RSSArchive for the ‘health/cooking/food’ Category
Posted October 27th, 2012 by Jen in family life, features, health/cooking/food, parenting
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There was Nancy, eating lemon meringue pie in Amsterdam. She messaged me, that’s how I knew, and she’d made it from scratch just like our mom used to do when we were children, and Nancy, too, when she was probably ten. You need to make this for mom, she insisted.
Food is one of those universal associations, a time-traveling commodity whisking us in an instant to the tables of childhood.
This is how I came to be in the kitchen with my daughters (nine and eleven) a few evenings ago gathering ingredients for lemon meringue pie. I’d already sent a message to Nancy asking for the family recipe, but being too many time zones apart, I had to chef on alone.
I settled on my trusted standards: Grandma’s pie crust recipe and Better Homes and Gardens for the pie. I heard from Nancy the next day. I left the recipe in Amsterdam and today I’m in Paris, so I can’t help.
If the mere mention of the pie from my sister caused food flashbacks, both the creation of and the tasting of were full time warps. The part where you beat the egg whites stiff? This obviously was the pie-making job my mother gave me, because the moment I saw the white peaks form, I was seven years old, barefoot and covered in egg splatters, all astonished at the transformation.
Many great chefs point back to their early cooking with their mothers or grandmothers as a meaningful element in their later careers. I’ve also read accounts of women who know little about cooking because their mothers didn’t allow them in the kitchen.
The Language of Baklava (Diana Abu-Jaber) convinced me I needed to make a significant place for food in my relationship with my kids — from the choosing of ingredients at the market, to the preparation of the meal, to the lip-smacking enjoyment of it. Abu-Jaber says she “comes from cooking,” and notes that how you cook and eat, and how you feed your neighbors defines who you are.
The lemon meringue pie-making process took several hours. After the rolling, mixing, beating, cooking, and cooling, and well past the children’s bedtime, the tangy dessert was ready to eat. We gathered around the hearth and ate rich heaven. I had not eaten homemade lemon meringue pie since I was a child, and may I say, it was an awakening. That a mere taste would have such power of reference was profound.
My mom was asleep by this time, but the next day I offered rather casually, “Would you like a piece of lemon meringue pie?” I’ll tell you what, the sight, smell, and taste of that pie was a trifecta which broke right through her dementia and she positively glowed like a lemon. “This is delicious!”
I asked if she knew what it was and she called it by name. She proceeded to have a long, lucid conversation with me about her mother, her children, and her grandchildren. And as providence would have it, this day was her mother’s birthday. “She’s looking down on us from heaven,” she murmured, scraping the last bit of lemon filling from her plate.
It’s a wonder how my mom’s lemon meringue pie, circa 1977, Cochise County, Arizona, and my sister’s and my 2012 renditions à la Amsterdam and Oregon all imprint such similar trails of crumbs, caches of flavor, in the brain. In forty years, my older daughter will say to my younger, you need to make lemon meringue pie for mom.
Posted June 6th, 2012 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food, humor, product review
4 Comments »
Please do not ever, ever leave. You were my best imaginary childhood friend. I always wondered where you were going with that umbrella in the rain, worried that you might ruin your pretty yellow dress, but I wanted to walk with you and also to let you know that you were spilling your salt–you might run out, please be careful.
Remember that time when I was eight and my parents left me and my sister at home by ourselves while they shopped in Tucson all day? We made a Wowie Chocolate Cake—from that page in the cookbook that was rather crusty from overuse because we made this recipe so often since it didn’t call for eggs and we were always out of eggs—just us and a pinch of you, and we ate the whole thing before they returned in case they’d be mad. You’re so fun.
People I haven’t seen in a long time tell me I haven’t changed a bit, but you? Wow, it’s like a miracle, you have not changed at all since 1968!! Mr. Morton could have easily morphed you into a hippie or punk rocker or glam girl over the years, but somehow you are still the same sweet umbrella girl and I declare that the best branding decision ever.
It’s been over 30 years since those memories of making cakes and all manner of other cooking adventures first sifted out, but…gosh, tonight as I made hamburgers and poured the finest ever seasoning straight out of that timeless blue canister, it’s like not a day has gone by.
You are the salt of the earth. An icon. A classic. Stylish and carefree, ah, that’s what I loved, so carefree. So what that it’s raining and I’m spilling my salt? It’s a happy day! Thank you, darling.
Love, Jenny (as all my childhood friends called me)
Posted September 14th, 2011 by Jen in family life, france/french, health/cooking/food
6 Comments »
In the kitchen with Elise tonight, it’s Quiche Lorraine, une salade, and les baguettes, followed by the fabulous île flottante (which is sort of a ball of meringue floating in a sea of custard). How did I get so lucky? And why does she leave so soon?
I told Elise about the time when I was around her age and had the opportunity to be an au pair for a family in Besançon, a city in the northeast of France at the foothills of the Jura Mountains and near the Swiss border. I shortly thereafter met my future husband and cancelled the job and the opportunity of a lifetime, which is unknown to a young girl at the time who just worries about whether he’ll be there when she gets back. I’m so proud of her, and perhaps a bit envious, for getting out there and doing what is not so simple and unfettered a thing to do once you’re married and have children. Oh, I’m so happy I stayed back and married my husband, and someday I will have another opportunity. However, I generally counsel the youth I work with or come in contact with to just go. Really, if that boy truly loves you, he’ll still be there.
I have a French Bible which I’d love to give Elise, and I’m wondering about that. It’s a little book I’ve had for at least 20 years, and once in a while I’ll read it to practice my French. I’ve so far avoided direct discussion of my faith and her lack of faith. I’ve prayed, wondered, and haven’t sensed the time is right. During Elise’s previous visit, we spoke often on issues of God and Christianity, and she’s mentioned just once this visit, during a discussion of her boyfriend, about her disbelief in God. I didn’t press. Just prayed. Perhaps I’ll tuck it in her bag with a note, would she consider God?
La cuisine beckons, so je suis aller!
Recipe for île flottante
For the caramel, heat 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Cook over medium heat until the syrup turns a warm caramel color. Don’t stir, just swirl it in the pan. Off the heat, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla; be careful, the syrup will bubble violently. Stir and cook over high heat until the caramel reaches 230 degrees F (thread stage) on a candy thermometer. Set aside.
For the praline, combine the almonds with 1/4 cup of the caramel and spread them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the almonds are lightly browned. Allow to cool at room temperature and then break up in pieces.
Lower the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
For the meringues, beat the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy. Turn the mixer on high speed and add the remaining 1 cup of sugar. Beat until the egg whites are very stiff and glossy. Whisk in the remaining teaspoon of vanilla. With dessert spoons place 12 mounds of meringue on the parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
For serving, pour creme anglaise on the bottom of individual plates. Place a meringue on top of each serving, drizzle with caramel sauce, sprinkle with praline, and serve.
To make a day or two ahead, leave the caramel and praline at room temperature and refrigerate the creme anglaise. Bake the meringues before guests arrive and assemble the desserts just before serving.
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 3/4 cups scalded milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Cognac
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, optional
Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.
With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs. Pour the custard mixture into a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thickened. The custard will coat the spoon like heavy cream. Don’t cook it above 180 degrees For the eggs will scramble!
Pour the sauce through a fine strainer, add the vanilla extract, Cognac, and vanilla seeds, if using, and chill.
