 90th percentile nationwide. They hire the cream of the crop. His elementary school applied for grant money many years ago to cover the cost of additional conferences at the beginning of the year. These conferences happen well before the teachers have gotten to know the kids. It's our chance, as parents, to tell them everything we know about our children. It's a great way to start off the year and I'm not aware of any other schools that do this. (If you don't, push your PTA to raise the money to cover the cost of the substitute teachers for those conferences! It's a great way to communicate with a teacher and start to help him/her get to know your kid.)

I'm often surprised at how many people move into a community knowing nothing about the schools. If you have kids, how could you not? I mean, just because the picket fences all gleam with fresh paint, the houses are gorgeous, and the Stepford Wives all march in rows, doesn't mean the schools are good. Cross over the border into other districts close to mine and you find mismanagement, no high performance classes, and impoverished budgets. Someone once told me that many teachers in these other districts don't even have education degrees. I can't imagine.

We're heading into Spring Break next week, which is so great. I can't imagine a year without these breathers. In my opinion, kids learn the best when they have long stretches of time to just explore on their own. For this very reason alone, I would never put my kid in year round school and would fight it tooth and nail if our district ever considered it. A community close to my hometown tried year round school and it didn't work. The sports kids still had to practice and compete during their off weeks and they found a year without summer break created stressed out kids. Their discipline problems skyrocketed and the district soon reverted back to a traditional school year. The energy savings that the district was supposed to have didn't pan out as they expected (This was the given reason for year round school. Supposedly, not heating the building during their winter break weeks was supposed to save them tons of money. It didn't.)

After Spring Break, we usually start our countdown to the big summer break. Young One is SO excited about middle school. Right now, he and his friends are too cool for the "babyish" stuff of elementary school. It's a fun time for me, sitting back and watching this awkward age. Summer will be filled with long stretches of days that blur together. Playdates stretch into sleep overs. There is that inability as a kid to see the end of such a long season, so it spans out into infinity. What bliss! I watch my tightly wound kid slowly unwind and just play to his heart's content.

Can't wait!

But, for now, it's away with the homework and on to some Spring Break Fun. We have some and no plans. We just want to sleep in and see what the days bring. Supposedly we're doing to have really warm weather here in the Tundra. So, it will be a good time to take some day trips.

Monday, March 9, 2009

You Say it's Your Birthday...

It's my birthday today!

I woke today to a sleepy house. We were all having trouble adjusting to the time change, so getting out of bed was so hard. I love it, though! Love having longer days. In fact, I love it so much, it's one of my favorite birthday gifts.

I found little birthday wishes from D scattered in the house and car. Love that man. There's nothing more that I could want for gifts! Those little notes mean more than anything to me.

Today is all about love for me and surrounding myself with people that love me. I'm going to spend some time with my mom. I haven't seen her in what seems like a very long time because she's been with her brother, my Uncle, who just was diagnosed with cancer. My boys had to run some mystery errands yesterday, so who knows what that means! I think we may go out to eat tonight. There will be cake and hugs and love.

I spent yesterday in bed with my head exploding, so I'm hoping I can keep that at bay with some good drugs and a few prayers. That's the thing about this disease, you can't plan anything (and I know how trying it can be for people when I cancel!)

My birthday for me is all about gratitude and reflection. Thanks for another year. Thanks for being so fortunate, with wonderful friends, neighbors, and family. Thanks for not having to worry about basic needs. Thanksgiving for my husband's wonderful job. Thanks for all my blessings, the greatest of all is the love of my little family.

I'm 39 today. Next year's the big one!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Little Quiet Here

I haven't been writing. Actually, for the first time in a long time, I've been pretty speechless. It's not that I don't want to write. I write like I breath. I need to.

It's funny how life throws you curve balls sometimes. My Aunt died of cancer last Spring. They just found a tumor in my Uncle, her husband. There really are no words to describe what their kids are going through. The nightmare begins again.

We're hoping and praying that the cancer has not spread and that he has a lot more years of fishing to do!

