Tag Archives: kids

Can You Name These Fruits?

Can you name these fruits?

On my quest to find new foods to try this week, I decided to get my kiddos in on the fun. They have some great suggestions and I’m excited to keep trying new foods with them, well past my challenge this month, because there are just too many things to try, and why stop the fun just because the challenge ends.

 

This week kinda got away from us, and we found ourselves coming home from a fun weekend with friends, realizing we had not tried our new food yet for last week. We popped into a market for some milk and perused the produce aisles for inspiration. The picture you see here is what we came up with. Can you name these fruits? [We will reveal names of fruits and our opinions on them later this week.]

 

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Lunch With the Girls

My Birthday Month started out a little rocky mood-wise, finding me in a funk that I couldn’t seem to shake most of this week. So when I was asked to meet an old school friend for lunch with her 2 lovely daughters, I was thrilled to find myself escaping the office for my lunch break, something I haven’t done in awhile.

The little cafe just a little over a block from my office was just perfect for us. A nice big table to seat the 4 us, plus a couple dolls. Some burgers and fries and plenty of visiting and laughing helped t improve my mood.

Thanks for the fun lunch, my friend!! We should do that more often. 🙂

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Reusable Memories

Stacks of Memories!

I use real dishes. Yes, even for parties with many people in attendance, I use glass plates, glasses, and flatware, and I even use cloth napkins. It’s not that I’m a snob about dishes. Not at all. I have a hodge podge mix of plates, bowls, glasses, flatware, and napkins. There are matching sets among the mix, but for a large group, nothing matches, and I rather prefer it that way. It’s casual. It’s fun. It’s me.

When the party is over and all the guests have left, I walk around and pick up stray plates, glasses, and whatever else is sitting on tables, window sills, next to chairs… and this brings a smile to my face, because I know that everyone enjoyed themselves and as I stack up the plates and line up the glasses, it’s like I’m stacking up memories with every clink of dishes hitting against each other. And those memories will get to come out and play again and again as those dishes are used for nightly family dinners, dinner with friends, parties “just because”, impromptu get-togethers, and much more. And those memories are worth more than any possible breakage might cost to replace.

Remember: Use the good stuff. Today is special.

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Food Trials: Beef Jerky

Have you seen Runaway Bride? What about the famous egg scene from that movie? In that scene, our Runaway Bride is standing in the kitchen with eggs prepared several different ways, having a taste test. Why? Well, as she explains, she doesn’t know what kind of eggs she likes. She has always eaten her eggs in the same manner as her current “beau”. This, I believe, is all-too-common.

I find myself in similar situations as I realize I am in my mid-30s and fully, 100% single for the first time in my adult life. And, surprisingly, it’s not too bad (most of the time, anyway…but you don’t want to hear the boring details of my non-dating life).

Early in the fall, my kiddos and I spent a weekend at my baby sis’s house to attend a local festival where we got to make fresh apple cider. Before heading her way for the weekend, I decided we should bring some beef jerky from our hometown. I ran into a problem with this. I don’t know which shop’s beef jerky I like best. So, what’s a girl to do? Well, buy from all of them and have a taste test, of course.

And so, in true Runaway Bride fashion, I gathered up some beef jerky from the shops in our hometown and set up a taste test for everyone. Here’s what I discovered: Of the 3 we tried, I found 1 to be too dry and too salty. The other 2 both had good flavor, with 1 that I had never even tried previously coming out the clear winner in my book. It was the least salty of the 3, and had the most interest with different layers of flavor and smokiness. But the real discovery? I guess I’m just not a beef jerky kinda girl. Yes, that’s right, the results of this taste test for me was: I don’t really care about beef jerky.

Stay tuned for more food trials. There are many foods I have not tried. Some because I’ve just never had the opportunity, and others because someone else said they didn’t like it, so I just never made it. My kiddos are pretty adventurous with food, so they’ll get to try some of these foods with me, as well. But some, well, some I will make for myself on my own date night when I find myself at home by myself watching sappy chick flicks (like Runaway Bride and Eat, Pray, Love). Because I deserve to eat well, even when I’m eating alone.

