Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Maria Carreiro's Massa Cevada (Portuguese Sweet Bread)

This is my modified recipe. I have left the ingredients as intact as possible but have modified the technique slightly.  The bottom image is my three year old daughter, Madeline, enjoying her first taste of her great-great-grandmother's bread.

Maria Carreiro's Massa Cevada (Portuguese Sweet Bread)
makes 6 very small (grapefruit sized) or 4 small loaves

6 1/2c unbleached white flour
1 1/2c sugar
6 eggs beaten
1 tbl yeast
1/4lb + 2tbl unsalted butter (original recipe had tbl lard instead of butter)
1 c warm milk
1/4 c warm water
1 tsp sea or kosher salt
Additional milk for brushing top of loaf

In a very large mixing bowl (at least 5.5 qts), mix flour, salt & yeast.

In a small saucepan, gently warm milk and water to about room temperature. IMPORTANT! While cold liquids can slow the rising process, HOT liquids can kill off your yeast. Err on the side of caution and be sure your liquids are warm, not hot. Add sugar & beaten eggs to saucepan. Wisk until blended.

Pour milk mixture to flour mixture and take a  moment to put the butter into that same small sauce pan and set it over lowest heat. It will melt within a few minutes without getting to hot (remember ... HOT = BAD).

Mix milk & flour mixtures together (just until uniformly blended - you are NOT kneading it)  while butter melts. While you can use a stand mixer to blend the milk mix dough, I find using a wooden spoon and then my hands gives me a more thorough blending without toughening the dough.

Add butter to dough and gently incorperate it. This works best with your hands, if you can stand the feel of the butter. It takes a while to incorporate all that butter but be patient and work the dough gently.

Allow to rest in a draft-free location for at least 2.5 hrs. Don't worry about doubling, etc - just time it.

Cover lightly (do NOT make an airtight seal) and refridgerate until chilled. This dough is best worked after chilling.

Butter pan or pans well. You can easily bake a few loaves at ones or cut off a chunk of dough, returning the rest to be refridgerated for up to five days. The traditional shape for this bread is round but I baked these by rounding the dough and setting it in an oval baking ceramic dish. Glass or non-stick would work fine, as would a square or rectangle. I don't recommend a baking stone, but hey, whatever float's your boat...

Sprinkle surface of dough in rising container liberally with flour.

Using a serrated knife, kitchen shears (my preference) or a dough scraper to cut out the chunk(s) of dough you will be baking today. Sprinkle chunk of dough with more flour and gentle pull edges out and tuck under, creating a ball. This should take UNDER a minute. That's it.

Set in baking pan, pat top of dough to gently flatten it slightly and allow to rest in a draft free area for at least 1hr 40m or until dough is not cool to the touch.

Preheat oven to 350 for at least five minutes.

Liberally brush dough with milk or cream and place on center rack in oven (can bake multiple loaves at once, just don't crowd the oven).

Baste at least 3x with more milk or cream while baking to create a sweet rich upper crust.

Bake 35-45 minutes for very small loaves, 40-50min for medium or larger loaves. Please know that this time is just a guideline ... this part takes practice. It is challenging to know when bread is truly done - I use time as a guideline and base done-ness more on color of crust (should be uniformly very deep golden brown).  With wet dough, under-baking will create a gummy center. If this occurs, bake longer next time.

Additional notes on the recipe amd from my cousin Michele...
~ Grammy doubled this recipe and made 12 small loaves
~ Option: after forming ball of dough but before resting period, wash an egg in cold water, press into dough on top of each loaf; put one or two strips of dough across the egg. Continue with rest of recipe.

The original recipe called for kneading the dough, letting it rise until doubled, rolling in flour and then baking as noted above. You can experiement with this method if you prefer, but I find the rest/chill/rest method allows for a really nice texture and is more forgiving.

If you've read this far, go you :) You may want to read the story behind my baking this bread...

The story behind my sweet bread adventure...

Forgive me if this is not the most smooth account, but I wanted to record this before I forget it all!

I never met my great grandmother, Maria Carreiro. Many people don't but for me there is special meaning in that. You see, my mother's and father's parents had known each other socially for years. My mother spent many years hearing about Teddy and my father heard all about my mother. It was at my fatehr's grandmother's funeral in 1969, however, that they finally met at adults.  My father recalls seeing a stunning woman with a black mantilla covering her long, thick black hair. He decided he needed to persue her ... and did so that very night, stopping by her home to thank her parents for their condolences. They were married in 1970 :)

Maria Assumpcao Borges Carreiro (1894-1969) was married to Camillo Carreiro. I believe they were both from Sao Miguel in the Azore islands of Portugal. They went on to have three children, my grandmother Mary Carme, her sister Tillie and their brother Joseph.

My father and my cousins fondly remember Grammy Carreiro's Massa Cevada - it was a special treat only made a few times a year. Traditionally Massa Cevada is made at Easter with a whole egg in the shell baked in it. My mother grew up enjoying Grammy Carreiro's bread as well ... as friends of the family, they were treated to her wonderful baking. It really resonates for me that my family has been making this bread for (most likely) at least a hundred years!

At Thanksgiving my grandmother mused that I might be able to manage this recipe so I decided to attempt it for a Christmas Eve surpise. I contacted my cousin Michele and she kindly sent me what she had.

My great grandmother, like most, never used a recipe or measure out ingredients. Her method of teaching my grandmother and her daughter in-law (Michele's mother, Dot) was to bake with them watching, throwing in a bit of this and that ... and she also didn't speak english well. This recipe was written down on two very old index cards and I give Michele toooons of credit for copying it all over for me :)

My mom, grandmother and Aunt Dot all referred to this recipe as hard to make because it was a particularly sticky dough. Ironically I've spent the last three months learning how to bake with wet, sticky doughs. When I compared her recipe to the ones I have been using, I realized I could apply the same techniques to make this do-able.  For someone unfamiliar with wet-dough baking, I can see how challenging this would be.

My biggest question regarding the accuracy of this recipe is the yeast measurements. They are the ONLY edits I have made to the ingredient list, as most bakers no longer use yeast cakes. One important thing to know is that my method of baking is very forgiving regarding yeast discrepancies, so precision isn't vital.

Here are some cool links I stumbled upon while researching the history of yeast ...
A Short History of Yeast
Food History Resources - this is a wild page, check it out!

Monday, December 14, 2009

To die for Cinnamon Bread - seriously

I baked this on  whim late last night and it smelled so amazing that I stayed up past midnight to have a slice. Its a variation of the Cinnamon Raisin Bread recipe from Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day.

For the dough I used the Master Boule Recipe from Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day substituting 1 cup of beer for water - totally not a vital part of this recipe, I did it for fun. I had made the dough a few days before but it can easily be made the same day. This recipe can easily be halved or doubled. You could also make this with a wheat blend dough, brioche, buttermilk or gluten free dough. Please note that while the master recipe makes 4lbs of duogh, some of the recipes in these books make slightly different amts.