In the meantime, if you could add a big, teddy-bear kind of guy to your list of prayers and positive thoughts, I'd sure appreciate it. His name is Jim and he's a really cool dude.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Diary of a Birthday Cake

Is it possible to make a Weight Watchers friendly birthday cake? Yes. Is it possible that said cake will be delicious? Not always. I fiddled with this recipe for what seemed like forever and finally came out with a final product that fooled the greatest critics, my two guys.
The recipe comes in at 6-7 Points per serving, but that's not what anyone will notice. What they will taste is rich, decadent, moist, chocolate cake with sinful peanut butter frosting. This is D's favorite combination. Regular birthday cake can top 20 Points per serving (most likely much more).
I figured anyone could call and order a cake. Homemade is so much better. And this one, I have to brag, was better than anything I could have ordered. Bonus that it fits in with our healthy eating!
Chocolate Fudge Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

1 box cake mix, devil's food
2 cups canned pumpkin
2 egg white
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tbsp fat-free skim milk
8 TB margarine, Brummel and Brown
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cake mix, pumpkin, and egg white on high in mixer for about 2 minutes. Batter should appear light and fluffy. Grease and flour your pans. You can make this in layer pans or in a 9x13 inch pan. Bake as directed on the cake mix box. Cool.

While cake is cooling, make chocolate curls. Melt 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 1 TB vegetable shortening. Spread chocolate on cookie sheet and freeze until chocolate no longer shows a fingerprint when pressed. Using a spatula (to make big curls) or a citrus zester (which is what I used), make curls or chocolate spaghetti (as Young One put it!) Simply push the chocolate with the spatula or quickly pull your zester through it. If it breaks, the chocolate is too cold. If it melts, it's too warm. Take in and out of the freezer at will! Place chocolate curls in the freezer until ready to use.

While chocolate is in the freezer, make the peanut butter frosting. Remember the recipe that's way up above, well, look at it again, OK? Using a mixer, mix the peanut butter, Brummel and Brown margarine, vanilla, powdered sugar, and 3 TB of milk. Mix until well combined. Add a little more milk if it's too stiff to spread. Dip finger in and appreciate your mastery.
Go ahead, lick the screen. You know you want to.
Spread on cake, decorate with chocolate curls. Add trick candles that relight every time they are blown out. Sing Happy Birthday. Eat. Hug. Love your family.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Five

Here's what my five senses are experiencing...

A ton of books that I requested from the library have suddenly come available. So, I'm reading in the car (not while driving, I promise!), reading late into the night, and trying to fit in "just a chapter" here and there. Young One laughed as he watched me stirring a pot while deep in a book. These two books were fantastic and I couldn't wait to talk about them.

Remember the Columbine school shootings? Do you remember where you were and how it affected you? April 20, 1999.

This book delves into the massacre, not so much detailing the actual events, but how that day changes the lives of a couple. Caelum is a teacher at Columbine. Maureen is a school nurse. The story wraps around this couple, their imperfections, their past, and their struggles as they try to survive the aftermath of Eric Harris' and Dylan Klebold's rampage. Interwoven in this story is the story of Caelum's family and his troubled past.
I don't want to detail too much of the story. There were several pages where I just stopped and couldn't believe where the story was going. At over 700 pages, this book is hefty, but it was compelling and called to me whenever I had a spare moment.
This book touches on really deep subjects. Broken childhood and post traumatic stress syndrome are focused on, but not in ways that have been heard before. Quite honestly, I never really thought about the aftermath of this horrible tragedy and how it's victims, the survivors are never going to heal, but merely march on through life, scarred.

The history of Caelum's family struck a chord with me. I remember someone once saying to me, "Must have been nice growing up behind that picket fence." That comment literally stopped me in my tracks. I said to her, "Every family is dysfunctional. We all have our problems." She was shocked. I suppose from her take, from the outside, things did look that way. I, like Caelum have shattered family histories. Who doesn't? We all have alcoholism, mental illness, sadness, unanswered questions, and possibly violence in our past. It's how we come out of it that matters. Caelum gets some answers to questions he's lived with his entire life. It isn't always as it seemed. We all know this truth, don't we?

The 19th Wife: A Novel by David Ebershoff

This book. I loved it. Loved it.

