Friday, November 28, 2008

Foodie Friday: A "Green" Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving, I decided to attempt a "greener" event. I'd use more local and organic products. We also decided to scale back the dinner a bit. We'd have a turkey breast instead of a whole bird, two desserts instead of four, and each person chose one side to go with the bird.

Buzz, of course, selected cornbread dressing.
I wanted green beans.
Spark chose rolls.
Lily got macaroni (she loves noodles). (I added a generous amount of pureed carrots and sweet potatoes to the macaroni and cheese to make it a healthier dish for all of us, but also to add the traditional sweet potatoes to the menu!)

I also made some gravy from scratch, using the turkey drippings in the pan and a recipe from Real Simple as a guide.

I made a batch of brownies the night before, using The Sneaky Chef's quick fix for boxed brownies. Our other dessert was a pecan pie from Tootie.

So, here's the breakdown of our menu and how "green" or local it was:

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
Free-Range Turkey Breast
Cornbread Dressing, made with almost 100% organic ingredients
Macaroni and Cheese, enhanced with locally grown sweet potatoes and carrots
Green Beans, packaged but prepared in our city
Yeast Rolls, made by a company in Alabama where Buzz and I are from
Brownies, enhanced with organic spinach and blueberries
Tootie Pecan Pie, a company that uses handpicked Texas pecans

At first, we were a bit nervous about changing the dressing, but Buzz said that yesterday's dressing is some of the best he's eaten, so here's the recipe:

Free-Range Dressing
1 whole chicken (preferably free-range), cut up
double batch of cornbread (made with as many organic, whole grain ingredients as possible)
1 medium organic onion, diced
organic dried sage (2-4 tablespoons, to taste)
sea salt
organic black pepper
milk (optional)

Put the chicken in a large pot. Cover with water. Boil the chicken until it's done.
When the chicken is done, remove the pieces with tongs.
Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the chicken broth into the bowl. The strainer will catch any little pieces of bone that might have boiled off the chicken.
Tear the chicken meat from the bones of all the pieces.

Crumble the cornbread into a large bowl.
Add the diced onion.
Add the pieces of chicken.
Pour in all of the chicken broth.
Add about 1-2 tablespoons of the dried sage. Add some salt and pepper.
Stir ingredients together. If the dressing seems a little dry, add milk until it's nice and moist. During baking, it will dry out some, so don't skimp too much.
Taste. Add more sage, salt, and/or pepper, if desired. Repeat until it tastes just like you like it.

This recipe makes enough for one 9x13 pan and one 8x8 or 9x9 pan. Fill both pans with dressing, cover with foil, and cook for about an hour.

Remove foil and cook for another 30-45 minutes or until top is golden.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Almost Perfect Thanksgiving

Flower has Croup, but otherwise today teetered as close to perfect as Thanksgiving can get. We didn't go anywhere or do anything. We had no house guests, no phone calls, and no schedule. It was bliss!

Buzz said I should write about all the things that have made this Thanksgiving better than any other we've had, so I asked Spark, Buzz, to help me make a list.

We didn't have to be around inlaws.
We cleaned the house for ourselves for a change.
We had time to reflect.
We had time to enjoy each other.
We just played all day (from Spark).
We had nap time after dinner.
No TV. At all. (Yes, that's right. No Macy's parade. No football. No loud noisy commercials. Bliss.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gift Wrap, Be Gone!

My family has been working on getting greener and greener, starting with setting up a recycling center in our kitchen a few years ago.

One green goal I have for this year: I'm trying to avoid buying any wrapping paper this holiday season. I do have a couple rolls I bought on sale after Christmas last year, so I'm saving that for some of the gifts for Spark under the tree and for a couple of the kids he'll exchange gifts with.

So far, what has worked for me? Using old maps! Crazy but true. I saw this idea in a magazine while waiting at the doctor's office the other day, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE some maps, so I decided to try it. The results are amazingly chic!

