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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chocolate Tantrums

When I first started Weight Watchers, I tried to fill my cravings for the things I loved with reasonable alternatives. I realized that my love of food wasn't going to go away. I was just going to have to change the way I went about making said food.

Chocolate was a challenge. By it's very nature and in the forms that we like to eat it, chocolate is high in fat and sugar. In other words: CALORIES. Give me a chocolate rice cake and tell me to call it a brownie? Um, excuse me? Munch a carrot and be satisfied with it's natural sweetness? Not gonna. Make unsweetened hot cocoa out of baking cocoa and hot milk? Are you out of your mind?

The marketing people of food companies know they have us fat chicks held over a barrel. Chocolate cravings are almost irresistible. I've been known to try every alternative under the sun and still not feel satisfied until I have the real thing. So, when they tell us we can have a quick fix for limited calorie expenditure, of course we're going to shell out the cash, right? It just went against the grain for me to want to spend that kind of money, though. Since I also don't use artificial sweeteners, it's made the chocolate fix even harder to score.

No Pudge Brownies are great. I love the convenience of the box, although the big pig on it is a bit offensive to me. I like that you can make individual size servings of the treat, right in the microwave. That's great for portion control. But, at about $4 a box, this isn't a treat that often finds its way into this cheapskate's cart.

So, thus began the quest for the perfect Weight Watchers friendly brownie. I know the search isn't over. The recipe below is just a jumping off point. It still doesn't have that crinkly top that ooey gooey brownies get. I'm working on that. I think that the addition of espresso powder would be nice. There could be some fruit puree balancing out the yogurt for added moisture.

Damn. I'm gonna have to bake again. I know, I know. It's a rough job, but I'm up for it.

Husband Bait Brownies

Sometimes you just have to have chocolate and sometimes he does too. Cut, set on a plate, and wait for him to find it. Serves 16 at 3 WW Points per serving

1 package brownie mix (Nutritional for mix only, per serving: 110 cal/2 g fat/1 g fiber or see if you can do better!)

1 cup vanilla fat free yogurt

2 egg whites

Mix all and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Food Find

Arnold Select Sandwich thins. Great for snacking. Great for sandwiches or burgers. Great toasted with soup. This will be a stocked pantry item at our house!
1 Point per sandwich thin.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Would You Like Fries With That?

I'm a burger fanatic. In fact, I'm a red meat addict. I don't eat very much of it anymore. We've been using the venison that D and Young One hunted in the fall. Now, that it is almost gone, I've been looking for more alternatives.

Venison isn't the only healthier red meat. Another great option is bison. We have a ranch a few miles from my house that raises bison. They sell their meat at my local natural foods store and it's amazing. I plan to visit their ranch soon so that I can buy some bulk packs at a discount price.

The great thing about bison is that it tastes like beef, but it's healthier. In fact, it's healthier than a lot of meats. Click here to read up on the nutritionals. It's a great choice for the health conscious eater.

Google bison and your state and you should be able to find a producer close to you.

Back to the burgers. This recipe is really delicious and super simple. I like to make all kinds of burgers and this mix in is inspired by Greek cuisine.

Greek Patty Melts
Serves 4. Each patty is 3 Points. Add in the nutritional information for the bread that you use.

1 large onion, sliced
1 lb lean, ground bison
2 TB Worcestershire sauce
1 TB fresh, minced garlic-- or less
lemon pepper--a generous sprinkling
salt to taste
1 tsp oregano
4 ounces of fat free feta cheese

In a nonstick pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray, place the onion. Saute until caramelized. Set aside. Mix remaining ingredients together and form into four patties. Grill or broil to desired doneness. Toast your favorite bread, top with burger, onions, and feta cheese.

Oven Fries
These were the only kind of fries I ever knew as a kid. There was no OreIda in our house! Who knew mom was so healthy (and not just thrifty!)?
4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed well
nonstick cooking spray
your favorite herbs (I like garlic powder, rosemary or thyme, and paprika)
Cut potatoes into thick wedges. Place in a zip bag and sprinkle with your favorite herbs. Spice them hot or mild, this is a great way to use up spice blends from your pantry. Place in a pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Spray the tops of the fries with nonstick spray. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes, check for doneness. I use my convection oven to crisp them up (note the brown bubbles on the fries in the picture-- convection does this).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Eating Thistles

When I was a little girl, my mom would cook up a big pot of artichokes for dinner when they were in season. We'd gather as a family around the dinner table, peeling apart the layers upon layers of leaves, dipping them in butter and scraping the rich meat off with our teeth. They take a while to eat, so we'd often have some pretty interesting conversations at the table. (I bet mom knew this would happen!)

I find artichokes to be a wonderful treat. They're rich and if you leave off the butter, a very healthy source of fiber and nutrients. I once heard someone refer to them as the lobster of the vegetable world. That's really true. They are a wonderful treat and when in season, I like to have them for lunch about once a week.

Forget about cooking them for dinner at our house. Young One would faint and D would ask, "Where's the beef?" We'd be rather reluctant vegetarians. I think I'd have an easier time of it than my boys.

Next time you're at the grocery store, I challenge you, grab a few thistles and boil or steam them. I think you might be surprised how delicious this veggie is.

Thistles for Dinner

One medium artichoke has ZERO Points. Zero. None. Zip. A rich and filling treat, artichokes are in season from March until May.

Wash artichokes well. You can use a kitchen shears to snip off the sharp tips if you wish. I never do, I'm just careful. They are a member of the thistle family, so they can be sharp! Trim the cut stem and place in a large pan. Fill with water and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until you can pull off a leaf easily. You can steam them as well. Steam 25-35 minutes.