Initial Dough Prep time - 10 minutes
Initial Dough Rest time - 2 hrs

Master Boule Recipe Dough
1/3 c raw sugar (can sub white or brown sugar as well)
1.5 tsp cinnamon (give or take)
1 egg lightly whisked with 1 tsp of water
More sugar & cinnamon for sprinkling

Butter your loaf pan (8 or 9inch)

Follow step 5 on the master recipe.
I used about 1 lb of dough (size of a grapefruit, 1/4 of a full batch of master dough) but it would be better with 1.5 lbs (size of a cantaloupe, 1/3 of a batch of master dough).

Roll out your ball of dough on a floured surface to about 1/4inch thick, 8"x12". It does not have to be perfect.
Brush dough with egg wash - right to the edges. Put rest of egg wash in the fridge for later. Cover dough liberally with sugar & cinnamon, leaving a 1" empty space on one of the short edges. Dot on little bits of butter about every 2-3" (optional). Begin rolling up dough starting with edge that does not have the empty space. Pinch ends (fold over if you want a very tight seal) and pinch along seam.

Set in loaf pan. Allow to rest in a warm location for 40m if using just-made dough,  1hr 40m if using refridgerated.
About 10m before baking:
Preheat oven to 375F. I did not use a baking stone in the oven or a pan with water for steam.
Brush top of dough with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar & cinnamon to taste.

Bake for 35-45min - this is a wet dough and you really can't dry it out but you CAN under bake it.
Remove from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
Texture is best if cooled completely before cutting. Good luck with that :D

Variations (I haven't tested these but they sound nummy)...
Before rolling it up, sprinkle on top of the sugar & cinnamon;
Chopped rehydrated dried cherries
diced fresh apple (I think a tart one like macintosh would be lovely)
chopped pecans
wild blueberries (if using frozen, thaw and drain well first)

I made it last night, it was ready at midnight and its already gone :O

Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter CSA Week 1: Fast & Easy Potatoes and Kale

I've done a number of CSA's in the past and I shamefully admit that I am HORRIBLE at using it all up. My family and I are not big on veggies, so I finally stopped doing summer CSAs. Winter ones still suck me in though ... mmmm, potatoes, onions, rootie goodness :)

(Wondering what a CSA is?)

Today's challenge: Find a kale recipe (other than my portuguese kale soup) that makes me WANT to cook

I halved the amounts below and came up with four side-dish sized servings and served it with fresh-out-of-the-oven artisan white bread. I absolutely loved it, as did my husbnd and three year old. Five year old may never forgive my insistance that she try a tiny bite. Three out of four ain't bad though! See below recipe for notes.

Braised Kale & Red Potatoes from Cooking Light 11/05

6 cups coarsely chopped kale (about 1 pound)
3 cups cubed red potato (about 1 pound)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Combine first 4 ingredients in a skillet; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 minutes. Uncover; cook over high heat until water evaporates. Spoon kale mixture into a bowl; set aside, and keep warm.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add pepper and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Spoon over vegetables; toss.
Notes: If you use fresh garlic, slice extremely fine and cook until well softened but not brown - if its thicker or raw in the middle it has an unpleasant bite with this dish. I used sea salt and added more after cooking. I also barely used any red pepper as my three year old doesn't like it.

I am so happy I found a kale recipe that was super easy AND absolutely yummy!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Slow-cooker Garlic Apple Chicken. Maybe.

Well, this was completely winging it.

Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahha. Sorry. It's that kind of day. You know the days ... the ones where you actually have to wrestle the chicken into the crockpot as the kids come up and demonstrate their ability to make your eyeballs spin around in your skull.

Anywho, I have no idea if this is any good but I'll post when we eat it. Assuming the kids don't blow the place up first...

1 chicken : (yeah, no kidding)
1 head garlic, all cloves peeled & smashed (hint, do this the BEFORE you have a naked chicken balanced in a bowl that is too small, about to tip on the floor)
1-2 granny smith apples, chunked
Rosemary (fresh, powdered or finely crushed dried - I use powdered or fresh)
Sea salt
Ground pepper
Penseys Sunny Paris seasoning (if you want to approximate this blend it contains: shallots, chives, green peppercorns, dill, basil, tarragon, chervil & bay leaf - wing it, I think the biggest flavors are the first five)
Beer, margarita or frosty cold beverage of your choice.

Preheat crockpot on high while you are prepping chicken.
Season chicken inside and out well with, well, all the seasonings.
Slide garlic cloves under skin on breast. Slice some apple chunks into thinner pieces, sprinkle with rosemary & Sunny Paris. Slide under skin on breast.
Stuff cavity with garlic & apple chunks.
Dump in pot, cook on high until done - I just put it in for 6 hrs and call it a day.

Send kids to their room for the destruction of the living room, sit down and drink frosty beverage. Repeat as needed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Precious words.

It says, "I yuv you. Since I yuv you, I bake bwead. Bwead's done! The end."

Maddie, age 3, looking through my bread cookbook

Cozy morning cinnamon rolls

A friend pointed me in the direction of this recipe for mini-cinnamon rolls. I adapted it to make larger ones...

NOTE: This recipe requires rolling out dough. For a person with fibromyalgia or similar issues, dough-rolling relegates this recipe into the "only on good days" category. I found it took far more exertion than I anticipated.

Cozy Morning Cinnamon Rolls
Roughly 1lb bread dough*
1/2c brown sugar
2 tbl butter
2 tbl cinnamon
addl butter or shortening to grease pan

* Can substitute prepackaged biscuit, pizza or croissant dough. Follow baking directions on package instead of times below.

Prepare pan by greasing bottom & sides. I use a 3in high cast iron skillet but a muffin tin or a round or square cake pan would also work.
Roll out dough in a roughly rectangular shape about 1/4 inch thick.
Sprinkle brown sugar & cinnamon from edge to edge, leaving a 1 inch margin on one long side of the rectangle.
Cut butter into small chunks and scatter across top.
Starting with the opposite long side from the topping-free margin begin snugly rolling the dough into a tube.
Pinch along edge to seal dough.
Using a sharp knife, cut into roughly 2 inch sections and set in pan with the spiral side visible on top. I like mine to touch so I always snug them in around the edge of the pan.
Allow to rise 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F
bake 35-45 minutes.

Remove from pan immediately before caramel hardens.

Allow to cool until the filling won't blister your tongue (or cool all the way - your call) and enjoy. If you like a glaze on these, mix confectioners sugar with milk or cream until its just a bit thinner than cake batter. Put in a plastic bag and make a teeny snip in the corner of the bag so you can pipe on easily. Sorry I don't have proportions on the glaze but I'm out of confectioners sugar. I would start with 1/3c confectioners sugar and go from there.

Hi,my name is Melissa...

... and I am addicted to Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day.