Here are some other alternatives I'm coming up with wrapping up gifts:
  • pillowcases (These work great with oddly shaped items, like plush animals. Just put the gift inside and tie it up with string.)
  • reusable bags and containers (So nice to get a gift wrapped inside a gift!)
  • newspapers, posters, anything that you might be about to toss in the paper recycling bin (I've even seen gifts wrapped in user manuals.)
  • patchwork wrap-up (Do you have a lot of scraps of this and that wrapping papers? If so, create a patchwork wrap-up out of them. The result can be very shabby chic if your patterns are just right. If you sew, you can do the same with fabric scraps. Hem the edges and you have a cool gift in itself.)
  • buy gifts that come in cute (and hopefully reusable and/or recyclable) containers so that you don't have to wrap them at all.
  • decorate plain boxes you have stacked in your garage. Instead of wrapping them, let your kids paint handprints on the boxes or stamp them with cute images.
Get even greener by
  • tying things up with ribbon or yarn (If you're like me, you have a drawer of ribbon and yarn just waiting to be used. This option uses no potentially toxic adhesive.)
  • using recycled products to create to/from labels, writing your to/from message directly on the package or gift, or
Fun (and useful) embellishments (instead of throwaway bows):
  • cookie cutters
  • bandanas
  • whistles (Spark got a gift at his birthday party and the wrapping was done in the shape of a old fashioned piece of candy, with the sides twisted. The package was tied up on those ends with the strings of two whistles. )
  • real hairbows on packages for girls
  • something that matches the gift (Think fishing lure on a fisherman's gift, pens to go with a journal, a spool of thread on a sewer's gift...)
Some other tips:
  • wrap fragile items in fabric scraps or napkins/hand towels instead of tissue paper
  • start a wrap box where you drop items that you think might come in handy for wrapping later on
**This post is first in a series of Green Wednesday Tips. I decided to add it to Shannon's Works for me Wednesday link list. Check out all the other WFMW links on RocksInMyDryer's Works for Me Wednesday post.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dead Beat Dads Suck

My kids are blessed to have a wonderful father. Two of my first cousins Alyse and Marci are not so blessed. Their biological father, for lack of a better way of saying it, is the scum of the earth.

He and my aunt got pregnant with Marci while they were dating. They married. Then, a couple years later, they had Alyse. The girls are now 11 and 13. About a year and a half ago, my aunt discovered her husband was cheating on her with a younger woman. He decided to have a child with this other woman and moved in with her. He stopped giving any money to my aunt (or his two daughters) and basically disappeared. So, my aunt met with a divorce lawyer, borrowing money to pay for the lawyer's initial fees.

They've been tied up in court ever since then, mostly fighting over the house, which is paid for. Temporarily, my aunt can continue living in the house with the girls. During her marriage to this jerk, my aunt never worked. Instead, she took care of the kids, cleaned the house, and that's about it. The judged ordered her husband to pay for the power bill, the phone bill, and a measly $200 a month for other necessities until the divorce is final. Then, child support will kick in... theoretically. My aunt managed to find a job, but it's not a high paying job, and the bills still don't get fully paid. Oh, and the cad doesn't even send in what he's supposed to. When she has something come up, it's a struggle to make ends meet. Like recently, the heater stopped working on her car. It's in the 20s and 30s where she lives. They have to drive a good 15-30 minutes to get almost everywhere they go. She has no way of paying for car repairs, no recourse at all. Does he help? No.

All my aunt can do is file a complaint with the judge that he didn't pay his required amounts. She has filed these reports over and over again. Did I mention this man is the scum of the earth?!? Well, it gets worse. On a special occasion, his youngest daughter called him. She wanted a new outfit to wear at a special event. He used profanity to refuse her plea. SCUM OF THE EARTH.

