Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sun dried...er, oven dried tomatoes

Picked a small bunch of tomatoes this morning and decided to oven dry them for future use. This is so easy to do! Just take your bunch of tomatoes, wash, cut off the tops, and quarter. Place in a large mixing bowl and add some olive oil, and salt and pepper. From there you can add herbs if you like. I added a couple of sprigs of rosemary.

Place your tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once I got these guys in the pan I decided to add a large clove of garlic and some lemony thyme.


Put them in a 200 degree oven for 8-9 hours. Check the tomatoes now and then. They should be leathery and dry, but still flexible when you remove them from the oven. When cooled, pack them in a mason jar and fill with a good olive oil. They'll last several days on the counter or a couple of weeks in the fridge. These are soooo good tossed with pasta and some good Parmesan cheese!
On another note, we harvested another sunflower seed head today...our largest yet!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My six quirks

Therese tagged me for this and I'm supposed to list my six quirks....yeah right, like I ONLY have six!

1. I hate stupid people.
2. I'd rather have a root canal with no anesthesia than exercise.
3. I am a bit of a perfectionist.
4. I have no tolerance for people who cannot follow instructions.
5. If I could do ANYTHING for one whole day it would be to read, sew, and eat Funyuns....in bed!
6. I will not, can not, drive in Houston traffic!

In return, I tag Linda, Karen, and Dana.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Birthday Fun!


We had an awesome day in Houston celebrating Kyle's birthday! Let me tell you something about Kyle, that boy was born with a football in one hand and a baseball in the other. He is a total sports fan and we thought we would surprise him with a tour of Reliant Stadium - home of the Houston Texans.
The tour was wonderful. We had the guide and the stadium all to ourselves! We even saw Matt Schaub, the quarterback for the Texans, talking on his cellphone outside the locker room! It was really fun and the kids totally enjoyed it. We are now plotting, planning and saving for tickets to a game soon.
After the tour, Doug and Kyle were DYING to check out the Astrodome (it is no longer open to the public and is quite dilapidated). Doug has such fond memories of seeing the Astros play there. We drove around the Dome just seeing the sites when all of the sudden Doug, using his Jack Bauer like skills, decided to walk into the maintence entrance! He and Kyle walked right onto the floor of the Dome....and no one said a darn thing!
Kyle said being in the Dome was the best part of his day!
We had lunch at Fudruckers and the kids played video games. We came home, went to the pool, then had dinner and a big'ol Toll House cookie "cake" for the birthday boy!
We are exhausted, to say the least, but everyone had a good time. I will not mention the air soft rifle that Doug bought for Kyle. I'm sure I'll be blogging how someone shot an eye out and we ended up in the emergency room very soon!
Happy birthday my precious boy!

Happy Birthday Kyle!

My beautiful baby boy is eleven today!
We are off to Houston for a big birthday surprise...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Menu Plan Monday


I've been super lax on my menu planning but I expect to get much better the next few weeks! Implementing the Nourishing Traditions way of cooking takes planning and preparation and posting here keeps me accountable. It will be an interesting week since two of my boy's birthdays fall this week as well as my usual work schedule. But planning and buying ingredients in advance really help us stay on track!

Monday: Lettuce wraps using Lentil Taco filling, cheese and kefir sour cream. Yeah, it sounds gross, but they really do taste like tacos!
Tuesday: Kyle's birthday and I'm sure he'll want to eat out. We'll be sure to chase any restaurant meal with a Bragg's ACV cocktail!
Wednesday: Stuffed squash and garden salad. Garden squash stuffed with Italian sausage, homemade tomato sauce, and cheese. Bake until golden.
Thursday: Talapia & veggies steamed in parchment packets.
Friday: Ryan's birthday. I can guess with almost certainty that we will be eating dinner at Kim Son or Tan-Tan (Ryan LOVES Chinese food!) and I'll be drinking another ACV cocktail afterwards!
Saturday: Whole wheat pasta and homemade spaghetti sauce.
Sunday: Roast and vegetables with brown rice.