Yield: 2 cups
Posted April 8th, 2011 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food, religion
8 Comments »
Ethiopia Sidamo prepared Hario style by Sisters Coffee Company made my morning, the best coffee I’ve had. Ever. I loved that Winfield (owner) made it special for me, and with each slow drip I loved seeing him greet everyone that walked in the door like the old friends they were. I loved chatting with my girlfriend in the corner, the Jesus Saves sticker on the fridge behind the counter, the wide wood floor planks and full stone fireplace; I would move to Sisters just for this.
Slow, small, intimate.
Friendship is precious.
I spent the better part of my day trying to find a mobile dog groomer for a photo-shoot I’m helping coordinate. Ten attempts and still no luck; all booked for weeks. If you are out of work, I have a serious suggestion for a niche market you should pursue.
I hope to spend the next week contemplating several threads of grace: His Presence, my purpose; His gift, my gain; His reality, my redemption.
Posted January 19th, 2011 by Jen in family life, features, health/cooking/food, the ranch
10 Comments »
Spaghetti squash, baked with butter and brown sugar, is quickly eaten by my girls. I had a heck of a time getting it to the oven, what with my dull knife and its tough skin. What an amazing creation, this squash, right up there with the pomegranate in its ability to make your mouth water and your fingers cramp as you ready it for consumption.
Someone we know is training for a triathlon, and upon reading the nutrition section of Joe Friel’s Triathlete’s Training Bible, he’s been requesting unusual amounts of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. What happened to my meat and potatoes man, his wife wondered? He’s still there, but make it lean, if you please.
Please enjoy this picture of me risking my digits to cut a fresh pineapple in honor of the health conscious athletes in my own family. And do look closely at the bowl, for each and every pomegranate aril was hard fought and I even had to do some research to learn how to de-seed this ancient fruit without ending up in an awful pulpy mess.
I’m actually having fun with with exotic fruits lately, and may have to expand beyond my small town grocer in search of things stranger and wilder. I have the idea that the more bizarre the fruit, the healthier it must be.
Here is my little boy’s idea of an Iron Man, versus that world famous triathlon called the Ironman. I do believe I would sooner suit up like him and be Iron Man versus do Ironman. But either way, it’s all good! And fruity. I’ll write to you from Kona someday.
Posted December 15th, 2010 by Jen in arts & crafts, family life, features, health/cooking/food, holidays
5 Comments »
Why I thought I could begin baking all the gingerbread pieces I would need for the nine children in our homeschool co-op at ten-o’clock…p.m., not a.m., the eve before hosting a gingerbread house-making party, is because I’m crazy and need to be committed to the Hansel and Gretel asylum. Once upon a time there lived a very silly mother in a house in the juniper forest with her four children…who deserves to be shoved into an oven.
I hunted down gingerbread templates for very petite, wee little houses, perhaps a lean-to, that would not require me to produce 50 pounds of flour to make enough dough for nine houses, plus extra for the small child who would surely squeeze his house too hard and cry and want another one. I printed some templates, then began to fret over the gingerbread house “glue.” Do I use the recipe with raw eggs, surely it would hold better, and chance that no one would be poisoned a week later as she snacked on her house, or go for the no-egg less-hold version?
If not sleeping at all tonight is an option, I should definitely make 10 separate batches of gingerbread house dough, so these precious kids can each have their own Queen Anne Victorian scale model reproduction gingerbread house complete with turrets and spindles. I’m sure the other moms are doing this.
Lucky for me and my sanity, I came across a website from a mom who has been hosting gingerbread house parties for children for 15 years running. Mass quantities of children, at that. Not just one spoiled child who gets the Queen Anne, but up to 20 children who all make a blessed mess and have the time of their lives with…graham crackers!
Oh yes, I will! I don’t know where that article went, but I believe this woman made up the houses ahead of time, so as to be sure of the structural integrity of the (fake) gingerbread houses. Using about six to eight crackers per house, never mind they are small huts, it’s about a five minute per-house job to make up beforehand. All the less candy to get fattened up on, my dear.
In fact, I will not even make the cracker houses ahead of time. As it is now well past 10 p.m., snowing and pitch black, I shall go to the store tomorrow before our afternoon party to buy graham crackers, for who has four boxes of these on hand? Certainly not the woman who is even contemplating this endeavor at 10 p.m. the night before the party. Besides, the children don’t even know this is a gingerbread house-making party. It’s just a regular old Christmas party as far as they know, with perhaps eggnog and checkers. So they will have no idea they’ve been downgraded from the castle to the hut, from the homemade gingerbread to the cracker.
And this mom will keep her sanity. And they all lived happily together ever after.
Posted March 10th, 2010 by Jen in family life, features, health/cooking/food
9 Comments »
It was one of those days when I’m glad to live in a small town; and believe me, there are days when I wish I didn’t. I was shopping at my local grocery store this evening when a friend approached as I lingered over the apples, and with a quick word she tossed a mesh sack of ginger across the produce aisle. In a big city, a lady tossing food at you in the grocery store might cause a riot, but here in my cow-town, it means you’re loved.
I barely caught it, but firmly caught the advice she gave me on how to make ginger tea. “Just grate some up in pan of water, heat and simmer it for a bit,” she suggested. She claimed it was great for arthritis, and I wondered if I possibly looked arthritic at the moment. Perhaps frenetic, as my four kids were scattered hither and there, grabbing goat cheese off the shelves and bumping into strangers’ carts. I do remember being told when I was pregnant and facing morning sickness that chewing on a bit of ginger would do a world of good for nausea.
I’ve drank plenty of ginger tea, usually a ginger-lemon or ginger-honey variety, but always brewed from a bag. I looked forward to this homemade brew from a rhizome that my little boy thought was a bag of doggie treats. Okay, I confess I was going to say ginger root, but upon further research, I discovered that only “common” people call it a ginger root, as it is botanically not so – it’s a rhizome because whole new ginger plants can self-generate from budded sections, whereas a root will die if split into sections.
I had a flashback to that time in my childhood when I went through a phase of wishing I had a different name – the name I had inexplicably chosen was Ginger, and my dear Mom humored me and called me Ginger until I grew tired of it.
At any rate, I promptly grated up a pile of ginger (way too much) and threw it in a pan of water and made some tea. With neither lemon or honey on hand, I added molasses to to my brew. Voila, Ginger Molasses Tea, the finest, spiciest, and most aromatic tea I’ve had in a long time! I prepared a cup for my mom, telling her how good it is for her, especially if she has arthritis. She looked at me askance, but with her memory, she doesn’t know if she has arthritis or not. What she does have, however, is apparently much benefited by ginger – poor circulation, migraines, chills, and more. After looking up the health benefits, I realized how grateful I am that my friend send ginger flying my way tonight.
Here are some of the benefits of ginger:
Cheers, have a cup of ginger tea!
Posted June 27th, 2009 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food
8 Comments »
My family has been hit hard by a stomach flu virus. First, it was my oldest son on Monday night. Then the youngest son on Wednesday night–throwing up every 20 minutes for four hours. Myself on Thursday night. Hubby Saturday morning. We’re dropping like flies. It’s a horrible, stomach churning, vomiting, exhausting kind of thing.
On Friday afternoon, when I finally felt like I could ingest something, I really wanted Gingerale or 7-Up, but there was none around. I found a liter of Club Soda in the pantry and decided to experiment. First, I made a vanilla soda for myself, and my stomach was pleased. Here’s what I did:
Jen’s Vanilla Soda
This morning, my stomach still not normal, I tried another recipe and liked this even better:
Jen’s Lemon Soda
There’s my stomach flu tonic for you–both of these calmed down my seething tummy and tasted fabulous, too. If you’re healthy and don’t need a flu tonic, just spoon a few scoops of ice-cream on top and have a delicious dessert drink.