Two intertwining stories of polygamy, the modern day and past, mingle to create a fascinating look at this controversial subject. I've always been fascinated by this topic. Last year's Texas polygamists and their children was riveting to me. Who knew such an other world existed?
This book focuses on modern day Firsts who differ greatly from Latter Day Saints mainstream members. You'll find out these differences in detail, which, although this is a novel, seemed very enlightening. This book was researched extensively, and although still a novel, it rings with truth.

There has been a murder in the First's community and Jordan's mother is the suspected killer. Jordan had been outcast as a child and somehow has floundered around and figured out how to live on his own. He's determined to help his mother get out of jail and has returned home to do so. I won't tell you how it comes out, but I will say in the process you get a closer look at the hidden life of modern day polygamists. The welfare fraud, tax fraud, and abuse of this sect are examined in frightening detail.

Intermingled with this story is the story of the LDS church as it forms and their journey across the country to Zion in Utah. This part of the story focuses on Ann Eliza, Brigham Young's supposed 19th wife, although it's later revealed her number is much higher. This story is written with a fascinating combination of letters, research documents, personal diaries, Wikipedia entries, and excerpts from Ann Eliza's book.

The author is quick to point out that this is a novel and that, while some parts are truth, others are stretched or maybe it's best to say that he fills in for unknowns. I found his style of writing to be deeply compelling. I honestly couldn't stop thinking about this story and the plight of women in polygamist sects.

I think that perhaps it's because I'm a strong, vocal woman, that I find the polygamist life so fascinating. There's no way I could or would share my husband, nor could I be part of a religion that takes away my ability to have free thought. I suppose if one is born into such a society you become accustomed to this life. The abusive lives of these women, their courage to escape , well, I can't even imagine those challenges. The boy children that are outcast because they would compete for wives, are the lost boys of our country.

I strongly recommend this book. Be prepared to carry it with you everywhere.


I'm listening to this show as I'm typing. Pageant parents. Kids with false teeth and shaving their legs and highlights in their hair at 7 years old. Spray tans on their kids and unbelievable credit card bills, these families are unbeliveable. For the first time in my life, I'm glad I don't have a daughter. Nope, that's not it. It's that I would never, never, do this to a child.
As I type, they're trying to shove a two year old into a ruffly costume and the teaser for the after the commercial break hints at Mean Girls behavior. Yikes.

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting. Recipe coming. I don't want to share it because D is a sneaky peeker.

Chopped veggie salad. One must cleanse before one eats cake.
Homemade birthday celebration presents, cards, balloons, and cake.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Menu Plan Monday Whatever Day This Is

It's clean out the cupboards time again. Here's our upcoming menu. Stay tuned for the recipes.

Homemade French Onion Soup
Tossed Salad
Roasted Turkey Breast
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Vegetables
Tilapia Sandwiches
Oven Baked Fries
Cole Slaw
Baby Meatloaves
Roasted Cauliflower
Baked Squash
Thai Garlic Pork
Steamed Jasmine Rice
Steamed broccoli
Dijon Crusted Chicken Breasts
Baked Wild Rice
Orange Chicken
Brown Rice
Green Beans with Sesame Oil
Shrimp and Asparagus Gnocchi
Tossed Salad
Braised Pork Chops
Mashed Potatoes
Ginger Carrots
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Green beans

Flour Dust on My Apron

I loved Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I read it last summer and it had a profound impact on how I look at food. You really must read it if you haven't already. Trust me, it's not a boring read and it reads as easily as her novels. One of the things that I admired about her family was that they made their own bread. Well, actually, Kingsolver's husband made the bread. And he used a bread maker.

That got me thinking. Somewhere around here was my old bread maker. I got it at a garage sale that my mom took me to in my teeny, tiny hometown one summer. The lady gave it to me for nothing. Like fifty cents or something like that. She never did get the hang of it, so it was basically brand new. There wasn't a spot on it or a crumb in it.

At the time, I had visions of making our daily bread, well, daily. Surprise, surprise, it didn't happen. Not only did I realize that if you make a one pound loaf of bread every day, you're going to eat that one pound loaf of goodness, every day. And that one pound of bread will equal five pounds on your butt. (I'm sure there's a scientific study out there somewhere to prove this.)