I've been struggling for the last year with my decreasing level of functioning - that's no secret. Like many people I'm a time-filler. When I was home alone with my first daughter I tried a number of neat, stimulating work from home jobs to keep myself other-than-momming fulfilled. I never wanted a full-time job as I love being home with my kids, but I always seemed to poke around for little extra things to keep me challenged.

Well now I'm benched. I closed my business, can't continue working in my past fields and am applying for disability.

I've spent a lot of time feeling various things - glum, lost, even guilty. I come from a family of entrepreneurs on both sides, going back as far as we can identify. When I lost my ability to work, I needed to reframe my sense of worth. The biggest challenge for me is my loss of independence. It's humbling to suddenly need assistance doing all the things were proud of accomplishing independently.

One day a precious friend introduced me to the book I linked above. I don't think either of us expected what followed. I picked up the book and some yeast and mixed up a batch of dough. No kneading, no long periods of standing in the kitchen, no complicated recipes or rising times that challenge my fuzzy thinking and poor memory. And then there was bread. GOOD bread, not passable bread machine bread. AMAZING bread.

Many folks know the feeling of amazing satisfaction that comes from handing their family something warm and nourishing and watching them enjoy it. This baking method has given me back my independence, contentment and satisfaction in the kitchen, given me away to create without triggering a flare or using up my small reserves of energy.

I never thought I could find healing in a cookbook! My special thanks to Paul, who never grumbles about running out for yeast and flour ... I couldn't do it without him.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


In herbalism, the practice of simpling is a learning technique. The student chooses one herb and learns it in as many possible applications and forms as possible. The learning, using, exploring, continues until the student practically OWNS the herb. And then, only then, do they consider learning another. This approach also applies to remedies ... for one who practices simpling, a single-herb tisane may be the first line of treating a condition.

I forget to simple.

I studied herbalism at home for years before my daughter was born, learning by simpling. When I became pregnant I became concerned about herbal safety during pregnancy and was too overwhelmed to seek out a trained herbalist to guide me. Unwilling to let go of my experiences, I translated them into homeopathy ... many homeopathic remedies are derived from the same substances I was already using.

But then I became a mom. When you are a first time mom to a sobbing underweight colicky babe with reflux, food sensitivities, and sensory issues, you need to be super human to not be tempted to throw everything possible at the problem.

I really tried simpling with homeopathy with her but we couldn't find the right remedy. So we tried homeopathic blends. And herbal teas. And mainstream meds. And more mainstream meds. And elaborate elimination diets.

I understand where I got lost and honestly, I don't fault myself at all. She was close to failure-to-thrive and not sleeping for more than 30m stretches.

Then one day I fell asleep next to her ... and she slept 2 hrs. For over a week I slept on the hard living room floor next to her, afraid to bring her into my bed ... but when I finally did, she slept four hours.

It was simple. It wasn't white noise, a swing, Daddy swinging the car seat, driving in the car, music, nightlights, NO light ... it was the simple answer.

I keep forgetting about simpling.

Today I was making apple cranberry sauce in my crockpot. When I broke out my mother's recipe a little while ago I was all cocky about The Best Cranberry Apple Sauce ever. Except that it didn't taste like moms. Maybe b/c hers is cooked stovetop? Regardless, I started letting go of the recipe and just enjoying the ingredients.

Hmmm ... lemon juice. Why lemon? Carrot-orange juice with some orange peel might work.

Macintosh apples were too tart. Let's try some gala and honeycrisp in there to.

Maybe go lighter on the cranberries so I don't need as much sugar?

Needs more texture. Try leaving skin on? Too much ... try leaving skin on one third of the apples. Perfect!

I began to connect with something I had let go of. Anyone who reads this knows I wing most recipes but for some reason this reminded me of that dusty section of knowledge I had patiently gathered. Blackberry leaf, raspberry leaf, catnip, plantain, oatstraw, passionflower, calendula, marshmallow root, slippery elm, red clover, alfalfa, stevia, peppermint, rose hips, garlic, onions, honey, lavender, chamomile, eucalyptus, ginger, cumin, cayenne ... and of course, my precious lemon balm.

What else have I misplaced? What other comforting homespun ways have I put aside? And how can I continue to stay in touch with the comforting, grounding practice of simpling, in all things?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My version of gluten free shepard's pie - YMMV

There are as many versions of shepard's pie as there are, well, tomato sauce. I'm not sure if my kids will like this but DH and I do so its a fun one to make once in a while. All seasoning/condiment measurements are to taste.

12-15 baby red bliss potatoes, quartered (I leave skin on)
2 tbl butter
Cream or milk

4 cloves garlic chopped, 3-4 cloves whole
1.5-2lbs ground beef
Emeril's essence seasoning blend or seasonings of your choice
1 onion chopped
1 small can or 1 cup GF tomato sauce
1/8-1/3c GF ketchup (optional)
1-2tbl soy sauce or tamari
Additional seasonings to taste - I use paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder & parsley
1 can vaccum packed corn or 1/2-1c frozen corn kernels
1/2-1c frozen baby peas
Shredded cheese, italian bread crumbs

Put water on to boil for potatoes. When boiling, add potatoes and WHOLE GARLIC CLOVES to water & cook 15-20m until pierced easily w/a fork. Drain & set aside.
Season ground beef, then brown over med high heat
Drain then add onions & chopped garlic. Stir well. Cook until onions are slightly softened.
Add tomato sauce, ketchup & soy sauce. Stir in additional seasonings. Allow to cook on med to med high heat until sauce is a bit reduced. Turn to low.
Preheat oven to 325.
Mash potatoes to your preference - I like them lumpy with butter, cream & a bit of garlic salt & parsely.
Mix corn and peas into meat.

Spoon meat mixture into a large deep dish pie pan or a large pyrex baking dish (you may need more potatoes to cover this). Top with potatoes, spreading to make a top 'crust'. Sprinkle liberally with shredded cheese - we used mild cheddar, sharp cheddar & mozzarella tonite b/c that was what I had. Sprinkle more parsley, onion powder, paprika and a small amt of crushed black pepper on top of cheese. Top with italian bread crumbs.

If you can't find GF breadcrumbs, just crush your favorite crackers finely in a blender and add parsley, basil, oregano, garlic powder & paprika.

Bake for 20m, serve warm :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Swooooooon .... TDF chicken salad

Sometime I'll post my usual recipe for chicken salad (I only make it every few months) but today I had to modify it. My usual recipe is fairly heavily seasoned and I was concerned with the rich flavors of last night's Lemon Garlic Chicken wouldn't work with it. As usual, my quantities are fairly vague - mix each in and taste as you go.

I always debone the entire chicken (except legs and wings) as soon as it is cook to the touch. Its exausting for me but if I don't do it ASAP I won't do it at all, and some of it ends up going to waste.

Lemon Garlic Chicken Salad
Left over deboned Lemon Garlic chicken
Dijon mustard (I like Grey Poupon Country b/c it has some whole seeds)
Onion powder
Sea Salt
Fresh ground pepper

Depending on my mood I either chop the chicken into chunks or mash it tuna-sandwich-like.