Do you have any family recipes for easing the pain of the stomach flu? Please share, I have at least one more person to nurse through this.
Posted January 2nd, 2009 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food, holidays
5 Comments »
I rang in the New Year with a dreadful sinus infection, the kind that aches and stabs from your temples down into your teeth. I hope it gets better from here.
New Year’s Day was slow and steady, doing nothing much of anything, which is an unnerving feeling when there is so much to be done. Today, I’ll have to call my doctor and get started on some antibiotics. The last sinus infection brought me to a feverish, near collapsing state because I held off on the medicine, but I think I learned my lesson. I’m open to advice on comforting this dull head.
May the New Year find sinus infections far from you, my friends.
Posted August 4th, 2008 by Jen in family life, features, health/cooking/food
19 Comments »
Two summers ago, my husband had a family reunion, and I received a cookbook compiled from that great gathering. My husband’s grandma, Donna Alice (pictured on the left there with my hubby), was the sixth out of twelve children of Frank and Hilda, and eleven of those twelve are still living and showed up with their sprawling clan at that reunion. They all cooked and brought their food, and it was mighty good.
Frank, could you have known when you came over the Oregon Trail from Kansas in 1896, at the awkward age of 14, your family creaking along in a covered wagon and you riding alongside on a pony the whole way to Sweet Home, Oregon – a trip that makes a man out of a boy…could you have known your legacy?
Here are Frank and Hilda with their first daughter, Mina, in 1917. Mina would be the first of 10 daughters. The couple had just two boys, one of whom died in 1991. Mina is 92 years old now and in a wheel chair, widowed for 11 years.
Frank and Hilda owned a grocery/feed store in the 1930s, and Mina still reminisces about working there, packaging up 50 pound containers of lard and sugar for customers.
I found the perfect summer dessert salad that Mina handed down to her family, a sure hit with the kids. Don’t worry, there’s no lard. Here is Mina’s Orange Jello Salad, submitted to the cookbook by her granddaughter Holly:
Frank lived to be almost 93, but his beautiful bride Hilda, who was just 17 when they married, died at the age of 46 from a cerebral hemorrhage, her last child only a tender five year old. But Hilda clearly taught her children well, because they expertly took over the household after her death, the older girls caring for the younger ones.
Here is one of Hilda’s simple recipes, passed down to her daughters and submitted to the cookbook by one of her youngest girls, Marian.
If you have a garden full of tomatoes, then this next recipe will make a great summer dinner. It was submitted by Carla, the daughter of Norma, who was the second of Hilda’s children. Like her mother, Norma was blessed with an abundance of girls, having six daughters and just one son. Norma recalls needing money for college and occasionally receiving from father Frank a $100 bill rolled up in a walnut shell.
If you have a summer pie-baking tradition, you need a good crust. My Grandma-in-law, Frank and Hilda’s sixth child as I showed you up there with my husband, has a Never Fail Pie Crust. I would have married into this family just for Donna’s pies. She brings them to every family holiday gathering–berry pies, apple pies, pecan pies, you name it–they are mouthwatering delights held together by this magical flaky crust. Here’s the recipe, but I doubt you can even come close to Donna Alice’s pies:
Donna’s great-grandkids love her pies, too.
I suppose you need a pie to go in that pie crust! Donna’s Strawberry Pie made it into the family cookbook, submitted by her niece Lyn. Apparently this pie gets rave reviews at parties and potlucks.
In the beverage section of the family cookbook, I noticed Joe’s Home Brew. Joe would be Frank and Hilda’s grandson, and his mother Bonnie was girl number eight. Bonnie must share Frank’s spirit of the Oregon Trail, because she’s had some crazy adventures in her lifetime, including rafting down the Grand Canyon and working in remote Alaska.
Joe’s recipe is for homemade root beer, and I’ll include his description and directions –it gets a bit lengthy but this is well worth it.
Have you had a family reunion this summer? Do you have a favorite family recipe? Enjoy these last days of summer with some good food and family fun!
p.s. Don’t you think my daughter JJ looks just like her great-great-grandma Hilda?
Posted May 4th, 2008 by Jen in family life, features, health/cooking/food
5 Comments »
Welcome to Buffy’s kitchen, where she bakes about 3,000 cookies a week and makes a nice addition to her family’s income. As long as I’ve known Buffy, she’s always loved cookies and cookie dough, so when she told me she was thinking about starting a home cookie business, it seemed a perfect fit. Being a full-time mom with three little cookie monsters in tow, she still manages to keep things running smoothly, but with the irresistible aroma of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies constantly drifting from her home, I don’t know how she keeps the entire neighborhood from invading the kitchen.
My first thought, actually, was “it’s so simple!” What is any more basic and American than baking and selling cookies? My local grocery store has about 100 varieties of cookies to choose from, attesting to our national past-time of cookie snacking! But there is always room for a good homemade product, and Buffy has found a smart niche.
She has one corporate client, a large jewelry store chain with stores in Oregon, California, Idaho, and Washington, which give the cookies away as gifts to their customers. Again, this adds to the simplicity of Buffy’s business model, and streamlines the process into a successful enterprise.
I wanted to share a few words from Buffy, especially because the topic of women in business is near and dear to me. I run a business with my husband, and many of my friends and readers are women who are home taking care of their children – I so often hear these ladies commenting about their desire for a home-based business to add to the family earnings, so here is Buffy sharing a bit of her experience:
Jen: How did you decide to choose the cookie/baking business?
Jen: What are the greatest benefits and greatest challenges of having your own small business, and how does this business fit into family life?
Jen: Tell me about one particular hurdle you had to overcome.
Jen: What do you see for the future?
Jen: I know the “family business” runs in your family (and your husband’s family). Do you think your background was helpful in giving you the courage/motivation to step out and do this?
I’ve sat in Buffy’s kitchen many a time (and never want to leave), and truly, her cookie business is just another extension of her gift of hospitality. She loves baking and is an excellent hostess. This is important to mention, because my advice for those of you considering a business is to choose a venture that you have a passion for or a natural interest in. Be willing to make adjustments, as Buffy has done, but try to stick to your vision.
I also like Buffy’s attitude of “as long as it’s working.” I wouldn’t stick with an idea for the sake of principle if you’re hating it and it’s more trouble than it’s worth. That being said, there is work to be done and there will be difficult seasons in all things. A young mother has the extra burden of working her business in with the often overwhelming task of raising children. However, it’s good to look at the family business as a teaching tool, and it’s a marvelous way to train your young ones in so many life skills, financial skills, and relational skills.
Well, as the Cookie Monster says, “C is for cookie, it’s good enough for me; oh cookie cookie cookie starts with C.” And as for my dear friend’s cookies…these are such a delicious treat that you might have to go buy yourself a new piece of jewelry just to get your hands on one of Buffy’s cookies!
Posted April 27th, 2008 by Jen in arts & crafts, family life, features, health/cooking/food, holidays
6 Comments »
Little girls love tea parties, but so do big girls like me, and even the little boys in my family want a part in the fun — my eight year old son would like to be the server, and my three year old son just wants to eat the goodies. We are planning a strawberry-themed tea party, at the request of the girls, and would like to share the menu and details with you.