If you're on Weight Watchers and you haven't gotten your healthy oils in yet, serve the artichokes with garlic olive oil (fresh garlic, oil, salt, and pepper).

To eat, simply peel the leaves off, scrape meat off the lower edge of the leaf with your teeth. You can dip or eat them plain. When you get to the interior leaves and they become small and fuzzy, use a knife to scrape them off. You have now come to the delicious artichoke heart. Cut and enjoy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clearing out the Clutter

Does having a cluttered house keep you fat? This is something that Peter Walsh has talked about on Oprah and in his book Does this Clutter Make My Butt look Fat. I've got this book on my request list at the library. I'm curious to see what he says.

In the meantime, I will say that I've been sorting and clearing out clutter in my house in preparation for a garage sale. In the process of doing this, I've also been more mindful of other healthier habits. I'm working out harder and longer. I'm watching what I eat even closer. I'm looking to gain better spiritual and emotional health.

Coincidence? I'm not sure. I think it all goes hand in hand.

I'll review the book once I finish it. I certainly don't live in a garbage house like the ones that Mr. Walsh has addressed on Oprah. Recently I discussed how my house being a mess doesn't sit well with me. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Walsh is on to something, though. Maybe a light heart goes along with a light mind and a light house. Something to ponder.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Seventeen Years Ago Today

I married my best friend.

D has been with me through thick and thin, literally and figuratively.

We celebrated last weekend alone, but tonight we're hitting our favorite little seafood place with Young One. We celebrate our anniversary as the birthday of our family. I wouldn't want today to be any other way.

Seventeen years ago, I was 22 years old. I weighed less than 100 pounds because I was so stressed by my soon to be inlaws and the wedding planning. I was young, a little naive, but never more sure that this man was the one for me. The wedding was just a formality.

We were married the minute we met.

I don't need roses. I don't need jewelry. I just need him beside me. That's all. To have this sure of a love is the greatest of gifts.

Happy Anniversary to us. Happy Birthday to our family!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Do You Believe in Sabotage?

Sticky Toffee Pudding!
a low fat version
Do you believe in sabotage?

I don't.

I think that people may try, but that ultimately, it's up to you to stand firm. You can't blame anyone for the things you do or the stuff you put in your mouth. The blame game is a very dangerous route to take. A healthy lifestyle isn't just about physical health. Emotional and spiritual health go hand in hand with it.

My delightfully dear neighbor brought over Prune Cake made from a recipe from The Pioneer Woman. I love her even more for doing this. Cause I just needed me some Prune Cake.

Now, that title just doesn't do this cake justice. Prunes conjure up images of constipated Senior Citizens to me. I don't even want to go there.

This cake, oh my, it's amazing. But, if you make it, be forewarned: It has 711 calories and 42.5 grams of fat per serving.

I read that after I ate a piece. AFTER.

If I would have read it before, I would have had a small taste and been satisfied. Nutritionally, it's like getting a piece of really good tasting lard.

I love my neighbor dearly and I know she wouldn't sabotage me. She doesn't have it in her. I hesitate to even write this down knowing that if she stumbled upon it, it would hurt her feelings. So, MEL, if you read this, I know that this was a particularly amazing cake that you wanted to share with your friend. No worries!

This whole train of thought got me thinking about sabotage. Self sabotage or by another person. Do you believe in it? Like I said, I don't. Not that I don't believe that people do try to harm each other intentionally or not. But, I don't believe that you can blame someone else for your actions, especially when it comes to eating or working out.

I don't blame MEL for every, sinful, decadent, delicious, moist, bite of cake. I put fork to mouth. She didn't.

So, back to the recipe. I'm determined to make this lighter. I think it can be done. It's a very sweet, rich cake as it is, so it could do with less sweetener. I'm thinking applesauce or bananas for the oil. Off to the kitchen to start experimenting. I'm thinking this one might take a while.

In the mean time, Sticky Toffee Pudding is a reasonable substitute. This is a lower fat version that is pretty darn delicious. Sticky Toffee Pudding is a recipe from my Scottish side of the family. Nutrionally, the original version is healthy lifestyle suicide.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Serves 9 at 2 WW Points per serving. You can drizzle with more maple syrup or vanilla yogurt, but those are not included in the nutritional total. I like it just the way it is, hot from the oven. If the dates keep you from wanting to make it, please try it anyway. It tastes like rich, caramel, pudding cake.

3/4 cup Dates (pitted)
1/2 cup Maple Syrup,divided
1 tablespoon Vanilla
2 Eggs
1/3 cup Flour
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Simmer the dates for 5 minutes in 3/4 cup water. Put dates and water into a food processor and blend to a paste. Add 6 tablespoons of the maple syrup and the vanilla.Transfer to a bowl, let cool. Mix in the egg yolks, and then the flour. Whisk or beat the egg whites stiff in another bowl, then fold into the date mixture.Put 4 tablespoons of maple syrup in the bottom of a baking dish. Pour the date mixture on top. Cover with tin foil. Put the pan in a water bath. The water comes half-way up the baking dish.Bake for an hour, checking every ten minutes after 30 minutes have passed. When cooked, a skewer or knife will come out of the center clean.Uncover, and run a knife around the edge to help it come out easily. Tip onto a plate, serve hot!

Kiss the cook. This one is yummy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

What a Wonderful World.

Happy Earth Day!

Can you Really Grow a Thicker Skin?

