Monday, November 30, 2009

I am a born again biscuiteer!

OH MY GOODNESS!    I have achieved biscuit enlightenment.  I never liked biscuits. Probably because I spent half a year making biscuits 40 hrs. a week for the local Bob Evans.  I decided that I should try to make the world's most awesome biscuits to see if that changed.!!!!!! 
   Last night, as I dozed off, I began to think about the tub of tofu I needed to use up.  Then I remembered that I had some potatoes that I cooked and froze.  Voila!  I would make hash!  In honor of the Grinch, I would call it 'fu-hash, an homage to the green one stealing the last can of who-hash.  I cut the tofu up into tiny pieces and browned it well in a little olive oil and soy sauce.  I also cooked up the potatoes with some onion and garlic and herbs de provence, then combined it all at the sensationally golden brown end.  Of course, I thought, I must try THE biscuit recipe again.  The first time I tried it, It was good.  I knew it could be even better.

     'Fu-hash, crispy, salty, golden brown.  Impossibly good.

My lovely, fluffy (3" + high), crunchy on the bottom (thank god for parchment paper!) biscuits!

The biscuit recipe is from a good book I have been reading, "Family feasts for $75 a week" by Mary Ostyn.  I'm not sure if it is ok to post this recipe its entirety.  I was able to get this book from the public library.  I must sincerely thank the author for this recipe, for changing my life, for growing my butt to bold new proportions.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful and Appreciative.

     Some reflections.....
     I am so thankful I have a husband that respects and nurtures my feelings.  I appreciate all the times he builds me up (complimenting me for cooking or creating something, telling me he thinks I'm cute or smart or funny) or breaks my butt down (When I'm too wrapped up in my own problem at hand and don't notice his feelings).  I'm thankful I can always count on him and appreciate him treating me like his partner and team mate.
    I am thankful I can spend so much time with my kids and appreciate that Matt doesn't ask me to work more than weekends, even though it means cutting our budget and has seriously changed his toy collecting hobby.
     I am thankful I have 3 awesome children.  I appreciate their unique personalities which force me to stay on my toes!  I appreciate the love they have for each other and their parents. I even appreciate all my new gray hairs that I am sure are caused by them!
     I am thankful I have a good relationship with my Mom even though we are many states apart.  I appreciate her trips to see us and the cost of that travel, and the fact that she stays long enough for a good visit.
     I am thankful for brothers and sisters that stay close together despite crazy lives that pull us apart physically.  I appreciate that they visit and call me and that they allow me to get to know the special people in their lives.  I really appreciate that my Stepmother had a photographer at her wedding so I finally have a family picture!
    I am thankful for great in-laws.  I appreciate that my "in-loves" are close to my family and we can all get together for special occasions.  I appreciate all the wonderful things my mother-in-love does, but ESPECIALLY all the babysitting she does!  It's nice to have someone that loves your children help take care of them.
    I am thankful my bro-in-love picked an awesome wife.  I appreciate that she shares pictures and stories so we can be a part of their lives, even though we are far apart.  I look forward to hearing from her every day!
     I am thankful I had the time to spend with my Grandmother before she passed away this year.  I appreciate my husband soooo much for letting her live with us for the past few years and for letting her live her last days in her own bed, surrounded by loved ones.  I appreciate all my family members that helped me take care of her, sent her cards and called or visited her.  It cheered her and me up.
     I am thankful for my home.  I appreciate all the hard work my husband has put into it physically and by working to pay for it.  I appreciate the sacrifices he makes so we can have things like a new roof and furnace.
    I am thankful for a wonderful group of women on-line.  I appreciate your messages and comments even though you have busy lives.  Spending most of my time with toddlers, I look forward to seeing what you are all up to each day.  Your intelligent opinions, caring comments and hilarious writing (yes, that's Lori! She should write professionally!) keep me sane.
     I am thankful my family has seriously reduced our consumption.  I appreciate that everyone managed to handle a Thanksgiving without any paper plates, paper towels, paper napkins, water bottles or pop bottles/cans.  Everyone recycled, composted and saved their plastic silverware for the dishwasher so they can be reused.  I appreciate that this is not the usual order of business for most of them, but that they respect my desire to do so, without comments and with a smile!  You all rock!
     I have so many things to be thankful for, I could go on and on!  Life is good.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What would you do/not do this Christmas?