The tradition of teatime is a long and cherished one, and our tea party, which will include the children, a few friends, and a few mommas, will open with a bit of the story of tea. The first known reference to the sale of tea in Britain comes from a 1658 London Gazette, with this historic news:
It was from China that tea came, and the exact origin is lost in the haze of legend, but one story traces this charming drink to an Emperor who lived almost 5,000 years ago.
There is so much more to the fascinating history of tea, from China to Japan to Holland, to England and the rest of Europe, and to the United States. For you home educators and history buffs, you may want to incorporate more of these details into your party, and perhaps even have a “Tea Unit Study” beforehand. I have listed some resources for you at the end. But we must get on the party!
Strawberries are soon in season, and if you grow them yourself, how easy and delicious this tea party will be! An elegant bowl filled with fresh strawberries will grace the table, along with the table settings of tea cups, saucers, tea pots, dessert sized plates and forks. Mugs will not do for tea, but your tea cups do not need to match. It’s funny how tea tastes best when sipped from thin bone china. A white linen or lace tablecloth is a lovely touch, I mustn’t forget the soft linen napkins.
An assortment of teas will include, of course, strawberry tea. Small pitchers of cream, sugar, and honey will be set out. For my little ones, I’ll brew a not-too-strong tea. Depending on the weather, we may indulge in the glory of tea al fresco, taking advantage of our large wrap-around porch and spacious yard.
A tea party is not complete without the delicacies and pastries, and this is my simple menu:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly combine flour, butter, egg yolks, vanilla and brown sugar. Spray a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Press the mixture into the prepared baking pan, trying to keep an even thickness. Spread the strawberry preserves on top. Sprinkle with chopped pecans, gently pressing them in.
Bake (at 350 degrees) for 30 to 35 minutes. Let it cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray a heavy, large cookie sheet with cooking spray. Sift together flour and baking powder into a medium bowl. Mix in sugar. Add the butter and rub between your fingers until the mixture resembles fine meal. Pour the milk, whipping cream and egg yolk into a small bowl and blend with a whisk.
Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and press to a thickness of 1 inch. Cut out rounds using a 2-inch or 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter or biscuit cutter.
Gather together the scraps and press them together to a thickness of 1 inch and continue to cut out rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing them apart evenly so none are touching. Brush the tops with the glaze (beaten egg).
Bake (at 450 degrees) until golden brown, around 15 minutes. Transfer scones to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve with butter and strawberry preserves.
Loaf of Country Style White Bread
Cut good quality white bread into thin slices. Butter one side of each slice and remove the crusts. Thinly slice seedless (hot house or European) cucumbers and place one layer of slices on 1 piece of buttered bread. Put another slice on top, butter facing the cucumbers. Cut on 2 diagonals in the shape of the letter X to produce 4 triangle-shaped finger sandwiches.
Strawberry tea, which contains no caffeine and is easy to locate in specialty shops, natural-food stores, and many supermarkets, is an especially appealing iced drink. You might serve it bejeweled with strawberries.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
In a large saucepan, bring the water to a full boil. Add the tea and sugar, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the tea into a large pot or pan. Stir in the lemon juice, and let the tea cool to room temperature. Serve the tea over ice, garnished with the sliced strawberries.
Tea Concentrate for a Group
When you are preparing for a large group tea, you can brew this concentrate up to two hours ahead and still serve hot, perfect tea to your guests. This recipe makes about fifty cups of tea, but you can make more or less concentrate according to your needs. Just remember: To make tea in quantity, don’t brew longer — use more tea.
Pour boiling water over tea in large non-metallic container such as an earthenware crock. Let steep for five minutes, then strain the tea leaves or remove the teabags. Store concentrate at room temperature until needed. To serve, use about two tablespoons of concentrate per five-ounce cup — or about three parts of water to every part concentrate. Simply place the desired amount of concentrate in a cup or pot and then add hot water.
Note: This concentrate also makes delicious iced tea. Put four tablespoons in an eight-ounce glass of water, then add water and ice.
Hospitality is at the heart of tea time, so the best part of your Strawberry Tea Party will be the care the hostess shows for her guests, the conversation that flows, the giggles among children feeling so grownup-ish, and the memory of tea.
Resources for this article:
Posted April 14th, 2008 by Jen in arts & crafts, blog stuff, carnivals, family life, health/cooking/food, the ranch
10 Comments »
Welcome to the 45th Carnival of Homesteading! If you’ve been around here when I host a Blog Carnival, you know how much I love themes! But, alas, I had issues. Computers, kids, work, and some other meanies all conspired against me. Or maybe I was just lazy.
So here is a very SIMPLE carnival, which I suppose is in keeping with the theme of homesteading! There were just 12 submissions, which I’ve listed first, followed by some of my own Top 10 Editor’s Picks that I grabbed from around the blogosphere, which fit the homesteading motif. You’ll find my own small commentary following each post.
(Let me know if you find any errors, omissions, bad links, etc.)
Valereee presents Foraging: hot new foodie trend, or the hottest new foodie trend? posted at Cincinnati Locavore.
Jacque Dixon presents From the Archives- Gardening 101 – You *Can* Teach Your Children!! posted at Seeking Rest in the Ancient Paths.
In My Kitchen Garden has an intriguing offer: Attention Homeless Organic Vegetable Lovers: Would You Like To Move To A Farm? Seriously. Pack your bags and go live with the enormous pot-bellied pig.
Happy homesteading, now get on with your baking, planting, stitching, haying, milking, crafting, canning, quilting life!
Posted March 31st, 2008 by Jen in education, family life, health/cooking/food
11 Comments »
I had a terrible scare this afternoon that led me to even know the following information:
Well, I did not want to write this post and have put it off, because I hate those stupid emails about freakish things that could happen to you. I always delete them, and just today a friend sent me an email about all the symptoms of a deadly form of breast cancer. I just can’t handle it all.
HOWEVER, because MY CHILD just today nearly poisoned himself to death, I do feel compelled to give you all a reminder about Tips to Prevent Poisonings.
I just wrote a post this morning about how Little L got into Big L’s candy basket. He is just one of those kids. He is 3 1/2, loves sweet things, and he is naughty, sneaky, and dishonest, God bless his cute little cheeks. We are working on all of these issues. And DAMN IT, children’s medicine is SWEET. I’m sorry, I’m just really angry about that right now.
I couldn’t find Little L. He was supposed to be playing with Big L and the girls on the porch. They didn’t know where he was. I raced into the kitchen and there he was, and he blurted out, “I didn’t drink the medicine!” WHOA, what?? Thank you, Jesus, that the boy had a guilty conscience. Of course, I immediately knew he must have gotten into the Children’s Tylenol, because it wasn’t where I had stupidly left it on the counter in plain sight (and obviously with a lid not completely secure).
Little L eventually led me to Grandma’s bathroom, where he had gone into hiding to do his evil deed. There on her toilet seat was the nearly empty bottle of Children’s Tylenol and I FREAKED OUT. Yes, completely. I had enough sense to call Poison Control, which phone number is posted on my refrigerator (Parents, take note, please have this number posted: 1-800-222-1222).
The operator was wonderful. She was calm, and since I wasn’t, that was immensely helpful. Be prepared to know the weight of your child, have the bottle in your hand, and DO NOT take your child’s word about how much he ingested. Little L told me he had “just a little bit, Mommy,” but if memory served me, the bottle that was 3/4 full was now almost empty. And for the sake of LIFE, please keep your medicines locked up and NEVER refer to them as candy.