The invention of many new technologies has created many opportunities for rudeness. One can shoot off an email, an IM, or a Twitter that's downright cruel. You can instantly broadcast a snarky comment on a message board or in a chat room.

Often times, the rude person will reply back to your protests with, "Grow a thicker skin."

I don't think that's possible.

I just watched a sequence on Ellen about an eleven year old boy who was bullied so severely at school that he took his own life. Words cannot even touch upon the agony that this mother has gone through. Words can wound. Words can kill.

Ellen's comments have echoed in my ears. She, like me, is an extremely sensitive person and was a very tender hearted child. And she, like me, hasn't changed with adulthood. This sensitivity is a good thing. To grow a thicker skin would be to suppress that which is good and true about a person. Sensitive people care deeply, feel deeply, and without them, the world would be a harsh and awful place.

My son is like me. He gets teary eyed when he sees an animal in pain. He's a true friend and empathizes deeply with those close to him. When told by an Ice Princess teacher that he needed to "get in control of his emotions" when he got teary at school over a rebuke from another student. I responded with:

1. I'm sure you don't want to appear unemotional, but you do. You might want to address that. And you damn well better start warming up to my son. He needs it and it's your job.

2. He will cry when he takes his wedding vows and at the births of his children. He will be the one that holds his spouse when times are tough and listen long and with tenderness when his kids need to air their feelings.

3. So, no, I won't ask him to get in control of his emotions. I will help him with learning to deal with them. But, he's hard wired this way and it's never going to change. It never changed for me and because of it, I have compassion and empathy for others. That's a quality that I'd hope any child would have. How great is it that I don't have to attempt to teach it?

I remember the Ice Princess' blank stare (with those alien looking pale blue eyes). She didn't get it and because of this, I consider this year of school almost a total loss for Young One. If she was kinder, more empathetic and softer, perhaps my son could have trusted her. Perhaps if she had this empathy, rather than tell me his "headaches are all in his head!", perhaps she would have helped us come to the diagnosis of a real, physical problem a heck of a lot sooner.

So, grow a thicker skin? No, thank you.

I suggest that if you've asked someone to do so, then you need to take a good look at yourself. At your behavior. Look closely and ask yourself why you're so afraid of emotions, kindness. Ask yourself why you've allowed yourself to become so rude. Ask yourself how you can just mow over someone and never look back. You just might be surprised at how easy it is to correct this flaw. Seriously, you're the one that needs to change. Not me.

To Clean or Not to Clean

I had an interesting conversation with a girlfriend the other day. We were talking about our kids. Big surprise there, huh? Two moms talking about their kids! Who knew?

Anyway, the subject of their rooms came up. This is one place where I try to pick my battles, but sometimes, it just gets too much for me to handle. I'm fine with the decor being Early American Kid. Pick your wall color. Dark, midnight blue? No problem. Want Spiderman Decals on the walls, along with a copy of the Constitution, and a fish tank with three lonely fish and a giant snail? Sure. Want a collection of rocks, squashed pennies, and hockey pucks? Definitely. Can you shove everything behind the closet doors and still close them? Great!

Sometimes, though, it gets to be so overwhelming that Young One doesn't know where to begin. And so, I'll step in and help. I'll pick up, sort through a few things, do a little snooping close examination of the state of his toys. I'll pick up a little laundry and clear a path so that the vacuum can get in there. Heck, last week, I even dusted.

I do this because I want him to realize that he's never alone. That I will always be there when he's overwhelmed. And to teach him that it's important to help people out when they're overwhelmed or need assistance. In other words, the cleanliness of his room is secondary to what I'm trying to teach him overall.
That and that you need to take care of your stuff.

My girlfriend agrees with me, but some people don't. They think everything should be in it's place. And that's fine. But, how do you truly learn that everything should be put away if you don't learn the hard way on your own. As in, losing your new Nintendo DSi to the black hole of your room? As in losing your birthday money because it ended up on the floor in your room and the new puppy shredded it. As in finding out what a Lego on a bare foot can feel like on a midnight trip to the bathroom.

When I was a kid, my mom stayed out of my room. Now, was it because she had three kids, a job, and didn't have the time, energy, or gas mask to enter it? Or was it because she was trying to give me my space? I'll never know. Because by now, my room and it's state is a distant memory to her perhaps wrapped up in that golden glow that we mothers get surrounding memories as time passes.

Flashback time:

There I was, alone in my room, searching for my Swatch Watch with my posters of Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie looking down on me and it dawned on me that it was under my control to keep that room tamed. I did finally find that watch, about six years later in a box mom handed me when I got married. (It also had my prom corsages, my Donny and Marie dolls, and a collection of homemade mix tapes filled with songs of teenage angst--and U2)

I keep my house picked up and clean. I can't stand it if it's not. Sometimes to me it seems an overwhelming job. We have a three story, four bedroom house. As I write this, I'm just cooling off from working in the basement, sorting, picking up, and vacuuming. Last Wednesday, I deep cleaned my house from top to bottom and it could use it again! Grrrr. I wasn't always this way. I remember my husband surprising me with a visit to show off our new house to a group of his friends in the Army. Let's just say it wasn't up to my standards of today. I was humiliated and embarrassed. And I think that feeling never left me. Yes, I keep my house clean for me and for the satisfaction of knowing that I'm doing my job as Household CEO and Domestic Engineer to the best of my abilities, but I also do it so I can invite people in without shame.

I envy people that can sit and read and relax when surrounded by chaos and mess and dirt. I can't do it.