Having grown up in a loving family with a wonderful father and seeing the love my own husband has for our kids, I do not understand what in the world makes a man treat his children this way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23

November 23 always brings a strange sense of weirdness. It's the one day of the year that is the longest time away from my birthday. It feels kind of like that deflated moment after you realize that you have opened the very last Christmas gift. The celebration has ended. It's going to be a long time before it comes again.

As a kid, I used to think the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas lasted FOREVER. We went to my great-grandmother's house on Thanksgiving to have dinner with my mother's brothers and their families. We'd eat, talk, play, and usually had a great time. Then, right before everyone started leaving, we would draw names for the Christmas gifts. It was exciting to see who drew my name and would buy my gift when we'd all meet at the same place again for Christmas dinner and opening presents.

Usually, the present I opened at my great-grandmother's house was the first present of the season. Occasionally, my class at school would have a gift exchange on the last day of school, but usually this was the first. I remember being so excited. The hours stretched out. The uncles arrived with their families. People ate, and ate, ate, ate. The kids took turns asking if the time to open gifts had arrived. All this probably happened over the course of about four hours, but it seemed as if we were there for weeks, waiting on time to open the gifts.

Then, the wrapping paper flew. Suddenly, it was over. And there was that moment. Almost like, "Is that all?" Not in an ungrateful way, but in a disbelieving way.

As I get older, I find the years mark on more quickly than they ever have. I watched Spark open his Christmas gifts last year, the first year he really got into it, and I saw the excitement in his eyes. But, I also saw the flash of "is it really over," that slightly deflated moment. But, it didn't last long as he reached for his new toys and started playing.

The pace picks up each year. I find myself thinking ahead too much, or contemplating the past too much. For my 29th year, I want to focus on the present, the current moment I'm in, this place of wonder. I'm looking back today at the past year, and I'm enjoying where I am. Yes, there are things about myself and the world I want to change, and I'm making those changes slowly. I want to look back on the day after I turn 30 and see how I've made some changes.

A friend told me the other day that she doesn't even want to acknowledge her birthday anymore. She's in her early 40s, and that depresses her. I don't know what I'll feel when I'm 40, but right I still look forward to my birthday. Even though I am winding down my 20s, even though I do see the small signs of aging. I have had a great decade. I expect to my 30s to be even better.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Age-Appropriate Gifts

According to my baby book, where my mother documented every happening of my life until I was about five years old, I got some cool gifts on my fourth birthday. Topping the list were Barbie and Ken, a paper doll set, and a gum ball bank. My parents gave me a Care Bear room makeover, complete with a sheet set, bedspread, and drapes.

Today, 25 years later, I celebrate 29. Topping my list of gifts were a citrus juicer and stainless steel colander. Oh, and some beautiful lilies from my best friend Welby. Aren't they gorgeous?

A citrus juicer, a colander, and vase of fragrant lilies make for quite the age-appropriate gift for an almost-30 mom who loves to cook and enjoys nature and natural essences. Much more practical than gum ball banks and Care Bear linens. But I have to confess. I still have one of the pillowcases from the Care Bear set. The years have made it soft and worn, and I feel special when I use it on my pillow at night. Some gifts break the age barrier.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Foodie Friday: Conquering the Smoothie Dilemma

For years, I've wanted to make smoothies. My first attempt failed miserably. MISERABLY.

This event happened many years ago. My first mistake in this process involved the equipment. Not knowing the ins and outs of blender technology, I bought the cheapest blender at the local Wal-Mart. Not a good idea at all.

I browsed online for smoothie recipes. I envisioned creating something akin to a Strawberry Orange Julius. I searched for Orange Julius smoothie recipes online. I found various recipes and made my second mistake. Instead of selecting one recipe and going with it, I decided to combine the ideas in a few and create my own Julius. The result of my strawberry, milk, orange juice, and ice concoction? Something very weird tasting, and nothing smooth at all. Trying to salvage the ingredients, I added sugar and more milk. Blend. Still bad. I add more strawberries. Blend. Worse. I had to just toss it.