If chopping into chunks, mix all dressing ingredients in a separate bowl or mug and and then gently stir into chicken. This chicken is so tender that too much stirring will destroy the chunks.

If mashing it, just add, stir, taste, repeat.

I like this on soft honey oatmeal or honey wheat bread with baby spinach and maybe some halved grape tomatoes. The Lemon Garlic chicken has such a great flavor that adding any strong flavors - fresh onion, celery, apple - just don't do it justice. Its a nice easy comfort food that still tastes grown up.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lemon Garlic Chicken num num num

There are three ways to cook this recipe - roasted in the oven, pot-roasted in a dutch oven and in a slowcooker.

Roasted in the oven will give you your traditional, firm, carvable chicken with crispy skin. Pot roasting gives you the opportunity to crisp the skin and create lovely golden flavor bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan. This gives the chicken a slightly more dynamic flavor. Slowcooking has the benefits of being able to leave the house but also (from my point of view) requires less standing time. It won't be your pretty Martha Stewart carvable bird but it will be fragrant, well flavored and moist :)

I can't tell ya what temperature or time to use on the roast or pot roasted recipes, but base your cooking of any standard roast chicken recipes.

Lemon Garlic Chicken
Whole chicken (thawed if from frozen)
2 lemons
1 head of garlic
2 -4 ribs of celery
rosemary, salt, pepper (and sage or ground sumac berries if you have)* note on spices/herbs below

Get your slowcooker preheating on the temp you desire. Place 1/3 of the lemon chunks and 1-2 ribs in bottom of slowcooker and replace lid while preparing rest of ingredients.

Cut one lemon into chunks, the other into thin slices. Peel ALL the cloves of garlic.
Salt & pepper the inside and out of the chicken well.

Inside the cavity:
If using fresh rosemary & sage, line the cavity of the chicken with rosemary. If using powdered or crushed rosemary & sage, sprinkle lightly in the cavity. If using sumac berries, sprinkle 2-3 pinches in the cavity.

Insert half the garlic cloves and 2/3 of the lemon chunks into the cavity of the chicken.
Insert 1-2 ribs of celery into the cavity. This is a great place to use celery greens or the tiny hearts of celery - the flavor is amazing in chicken.

Under the skin:
Slip your fingers between the skin on the breast and the breast meat, carefully separating it to create another cavity. You can also do this on the legs if you are so inclined.

If using fresh rosemary and sage slip under the skin first. If using powdered or crushed herbs & spices, sprinkle the lemon slices generously with rosemary and sage. If using sumac, sprinkle about 2 pinches of ground berries over ALL the lemon slices - too much sumac is very intense. Slip the lemon slices and remaining garlic cloves under the skin.

Place chicken in the slowcooker on top of the lemon chunks and celery ribs. Cook until done.

You could also bake chicken breasts in these seasonings in the oven. I think it would be a lovely fast variation. I hesitate to suggest trying the breasts in the crockpot as I think the flavors would be too intense.

* Note on spices/herbs
I have very specific tastes when it comes to herbs & spices ... feel free to substitute with abandon unless I put in a specific note about why I use a particular type or brand.

Salt - I prefer to use sea salt in all my recipes - I like the taste, texture and lower sodium. Please note that it does not contain iodine like traditional table salt. Iodine was added to table salt to decrease the occurance of iodine deficiency which can cause thyroid problems.

Pepper - I use fresh ground. It's a completely different taste than traditional ground pepper.

Rosemary - I love using fresh but my cat eats all my herb plants and I don't use it often enough to justify purchasing it fresh. A nice alternative is powdered rosemary - I use Frontier, available at most natural food stores. I've always hated dried whole and crushed rosemary ... powdered has the wonderful flavor without the crunchy bits :

Sage - Fresh, whole dried or powdered ... all work equally well in this recipe. I do like the flexibility of the powdered. I couldn't find my sage today however :

Sumac Berries - Well dang this stuff is AMAZING. I use Penzy's Turkish Ground Sumac Berries. You only need a tiny pinch. The flavor is intense and can easily over power your dish but is an amazing compliment to chicken. Definitely a fun one to experiment with.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Goodies in the crockpots on a drizzly fall day...

I ADORE drizzly fall days. They make me want to bake and cook and snuggle in my favorite couch corner. Sadly I have only 2 hrs to do that today so I decided to fill my crockpots. With a long morning and a wake in the evening, I need to be careful with my energy so I can get through the day.

Today was my co-op morning at Maddie's preschool. Considering that she has been having a very very difficult time separating, I went through crazy contortions to make sure she didn't know I was there. Until... I was taking two little girls to the bathroom and who do I hear coming through the door? To quote Miss Donna Maddie's teacher, "Oh NUTS". We did some fast talking - I expressed my excitement about Maddie's class making applesauce, we can make some at home tonight and GEE she should hurry up and wash hands so she doesn't miss out!

Sooooo... in crockpot #1 we have:

My version of Jane Baker's Apple Cranberry Sauce (GLUTEN Free)
6 med apples, peeled, cored & sliced
1c fresh rinsed cranberries (frozen ok)
1/2c brown sugar (she uses 2/3c white sugar, my mom uses 1/2c white sugar)
1 tbl lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2c brown sugar

Cook until tender - can be done on stove or in crockpot. Excellent served warm or chilled.
(total standing in kitchen time, 15m - can be shorter if you do not have two year old help)

And in crockpot #2 we have

Honey Teriyaki Chicken Breasts
2 whole boneless chicken breasts or 4-6 cutlets
half a bottle of KC Masterpiece Honey Teryaki marinade (substitute GF teryaki sauce)
3 chopped scallions
1/2c beef or chicken broth
2 cloves garlic
1/2tsp of cumin seeds or 1/4tsp-1/2tsp cumin powder
2 shakes of powdered ginger

Cook until chicken is done (I have set it on low with plans to eat it in about 6hrs)

Would you rather experiment with homemade teriyaki sauces? They are simple to make. Play around with the following ingredients:
Tamari or soy sauce
fresh garlic
preferably fresh ginger but if all you have is powdered, go for it
cumin - go lightly or it will overpower the sauce
honey or dark brown sugar
white vinegar
lemon juice
crushed pinapple w/juice

Mix your marinade in a bowl or large measuring cup and add ingredients TO TASTE. If you just dump everything on the chicken you can't taste it.

And if you like a little zing, add a hint of cayenne pepper or chili sauce. Remember that in a crock pot spices get a bit concentrated so you are better off going low on those and adding more to the finished dish if needed.