Perfection is not what I'm striving for or maybe it is. I don't know. I am Type A. I can't help it. But, that personality type is what has given me great success in the past . So, I must be doing something right.

So, do you clean your kids rooms? Do you work hard to keep your house clean and neat? Can you relax in a messy or dirty house?

One thing I can do perfectly is cook rice. Now, this seems like a strange segue to a recipe, but I'm going to run with it. My father taught me how to make rice when I was a kid and it doesn't involve cooking it on a store (which in my opinion leads to either burnt rice or wall paper paste consistency). This method allows you to carry on with life (in other words, ignore the rice) and it still comes out perfectly every time.

We eat a lot of cooked Jasmine rice in our house. One of D's favorite meals is my fried rice which uses up lots of leftovers conveniently. You can find the recipe here. Cook the rice ahead of time or use cold, leftover rice from another meal.

Perfect White Rice

1 part rice to 2 parts water (I like to do 2 cups of raw rice to 4 cups of water)

Place in a microwave safe casserole that has a cover and plenty of room for the rice to double in size. Cover tightly and place on a folded towel in case of boil over. It's ok if it boils over, the towel will catch it and the rice will still turn out great. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, checking occasionally. If it seems to be boiling over, loosen the cover to vent slightly. If you can't watch it closely, don't worry about it. The towel is there for a reason!
Check rice for tenderness. It should fluff easily with a fork. You can microwave a bit longer if there is still a little water left in the dish.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Five

Here's what my five senses have been experiencing...


Somehow, I managed to read a review of this book early enough that I was one of the first at my library to request it! Score! This was a great book. If you liked The Red Tent, you'll love this one. This novel takes the Garden, Cain and Abel, and Adam and Eve and puts them in a perspective that you've most likely never thought about before. They were real people, with real emotions, thoughts, actions. I found this book fascinating and an easy read. Once I picked it up, I didn't want to put it down.
Picture yourself as Eve, mother of all, and the one that everyone blames for the banishment from the paradise of the Garden. The angst! The guilt! I think this is where all our mother guilt comes from. (Yes, dear Eve another thing for people to blame on you. As if painful labors weren't enough!)

Would make for great discussion for a women's group or church group.

Candles Burning by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell

I thought this book would scare the crap out of me. The manuscript was found in McDowell's effects after he died. Apparently, I was too scared to read any of his work before. His genre is horror and while I will delve into the occasional Stephen King, somehow this guys work scared me. I picked up this book at a library book sale. I thought D would enjoy it, but somehow it worked it's way into my hands.

And I loved it.

Written from the perspective of Calley Carroll Dakin, the unfortunate daughter of Roberta Ann Caroll Dakin and Joe Cane Dakin. Calley can hear the dead, but according to her, they aren't really worth listening to. But, they are. Calley's father is murdered and her horrible mother takes her to live in Pensacola Florida where they live in a small inn on an isolated island with a cast of odd characters. Calley's gift of hearing the spiritual world helps her to solve her father's murder, but the justice that is found isn't what you might expect.

Mesmerizing, with characters that stick with you long after the book is done, you have to wonder how Tabitha King was so well able to seamlessly end the book that McDowell left unfinished with his death.

I'm fascinated by this family. I think, because they are the absolute opposite of me. Eighteen kids and I have one. Extremely conservative and I'm liberal. She's a subservient wife and I'm a full partner in my marriage.

I think the title would best be changed to Blind Faith. For that's what the Duggars live on . I admire that wholeheartedly, for I'm often the Doubting Thomas. No, not doubting in the sense that Thomas was, but I'm much more likely to use the free will and thought that God gifted me with. I often wonder how they can so blindly follow. I've found using scripture for your own needs to be quite dangerous and controlling. Any church or person that asks for blind faith is frightening.

I've studied both the Old and New Testament at the college level. Both of these classes were some of my most difficult (until nursing school, chemistry, etc.) My Bible is dog eared and written in. It's well used. So, I could match verse for verse just about anything that these people hand out. That's not my point, though. My point is that I've noticed that they pick and choose scripture to fit their needs. That they isolate themselves and their children from the world, which they consider evil and filled with temptation.

That's fine, I guess, to each their own, but I often wonder which one of those children will be the one to escape the confines of their family and venture out on their own. I wonder what will happen when they realize that the world really isn't this evil place after all. I wonder if their family will shun them. I wonder how they would see their parents through these new eyes.

If we raise our children up to be good, decent people then they must be challenged. They must be out in the world, evil or not, to find out if our guidance has led them to the right path. If you don't allow them that, then that's your issue. Not theirs.

Like I said, I'm fascinated by these people. I enjoy watching them on TV. I enjoyed reading their book, for to me, it was eye opening. This is important for us all to do. Reach outside ourselves to try to learn more and understand more about others. Unfortunately, I doubt that the Duggars would ever step outside their world to look into mine.

As a side note, the recipes contained within the book are an unbelievable tribute to the power of the can. Cream of whatever soup, pasta, heavy cream, ground meat, canned vegetables. Heavy, rib sticking food, but not necessarily healthy. I'm sure that the point is to fill aching stomachs, but my hope is that these kids are getting more than just filling. I'd love for the Duggars to touch on that in future episodes. Man cannot live on cans alone.


Books on my iPod and the vacuum. I hate to vacuum, so listening to books on helps keep me motivated.


Pansies. I planted my Spring planters last week. Pansies were my Grandpa Hank's favorite flower. It takes me almost an hour, every Spring, just to decide which ones I want to bring home from the garden center. Their little faces are very endearing to me and as I plant them and watch them grow, I remember my Grandpa. His sweet smile and gentle manner still guide me.