She talked me through the ordeal. The total capacity of the bottle was 4 ounces, at 80 mg per 1/2 teaspoon. I measured what was left: 2 Tablespoons. We figured Little L had drunk 4 Tablespoons, based on what was left over and what was originally in the bottle. THANKFULLY, even though that sounded like enough to endanger his life, it was not a toxic level. This, folks, is why those bottles of Children’s Tylenol are so darn small. Poison prevention. Had this been ADULT medicine, this story would have a different ending.
I was advised to have Little L drink some water to dilute the medicine in his tummy. He laid down and slept for two hours.
This close call really rattled me. I held all of my little ones tighter and counted my blessings. And clearly, I need to get a handle on my casual way of leaving medicine on the counter. Dad and I had a talk with all of the children about medicine, and how it is POISON if taken in the wrong amount. Based on information I’ve read today, children who have episodes like Little L today are likely to do it again. So, here is a list I’m copying from the Centers for Disease Control website for your safety:
Keep Young Children Safe from Poisoning
• Put the poison control number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and save it on your cell phone. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What to do if a poisoning occurs
1. Remain calm
• the victim’s age and weight
3. Stay on the phone and follow the instructions from the emergency operator or poison control center.
God bless you, dear friend, as you parent and care for your little ones. I’m tucking Little L into bed now.
Posted March 30th, 2008 by Jen in features, health/cooking/food, history, product review
3 Comments »
The multimillionaire Swiss-born entrepreneur and winery magnate Donald Hess is switching his attention from Napa to a remote region of the Andes foothills in Argentina, in the province called Salta. In 2001, Hess added the Argentina holdings to his existing vineyards in California, South Africa, and Australia.
After a visit to the southern part of Salta in 1996, with his wife Ursula, Don Hess was directed to Cafayate, the center of wine production in the region. It was there that he drank an intriguing Malbec-Cabernet blend from Colomé, and there that he began fermenting the idea that he could plant a world class vineyard at over 9000 feet. As Hess explained,
Hess now owns a vineyard in Colomé, along with a stunning hotel and art gallery which he built, about a four hours’ drive from Salta, in northwest Argentina. Colomé’s vineyards include century old vines that pre-date the deadly vine disease phylloxera, being planted on original French rootstock. This land encompasses about 96,000 acres, and then, of course, there is the 60,000 acres at Altura Maxima (near Payogasta) and another 865 acres at nearby El Arenal. Currently, just under 300 acres are being cultivated.
It’s the Altura Maxima property that is gaining fame these days, as this vineyard currently holds the world record for vineyard at the highest altitude. In a country where bottles of wine are marked with the specific altitudes of their vineyards, there is a machismo contest going on amongst the landlords over who can go the highest. To give an idea of the heights, the California vineyards top out at 3,000 feet, and Europe at 4,300 feet. In Argentina, vineyards average 5,500 feet, and Altura Maxima boasts vineyards at close to 10,000 feet.
The high altitude, while still a very experimental thing, is thought to be viticulturally advantageous. The extreme elevations give the vines an abundance of solar radiation, and some researchers think this increases the level of healthy polyphenols in red wine. The thinner air and lower humidity seem to cause the grapes to develop thicker skins, resulting in a more flavorful, aromatic, and tannic grape.
Argentina is clearly a special place for Donald and Ursula Hess, who now spend half the year there. They love the people, and in fact, when they bought Colomé, they inherited not only the oldest winery in Argentina, dating back to 1831, but also its 400 inhabitants. Hess has been kind to these natives, who previously were forced into slave labor. Colomé employs at least one person from each extended family. Hess takes time to train them, provides them with health insurance and has built facilities to meet their needs: a clinic, community center, and church.
Hess also takes great care of the land itself. At Colomé, he installed an Italian-made hydro-electic turbine for energy, he grows everything from the vines to the food he cultivates for the hotel using traditional biodynamic principles, and the entire estate is self-sufficient. You’ll find sheep and cattle there producing organic meat and milk, and their manure fertilizing the vines and gardens.
If you think you might want to go start a vineyard, keep in mind the timetable. Hess realizes that Argentina will probably be the cap of his career, because these ventures take a great deal of not only money, but time. Here is his projection:
Time will tell if Donald Hess’ high altitude experiment will pay off. As he battles the unique hurdles of the region – frost, hail, wild donkeys, minimum oxygen, and the Argentine leaf-cutting ant (which destroyed 13 acres of his first planting), Hess still presses on.
The Hess Group produces four wines at its Colomé vineyards, just three of which you can find in the United States in very limited quantities: Colomé Torrontes, Colomé Estate Malbec, and Colomé Reserva. If you have the opportunity to travel to Argentina, you’ll want to stay at Hess’ Estancia Colomé.
photo credit: Estancia Colomé and USA Today
Posted March 17th, 2008 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food, holidays
5 Comments »
Mondays are my busiest day of the week, and I had nothing prepared to post for St. Patrick’s Day. My sister Heather has bailed me out. She called earlier and was telling me about the Irish soda bread she was baking with dinner. I begged her to stop in her tracks and email me the recipe, along with commentary, so I’d have something to post! So, here’s her email, and Heather, it’s horribly unfair that you got all the craftiness in the family.
My St. Patrick’s Day Menu:
*A wonderfully traditional corned beef brisket that has been slow cooking all day in the crock pot- it is literally falling apart- yummy!
Since we do not imbibe of the green beer- which I sincerely doubt is really very Irish anyway and likely an American adulteration- I’ll probably just make some green kool-aid to appease the kids who’ll want something green to drink!
Do you remember Mom making that Irish Soda Bread? That is a fond memory of mine as she made it often when we were young, along with her Boston Brown Bread that she baked in those coffee cans. She was really a very good baker- I also recall her awesome cream puffs…. mmm- getting hungry here- it’s almost dinnertime. Mom really enjoyed baking when we were still quite small. But, back to the Day- St. Patrick’s! I could not make anything else but Corned Beef and Irish Soda Bread today- perhaps in honor of our Irish grandmother, Mary Kincaid- or just because that Irish Soda Bread is so very, very good, right out of the oven, with a crusty top split into a cross, soft and warm inside- sliced and slathered with butter!
If you get a chance- you should make it again- here’s Mom’s recipe (culled from the old church cookbook I still have):
4 cups sifted flour
Posted March 16th, 2008 by Jen in features, health/cooking/food, history, product review
3 Comments »
Italy’s tiny village of Sorbo Serpico in Campania’s Irpinia region is home to the highly acclaimed Feudi di San Gregorio estate, established in 1986. For many years this southern Italian area was overlooked by other winemaking powerhouses to the north, but the folks at Feudi have tapped into the incredible potential of Campania’s unique terroir and ancient varietals.
Close to Mt. Vesuvius, the land is layered with mineral-rich deposits of volcanic ash, remarkably favorable to vines, producing a grape with very distinctive flavors and aromas. Many of the vines used by Feudi di San Gregorio are centuries old, including the oldest Aglianico vines in the country, a grape with origins in ancient Greece. When a food writer and wine lover set out to find Italy’s oldest vineyard, his quest eventually led to one of Feudi di San Gregorio’s vineyards, about which he was told:
This is an ancient grapevine, not a tree:
Enzo Ercolino and his wife Mirella Capaldo started Feudi di San Gregorio, and along with Italian enologist Riccardo Cotarella, they have taken every advantage of the natural conditions of Campania, and added a modern technology twist to make exquisite modern wines from ancient vines. You will not find them stomping grapes with their feet, despite the ancient history. Feudi di San Gregorio took a high spending approach, building a $25 million winery and hospitality center.