I love knowing how to make teriyaki from scratch ... doing it for years has helped me figure out how to doctor store-bought marinades when I just can't stand or think long enough to do one from scratch.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hoooo Baby Chocolate Chip Pie

I have a friend on Facebook and The Babywearer who occasionally posts amaaaaaaazing recipe links. Generally I can find an excuse for not making them but this time... well just check out this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie on



I tweak everything, so here is my version of it, based on what I had handy. I'm allergic to nuts so I did some fancy footwork to substitute for the pecans. I would also like try this with a Nilla wafer crust and crushed graham crackers subbing for the nuts.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie (original version on, from Nestle Classic Recipes, 2003

1 unbaked 9-inch graham cracker pie shell
2 large eggs
1/4c all-purpose flour
1/8c whole wheat flour
1/8c Quaker rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1/2c granulated sugar (I used turbinado sugar b/c its all I had)
1/2c packed brown sugar
3/4c (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1c (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/2c crushed vanilla sandwich cookies
1/4c shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 F.
Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high until foamy.
Beat in flours, oats, sugars. Beat in butter.
Stir in morsels, cookies and coconut. Spoon into pie shell.
Bake for 55-60 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm.

This took 10m standing time in the kitchen.

I haven't tasted it yet but I'll post when I have a review ;)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's pudding, guys, I swear...

My kids had a weird day and ended up eating at totally different times. Drives me crazy because someone is ALWAYS hungry in the middle of the night but its mainly due to their conflicting school schedules ... not much I can do about that.

Last night my older goober woke me up starving at 4am. I vaguely remember something about a box of wheat crackers and "Yeah sure, as much as you want". Not by best mothering moment.

Anywho I decided to give them something filling as a bedtime snack. And I lied and called it pudding :D Yeah baby.

Faux Grapenut Pudding (two small servings)

1/2c Grapenuts cereal
2/3c milk
1Tbp brown sugar (or a roughly equivalent amount of maple syrup, brown rice syrup etc)

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan. DO NOT WALK AWAY. Heat to a boil, stirring well. Stir/cook until milk is almost all aborbed and cereal is thick (only a few minutes). Let cool - this stuff is blisteringly hot.

Ta Da!


WHEEEEEEEEE! I have finished my first knit sock! Considering I have never ever ever finished a long craft project, this is a big deal. I am extremely grateful to Amy and Jenn who recommended I cast on the 2nd sock at the same time as the first, so that I am not left alone with one orphan sock.

So here it is ... the very reason I learned to knit...
Are you on You can see the pattern for this and other projects I've completed in my notebook.
Some things about this project. I used Crystal Palace Puffin yarn. It is fleece yarn - not remotely ideal for socks, but ideal for me for the initial time I try a project. Why? Because it doesn't split, is easy to see and easy to handle.
Some websites that I used in this particular project (other than the ravelry pattern):

Fast & Yummy Homemade Mac & Cheese

My littlest girl differentiates between boxed mac & cheese (macawoni and theese) and homemade mac & cheese (pathta thee-thee-theese) and has definite preferences depending on the day. Today she asked for homemade mac & cheese and the result was so good that I had a bowl myself :)

Enough elbow mac for two servings (I used Ronzoni Smart Taste today - it has a great texture to me)
One sandwich size slice of sharp cheddar (or enough sliced cheddar to cover a slice of bread)
1/8-1/4c preshredded mild cheddar
1/8-1/4c preshredded mozzarella
1tsp-1tbl butter
1 tsp dijon mustard (I used Grey Poupon Harvest Dijon b/c I like whole mustard seeds)
Milk, cream or water as needed

Boil pasta as directed - I did 7m for firm pasta.
Drain well and return to the hot pot. Add cheese and butter and stir until well blended (will be stiff).
Add mustard and splashes of liquid (milk, cream or water) ... stir well. Continue to add more liquid until it reaches desired consistancy.

Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum. Its a good thing I didn't make more of this ... I totally would have eaten enough to regret it :D

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mmmmmm ... baked ziti!

Baked zitis vary as much as pizzas do. I have a basic recipe that a play around with but the framework is always the same. This makes one large glass pan full. If you want more, don't overload the pan ... just make a 2nd pan or an extra smaller pan full.

1 lb penne
12 blocks of mozzarella (or 2-4c pre-shredded*)
3-5 cups tomato sauce

preshredded cheddar, mozzarella & parmagian - can also add in asagio, romano
your favorite italian seasonings - I use basil, parsely & black pepper

Cut the mozarella into 1inch cubes - smaller if you prefer. *Shredded mozarella is ok but doesn't bake the same.

Cook the penne for 2min less than instructed on package while preheating the oven to 375. Strain well and pour into pan.

Mix chopped mozarella into penne. Mix in 3-5 cups of sauce. 3 cups will produce a drier dish, more saucey. I actually prefer to use 4 but never remember to save or warm up extra sauce so I just use 5 cups initially. Stir well to coat all the pasta. Top with additional shredded cheese to create a layer of cheese on top. Sprinkle seasonings lightly over shredded cheese.

Bake 20min minimum ... until cheese is well melted and bubbly. If you like your cheese browned on top either cook longer at 375, turn up heat to 450 or (if you have an in-oven broiler) turn on broiler and watch closely.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How to fix acidic tomato sauce. And then ruin it. And then fix it again.

I'm half italian so making a good tomato sauce (or at least, good to me and my husband) is just something you work at until you get it right. No one ever makes a sauce just like their mother, grandmother, sister or aunt ... and that's ok.

My sister in law taught me a terrific trick for fixing sauce when its just too acidic. You add 1-2 pinches of baking soda... it neutralizes the extra acid.

Here is a fun experiment next time you are making sauce. Get two mugs or bowls and add a cup of sauce to each. Then add a pinch of baking soda to one, a teaspoon full to the other. Mix well, let sit for 5m, stir again and then taste (comparing to your own sauce w/no baking soda). The one with a pinch is slightly less acidic.

The one with too much?


Valuable lesson.

Without acid, you basically have warm herbed tomato juice. Horrific. Unless you have vodka and you like that kind of thing...

When attempting this on a real pot of sauce for repair purposes, add a pinch or two, stir well and THEN COOK MORE ... like another 20 minutes. Cooking reduces the acidity as well. If you over-neutralize initially then it's just going to get worse.

And that brings us to tonite.

I haven't been able to stand at the stove long enough to make sauce in almost a year, and frankly, I can't now. But fall means warm snuggly stews and pasta dishes for me. I just HAD to do it. I decided (aahahaha ... my first mistake) to make a big pot of my serious meat sauce and freeze alot. 2lbs of top of the round, 5 chicken sausages, an onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 3-28oz cans of tomatoes ... and all the seasonings etc.

Rule #1. When you haven't made a red sauce in a year MAKE A SMALL BATCH.

I was using Pastene tomatos which I keep buying b/c my mom and grandmother do but they are just too acidic for me. So ... I added a bit of baking soda. Still acidic. Added some more cooked a while. Still acidic. So I decided to add some more...

Rule #2. If a little voice says, Wow, I don't usually need THIS much X ... listen.

Rule #3. Never shake an ingredient from its container DIRECTLY into your pot. You're just asking for someone to be standing by waiting for a youtube moment.