Bread makers were such huge sellers that in their prime, there was one under every Christmas tree in America. Now, they get relegated to garages, basements, or if you're me, in that little cupboard above the refrigerator that you wonder what people fit up there. The Atkins diet killed the bread maker industry. True story.

Now, as we're slowly moving back to the sanity of the "everything in moderation" diet, bread is making a come back. There was a huge Internet explosion when the No Knead Bread recipe hit. Great recipe, but not so great for busy families. I think with the "economic downturn", we're going to see more people going back to the basics. And with that, we just might see homemade bread back on the table. Maybe it's time to dig that bread maker out, huh?

I had a sick kid home today, so I thought this would be the best time to pull down that bread maker and use it. Unfortunately, the bread recipe that I chose was so dense that the motor overheated. My fifty cent investment just might have kicked the bucket! Thankfully, the recipe was well kneaded and ready to hit the oven to rise.

We're having homemade vegetable beef soup fresh from the freezer tonight for dinner. This bread will be delightful with it. (Update: it was amazing! Next time, I would have let it rise longer, but I was crunched for time. Will definitely make it again.)

Bread Maker Oatmeal Molasses Bread

My Aunt Marilyn makes fantastic molasses bread. This is close to her recipe, but lightened up tremendously. In fact, there's no fat in it and very little sugar. It makes a one pound loaf, which serves 8 at 3 WW Points per serving.

1/2 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup skim milk
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast
2 TB molasses
1 TB white or raw sugar

Place in bread maker, following manufacturer's recommendations. Use light cycle. Or knead by hand (oh my), make on the manual cycle of your bread maker, or use your dough hook in your food processor or mixer. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until double in size. Bake at 350 degrees until it sounds hollow when tapped and is a golden brown, approximately 40 minutes. Check after 25 minutes for doneness.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mom, I Don't Feel So Good

Sick day today. Poor kid has 101 degree temp and feels just like "crap" to quote him.

I don't know how I did this when I worked full time. How do you do it?

All I had to do was cancel coffee with some girlfriends and do my errands another day. I've spent today playing nurse, boredom buster, and mom.

And you know what? I love my job! I'm so lucky and blessed to be able to be at home again.

I Like My Men Mustard Spicy

I'm Queen of the Condiments. Actually, this is a little known title.

Yep, did the pageant circuit when I was just a tot. Worked my way through Little Miss Mustard and Princess of the Pepperocinis. I was second runner up in the Duchess of Dijon contest.


I do love condiments. I remember my father in law opening my refrigerator, shaking his head, and asking, "Well, just where in the hell is the ketchup anyway?"

Low fat and low calorie cooking can be tasteless. You've got to spice it up a bit and a great, low cal way to do that is to keep lots of condiments on hand. Sriracha, spicy brown mustard, horseradish mustard, hoisin sauce, HP sauce, BBQ sauce, Wasabi, and salsas are all stocked at my house.

I'm always on the look out for more. Just bought a lovely lemon sauce that an area Vietnamese restaurant just started bottling up. Can't wait to give that one a try.

Monastery Mustard, Divinely Original is one of my favorites. A friend brought some back from a trip to the Mustard Museum* and shared it with me. I've been addicted every since. So strong it will clear up your sinuses, it will spice up a Smartdog like no other mustard out there. When I was a kid, we loved horseradish mustard. That was good and very similar, but there's nun better than this.

Nun better! Get it?

God, I'm good.

Got any that I haven't tried yet? What are your favorite condiments?

*Even I couldn't make this up. There is one. Mustard lovers of the world make annual pilgrimages to this holy shrine to the little mustard seed. They're online gift shop is fab.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Competitive Charity Bake Sale Recipes!

Chubby's Chocolate Chip Muffins
Definitely not a Weight Watchers Recipe. This decadent muffin is really dessert disguised as breakfast! Want to go completely overboard, frost with classic cream cheese frosting.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1/3 cup whole almonds, optional
4 tablespoons white sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
In medium bowl, Sift together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In large bowl stir in milk, egg, oil and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to large bowl; beat well. Add chocolate chips and walnuts, stir well.
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Poke almonds into tops of unbaked muffins. Sprinkle muffins with sugar.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 ounce brick of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup real butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Whip all ingredients until well blended and fluffy. Using a pastry bag or a large spatula, swirl on top of muffins.