Experimental brownies. I'm trying to make a mix more Weight Watchers friendly. I'll post as soon as I get it right.

Lots of junk in the basement. I'm clearing out in preparation for a garage sale. Yuck. I can't believe how much stuff we need to pitch or sell.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Supper

Sunday supper is usually eaten in front of the TV at our house. We're not huge television watchers. I don't have anything against it and I don't limit or censor what Young One watches. I think that's why there's little to no allure to it. I've always felt that when you make excessive limitations on kids, they'll find a way to do whatever behavior you've decided to limit anyway. And, when they're away from you, they aren't able to self limit if exposed to the thing that you're trying to keep them from.

When Young One was little, we taught him about the cues that he should watch for when his body is telling him he needs a break. And that could be a break from reading, time with friends, TV, video games--just about anything. We also taught him that if you have the opportunity to be outside in the fresh air when the weather is cooperating, then you better take it!

One thing that we've always tried to do is sit down at least once a day and have a meal together. On Sundays, that meal is often breakfast. I like to make something simple, but good for Sunday breakfast, to get us gathered around the table. (Since I know, we'll probably end up in front of the TV for dinner!) This morning was blueberry pancakes, real maple syrup, turkey sausage, orange juice, and French pressed coffee.

TV will get in the way of family conversation. That's why we've tried to make dinner in front of it a treat instead of a habit. I'm often surprised by the number of people who've shared with me that they either have a kitchen TV on while they're at the table or that they routinely eat in stages, depending upon activity schedules. Or, they always eat, on the couch, in front of the TV.

We're often surprised at what conversations spark at the table. There's something about making that a safe haven that means so much to me. My family is itty bitty, it's not at all the loud, talk over each other table of my childhood. It's perfect in it's own way.

Sunday supper tonight wasn't fancy. Simple lemon, rosemary chicken that scented the house all afternoon as it slowly roasted. Our weekend was very busy. This kind of meal saves me because after a busy day, I often can't face making dinner.

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Another recipe, that really isn't. Sorry for not providing measurements, but I just can't. You can't wreck this, trust me.

Take a large chicken, wash and pat dry. Place in a pan. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Quarter a lemon and an onion. Squeeze the lemon juice over the chicken. Stuff lemon quarters and onions in the chicken cavity. You can also place fresh rosemary "twigs" in the cavity if you've got it. If you don't, no big deal. Sprinkle chicken liberally with salt, pepper, rosemary, and paprika. Slow roast for 5 hours. Let stand at least 5 minutes before carving.

I like to serve this with at least two vegetable sides and cranberry sauce.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Before You Hit Upload, You Just Might Want to Think About it

I love You Tube. What a great idea, broadcast yourself. Love it!

We've been able to find old movie clips, instructional videos about how to put up a tent we've been thinking about purchasing, and the video of MC Hammer's Can't Touch This to prove to Young One that people once had pants with three foot long rises (and in gold lame, no less).

Have you seen the Dominos Pizza employee video that's been the talk of the nation? I don't see how you could miss it. Basically, two employees, contaminating food and cracking jokes about the company and their work ethic.

How stupid can you be to post this video on the Internet? I mean, here we are in the camera age. Lindsay Lohan scratches her nose and it's online in three seconds with a caption about how she's digging for gold. I pity the poor celebrity who tries to unwedge a wedgie and is caught by a traffic camera that's been hacked into by Perez Hilton.

But, these people? They voluntarily posted a video that now may get them slapped with a mighty fine or put in jail. Not funny. Not smart.

Dominos business may be hurting for a while. Let's face it, it's not great food. Make your own pizza. It's cheaper and better for you.

This is my mom's crust recipe. It's been in the family for ages. We made frozen pizza a couple of times a month when I was growing up. I can still smell the house as it baked. I can never make it as good as mom's. I sure hope she didn't add any secret ingredients like the Dominos people. Oh yes, she did. It was love.

(Oh God, that's horrendously corny. Delete or face the fact that I am, eternally a dork? You can see, it remains.)

Mama Mia Pizza
This recipe is written on a grease stained piece of notebook paper in my teenage handwriting which is recipe code that it is definitely a keeper. Top with your favorite pizza sauce and toppings. Mom always made several pizzas and cut them with a huge kitchen scissors.

1 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 TB vegetable oil
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour

Mix all together and knead until well combined, adding more flour if the dough seems to sticky. Rise 1/2 hour. Pat and stretch until desired form and top. Bake at 425 degrees until dough is well set, approximately 20 minutes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Workin' It Out

I read in a magazine that in order to lose weight you must commit to working out at least 50 minutes, five days a week. Actually, the article first said that you needed at least 60 minutes, five days a week. But, with extensive research, they whittled it down to a more manageable 50.

Now, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. Why is is so hard to fit in those required minutes?

It's been my struggle to get them in for the last year and a half, but I'm finally feeling like it's just becoming routine. I'm a morning exerciser. If I don't do it then, all my good intentions of sweatin' it out later in the day just go out the window. I like to shower just once in a day, thank you very much.

My mornings usually go something like this. Alarm rudely awakes me at o-dark-thirty. I contemplate hitting snooze, but usually hit the ground running. Work out clothes on. This must happen before my brain is awake enough to rationalize why I shouldn't do it. Bed made, feed Young One's fish, help him pick out matching clothes that don't make him look like "an idiot", and that's all if I don't have to cajole and coax him out of bed. If I do have to wake him up then it's three seconds of mom really cares and loves you very much and will listen intently but only for these three seconds cause we gotta go go go go go go go go go. (I hate what this is doing to him, by the way, but isn't this life? Well, it is, unless you live on the small Caribbean island of Dominica which D and I once visited. Our tour guide worked one day a week. Um, that'll be three tickets to Dominica...)