The sleek new wine cellar has capacity for 5,000 barrels, and their state-of-the-art technology includes vineyards equipped with solar-powered meteorological stations which are constantly gathering weather data. This high tech method actually minimizes the need for artificial viticulture. The Feudi di San Gregorio estate also includes a gourmet restaurant, a stunning glass enclosed tasting room, a wine shop, lush landscaped gardens, and an outdoor amphitheater. It’s well positioned to be a world-class tourist destination.
And the wine, ah, I hear it’s good.
photo credits: New York Times, Vinography
Posted March 9th, 2008 by Jen in features, health/cooking/food, product review
5 Comments »
The face of Central Oregon farming is changing, and wine grapes are the newcomer. Doug and Gina Maragas are the owners of the only winery in Central Oregon, and just last July planted their first acre of Vitis vinifera.
Doug, a Greek/Italian with a long family history of wine making, and his wife Gina, half-Italian herself, seem the perfect couple to be taking on this historic task. The idea for Maragas Winery was first dreamed up by the couple in 1999, and by 2001 Maragas had produced its first vintage – out of a four-bay garage on the east side of Bend, and by 2003 in a nice downtown Bend location. But all this with grapes from outside of Central Oregon – currently the Maragas wine is made from the grapes of Western and Southern Oregon, and California.
At this point, it’s helpful to know that Doug Maragas had a very industrious Greek grandmother. Anna Maragas and her husband owned a grocery store in Canton, Ohio in the 1940s. When good oranges were nowhere to be found, she said, “I can do better,” and set off to California. By herself. And came back with a train car full of delicious oranges, somehow obtained on credit. Anna began brokering fruit, and eventually grapes, up and down the west coast, her tenacity landing her with the only train car permit to do so during the war. Once the good lady had her hands on some fine grapes, she did what any industrious woman would do – she began to make wine.
So, I can imagine Doug Maragas paying the great amount of money that winemakers must pay for grapes, and saying, “I can do better.” And like his grandmother, doing it all against the odds and with great tenacity, despite the risks.
You may wonder why Maragas Winery is the only one operating in Central Oregon. Goodness, vineyards abound in the Willamette Valley of Oregon where the Pinot Noirs are as famous as anything from the Napa Valley. The freezing winter temperatures are probably the biggest deterrent. Spring and fall frosts can also be deadly to the crop – as Gina says, it can frost here at any old time, and lastly, Central Oregon has a short growing season. There simply must be enough heat to ripen the fruit.
There is some encouraging news, however.
The new Maragas Winery and Vineyard, completed in November 2006, is located about 20 miles north of Bend in a fortuitous microclimate. The 40-acre property is at a lower elevation and gets more sun than other parts of Central Oregon, possesses a beneficial sandy loam, volcanic soil, and most advantageous, is protected by rock cliffs that serve to draw cold air away from the vines.
With help from the Oregon State University viticulture experts, Maragas carefully picked 16 of the heartiest varieties most likely to survive and thrive and produce an excellent wine. The Maragases opted to not plant any hybrids at this point (which are actually more suited to cold-climate growing), instead cultivating the traditional Vitis vinifera varieties because of their status as the best-tasting wine grapes. So far, they have planted a one-acre pilot vineyard, to test the varieties before choosing the vines for the remainder of the acreage. It will take about three years to know the results.
The first vines are now springing forth with new buds, a hopeful sign of an agricultural breakthrough that will someday soon christen Central Oregon as wine country.
photo credits: Maragas Winery, Google Images, Wines and Vines.
Posted March 4th, 2008 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food
13 Comments »
My eight year old son takes making pancakes very seriously, as you can see. This was the first time he did the entire process by himself. He mixed up the ingredients carefully following my recipe, and although he was prone to putting too many pancakes on the griddle at once, he made a fine flapjacker.
Jen’s Country Pancakes
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
My son has already learned to mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then add them together at once. He stirs only until blended, because he’s learned the hard way that overstirring makes a flat pancake. But, my goodness, it’s hard to resist the temptation to overmix.
This hearty pancake is best served with butter and pure maple syrup. I got absolutely hooked on pure maple syrup when my neighbor brought me back a gallon jug of pure Vermont maple syrup several years ago, straight from her hometown. A little tip to get your kids used to the rich taste: mix the maple syrup with regular corn syrup, slowly decreasing the corn syrup over a period of days, until they are accustomed to the pure maple flavor. I do this to avoid the high fructose corn syrup in the conventional syrups.
Posted March 2nd, 2008 by Jen in features, france/french, health/cooking/food, history, product review
8 Comments »
This begins the story of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Jean-Marc Espinasse, the charming man behind this Provençal vineyard, went on from that first wine making adventure to begin his very own vineyard just over a year ago. He was offered 25 acres of old vines, and with his lovely American wife Kristin and their children, began the amazing task of creating Rouge-Bleu, along with renovating a nearly 400 year old Provençal farmhouse. I was immediately drawn into this story because of that endearing quality of a man living out his dream.
I stumbled upon Jean-Marc’s blog recently, and was excited when I saw that he and his wife were doing a west coast tour! But, I read his blog a few days too late, as he had already passed through Portland, just hours from me. I left a comment on his blog anyway, mentioning our dream of a vineyard on our property someday. I was so surprised to see an email several days ago titled Vineyard in the desert, from Jean-Marc! He asked the telling question:
I knew immediately I was in trouble. I responded that it was quite doubtful, since we had to drill through over 60 feet of solid rock, plus another 200 feet, to hit water when we installed our well. Monsieur Espinasse is a gracious but straightforward Frenchman, and gave me no-nonense advice:
Ah, well, let’s talk about Rouge-Bleu! Their “Dentelle” Cuvée is scheduled to be bottled in just over a week, and I imagine everyone is very excited. Organic and ancestral practices at Rouge-Bleu call for some interesting viticultural procedures. Jean-Marc’s latest post involves egg whites — don’t worry, they won’t end up in your bottle. Evidently, the albumin contained in egg whites aids in the clarifying process, and using them allows Jean-Marc to avoid too much filtration, which kills the natural sediments so vital to their natural wines.
What are the benefits of organic grape farming? Jean-Marc says that the combination of natural cultivation and harvesting at low yields allows the vines to produce their very best. The result will be good levels of alcohol, high levels of acidity, the right balance of sugar, and a promising aging.
Another term you’ll hear around Rouge-Bleu is biodynamic viticulture. It’s hard to define, as each grower will modify his practices to suit his needs, but it seems to go beyond organic farming. Biodynamic farming will also take into account timing, and, for example, apply certain soil applications according to traditional seasonal markers. A biodynamic approach to a vine disease, for instance, would be not to focus on how to kill the disease, but to ask why the plant is sick in the first place. There is something depleted in the soil, let’s fix the soil, instead of, there’s just something wrong with the vine. This makes sense, but biodynamic philosophy can also lead into mysticism, at which point I would depart.
Here’s a nice sampling of how Jean-Marc practically applies his farming philosophy:
Provence is an ideal location for wine making, as Jean-Marc is discovering. The Mistral, which is the strong, cold northwesterly wind that blows through southern France and into the Mediterranean, can be deadly; however, the dry Mistral winds minimize vine disease and can return health to the vineyard. The stony ground and soil rich in calcium carbonate is quite amenable to vines and little else. The Mediterranean climate is famously favorable to the vines.