Winter Sunshine Cake
Fresh squeezed orange juice is the key to this deliciously moist cake. Garnish with candied citrus (I used tangerines just because that's what I had). Don't turn up your nose at cake mix, it's just flour, sugar, and leavening agents mixed up for you. You can still make a homemade tasting cake with mix.

1 18.25-ounce package yellow cake mix with pudding
1 cup fresh orange juice--fresh squeezed!
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour, shaking out excess. Setaside. Place the cake mix, orange juice, oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan and place on middle rack of oven.Bake until cake is golden brown and starts to pull away for the sides of the pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely, 30 minutes more. Make glaze: Combine the sugar, juice and zest in a small bowl and stiruntil smooth. Place the cake on a serving platter and pour the glaze over the top, letting it drizzle down the sides. Let the glaze set a few minutes before slicing. Makes 16 servings.

PER SERVING: 258 calories, 3 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates,12 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 40 percent calories as fat, 0.1 gramfiber, 53 milligrams cholesterol, 226 milligrams sodium.

Candied Tangerines
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tangerine cut into thin slices

In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, tangerine and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil until it reaches soft ball stage while continuing to stir occasionally. Strain out the tangerine slices and allow to cool on a wire rack positioned on top of wax paper to catch drips.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

This eggless chocolate cake recipe has been a family favorite for years. You can actually put all of the ingredients in a 9x13 inch pan and then mix with a fork, right in the pan! My mom once left the cake in the pan when she baked it! It's a Depression era recipe that just might work it's way back into popularity during the Recession. I made it in a mixing bowl and put into cupcakes for the bake sale. About 5 WW Points per cupcake, I'm working on a lower Points recipe. Stay tuned.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cold water

Mix all and beat well with an electric mixer. Place in muffin tins. Or mix all ingredients in the pan and bake. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-25 minutes , or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Makes 24 cupcakes.

I frosted the cupcakes with buttercream frosting, half vanilla, and half with chocolate buttercream and pressed chopped Andes mints on top. You can find a basic buttercream on allrecipes.com (Sorry, sick kid here, no time)

Peas Pass the Pierogies


It's a word that strikes fear in the hearts of most people trying to eat a healthily. There's nothing healthy about bacon. Let's admit it, it's fried fat, plain and simple. There are people that hate it. And there are people who bow down to it. Take Bacon Freak. You gotta love their tagline: Bacon is meat candy. Now, I'm not THAT bad. But, at least now you all know where to go to get your lard on.

I've subscribed to Cooking Light for years. Great magazine. Great philosophy about eating only delicious, healthy recipes made from the finest of ingredients. And these fine ingredients include real butter and bacon! Their food is very Weight Watchers friendly, but adds that fresh twist that I haven't found elsewhere. A lot of their recipes are a jumping off point for me. I find that I can lighten them up even more or that I want to put my own spin on a flavor combination.

This recipe was inspired by one of theirs.

If you're not familiar with pierogies, you've just got to try them. Little pasta pockets filled with seasoned mashed potatoes. My sister-in-law's little Grandma Helen shared some of her genuine, homemade by a Polish grandmother, ones that were out of this world. I took a cooking class from another Polish grandmother who showed us the unbelievable amount of work that goes into making them. I'm not that ambitious. No, that's not true. I just haven't found the time in my life to make them, yet.

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Pierogies

I love this recipe because it's easy, it's quick to the table, and it's delicious. Rich and sinful tasting, it combines pierogies, caramelized onions, bacon, and peas. Simple and delightful. 7 WW Points per serving.

One box of frozen pierogies
8 slices bacon
2 large onions, sliced
1 tsp raw sugar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
reduced fat sour cream

Place pierogies in a microwave safe casserole, cover with hot water, and cook on high for 6 minutes. Let stand in microwave, while you do the rest. Cook bacon, drain all but a few tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Add onions, thyme, and sugar and saute until onions are caramelized. Add peas and cook for one minute. Add pierogies, tossing to combine all ingredients. Serve 3 pierogies with 1 TB of low or no fat sour cream.

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!