Needless to say I was now faced with a GINORMOUS crockpot filled with ... warm tomato juice.


I tried adding a wee bit of apple cider vinegar. Warm vinegary tomato juice.

I tried adding a small can of Hunts tomato sauce, kept on hand for chili emergencies. Slightly better but still scary.

I tried adding a can of petite diced tomatoes, also kept on hand for chili emergencies. Chunky warm vinegary tomato juice.

I tried adding a bit soysauce (Cooks Illustrated recommends adding just a little of this to meat sauces to enhance the meaty flavor - works great) and a bit of shredded parmagian. Its ok but not my sauce.

At this point I gave up. I knew the only salvation for this was to add another big honking 28 oz can of tomatos. Tooooooooooo the filled completely up to the lid crockpot. Sigh. So I decanted 4 cups worth of warm chunky vinegary tomato juice into another container and added another can of tomatoes ... which I should have done in the first place. Then I added proportional amounts of all my little add-ins and seasonings. Except the meat ... good grief that pot didn't need more meat. And...


I walked away. 20 minutes later it is dang near perfect... except for that odd bite of something...

Which I am going to studiously ignore :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grown Up Salsa Chicken

This is a goofy variation of the original salsa chicken recipe I posted here. We'll see how it goes...

4-5 pieces of chicken breast
one sm jar salsa (medium heat)
one can petite diced tomatoes
1-2t tbl dried diced onions
1-2 cups chicken stock
1/3+c cream (I ran out)
cumin & chili powder to your preference
1-2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2/3c Frontier Fiesta Black Bean Mix
Optional garnishes; shredded cheddar, chopped scallions, finely diced red onion, fresh chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 400F
Put chicken in large glass or similar baking dish
Mix all remaining ingredients in a small bowl, allow to sit 5-10m
Pour over chicken, making sure to get plenty UNDER and ON TOP of chicken

Bake 40 minutes, occasionally spooning salsa mixture over chicken to keep moist. If it gets to dry, remove from oven. Add more chicken stock and mix well into sauce, spooning over chicken. Repeat as needed.
Turn oven down to 350 and bake 20 more minutes.

Serve as is with a side dish or serve over rice. Also good sliced and served with tortillas.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Deconstruction of a Huff.

Yes, its nearly one a.m. and here I am sitting on the couch in a huff. Not one of my most mature moves ever, but hey, at least I had a long nap today.

So what the heck happened? I'm going to try writing this out with specifics and then revising it to be more global, not about the minutae but about me.

I had a disagreement with someone and they ignored me rather than acknowledge what I was saying. Sigh.

So why did I get so upset? That's why I'm writing ... to try to figure out my end.

I know a few things really upset me.

~ We had an agreement they ignored it just hours later. This bothers me because I feel like they don't take commitments to me seriously.

I want to matter. I want to be taken seriously and see it in people's actions.

~ Its about a choice, a compromise. If they refuse to compromise to protect their physical comfort, I am caused pain and lose function.

Compromise is an action that shows my needs matter.

~ I feels like they just don't REMEMBER what triggers pain in me.

Remembering is an action that shows I matter.

~ They used silence to avoid showing me they were hearing me, they did not acknowledge my frustration.

Acknowledging that I am heard and understood shows I matter.

~They ignored attempts to discuss it and would not share their side.

Having a dialogue with me, even an angry one, until we reach a conclusion shows I matter.

~ I'm afraid we will end up estranged like we were before.

I am afraid of not being taken seriously. I am afraid of not mattering again.

I'm really hurt from experiencing a period where I didn't matter and not sure how to feel safe again.

Feeling like people take me seriously is something I have always struggled with.

Silver Lining.

This past year has been unspeakably hard for many reasons. A special person asked me, can you see a positive to your illness?

I thought about it. And answered No.

That was unusual for me ... growing up I could always find the silver lining in my illnesses.

Today I had an appointment with a rheumatologist. After having a medical student take a detailed history from me and doing a cursory 30 second exam, she spent 15 minutes mocking me, emphasizing the need for me to 'pursue psychiatric care' and finally going as far to say that I didn't really NEED the cane. According to this woman who did not test my balance or leg strength, I 'felt the need for something comforting to hold onto'. I was using it as a proverbial crutch. No pun intended.

I held my composure and dignity until I reached the hallway ... and then I sobbed for a very long time.

I became angry and I looked at myself. Then I had a really big margarita and took a nap. And then I looked at myself some more.

I am not weak. I am not bringing this on myself. I am a brave strong woman who parented her children alone for months, despite being more disabled than ever. I stood by my husband while he walked through the darkest valleys of his soul. I consciously chose to work on my self issues to better support myself, my children and my husband without enabling. I reached out for professional, spiritual and social support whenever I needed it.

We are a healthy strong family unit because I chose to keep us strong and because my husband accepted my decisions and support.

I'm no longer angry or defiant at you, Doctor.

Doctor, I am grateful to you for showing me the silver lining. I sincerely hope you gently find the wholeness you need to see your patients with more compassion. No one with joy and peace in their hearts could look at a woman who is clearly holding back tears and continue to hurt her. I hope you find what you are missing. Thanks for the perspective.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The hard part. And extra credit.

Assignment 1)
Make a list of the ways this physical condition is serving you.

(Gah. Can't I stall some more? Fuss with the spellchecker and formatting a bit?)

~ I enjoy being with my kids.
~ I am afraid of failing at "being a grownup" ... being ill gives me an excuse for not having to do certain things, for mistakes I make.
~ I'm used to things as they are, its comfortable ... I am afraid of failing if I am forced to try new things
~ I have a thirst to be different, to stand out in a crowd. I used to be that person because of my carriers. I don't know who I will be if I am healthy. Who will like me? What will be my buffer?
~ I have always had trouble concentrating on a job, succeeding at a job, finding my niche. I'm so tired and beaten down by years of feeling listless and mediocre in my jobs.
~ I have a childish craving (image: three year old sulking and stamping a foot) for playtime, me-time, indulgence ... I've tried to fill it by goofing off at work, shopping too much. When I'm sick I can goof off. But for some reason it doesn't fill the need. I don't feel better. I just feel empty.
~ When I'm sick I don't have to do deep self-work.
~ When I'm sick I have less home/family responsibilities.
~ When I'm sick I can insist we all stay home.
~ Maybe there ISN'T a niche for me - when I am sick I don't have to feel lost.
~ Maybe there is something inadequate, lacking, dependent in me - when I am sick I am protected from looking at that.
~ I feel like I am playing dressup as a grown up, like I don't really know what to do, how to do it. I'm afraid people notice if i'm not sick.

There may be more - it makes me sick and jittery to look at this. Part of me wonders if I am really SEEING all there is or just quickly glimpsing into that black pit and drawing a rough sketch of what I see because I am too weak to really climb down there and LOOK at it all.
~ When I am sick I have an excuse for being weak.