Fast forward a few years. I move to Texas. I almost left the blender behind, but I thought I might need it at some point. It's stashed away until one night a friend and I decide to do a liver flush. I like to think my friend Welby and I are intelligent women, but when I think back on the liver flush days, I'm not so sure. Just how strung out on grad school were we?!?

We met every morning for 7 days straight, mixed up the flush, drank it down, brushed our teeth, and didn't eat or drink for 30 minutes after. Not the kind of smoothie I had in mind when I bought my blender, but at least I was getting some use out of it. Also, Welby and I could smell the garlic as it oozed out of each other's pores in class later in the day.

A few years later, I move across the state. We leave the blender behind. Buzz and I have Spark, and I decide to make my own baby food for him. And, I'm interested in the smoothie option again. We need a blender. Third mistake: I buy the most expensive blender I can find thinking that it will improve my odds of smoothie-ing with success.

I do manage to make some great baby food, but the blender I bought (KitchenAid's most expensive one that converts to a food processor) had way too many buttons to know how to use, had a tricky sensor on it that would prevent the motor from starting if everything wasn't lined up perfectly, had so many parts and pieces, and I couldn't keep up with which ones were dishwasher safe and which ones weren't, and it was such a pain to hand wash the parts that weren't, that I abandoned the cause soon after Spark was no longer eating purees. The blender/processor beast took up so much counter space that it was relocated to the utility room: that is the kiss of death for my appliances. Go the way of the bread machine, the Wok, the electric skillet, and likely you shall not return.

So, no breakfast smoothies for me.

I confessed to Welby that I had these smoothie catastrophes going on. She mentioned that her blender was simple: two buttons (on and off), just a few basic parts (all dishwasher safe), and blended things up like a charm.

So, after Flower was born, and I started thinking about making baby food again, I bought a new Osterizer blender and life has been sweet. I started whipping up some fabulous smoothies, experimenting with different combinations of fruit, yogurt, protein powders, and more. Now that Flower is eating solid foods, I'm a baby food making machine on the weekends. We stock up on veggie baby foods in the freezer, and I buy jarred fruits. I'm considering, though, tackling the fruits soon. I tried applesauce once, even in the new blender, and it did not go so well. Baby steps.

This morning, though, I made a terrific smoothie. It was nothing like an Orange Julius. I had my first Orange Julius in years a couple weeks ago, and I realized how sweet it tasted. I could barely taste the orange for all the sugar! This morning, I poured some Odwalla orange juice into my blender and opened a bag of frozen strawberries and dumped them in. The result: a perfect smoothie that actually tastes like fruit!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Road Trip

I just kissed the boys goodbye: Buzz and Spark are off on their first ever guys-only road trip. They are taking a four-day weekend to a wedding. Buzz's brother is getting hitched.

At first, we planned on the whole family making the trek to Alabama for this wedding, but the closer it got, the more I realized that I was still too tired from our last Alabama trip (in late September) to make another one so soon with two young kids. I don't think it's sitting too well with the in-laws that Buzz and I decided that just he and Spark would make the trip. Flower, who is still nursing, will stay in Texas with me. But, we decided to do it this way for a lot of reasons:

1. I have two health conditions that cause fatigue: anemia and an underactive thyroid. We've been on two long trips already this year with both kids, and when Mommy's around, they both want me to do everything for them. It's tiring.
2. Flower has just started crawling and is at the very curious, exploring, won't-sit-still stage right now. 15 hours in a car does not sound like a good time for Martia.
3. Thanksgiving is in one week. I need some time to prepare for a wonderful vacation at home with the family.
4. Spark and Buzz have never gone on an extended trip alone, and with Buzz's crazy work schedule, this will give them some time to really connect with each other for a while--without any womenfolk interfering.