I cannot tell you how much reading Nourishing Traditions has changed my life! I've been doing this type of cooking/eating for about two weeks and already I feel so much better! I have more energy and I do not have the stomach ailments and digestive problems that I have been suffering with for so long. It's not a "diet" it's just a different way of eating. I've even managed to kick my Dr. Pepper habit (after a horrible week of headaches!) I've even managed to lose close to 10 pounds without really trying....and certainly without being hungry!
Like Martha would say....it's a good thing.

Sunday breakfast




Friday, July 25, 2008

The REAL Guitar Hero!

Where's my lighter? FREEBIRD!

RAWK on!

Guitar Hero has officially invaded our house...

Luckily, it's the "Legends of Rock" version. Doug and I can actually stand listening to the music! But can someone tell me, when did "Welcome to the Jungle" become vintage rock?
Feeling very old now!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kefir

I can't figure out if it's pronounced kee-fur, kef-ear, or kay-fur....all I know it that it RAWKS!
I read about this wonderful stuff in (my new bible) Nourishing Traditions. Kefir is a great little probiotic that coats your intestines and makes a breading ground for all the good flora you need to keep you healthy. It's like nature's antibiotic! I found some of the culture at Whole Foods and mixed it up with some organic milk (I would have preferred raw milk, but I can't find it anywhere around here!) 24 hours later I had this wonderful substance that looks, smells, and tastes like plain yogurt. You can use it in anything that you would use buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream. I decided to ease the kids into it by making some pancakes with it this morning.

I've been playing around with different grain flours and decided to use my Bob's Red Mill 10-grain mix. I combined it with free range eggs we got at a local meat market. If you ever get the chance to cook with free range eggs-DO IT! The yolks are huge, rich and decadent. These yolks were almost orange and stood up over an inch high!
I used the kefir instead of buttermilk and we had the lightest, most delicious (and nutritious) pancakes I've ever had. They literally melted in your mouth!
This afternoon I'm going to make smoothies with the kefir. My goal is to get everyone to drink a small glass of it a day or at the very least, every other day. With all the nasty bugs out there, this is a simple and proactive step I can take to keep my family healthy. Kefir is much better for you than yogurt. The flora in yogurt are transient and don't stick around long. Kefir coats your intestines and sticks around much longer. It establishes colonies of good protective flora and which boots your immunity and general well being. Even those with lactose intolerance (like my little Danny) can drink it without difficulty.
Read more about kefir here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Got Noodle Soup?

Culture - Creamer style!

Doug had a photo shoot in Houston yesterday so we tagged along with him. He was shooting near our favorite spot, China town, so while he was working, we were playing!
We hit the HUGE grocery store there called Hong Kong Market (which is a cultural experience in it's own right!) and could have easily entertained ourselves for hours!
The kids get the biggest kick out of oriental "convenience" foods! Here is Ryan contemplating shrimp flavored crackers. And just in case you are wondering...they also carry crab and squid flavors, too!
Wandering through the produce section is an adventure! So many fruits and vegetables we've never seen or heard of! One day we're going to get adventurous and buy something we can't pronounce and eat it! It amazes me how everything is so inexpensive at this market. I got a ton of baby bok choy, fresh ginger roots, and snap peas for under five bucks. Here, one ginger root would have cost me that much! After exploring the produce, we went to the seafood counter. I believe that they carry every type of sea creature known to man! Most of it is in huge tanks and they'll catch it and kill it right there on the spot. It's a pretty smelly place, but John Paul and Daniel really loved the crab tank (their favorite show is Deadliest Catch!)