Now, for extra credit.
1b) WHY does revealing this disturb me so intensely?
~ I'm horribly afraid of not measuring up
~ I'm desperately, nauseatingly afraid of my friends and family thinking of me as "less", "lazy", "not trying hard enough", "immature", "unreliable", "needy", "selfcentered", "dependent"
~ I'm afraid healthy people will misunderstand this. I'm afraid people won't understand that these are normal, common feelings for someone in my kind of limbo.
~ I'm afraid they will think I am bringing this on myself, mind over matter, psychosomatically ... and that they won't understand that I desperately want to live to see my children grow up. I don't WANT to miss their lives. I don't WANT to have these tests come back with a scary prognosis.

If you have read this much, please know that you are looking into a little basement closet. We all have them ... most people just aren't brave enough to clean them out. I DO want to be healthy. I want to go to the zoo with my kids again. I want to chase them at the park and push them on the swings. I'm not a monster who wants to be ill because they gain from it.

But I am an honest person. And I admit that there is that small closet, full of bits of me that benefit from my being ill.

Self Discovery ... facing the ugly stuff.

A very special person has given me some homework. Something many disabled or chronically ill people would never admit is that there is a tiny part of them that doesn't want to or is afraid to be healthy.

I know that sounds disgusting ... like its implying people who are happy to get that golden goose back injury and "enjoy" disability payments. I'm not talking about those (mythical?) people. I'm talking about everyday folks who live with depression, bipolar disease, fibromyalgia, MS ... BIG life altering conditions. I'm sure almost all would jump at the chance to recover but there is that tiny little voice/fear/reluctance...

I've thought about that little voice for a while but didn't speak it out loud until my firewalk this summer. Now I need to explore it more.

It's anxiety provoking to look at ugly parts of yourself. Its really scary to post it publicly, but I kind of do well with facing big things head on. I walked on hot coals after all :)

Yes. I am stalling.

I hope those who read this can accept this me being brave ... and not see this as a gratuitous sharing of something ugly....

So coming up:
1) Make a list of the ways this physical condition is serving you.
2) Make a list or consider other ways you might get these needs met.
3) Journal to the healthy part of you and ask her what she needs to feel safe. (you could do this as a free writing exercise, in other words, begin with an intention to dialogue with that part of you that lives in health, and begin with writing a question to her like "what is it that you need to feel safe?" and then disconnect from the rational part of you and let the pen go wild not worrying about what the words are or where they are coming from.

I tell my children that being brave is not the absence of fear. It is doing what needs to be done DESPITE fear.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

TMI. Now what?

I'm watching my two little girls play house in our living room with too much information in my hands.

I recently had another MRI - a redo of the first because they weren't able to get enough information from it. In my area of the US, standard practice for diagnostic test results is that the testing centers do not release the results directly to the patient. In most cases, the patient has to wait until they hear from the doctor - by phone, letter (for good results) or at their next appointment.

After the MRI had a week and half wait for my appointment :

I devised the perfect plan ... I called the MRI center and told them that I needed printouts of all of my reports for my disability application (true). The nice lady there said SURE, in fact I'll be sure to get your report read today so you can pick up this afternoon.

I called that afternoon however and the story had changed.

"I'm sorry ... it is center policy that we cannot release test results to the patient. You must wait to get them from your clinician."

Sooooo ... one of two possibilities had occurred. 1) She got hollered at by her supervisor, or 2) the smudges I had seen on my MRI were not just smudges.

I asked if she could drop them in the mail to me so that I could get them to my disability claims person. She agreed ... and she did.

So now I am sitting here, looking at this paper ... which is quite clearly Possibility #2.

Now what?

Before you go scolding me on being a non-medical person who shouldn't try to interpret my results,you should know that I'm not. My undergrad degree was in Behavioral Neuroscience. My grad degree was in Child Life in Family Centered Care - helping children cope with medical issues. I've worked both as a researching Medical Librarian and as a Certified Child Life Specialist. And I *know* not to interpret my results.

I know that I have no idea what an elevated C-RAP blood test result means ... and it stops at that.

But I can read a report and understand clinical findings. Especially when it is written in plain english that they found X, and that it is consistent with A, but also possibly consistent with B, C, or D.

And A, B, C and D aren't fun. They aren't cancer, but they kinda suck. Big time.

I'm not going to try to sit here and think about the future ... what this could mean, which one I might have. That is what my appointment in 8 days is for.

Right now I just have to cope with a tiny conundrum ... TMI. TMI in my hot little hands. I don't dare post on Facebook about it - my whole extended family is on there. I don't dare tell my mother and don't really want to burden my siblings about it. I honestly don't feel the need to "unburden" myself right now, so that's good. It's just weird to be sitting here on my brown ikea couch that I bought with Tina, watching my children play and knowing there is something wrong in my brain.

It actually a bit comfortable ... to know that I don't have to deal with it yet. I don't HAVE to tell my mother yet, and watch her pain. I don't have to start researching treatments.

I have eight days where I can relax ... I know EXACTLY what my results say and I don't have to live that life yet.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I've never understood our society's weird perception of grief.

Media ogles unique and exotic griefs. Empathetic strangers share, remotely, safely, the griefs of celebrated popular figures. Yet when it comes to our own griefs, our own losses ... we have no blueprint.

During my graduate degree I was blessed to intern with a children's loss/bereavement homecare program. The words of my advisor resonate with me daily.

There are many griefs in our lives ... the loss of a dream, the loss of a love, the loss of someone we hold in our heart. Many folks think "sadness", "death" when they hear the word grief but for me it is less ominous. Griefs can be those disappointments that hurt our hearts, the fear of pain to come...

There are many ways to cope with grief - too many to count - and no one person can judge the healthiness of one over the other.

One thing my advisor pointed out to me that is irrefutable, however, is the impact that grief has on our Circles.

Who is in your circle? Do you have a large family, a few very close friends, a spiritual community? Are you active in online communities? How does your grief affect your Circles?

When grief strikes most people respond in one of two ways ... some reach out to their circles, often even reaching out to create wider support circles. And others close their circles, connecting closer with those safest for them.

For some communication is therapeutic ... the worse it gets the more they reach out, lean on their widening circle. For others communication is draining ... the worse it gets the more the griever needs to just cuddle their children and turn off the phone.

I observed families through many variations on these themes. Over time I began to observe my own habits. What are yours?

When my griefs are wrenching but I can wrap my head around them - miscarriage, a bone graft, the loss of trust in a loved one - I reach out, widen my circle.

When my griefs are harder to grasp - the impact my health will have on me and my family - I close my circles.

I wish we talked more about grief with kids, with each other. I have so many dear friends who want to know what they can do, how they can help ... its especially hard to grasp if you have never closed your circles yourself. I just need them to know that I love them for loving me and that I am doing ok. This type of coping isn't about denial - neither denial of the problem nor denial of our need for support.

I'm not sitting here grieving over my fears. I'm loving my children, enjoying the energy I have. It's scary, not knowing something so big, that will impact my babies. But I know you are there if I need you :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wacky snacks and experimenting on my kids...