If you have any questions about Rouge-Bleu, be sure to check in at Jean-Marc’s website. I think I’ll be asking how to get my hands on some bottles of the upcoming Dentelle Cuvée and also the Mistral, which is scheduled to be released later this year. If you live in Houston, Texas, you’re in luck — French Country Wines imports the Domaine Rouge-Bleu wines.
photo credits: Rouge-Bleu
Posted February 27th, 2008 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food
12 Comments »
If you recall, there are two obstacles for me to overcome regarding my ability to drink hot coffee: 1) I have no microwave to reheat my coffee; and 2) I refuse to drink out of plastic or cardboard – you know the travel mugs with lids that make me feel like a toddler drinking out of a sippy cup. I have plenty of sippy cups around if I wanted to go that route, but I’m a grown-up, and I want to drink coffee like a grown-up. And then there’s the residue of plastic flavor mingled in with what should be pure dark French roast or a robust Sumatra; I have overly-discerning taste buds.
When I’m at home in the morning, which is just about always, I make a pot of coffee – or, like this morning, my husband does – and we take simple pleasure in that morning cup of coffee. Grinding the beans, listening to the gurgles of the coffee pot as it labors for us, smelling the first aroma of the fresh brew, and finally, drinking out of a nice ceramic or china mug. This ordinary and basic routine is comforting.
And here’s my tip for drinking a hot cup of coffee to the end, sans microwave or lidded travel cup: I pour HOT water into our coffee mugs of choice, and let them sit for a few minutes. This gets the ceramic all toasty warm…so that when I pour our coffee into the mugs, the coffee isn’t expending all of its heat energy into the walls of a cold mug, and can instead just sit and relax in its warm surroundings. You won’t believe how this already warm mug extends the life of your hot coffee! No microwave, no lids, no problem.
image: flickr.com, by gluGirl
Posted February 12th, 2008 by Jen in carnivals, family life, health/cooking/food
13 Comments »
As you can see, ladies (and gentlemen), there was no room in the freezer for this quart of ice cream, so I simply had to eat it.
I believe it fit before I took it out, but somehow, various frozen food stuffs were shuffled in such a way that it no longer had a space, not an inch to spare in there. And truly, there was only about a quarter of the quart left, so my goodness, why make such a fuss over rearranging the entire freezer to wedge this luscious, chocolatey, creamy dessert back in there? Can’t you see that the carton is already slightly crushed?
Ahem, for more Works For Me Wednesday posts, visit Don’t Try This At Home (who is hosting while Shannon is in Uganda), and I’m sure you’ll find something other than Breyers All Natural Organic Chocolate Ice Cream that works for you.
Posted January 23rd, 2008 by Jen in health/cooking/food, product review
12 Comments »
I’m not one to go around talking about underarm hygiene habits. But here goes. I finally found a deodorant I really like. It’s Crystal Body Deodorant Spray, and if you can read the label there, significant to my armpit health is the fact that this product contains no aluminum chlorohydrate. Nearly all conventional deodorant/antipersperants have aluminum. Not to make a big stink out of a lot of talk flying around, because I can’t seem to get to the bottom of this issue, but it’s been publicized for years that aluminum may be linked to both Alzheimer’s Disease and breast cancer. The flap is enough for me to take notice and make changes.
I used to use a sort of salt rock deodorant before I switched to the Crystal spray. It had basically the same minimal ingredients, but every time you used it, you had to wet it with water to moisten it up enough to roll under your arm. What a hassle. And honestly I didn’t think it was all that hygienic, all that wetting and rubbing. The beauty of this product is that it’s a spray and never comes into contact with your skin, so it maintains purity and can be used by multiple users.
The Crystal Body Deodorant Spray contains the following: purified water, natural mineral salts, and potassium alum. That’s it! This product is also fragrance and paraben free. Frankly, if you’re in a real bind, just rub some salt water under your arms and you’ll be okay. Just to clarify, the ingredient alum has a very different composition from the other forms of aluminum in question.
Also, note that I’m only addressing deodorant, not antiperspirant, which is a different thing altogether, and I would avoid it. Here’s how the FDA describes antiperspirants:
A temporary plug within the sweat duct? Most people say don’t sweat it, but I think I’d rather.
What Wikipedia has to say about aluminum:
Dare you share what works for your underarm odor control? (Or your feet, for that matter. I just read on the back on the Crystal spray bottle that it can be used to eliminate odor on your feet).
You can find more Works for Me Wednesday tips over at Rocks in My Dryer!
Posted January 11th, 2008 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food, parenting
8 Comments »
“Can I have anuvver peanut butter san’wich, Mom?”
I look and see the half-eaten sandwich on his plate, the fourth one today. “But,” I protest, “you haven’t eaten all of that one!” His wide sky-blue eyes, full of a three-year-old’s innocence, plead with me. “I don’t want the cwust.”
When he wakes up in the morning, he asks for a peanut butter sandwich. Mid-way through morning, he asks for another. I take the kids to Papa’s Pizza for lunch, where I have to meet with a group of moms while the kids play, and he doesn’t eat his pizza. “I’m full,” he declares. But minutes after leaving, he cries, “I’m hungry! I want a peanut butter san’wich!”
This latest dinner sandwich emptied my peanut butter jar. For weeks now, I’ve been giving in to the no-crust-peanut-butter-san’wich-monster. It’s become a bad habit. He and I are both lucky that he is child number four, and I’ve been down this slippery road before. Else I would be insane, and he would have peanut butter poisoning.
But it’s all over now. I shall not buy another jar of peanut butter until I deem it is safe. Until he stops begging for the sticky, gooey, fattening spread morning, noon, and night. Until he submissively eats what is set before him with no thought of sinking his teeth into delicious peanut butter encased by two slices of peanut butter holders. Those great big eyes and “You’re my best friend” song will not tempt me at all, and if they do, there will simply be no peanut butter in the house.
“It’s all gone, honey,” I call out.
Posted January 9th, 2008 by Jen in carnivals, health/cooking/food, product review
9 Comments »
Spectrum Naturals makes a vegetable shortening from organic palm oil. It’s a healthy alternative to traditional shortening and makes the flakiest, yummiest pie crusts. Its resume is impressive: no hydrogenated oils, trans-fat free, 100 percent certified organic expeller-pressed palm fruit oil, which is in a naturally solid state at room temperature.
I have a 24 ounce tub of this shortening that I use daily, and no, I haven’t been making any pies lately. The label forgot to mention how great this is for the SKIN! Since I’m a freak about parabens, PABAs, laureths and other synthetics in my lotions, I have a hugely difficult time finding a lotion or cream I can use with good conscience. (See this list of chemicals to avoid in your cosmetics and soaps). I’m cursed with dry skin, and my kids all suffer from eczema, especially right now, in the high desert in winter, so a product like this is a necessity.
I’d already tried rubbing olive oil on my skin with good results, so I naturally tried the Spectrum Shortening, which I had in my cupboard. If it’s good enough to eat, surely it’s just fine for your skin. And only one ingredient, which name I can easily pronounce and understand: palm oil. And, truly, it works just as well as any lotion or cream I’ve tried for dry skin. I like that it’s naturally in a solid state – it has a creamy texture that’s not too messy like an oil. You don’t need to refrigerate it, just keep it at room temperature in the pantry.
If you will be using the Spectrum Shortening for cooking, I’d recommend having a separate tub just for the skin. My kids help themselves to the shortening tub and just love getting their sticky little fingers in there and rubbing it on their own skin. So you can imagine I’m not very willing to cook with it after that!