     I was reading a post over at frugal upstate, where 2 questions were posed:
  1. What one thing you would eliminate from your holiday schedule if you could?
  2. What tradition or event would you add if you could?
     Interesting questions.  Years ago I eliminated quite a bit of decorating and switched to a small tree.  I didn't enjoy getting it all out, having hopes that somehow everyone would gather like a who down in whoville to joyously help me put it up, much less take it down.  I decided to only put up what made me feel happy.  No one complained or cared, so I continued with the lessened decorations, but filled my home with great holiday music and delicious smells of cookies baking.  That was easy!
      If I had to pick a new thing to change, it would probably be less gift giving to adults.  Doing less of that would allow me the money to give gifts to more of the children in my extended family.  Overall, we give less gifts than we used to.  We set up a budget and try to stick to it.  We only give our kids a few presents, plus a few hand-made presents.  They don't care.  They seem satisfied.  It will be interesting to see if that changes when they go to school and find out what other kids get.
     If I was to add another tradition, it would be to get a bunch of fun, cool fam/friends to hang out and bake or package previously baked cookies and take them to the nursing home I work at to pass out together, maybe host a game (like bingo, or a wii bowling contest) for the residents with awesome prizes.  The home I work at is an inner city home with a large number of young (20-60 yrs old) patients, many with mental illness or severe addictions that have brought on catastrophic medical situations.  Many have limited access to family.  They could use some fun and homemade goodies.  I adopt a resident and give them presents from Santa each year.  Some family members have chipped in during the past few years, which has allowed me to adopt extra residents and give better gifts. That has been a highlight for me personally, as I see them enjoy some of the gifts all year, like one lady that would sit out in the sunshine listening to the transistor radio she got.  Or the man that wears size5XL and loved getting a warm jacket he could actually zip up and a purple (his fave color) shirt to wear to the facility church service on Sunday, so he feels good about himself.
     I love all the traditions we have, and all the new traditions that are evolving as people are starting new careers, families, etc...  This year my brother is hosting Christmas Eve for my family get-together.  It will be exciting to celebrate in his new place.  My husband's side will celebrate faux-Christmas, meaning it will occur a few days after Christmas when everyone can be in town together, which will make it even more relaxed and fun.  This will be my first Christmas without my Grandmother, which is hard because we were very close (even lived together), but her cookie tradition will continue as I bake her favorite recipes.  I will shed a tear as I sing along with Star Wars' Christmas in the Stars, remembering my Dad doing so when I was young.
     Although I had answers for the 2 questions posed, I am quite content with the way things are.  It was interesting taking a look at what we do as a family.  I am glad we keep it to a minimum and don't get stressed out over the holidays.  But what I am truly thankful for is that my huge family is so loving and welcoming to all the amazing new additions to our family. I love that my family, my husband's family, my sisters' fiancees families, my brothers' sweetie's families all can get together, anytime of the year, without drama or ill-will, but with acceptance and friendship.  What a great gift that is to me!
     So, do you have any answers to the 2 questions? 

Friday, November 20, 2009

mustard green soup, yummmm.

     Last night, a rainy, autumn day, I whipped up a delicious bowl of mustard green and tofu soup.  Maybe a tablespoon of oil for the entire dutch oven of soup, including frying the tofu golden brown.  MMMmmmm, comfort food.  I will need to write this recipe up, as I enjoyed it so much.

     I am all about the comfort food right now.  Things that make me feel warm and cozy, like oven baked french fries the other night.  Anyone else preparing for hibernation?

repurposing shirts into pants for long-legged kids!

     My son has grown into a wonderful long-legged 4 year old.  Where as his brother is still small enough to easily fashion a pair of pants from an old shirt, I find it's difficult for the big guy.  Plus, I like to make matching pants for them, just because they look so darn cute together.  I have found two things that help:
          Making a yoke:  If the sleeve is almost long enough, strategic cutting leaving the shoulder seam intact  can yield a cute little yoke detail.

kind of hard to see with this fabric, sorry.