We then went to the noodle aisle and bought a pretty good selection of rice noodles, rice sticks, pancit, and ramen. Then JP thought he hit the mother lode when he found these:

...and at 2.50 for the whole bag, we couldn't pass it up! We had so much fun crunching cookies and reading fortunes. It was funny how "mysteriously" every fortune Danny would pull out said, "Be good at Mass!" Later that night, after we got home, Doug ate a cookie and Danny says, "What did your cookie say, Daddy? Be good at Mass?"
Even the grounds at Hong Kong City Mall are fun to stroll. There are pagodas, fountains, bamboo and lotus. Here are the boys are looking for koi fish (as I was yelling at them NOT to feed the fish fortune cookies!):

When Doug was done, we had a nice dinner at Kim Son and then made our way home. During the drive we were serenaded by "drum music" played with the chopsticks from our dinner! (I will not tell you how those "drum sticks" later became ninja fighting swords and I had to confiscate them before someone put an eye out!)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Last of the 'maters

My tomato plants are almost spent so we harvested the last big bunch of 'maters for salsa today. We'll still get a few tomatoes here and there for salads and sandwiches, but certainly not enough for batch cooking.

Mmmmm...it was sure good while it lasted!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jo picked a peck of peppers


...and pickled them!

Chapel Veils

I hit pay dirt today at the thrift store!
Someone had put these GORGEOUS vintage chapel veils in the scarf box for two bucks a piece!



I'm sure these beautiful veils belonged to someone's devout mother or grandmother and how they ended up at the thrift store is beyond me!
How could anyone just throw them out?
Well, I'll certainly treasure them and give them a good home....and pray for the dear little old lady who used to wear them!

Two kids and a waterhose...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You've got to see this!

Check out my new favorite blog, Faith & Family.
Lots of good information and you can even register for freebies!
From the site:
"It is our sincere hope that Faith & Family Live! will become a daily stop for Catholic moms seeking resources, encouragement, support, and companionship as they embrace their vocations to marriage and motherhood. We plan to share personal struggles and triumphs here, challenges and joys, and also the lighter side of Catholic living."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Sunday stroll through the garden

We have pumpkin seedlings! The rotten squirrel who usually stalks my bird feeders ate about half of the seeds we planted in the pumpkin patch. We have about six seedling that have sprouted and at least two of those are our giant pumpkin variety. I am super excited about attempting to grow a giant this year! The boys are hoping to be the talk of the neighborhood (in a good way!) and maybe even get a picture in the local paper.

Daniel and JP's sunflower garden is still going strong. I think sunflowers are my new favorite flower. They attract lots of honey bees to the garden and they are absolutely beautiful against the green field and blue sky.

We are still harvesting tomatoes although not in the same quantities as earlier in the summer. I have a nasty infestation of leaffooted bugs in my tomatoes. I really prided myself on not using any pesticides this year. The boys caught frogs and lizards, and the sunflowers attracted lots of ladybugs so pests have not been a problem, until now. I am going to HAVE to spread a little sevin dust on my tomatoes if we want to keep harvesting...and trust me, we do!
Not soon after this picture was taken, that little leafhopper in the picture met his maker!

We've still got tons and tons of peppers and they just keep producing! I work the first half of the week, but when I'm done I'm going to be pickling a bunch of these beauties.

The cantaloupes are still producing, but not in the same quantity as earlier in summer (which is good because for a while there we were pretty sick of cantaloupe!) I was so surprised that they were continuing to produce fruits after the initial large harvests. I think it's the variety we planted. Last year we had a harvest of melons and as soon as they were done the vines died. I thought for sure that the same thing would happen this year, but I am pleasantly surprised it did not!

The watermelon patch is doing great and we should be able to harvest this big boy by the end of next week. It is due to my own fault that we aren't enjoying the melons right now. I planted about three weeks too late!

My okra is finally having a bit of a boom in production. I was getting sporadic stalks here and there but it looks like all the plants have coordinated their efforts and we'll finally be able to eat a big batch of the stuff soon! I've been sneaking bits and pieces of it into soups and stir frys so the kids will be so excited to eat it FRIED!