Downstairs, start the coffee, empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, make a lunch if Young One needs once, feed the salt water fish and the dogs. Run to the stairs periodically to shout encourage Young One to move a little faster. He makes his own breakfast most days, but if I'm feeling extremely Carol Brady that day, I'll do it. Scratch that, Carol just sat with Mike at the table drinking out of an olive green coffee cup while Alice was making breakfast, remember? Back a generation, ah yes, the ever faithful representative of our domestic servitude: Mrs. Cleaver. She made sure her boys got their cholesterol laden first meal of the day.

Permission slips, don't forget that book, "Oh yes, I can't wait for the new Batman game to be released", and "the weather is going to be ____ today" when he asks in order to determine the jacket of the day. We eat breakfast together and usually discuss a few important details of life like just how many Pokemon levels his friends have beaten and who was involved in the latest kickball skirmish with the boy already stuck with the "anger management issues" label at eleven years old.

To the bus stop, "I love you mommy" (I'm still not mom yet. How has that not happened? Clarification: I'm mom in front of friends and in public.) As I watch the bus pull away, I try not to think of another reason why I shouldn't go immediately to work out. Seriously, if it weren't for all the other things on my list on any given day, I'm not sure I would work out. That busy-ness pushes me to hit it quickly. Work out? Big bold check mark, DONE.

Yes we all have the same 24 hours. Yes we all have the same busy lives. It's not about the time. It's about making you a priority.

It finally clicked with me that I'm a better mom, a better friend, a better wife, sister, daughter when I put myself first sometimes. It's not that my working out gets in the way of my life. It's become a part of my day, like brushing my teeth, that I don't think too much about anymore. I don't absolutely love it. But, it's time for me. It's time for me to sweat it out and let my mind wander (cause it does and it's amazing the things I work through while working out!)

This may be a transient thing, like the twenty four hour flu, but maybe I've finally figured it out. Maybe I finally am actually making myself a priority.

Wouldn't that be somethin'?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Open Letter to the Young Man that Called My Boy Four Eyes

Dear Scum Sir:

It has come to my attention that you have been bullying my son. While I know this letter may be a surprise to you, I'm very sure it's not the first time that your bad behavior has been pointed out to you. Without going into too much detail, I know all about you kid, and I know for sure that you are heading for a small, sad life.

You see, young man, I'm older than you and for that, in case your parents haven't instilled this in you, you should respect me and listen to what I have to say. I feel for you because I know that all the terrible things that you feel inside about yourself are somehow coming to the surface and spewing out in an attempt to hurt a kid that deep down inside you admire.

We live in a lawsuit crazy world in which fear keeps us from guiding you on the right path. You're getting away with your terror not because it's right, but because unfortunately we can no longer strongly discipline children for their actions. Because you've been labeled with a special need or some such thing, you have more rights that my son, who follows the rules and respects others. You've been overprotected from the very thing that would set you on a good path.

My fear isn't that your behavior will continue. It's a given that you will continue to bully your way through life and it will get you nowhere. My fear is that no one cares enough about you to strongly guide you. My fear is that we've gone so far as a society worrying about being politically and socially correct that we're in turn creating a generation of ill behaved and lost people.

You'll flounder through life, wondering why you can't get ahead. Your life will be filled with shallow relationships and struggles and you won't understand why. Perhaps someday, someone will assist you with coming up with the reason for all of this. And it's because, you never were a priority. No one cared at a time when that was all that you needed.

So, keep teasing, taunting, threatening. My son can handle it. He likes himself, even all four of his eyes.

Touch one hair on his head and we'll have another conversation. In the meantime, take a good look in the mirror. Even your reflection thinks you're no good.

A Mom

I'm not a Twit

I Twied to Twitter, Weally I did.

I can't get into Twitter. Maybe it's because the past tense of to twit is a naughty word. I don't know. I think it's mostly because I just want to live my life and not type about it in three second blurbs throughout my day. I honestly can't figure out how people can do this except that perhaps they have styluses for thumbs and have mastered the fine art of cell phone domination while driving.

So, technically, right now I should be twitting that I'm typing. But, I'm on a roll here. The thoughts are flying and I just must get them down. So, should I twit, thus ending this creative streak and forever banishing all further witty words to that blank space in my brain?

Um. No.

I don't even think I'm going to remove my account there. Perhaps one day someone will stumble upon it and feel sorry for the sad person who couldn't keep up.

Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying real life, in real time.

Here are some cookies. Cause you should bake instead of twittering. Really.

Somewhat Healthy Cookies that Even a Discriminating (Notice I didn't say picky) Kid Will Eat

3 WW Points a piece, yes, that's a lot for a cookie. But, when have you found a chocolate chip cookie that tastes good and will still satisfy the kids in your house and you can eat them without doubling size of your butt? Hmmm? Eat while you're working out and maybe the point count won't even matter.

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened (I'm going to make these again with light or Brummel and Brown and see what happens)

1/2 cup canola oil (could you sub applesauce. Damn, guess I'm gonna have to make cookies again)

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup chocolate chips--miniature would be great

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream sugar, butter, oil, vanilla, and egg. Add dry ingredients and mix until well blended. Add chocolate chips and mix to combine. Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake 7-9 minutes or until very light brown, the centers will still be soft. Cool one minute on pans before removing to cooling racks.