Spark is so incredibly excited about going on a trip with Daddy, though. And, Mommy is so incredibly excited, too. I'll definitely miss them, and already look forward to seeing them again. But, a few days without so much testosterone around? Oh, yeah!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Momma Told Me Not To Multitask

I turn on the computer. While checking my gmail, I log into my bank account to check on transactions, pay a bill, and transfer money to my sister. At the same time, I start working on some writing projects, respond to a couple emails on my work email, and call the pediatrician's office to schedule the kids' next round of checkups. While I'm holding with the doctor's office and responding to emails, I plug in the digital camera to start transferring the weekend's photos.

I switch back the bank account site to pay another bill I just remembered and to transfer that money to my sister, and the site has timed out after 10 minutes of inactivity, so I log back on. Right after entering my password, I open my gmail tab and see an interesting recipe in the subject line from one of my many recipe-a-day subscriptions. So, I click on the recipe. I decide to try it, so I grab a piece of paper and start jotting down a quick grocery list. Suddenly, I hear "Dr. Carlty's Office, this is Joan, may I help you."

I talk with Joan, while switching to my calendar view. I schedule two appointments. By now, though, Flower is needing attention so instead of entering the appointments into my calendar, I jot them down on a piece of paper while I wrangle her. After nursing Flower and getting her settled in her crib for a nap, I come back to the computer. I have about 4 writing project tasks that are half done, 3 emails half written, 2 appointments scheduled but not entered into the calendar, and my bank account site has timed out again.

This scenario was my life until I recently decided to try something new. I gave up multitasking.

Previously, I multitasked every time I did anything, including housework, errands, work tasks, family life, and more. When I did housework, I skittered around from one room to another, doing a little here and there but not really getting anything done. Now, I focus on one room, setting a time limit. To deep clean the kitchen from top to bottom might take a full 90 minutes. But, I don't have 90 minutes a day to spend in my kitchen; my kitchen does not need deep cleaned every day anyway! In about 20 minutes, though, I can get the dishes in the dishwasher and wipe down the counters. It might take a full hour to correctly put up all of Spark's toys, but in about 10 minutes, we can get the bulk of the mess controlled. It might not be perfectly organized, but it's controlled. Another 30 minutes of housework, and we can have the family room straightened up and vaccuumed and the bathroom wiped down. So, in one hour, our house can be reasonably together. Previously in one hour, nothing would be done. I would have stacks here and there and so on.

There's nothing wrong with multitasking, if it makes sense. For instance, I know that a call to my pediatrician's office is going to put me on hold for 10 minutes. That doesn't mean I have to sit with the phone to my ear while I lose 10 minutes of life to their public service announcements. Instead of trying to do real work while I'm on hold, though, I open my calendar, put the phone on speaker phone, get in the floor and play and giggle with Flower while we listen to the PSAs. Then, I schedule whatever appointment needs to be scheduled.

Instead of checking my gmail and doing my bank business at the same time, switching back and forth from tab to tab (a habit I'm sure increases eye strain and fatigue), I give 15 minutes of focused time to each task. In just a half hour, my gmail is under control, my bills are paid, my transactions checked, and my sister has that money I promised to transfer.

When I'm trying to get work tasks done, instead of working on three different tasks for an hour, I divide the tasks into chunks of time. I estimate that updating the status report will take 15 minutes, entering edits into documents will take 30, and responding to emails will take about 15 minutes. An hour later, I find those three big tasks are done, and I'm ready to move on to do something else!

When I first tried this technique, I hated it. I felt unproductive, like I wasn't really getting as much done. But after comparing two days: I see the difference. Giving up multitasking is incredibly freeing! Now, I focus on one task at a time, setting reasonable time limits and goals. A focus-driven life is the life for me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

When Plans Fail Us

One word strikes fear in the heart of any work-from-home mom: INSERVICE.

Ahh, yes, it never fails. On Sunday night after preparing for the week, thinking through the lunches I'll pack, the fruit we have on hand for snacks, and making sure the backpack is handy, I suddenly realize about 10 minutes before bedtime that Spark has Monday off from preschool because it's inservice. I reaize this fact after I've thought through my Monday to achieve the best possible productivity, after I have devised a hard schedule for me and Flower.