     Adding a panel:  When using the body of the shirt, You can cut out as much as you can, still lining up with the hem of the shirt, or elastic waistband if using a sweater or waistband.  Then cut off an inch or two above the hem (or go all the way up to the knee for a "knee pad" look).  Cut a piece to equal the missing amount plus extra for your seam allowance.  Sew your pants up the side seam/seams.  Do the same with your hem piece and extra piece, carefully using the same seam allowance.  Then add the extra pieces by sewing with right sides together, matching up side seams.  Finish with topstitiching to make it lay flat and look decorative.

I'm sure there are lots more ideas out there floating around.  Anyone else have a technique they use?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gearing up for Thanksgiving.

     Well, I have started preparing for the holidays.  I made 5 "Cheat"loaf seitan rolls for Thanksgiving (I gave 2 away) as my family is vegetarian.  We also make a Turkey for the people that want that--don't get nervous meat-eaters! :p This recipe is so yummy!  It freezes perfectly.  It is mild so it can work with many ways of serving it.  You can handle it like a meatloaf, or slice it into sandwiches or into other entrees like casseroles.  I sauteed some onions, added some BBQ sauce thinned with apple cider and then threw some of this cut thinly into the frying pan.  I warmed it slowly and we had BBQ sandwiches that were delicious! I like to either make a bunch of these and freeze them or roast some squashes or baked potatoes while this is cooking to take advantage of the oven running for 75 minutes.  This is the same recipe as my "cheat"balls if it looks familiar:

Seitan “Cheat” Loaf

1 ½ cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp Basil
½ Tbsp oregano
½ tsp Marjoram
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of diced garlic
Squirt of Ketchup

Pre-heat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and garlic.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix them together (if you have a mixer with a bread hook, use that and skip the hand kneading.  Just mix until no longer sticky then continue mixing about 2-3 minutes longer), the dough will become stiff; at that point, work with your hands until all the ingredients are mixed, then start kneading. The seitan will become very elastic, and will not stick to your hands when it's finished.

Roll it into 8-inch log and place in foil.  Decorate top with a squiggle of ketchup on top.

Close foil tightly, place on baking sheet and bake for approximately 75 minutes. Remove; it is fully cooked and ready to eat. Also freezes well.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Opposum or Meerkat?

     I am sleep deprivation exhibit A.    Between personal crises, the time change and some dastardly, ill-timed, inconsistent, lengthy naps taken individually by my sweet boys, I have been getting anywhere from 2-5 hours of sleep a night for far too long now.  The time change alone tends to hijack my kids for at least 3 weeks.  Strange.  At any rate, last night was particularily bad.  When I came downstairs this morning and looked out of the window, I was shocked by the sight of an animal I could not identify in the twilight.  It was small, but not a chipmunk.  It had a long dark tail, but it had too skinny of a head for anything else I could imagine.  I flashed back to one night when I opened the garage door, only to stare in the beady eyes of an opposum.  Was it an opposum?  No, it was so still and upright, like a meerkat.  Nooooo, why would a meerkat be in the yard.  "Quick kids, get my camera!"  but no sooner did the words leave my mouth than I realized to my horror, it was a T-Rex.  Yep, I need to get some sleep tonight.

Ssssshhhhh, there it is, in the flower bed!

The elusive meerkatoppossumasaurus

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The bearded Lady!

Here is the newest crazy crocheted concoction sent to me from my Mom!  I am officially the bearded lady!  Think I should wear this when I am shoveling snow?

Monday, November 2, 2009

El Día de los Muertos

This year I made an ofrenda to honor my Dad and Grandmother for El Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.  It was nice to do something special with them in mind.  I have many wonderful pieces of D.O.T.D. art brought to me from Texas by my Mom and Dad-in-loves.  I also had a skull I made years ago and dolled up another one I had with some flowers.  Luckily, I had marigolds in my garden still, which are traditional flowers for an ofrenda.  If you've never made one before, I recommend you try one next year!