I'll play around with the changes I suggested. I think this is a great basic recipe and could do with a little twittering tweaking!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A New Toy

Young One got a new handheld hypnotizer game system. He's been saving for a while. He got the new Nintendo DSi, which he has carried everywhere since it was purchased. It takes pictures, which you can morph. It has two cameras, so you can morph yourself with your friends. It will record sounds and you can add effects to them. Basically, it's an eleven year old boy's dream. Imagine just the amount of time he can make various bodily function noises and then manipulate them.

Friends have been over and there's been nothing but hysterical laughter. Chocolate milk coming out your nose kind of laughter.

This is a great picture Young One took of a dear friend. It's very scrambled and kind of looks like what most adults feel like on tax day.

In honor of tax day, a grilling recipe. Just in case you feel like a little more rakin' over the coals.

Candied Pork Chops
These are sweet, so if that's not your thing, cut down the sugar. Red pepper flakes would be a nice touch.
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup apple juice
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
6 boneless pork chops

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.

In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, apple juice, oil, soy sauce, ginger, salt , and pepper. Bring to boil. Combine water and cornstarch in small bowl, and whisk into brown sugar mixture. Stir until thick.

Brush grate lightly with oil before placing pork chops on the grill. Cook over hot coals for 10 to 12 minutes, turning once. Brush with sauce just before removing chops from grill. Serve with remaining sauce.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Could Never Be a Food Stylist

When I was growing up, we had a delightful neighbor that was a food stylist for General Mills. She let us in on a few unappetizing secrets about the food biz. The only one I really remember is that they varnished raw turkeys to make them look so amazing in their Thanksgiving cookbooks. She told us that they used blow torches on almost a daily basis, which got me thinking that food styling just might be in my future. When she told me that she once spent several hours with a tweezers and shredded cabbage, I wrote off that career option for good.

The above picture is another reason why I will never be a food stylist. First of all, I refuse to waste food to take pictures of it. So, the picture above is dinner and I'm hungry. And I'm getting the weird faces from D and Young One that I get when I play with my food. And, you can see my shadow. And there's a renegade tomato seed and a piece of purple cabbage that looks like dirt. But, I snapped it anyway.

Most likely, if I hadn't pointed out any of this, you wouldn't have really noticed or cared.

My point? Good food isn't always pretty. The giant burritos from one of my favorite taco joints in town would crack camera lenses (and are guaranteed to stain your shirt). My mom's potato dumplings look suspiciously like wallpaper paste. Gravy is ugly. The Hamentashen cookies from the Jewish deli are a delicious, but kind of lumpy looking cookie.

I'll still try to capture food, the best that I can. I think it helps tempt you to try the recipe. But, please forgive me for some ugliness. I'm hungry when I'm snapping these pics and I can only wait so long!

Tilapia Tacos
You could sub just about any delicate, white fleshed fish. Each taco equals 4 WW Points.

3/4 cup fat free sour cream
1 can chopped green chilies
1 TB fresh cilantro, optional (I don't like it, so I leave it out)
1 TB lime juice

Whirl all the above ingredients in a food processor until well blended.

6 Tilapia fillets, 4 ounces each
1 cup all purpose flour
2 egg whites, beaten
1 cup Japanese Panko crumbs
1 TB canola oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each cayenne pepper, white pepper, and paprika
12 corn tortillas
1 (or 2) large tomato, chopped
shredded cole slaw mix or shredded lettuce, optional

Cut each tilapia fillet lengthwise into two portions. Heat nonstick pan over medium high heat. Meanwhile, place egg on one plate, flour and seasonings on another plate, and Panko crumbs on another plate. Place oil in pan (or sub with nonstick cooking spray). Dip fillet pieces into flour, then egg, then bread crumbs and into hot pan. Fry 4-5 minutes each side. Serve on warmed tortillas with 2 TB sauce, chopped tomatoes, and shredded greens.

How do Boneless Chickens Fly?

I once spent almost an hour trying to explain to a group of women how to make chicken broth. They were absolutely clueless as to why you would want to do something like that when you could buy perfectly good chicken broth in the soup aisle at the grocery store.

When I slowed down and for the third time explained that you could use the leftover chicken, bones and all, from a whole roasted chicken to make broth, a woman bravely raised her hand.

"Yes," I asked, sure that this would be the last time I drove 40 miles to speak to a mother's group in the evening when I could be home with my family.

"Um. You mean, people actually buy that chicken with the bones?"

"It's not another species," I quipped. I kind of, but not really, regretted snapping a bit.

I admit that I was slightly older than these women, but have we processed our food so far that people really don't know what it looks like in it's true, raw form? Yes, chickens do have bones. And hamburger isn't what you hope it might be.

I was actually in a room filled with people that didn't know that they could do anything, but purchase their poultry in an economy size bag of individually quick frozen chicken breasts.

I fear for what this is doing to people. I mean, honestly, boneless anything is so expensive. Have we gotten so far away from the way that food comes that we no longer can go back to that when times are tough?

It takes less than 30 seconds to take a chicken breast off the bone. You can toss the skin and make soup or broth from the bones. You'll pay much less than the boneless skinless version and end up with much more for your money. It really is worth the time.

Or cook and roast with the skin and bone on. You don't eat either the skin or the bone (or at least, you shouldn't) and, according to the food scientist that used to do the nutritional information for my business, the nutritional information stays the same whether you cook it with or without skin and bone. Plus, the skin and the bone make chicken much more moist and flavorful.