5:30-Martia wakes up, nurses Flower, showers, checks email/work schedule
6:30-Martia does yoga for one hour
7:45-Buzz takes Spark to school
8:00-Martia feeds Flower breakfast cereal and fruit
8:30-Flower takes a nap while Martia works
10:30-Flower plays in floor while Martia continues to work
Noon-Martia and Flower eat lunch, go for a walk
1:00-Flower takes a nap while Martia works
2:45-Martia and Flower to get Spark from school

Everything must be reconfigured at this point because we have thrown a full day of Spark into the mix. Also, today is the day when I host the lunchtime Bible study, so the house needs to be straightened up a bit (including sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, and wiping down the toilet).

Here's what today's Inservice schedule looks like:

6:00 - Martia nurses Flower
7:00 - Spark jumps in bed with Martia and Flower while Buzz showers
7:25 - Martia feeds the kids breakfast and races to shower before Buzz has to leave for work
8:15 - Buzz leaves
9:00 - Martia tries to get Spark to clean his room, resorting to bribes and threats
10:00 - Martia's panic sets in as she realizes she will have visitors in one hour
11:00 - Visitors arrive, Bible study commences, Spark eats lunch vittles from Maddie
12:15 - Visitors leave
12:20 - Flower eats lunch, nurses, falls asleep
1:00 - Martia reads Spark a story and he falls asleep
1:15 - Martia glories in the simultaneous nap and works
2:55 - Flower wakes up
3:00 - Martia awaits the return of Buzz and makes plans to work late into the evening

Friday, November 14, 2008

Foodie Friday: Martia's Miracle Pancakes

Two recent additions to my humongous cookbook library have started moving my family into a better nutritional direction.

First, I acquired Deceptively Delicious, which I bought before realizing the author is married to Jerry Seinfeld the comedian. I read through the book, thought the ideas were great, and promptly placed the book on my cookbook shelf and let it begin collecting dust.

Then, after a long talk with the pediatrician about Spark's completely off-white diet of peanut butter sandwiches, hot dogs, and chips, I also acquired The Sneaky Chef. Buzz and I constantly struggle with getting Spark to eat anything much less anything new. I take solace in the fact that his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are made on 100% whole grain bread, with organic sugar-free blackberry jelly (sweetened with grape juice instead of sugar!), and all-natural, organic peanut butter. But yeah, his diet really sucks otherwise.

The Sneaky Chef arrived sooner than I thought it would, so I had an unexpected new cookbook to entertain me one afternoon. I read through the book, thought the ideas were great, and promptly set it aside.

Both books are based on the same general idea: you can make food healthy and trick your children (and/or spouses) into eating vegetables if you conceal the vegetable enough so that they do not know they are eating it. In Deceptively Delicious, Jessica Seinfeld bases her sneak attacks on single-item purees for the most part. Missy Chase Lapine (author of The Sneaky Chef) recommends multi-item purees.

On a whim, I threw The Sneaky Chef in my backpack as I headed to the grocery store. While in the grocery store, I looked up the Orange Puree recipe. It's simple, just carrots and sweet potatoes. Knowing I already had some sweet potatoes at home from my recent organic grocery delivery service, I bought a bunch of carrots.

We'd try these ideas along with Dr. Carlty's recommended plan of not being a short-order chef and see how it goes. The results: not perfection, but we're definitely getting better. I felt like I have developed new superpowers as I dumped carrot and sweet potato puree into the mac n cheese and watched Buzz and Spark lap it up like hungry hounds. (Truthfully, Spark only ate about 1/4 cup of mac n cheese, but that's 1/4 cup more mac n cheese than he's had in the last 9 months and more carrots and sweet potatoes than he's had in 2 years.)

So, being one to enjoy a little kitchen experimentation, I played around with our pancake recipe and came up with the following, which both Buzz and Spark did lap up like hungry hounds.