The Works for Me Wednesday Master List is Here. Oops, I just realized today is Backwards day, in which you ask a question, not give a solution – oh, well, please just go rub some shortening on yourself, and ask, is this working?
Posted December 12th, 2007 by Jen in carnivals, health/cooking/food, the office
9 Comments »
Be sure to visit the Rocks in my Dryer Works for Me Wednesday master list. Here’s what works for me: Odwalla Superfood Micronutrient Fruit Juice Drink. It’s been my meal in a bottle many times over the past several weeks, as my business is at the height of the Christmas frenzy, and I’m working long hours to meet the demands of those half-crazed sports fanatics. And who has time to eat a decent meal in these conditions? Life will be back to normal in another week, but for now, Superfood is keeping me alive! Here’s the scoop on this energy giving, vitamin packed drink:
The best part is that it tastes GREAT! So, what works for you?
Posted November 20th, 2007 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food, parenting
11 Comments »
“Mommy, can I help you?” is the phrase most often heard in my kitchen. Moms around the world know that a kid in the kitchen means the meal will take about three times the usual prep!
Well, at least that’s how it happens in my house with three and four year olds – and even the six and eight year olds.
It’s a great temptation to lock kids out of the kitchen, and there are pressing times when I have to say, “No, Mommy has to do this herself,” but I try to have a general rule that the children can always help. However, to maintain a level of sanity, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks which I’ll list below, for making the cooking time with kids an enjoyable and educational experience.
I’ve read several stories of great chefs who always point back to their childhood cooking with their mothers or grandmothers as a meaningful element in their later careers. I’ve also read accounts of women who know little about cooking because their mothers didn’t allow them in the kitchen.
There is a wonderful book called The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber that convinced me I needed to make a significant place in my time with the kids for food – from the picking out of the ingredients at the market, to the preparation of the meal, to the enjoyment of the taste. Abu-Jaber “comes from cooking,” and notes that how you cook and eat, and how you feed your neighbors defines who you are.
I’ve been remiss in keeping to that commitment, but especially as the holidays are welcomed, I want to renew that vision. Here’s my list to keep me on track with cooking with kids:
Happy cooking with kids, and enjoy the upcoming holiday feasts!
Posted November 2nd, 2007 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food, parenting
14 Comments »
She takes the dirty clothes you’ve just loaded into the washing machine, and left momentarily, but long enough for her to come along, and transfers them to the dryer, never minding that they are bone dry and thus could not have been run through the wash cycle.
And before you can catch her, because you are busy with other work and four little children, she proceeds to then remove these same dirty clothes from the dryer, fold them, and put them away, never minding that they have bits of food stuck to them and the crusty socks still have retained their owner’s shape.
This calamity causes the daughter whose nearly 80 year old mother lives with her to race from drawer to drawer, feeling for clothes that are still warm and smelling for nasty socks, to pull out and begin the proper wash process once again. The chaos caused by all this commotion causes the elderly mother to break down in tears and retreat to her room.
Repeat above scenario with the dishwasher, and I believe your mother has Alzheimer’s.
You can find me over here getting help.
Posted August 24th, 2007 by Jen in family life, health/cooking/food
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Kitchen life has been unfolding at a slower pace these days. When we sold our house over a year ago, the microwave went with it. We jumped right into RV life where microwave use was hampered by the fact that our only power sources were the generator and propane. So while the RV had a (power-sucking) microwave, the resident power-Nazi husband declared it off limits. Then, when we rented this house we’re living in right now, lo and behold, no microwave. No problem, I had already gotten used to life without the little magic box.
My friends ask, why don’t you just go buy one?! They are not that expensive, after all. Well, the tight-wad husband says we are not about to waste money on a cheap microwave when we’ll have a very nice one to go with all the new stainless steel appliances that will be in our new house that he’s building. Same reason we don’t have a T.V. Or dressers. Or a bed. Well, okay, I have a bed – it’s a mattress on a steel frame. You get the idea. Good thing I enjoy living simply.
So, the microwave. Reheating my coffee in the morning was my biggest concern. I must have hot coffee. Well, RV life introduced me to French press coffee. I boil water in a pan and pour it in the sexy French carafe. I reheat my coffee as needed in the pan. Now that we’re in a house, I do have a coffee pot I use (though nothing quite compares anymore to the richness of French press). But since I refuse to drink coffee out of anything but high quality ceramic, those plastic lidded mugs are out – thus the need to reheat. I also sip and savor, and will never get through a mug of coffee without the bottom third getting cold. And actually, since I’ve been drinking my coffee out of these cool coffee mugs with pewter logos (remember these?), I couldn’t put it in a microwave, anyway.
Here’s what I discovered: I can reheat my coffee in a pan on the stove in about three minutes. Is my life so high speed and busy that I can’t take three minutes to heat my coffee? If so, perhaps something’s wrong. It’s not like I have to gather wood, start a fire, and keep it stoked. I just turn a knob. Really, what would our great-great grandmothers think of us, complaining about waiting three minutes (in our warm, cozy houses) for our coffee to reheat?
What about left-overs? The horror! No microwave to reheat leftovers! Well, there is that dinosaur of an appliance called the stove. It reheats food remarkably well. Pizza – 10 minutes at 350. Casserole – 10 minutes at 350. Chicken – 10 minutes at 350. That’s my mantra: 10 minutes at 350. And honestly, I can understand reheating those particular foods in a microwave, but you’d never want to actually cook them in a microwave. The pizza would be soggy, the casserole would be mushy, and the chicken would be rubbery. And I always hated how microwave heated french fries tasted like wet sawdust.
The stove-top is just as clever at cooking or reheating. I found that my left-over rice was really tasty when I heated it in a big skillet with either a few tablespoons of water or oil. And if you think your popcorn days are over with no microwave, think again! I grew up fascinated with popping corn in a big pan on the stove, and today’s kids will love the novelty – just be sure to use a clear glass lid so they can watch the excitement. It tastes REAL, not fakey, oversalty. Do you see? The microwave steals away the fun, the interaction, the creativity to be had with food.
The baby bottle? Mommas, never, ever, put the baby bottle in a microwave. If there’s no microwave there to tempt you with its time-saving tentacles, you’re better off, perhaps. Just heat a pan of hot water and let the baby bottle stand in it for several minutes. No hot spots to burn baby, no loss of nutrition.
Here’s a lesson I’ve learned: after a readjustment period of cooking-time expectations, I DO NOT miss the microwave. Once I had it in my head that I needed to allow 30 or 45 minutes to cook dinner, not five, I learned to plan ahead and be prepared. And be prepared for better tasting food, by the way!
If you can bear with me a moment, there are health/nutritional reasons, too many to number, for choosing traditional cooking over a microwave. Here are a few, and follow the links for the full scoop.
From the USDA:
From Delicious Organics:
Those darn machines are so convenient and make our cooking lives so easy! Just be warned, and certainly do your own investigating. There is plenty of data out there that says microwaved food is just fine, but for me, there is enough unsettling information to make me think twice.
And there also remains a philosophical issue for me: the microwave is so symbolic of the fast-paced modern American way of life. What are some microwave equivalents in our way of life? Do you take time to read a good book or just watch a sitcom? Do you take time to go on a long bike ride with your kids or just sit them down with a video game? Do you take time to handwrite a loving letter to a dear friend or just dash off a quick email? Do you take time to cook a healthy meal from scratch or buy packaged, processed food?
Now the question is: Can I talk my husband into leaving out the microwave in the new house?