Now go out and buy some chicken. With bones. Make me proud.

One Whole Chicken, Three Delicious Meals

You can feed a family of 4, three meals, from one large roasting hen. I usually pay around fifty cents a pound for whole chickens. I'd love to always be able to afford free range, organic birds, but that's not always a possibility for my family. When I can get them this cheap, I often buy four or five of them for the freezer.

Roast Sticky Chicken

Chicken Fried Rice

chopped leftover chicken-- you don't need much. Discard any chicken skin and reserve carcass.

chopped green onions

2 cups of raw white rice, cooked and cooled

3 eggs

soy sauce

canned or fresh mushrooms, optional

fresh bean sprouts, optional

Chop the chicken, mushrooms (optional), and green onions ahead of time. Whisk eggs until well scrambled. In a large nonstick pan sprayed with cooking spray, saute chicken, mushrooms (optional) and green onions together until chicken is heated through and green onions and mushrooms are cooked to tender. Remove from pan and set aside. Scramble eggs until well cooked, add chicken and green onions back to the pan. Add rice and stir fry until heated through. You may add a little more cooking spray at this time to help the rice separate. (not too much, though!) Season with soy sauce to taste. Add fresh bean sprouts, if desired.

Italian Chicken Soup

1 chicken carcass
1 onion
3 stalks celery
2 bay leaves
1 (9 ounce) package refrigerated small cheese tortellini
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Throw chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Add chopped: carrot, onion, celery and bay leaves and garlic to taste. Simmer for one hour. Strain out vegetables and return to soup or discard. I always use a fat separator pitcher to strain the fat out. Well worth the investment. (I think they're officially called a gravy strainer). Add tortellini, tomatoes, zucchini, and basil and simmer until zucchini and tortellini are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in fresh parsley right before serving, if desired.

Monday, April 13, 2009

One More Blizzard and I'll Go Postal

Snow in April is not unheard of in Minnesota. We're hearty folk, proud of our ability to withstand freezing temps. It keeps the Riff Raff out. Don't believe me? Check out our murder rate. It's too damn cold to get that mad.

About this time of year though, snow will even piss us off. Two Saturdays ago, we got two inches. It melted immediately, of course. Right after the melt, I discovered these tulips peeking through the mulch. This is a sure sign that we've survived another winter.

Thank God.

Temporary garden centers are sprouting up. Snow shovels are in the clearance section of stores. And you couldn't find a matching pair of gloves for a 12 year old if you wanted to.

We made it through again.

I dusted off the grill (although I do wear my boots to get to it most winters!). This marinade is simple and delicious. We put it on steak, but I bet it would be great on pork, chicken, or salmon too. If the deer eat my tulips, I'll let you know if it's good on venison.

Simple Sesame Grilling Marinade

3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 1/2 TB sesame oil

Place all in a zip bag, smoosh to combine. Add meat. Grill until desired doneness.

Kitchen Tip: If you have a tried and true marinade that you like, make 3 or 4 of them at a time. Freeze the marinade without meat and add it when you purchase. You can also freeze the meat and the marinade together.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'm Dying Here

If you want to get all Martha on Easter, tie die some eggs. You use silk ties or silk scarves and simmer for a few minutes. Really easy and it looks like you did something amazing. Directions here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Easter

May your day be peaceful and filled with blessings.
I wanted to get this posted because I'm sure the weekend is going to be busy!
Have a wonderful holiday!

No School Tomorrow!

Spring is Bliss

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Confessions of a Competitive Mom

We have a delightful program at our school called Thoughtful Thursday. Every Thursday, homemade treats are brought in by parents to the teachers. Because I had a food business and all the teachers knew about it, the bar is set pretty high when I need to bring in treats.

I have to admit, though, I'd like to get by with a bowl of cut up fruit or mix made muffins like many of the other moms bring in.

But, my pride won't let me. Why?

I've had pneumonia. The cold that I had developed into something that knocked me on my butt, literally. I finally am starting to feel like I'm back to normal.

Last Thursday, though, I was in the grips of it. And of course, as the laws of nature and motherhood dictate, it was my turn again to bring in teacher treats.

I literally did not have the strength to fuss much, but my reputation? Could I let it go? Hell no.

Bread machine to the rescue! (And my good cook status is still intact.)

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Golden Raisin Date Bread
Fat free, but I have no idea how many WW Points. I was sick, remember? (And I don't feel like figuring it out now, especially since my measurements are so vague. Sorry about that, but that's how I really cook. Throw it all together and eyeball the measurements.)

1 1/4 cups water

2 tbsp applesauce

3 1/4 cups stone ground wheat flour

1/4 cup brown sugar (or other sweetener, I bet honey would be fantastic)

lots of cinnamon (2 tsp?)

some powdered ginger (1/2 tsp?)

3 1/2 tsp yeast

lots and lots of golden raisins

about half as many dates as raisins

Add in the order your bread machine recommends. Makes a 2 pound loaf. Bake on whole wheat or regular setting with light crust.
I also made Third Bread, recipe here.
And I sent them both, on a tray with honey cream cheese spread. (Low fat, Neufchatel cream cheese mixed with honey until slightly sweetened).
Yep, I'm an overachiever. Yep, I'm competitive. But, the teachers appreciate it. And I know that they don't always feel like facing our kids every day, with colds or cramps or headaches, or whatever. So, I did my bit.
As a side note, if you do this for your school, let me tell you a little secret. The teachers get inundated with sinful treats. While they appreciate it, more of them love it if you send in something that will not put them into a diabetic coma.

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