2 cups self-rising flour (Lapine recommends a mix of 1 part white flour and 1 part whole grain flour, but I was out of whole wheat flour, so we'll try that next time)
1/2 cup ground pecans (Put about 1 cup pecans in a blender and pulse into finely ground.)
1/2 cup to 1 cup pumpkin puree (Use what you think your people will tolerate)
1 to 3 teaspoons raw sugar
2 eggs
2 or 3 cups of lowfat or nonfat milk

Martia's Miracle Pancakes
Mix the flour, ground pecans, and raw sugar.
Add about 2 cups of milk. Stir until well blended.
Add pumpkin puree slowly, stirring as you add it. If your people are funny about color, be careful not to make the batter too orange.
Add more milk to thin the batter to your preference. (Thin batter produces lighter, thinner pancakes. Thicker batter produces thicker, denser pancakes.)

Grease your griddle with some oil and heat it to medium/medium low heat.
Cook each pancake for a couple minutes on each side, or until cooked through.

Enjoy with some hot maple syrup or fruit.
Smile with pride as the family takes in the nutritious pumpkin and pecans unknowingly.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Foodie Friday: Real Simple's Recipes

Real Simple magazine's website has a recipe section. Not all of the recipes sound like something I'd enjoy, but they all seem easy to make, have relatively inexpensive ingredients (as if ANY food item is inexpensive in this economy), and a lot are kid-friendly, which in my case means they are husband-friendly, too. Even better, though, the Real Simple recipes aren't just the ho-hum, same-old dish. I like a little adventure in my kitchen.

Take this Slow-Cooker Lasagna, for instance. It's a vegetarian friendly, new take on a classic dish. The chard and fresh herbs give it an edge that a lot of veggie lasagnas lack. It's also a slow- cooker meal, so put that baby in the Crock-Pot while you do other tasks. I actually made it in the oven, too, when I didn't have time for a slow-cooker meal, and it turned out beautifully. Best of all, this dish makes a lot. I froze the leftovers in individual containers and had them two-three weeks later for lunches.

A convenience about Real Simple's recipes is that you can sign up to have them email you a recipe daily. I've tried a few (ok many, many, many) of these "recipe-a-day" types of emails, but Real Simple's is more useful than any other I've found because the recipes actually appeal to me, and the layout of the email is nice and snappy.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Foodie Friday: My Addiction

I am addicted to recipes. If I hear of a new recipe email newsletter, I sign up for it. While reading magazines, if I notice there is a recipe in it, I will keep the magazine. Forever. The magazines grew to be so many, that all the family members became concerned that these periodicals soon would take over the family. We were overrun with cooking magazines. So, I sat down one night with scissors, page protectors, and a binder and began the process of looking through each magazine and cutting out one recipe that I wanted to keep. (Ok, so one just wasn't cutting it, so I sometimes cut out two or three or four get the picture.)

I went through every last Cooking Light, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Vegetarian Times, and so on, until I had thinned the herd substantially. The leftovers I stacked to donate to Spark's school, give to a friend, or recycle (in the case where almost every page had some nugget that deserved a page protector).

Now, I have a beautiful binder full of recipe clippings that I removed from various magazines. This binder sits with the rest of my cookbooks in the dedicated space in the kitchen. I inherited a beautiful, antique hutch from my great-grandmother. This hutch has the perfect spot for cookbooks, the other key component to my recipe addiction.

I have a hard time resisting the urge to buy new cookbooks. My hutch bulges with cookbooks so much that visitors swear it's moving under their weight. need more cookbook space. Don't mention that I could give away or sell some of the cookbooks. They are part of of my innermost self. Parting with me would be like giving away a finger or something.

When I tried using the local public library for cookbook browsing, it just wasn't the same. Oh, it was ok for perusing. Reading through a good cookbook while curled up on the couch is favorite hobby of mine. But, sitting a cookbook next to my stove and splattering random ingredients onto it? That's priceless.
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