And after a non-production year last year, our pecan trees are finally giving us some pecans! I'm looking forward to these babies for my Christmas baking. When I went out this morning, the @#$%* squirrel was munching on a trio of the immature nuts.

We are still getting an occasional squash and zucchini, but the plants are pretty spent. I'm going to replant my cukes today and pray for a second harvest. The beginning of August I'm going start seeds for my fall/winter garden.
So now I'm going to go brew a hot cup of tea, climb back in bed, and spend the rest of my Sunday afternoon pouring over seed catalogs (yeah, I'm kind of *wild and crazy* that way!)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Fantastic Four

John Paul goes through stages of obsession with different TV/movie characters, this time it is the Fantastic Four. He made this drawing yesterday:
I just love it! Not long ago he was drawing stick figures and now he concentrates on the details of the characters he wants to draw. Each member of the Fantastic Four has their "special powers" displayed and he even scrunched in the Silver Surfer and Dr. Doom at the top of the page!
He's also obsessed with the Fantastic Four insignia. There are literally thousands of these 4's with a circle around them all over the place - I'm just thrilled they're printed the right direction!
When he had his Underdog obsession I made him a costume out of red sweat pants, a red t-shirt, and a blue blanket and he played to his heart's content. I don't think I'm going to be able to make out that easy with the F.F.! Why can't superhero's just wear jeans and a t-shirt?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Can this girl get a 'woot - woot'

I passed the test...and I didn't even have to cry like a baby~although I will say that buddying up with the smart folks didn't hurt!
So now I can deliver babies AND cardiovert someone in unstable v-tach....someone give me a woot-woot!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

JP made popcorn today...

...and mommy got to sweep up the mess.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The bane of my existence!


I have a test to take on Thursday. It's called Advanced Cardiac Life Support or ACLS. Let me put it mildly...I'd rather take a beating with a baseball bat than take this test! Yes, I'm a nurse and should know this stuff, but I'm a LABOR AND DELIVERY nurse. Big difference. BIG! I've been dreading this for months (and I should have studying, I know, I know) but reading this stuff is like reading Chinese! I've delivered babies for 17 years and now they want me to know algorithms, cardiac rhythms and medications!!! If I wanted to learn all that crap I would have been an ICU nurse!
I figure I can approach this thing three ways:
1. Cry like a baby.
2. Answer their questions with questions. For example, if the instructor asks me what I would do for pulseless electrical activity I will quickly ask him what he would do to deliver a breech baby. That should throw him for a loop!
3. Be the new best friend of the smartest person in the class. I'll make a pit stop by the local coffee shop for a mocha and donuts for two!
Well, I'm off to study and probably won't be back to blogging until the hellish torture is done. Prayers would be much appreciated!

Fig Gallette

We are harvesting lots of figs these days. I've made fig jam, fig kolaches, fig & date bread, and now a fig gallette! This is the easiest desert idea and figs go from the tree to the table in less than 30 minutes.
Gather, rinse and slice about 50 figs (give or take - this is NOT rocket science!) Place in a bowl and add 2T. of flour and 1-2T. of sugar (depends on how sweet your fruit is). I also added the zest and juice of one lemon because I LOVE the flavor of fig with lemon. Toss to coat.
You can make your own pie crust, or you can cheat like me and roll out a store bought dough. Roll it out on parchment paper, it makes getting this thing into the oven much easier! It doesn't have to be perfectly round. The irregular edges make it more rustic looking!
Put your fruit in the center of the dough and spread out to about an inch or so from the edge.
Fold the edges of the dough up onto the fruit and brush with milk or egg white.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until your crust is golden brown and fruit is hot and bubbly.
You can serve right out of the oven, but I like mine to cool to room temp because it makes the juices "set".
You can do this with any fruit! Peaches and apples need to be sliced thin in order to cook in 25 minutes. Some good combinations would be peach and raspberry, apple-cinnamon-raisin, and blueberry-lemon!