My sweet friend Jenn has been kind enough to drop off extra CSA veggies every so often this summer and we have been absolutely gorging on tomatos, peaches and the like.

Tonite I felt a bit fiesty, however.

On the menu are:

Dinosaur shaped PB&Js (no I am not that artsy - I found a dino sandwich cutter in the dollar section)
Fresh edamame (instructions)
Fresh beets (instructions) ... and yes, I know there are a million other scrummy ways to serve them (you say) but see below.

Why is this so wacky?

A) I have never even SEEN fresh edamame let alone cooked it ... and my Audrey hated it the one time she tasted it 2 yrs ago.

B) I. Hate. Beets. Not only do I hate beets, but I have never prepared beets AND some of the more academic members of my family once did a bit of research and concluded that there is actually a genetic predisposition for disliking beets. For more info and some neat homeschool resources, check out this info on Super Tasters - members of the population who taste differently than others.

When asked not one single biologically related member of my family on the Portuguese side liked beets ... the general consensus was "GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLRGH - they taste like dirt!!" . Of the family members who had taken a super-taster test (commonly done in highschool biology these days), ALL were super tasters ... and ALL hate beets.

So here I am cooking up a pot of beets *insert maniacal laugh here* and experimenting to see what my kids think. Of course they have no idea of the icky shuddering factor here.

Not looking so positive as Audrey just asked me if I was boiling the dirt off the beets ..., "Momma, I smell dirt cooking." Sigh. Chip off the old wacky momma.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Looking for a roadmap.

I'm stuck.

I hopped in my car, packed up my family, drove down the roads I drive on everyday, aimed for the same familiar places we are used to haunting. And wouldn't you know it ... we're lost.

The roads have been under construction quite a bit for the last three years so we have become very adept at finding new routes ... sometimes we find ways to get to our favorite places with a little extra planning. Sometimes the roads are just closed and we have to find new places to go.

At the end of July, however, I came home from two back-to-back family vacations and found out that there was apparently an earthquake or something.

Almost none of the roads are open now ... and no one can tell me what happened. Oddest thing.

I keep hoping that construction will be done soon, but the powers that be have no idea how long it will take. I lean on friends and family and thankfully we can get to our have-to's and some of our want-to's. We're finding new ways to bring the joy back ... a market we hadn't found before, a library that can come to us even if we can't get to them.

I just don't like driving around too long without knowing where I am going ... I'm afraid of running out of gas.

So if you happen to be talking to the folks who build the roads, tell them I understand it takes time and I know it is completely unpredictable ... just drop me a map once in a while and I promise I won't complain.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Num num num...

Happiness is having leftovers I actually ENJOY eating.

A couple nights ago I made a sort of braised beef for the girls. They thought it was ok but my husband and I swooned.

Easy Braised Beef in tomato sauce

Butter or oil of your choice for browning
1- 1.5 lbs steak*
Emeril's essence (this adds a spicy kick, go easy on this or make your spice mix without cayenne if you dislike spice)
1/2 - 3/4 jar of tomato sauce or 1-2 cups homemade sauce
1-2 cups beef stock (as needed)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small-to-medium onion, chopped
red pepper flakes

Cut your meat into a few large pieces (3x3 in or so). Sprinkle both sides well with Emeril's Essence spice blend.

Heat a sturdy high sided skillet (I like my lodge 3inch cast iron best) over medium heat. Add butter/oil. When butter/oil is hot, add your meat and brown on all sides. This step adds alot of flavor and only takes a few minutes.

Add a cup of stock, the tomato sauce, onion and garlic. Bring to a high simmer and then turn down heat until just simmering. Add a SMALL amount of red pepper flakes at this point if you want this to have a spicy kick, omit if you don't. Since this sauce will simmer a while and reduce the heat of the red pepper gets concentrated.

*Cover and simmer for as long as it takes meat to be tender and cooked through - this varies based on cut of meat and thickness. If sauce is getting too thick, add more stock as needed.

I served this for the kids over mini-penne pasta but my husband and I liked it better over shortgrain brown rice. It's a warm cozy meal that reheats great. I refridgerate leftovers but they will freeze well as well. If saving as leftovers keep meat and sauce separate from rice or pasta and package separately.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


A mother spends years, if not decades trying to help their children understand waiting. I have a five year old and an almost three year old ... its always interesting for me to watch them process things similarly, differently.

Some things never change.

Children and adults of every age all have times when they just feel little. Small. I think alot of things that are hard for small children are just as difficult when adults feel little. Frustration, anger, loneliness, fear. We forget our coping skills.

I'm waiting right now. On thursday my neurologist will give me my most recent test results. I say most recent because another battery will follow this appointment. I'm trying not to focus on the fact that she moved the appointment up two weeks and just keeping doing the things I do everyday... and that usually works.

But every once in a while, when I get too tired, too hungry, to overwhelmed, I just feel small ... and I suddenly feel alot more compassion for my two little girls, learning all these things for the first of many times.

Tina's Famous Salsa Chicken - base recipe

You will find me using this recipe (or the theories behind it) as a hopping off point for alot of entrees.

6-8 boneless chicken breasts
1 jar salsa*
1/2-1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400F

Moosh together in a glass baking pan. Cook one hour. Serve over rice or pasta. Also lovely with steamed veggies or corn on the cob.

* Your choice of salsa can turn this into as many meals as you can think of. I make mild for the kiddos (the spice intensifies with cooking) and medium if I am just cooking for spice lovers. My father in law suggested a sweet one would be nice and I keep meaning to try it with a peach salsa...

The big one cleaned her plate ... one outta two ain't bad...

Tonight's dinner was a hit with the big one (hey, better than nothing). I did a skillet variation on Tina's famous salsa chicken - see next post for THAT recipe - and Audrey inhaled it.

I'm going to warn you - my recipes are vague and imprecise...

Skillet salsa chicken...

2 chicken breasts, Thin cut or pounded a bit as you like
1/2 jar salsa
1 cup chicken stock (add more if needed)
1/4 cup heavy cream, light cream or similar

Take a room temperature skillet; Add all ingredients, moosh them around until mixed. Put over medium heat until sauce is at a simmer. Turn down to med low (or whatever is required to keep sauce at a simmer) and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through and sauce is creamy, slightly thickened. If needed, add more stock to thin.

I served it with shortgrain brown rice - I cook 3 cups at a time in my ricecooker and freeze the extra in single servings.

Welcome to my little hideaway...

I often say to my friends that I live under a rock. So welcome :)

I'm a stay-at-home, sometimes work-from-home mom to two little girls who make my eyeballs spin round in my skull with such frequency that I keep waiting for someone to film it and post it on youtube.

I'm living a slightly wonky existence, adjusting to a disability that changes frequently so you may see alot of food posts here. That's because when I actually can cook a meal, I get pretty proud of it :D

So thanks for peeking in ... we have plenty of room!