What are some foods you have always wanted to try but for whatever reason, just haven’t? Will you join me in this food trial and share your new food experiences with everyone?

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Happy New Year 2012

I am finally feeling settled in our new home. Just in time for the New Year! I have spent New Year’s Eve baking and cleaning and preparing for what is going to be an amazing 2012. How do I know it’s going to be amazing? Well, because I said so! Someone once told me that having a great day is a choice, and I think the same is true of the entire year, so I’m making a choice right now to have an amazing 2012. I hope you’ll join me in that choice.

Tomorrow I will re-enter civilization with the installation of internet at home. We also have cable being installed, but ssshhhh… that’s a surprise for the kiddos. 😉

Happy New Year! It's going to be amazing! xoxo

A toast to you in this New Year. Happy New Year! My wish for you is to always remember that you deserve to be happy. xoxo

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Homeward Bound: The Incredibl(y Long) Journey

Homeward Bound: The Incredibl(y Long) Journey—Guest Blog by Flik

So, we all know that my aunt, Just Frances, was born a homeless transient. Well, we’ve also known for some time that I ‘want to be just like her’. I want to go to Scotland, live in small towns, etc. Well, I am close to ‘just like her’ at this current moment in time (and space)—Because of the status of our move from our little Redneckville to Tree Hole, I am a semi-homeless transient.
I don’t know where my home is anymore. I’ve never had an actual, full-on, dictionary example of a home. I lived in an old house until I was four or five, then an apartment for about 2 to 4 more years, another apartment for 7 or 8 years, and finally a rental old house for 2 years. Now, I’ve been in the Judge’s house for a couple of months to stay somewhere as I move stuff over to our new apartment every weekend.
So, where do I say my ‘home’ is? I’ve always just called where I lived my home, not that it ever truly was. Now, I’m totally confused. And, due to my recent addiction to ‘Doctor Who’, I am not confused easily(I’ve learned how to follow paradoxes effectively within the past few months.). So, this is my new mission to life-
Find home.

—————————————————————————–

Now a note from That Cook Girl (Flik’s Mom)

“Home”, for me, is what you make it. Flik sent me her guest post late last week. And I waited to post it because I wanted to find the right words to add my thoughts on “home” and let her (and my son also) know that I am always home when I am with them… The right words never came. And today, I stopped by our new apartment and checked the mail before heading off for a lunch meeting. In our new mailbox was a card from Scotland. It made me smile carrying that card with me all day, knowing how much joy it would bring my kids when we sat together to open it. (Yes, I actually waited until we were all together… it was, afterall, addressed to the whole family.) What I read inside that card brought a tear to my eye, because my sister could not have known of Flik’s upcoming blog post when she mailed it to us, and yet, the words were perfect.

Frances writes:

“It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.” -author unknown

Welcome home!!I hope that your hearts find much joy in [Tree Hole]!! I love you all!! <3 Frances xxx

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The Great Pumpkin Hunt

The Great Pumpkin Hunt of 2011

Saturday morning, just 2 days before Halloween, and it occurred to me that we still had not gotten our pumpkins for carving. It was already going to be a busy day, but we were determined to make time for our carving tradition.

We begin our hunt, before heading to the soccer fields, at the Farmers Market where I made my usual first stop to see Bambi at Parke Creek Farm. This stop was not only for getting some great fresh veggies for our weekend food as we continue the move, but to say “good-bye”, since my “home” market will be in our new town next year. She didn’t have a lot of pumpkin choices as far as carving choices go, but I did pick out some great small pumpkins that she said are called “cuties”, but admitted she had yet to actually cook with one. That’s ok. I’ll experiment and report back to her. We said good-bye with promises to keep up via our Facebook pages at Parke Creek Farm and That Cook Girl. You can keep up with us there, too! </end shameless plug. Heehee>

As I mentioned in opening, we had a busy day planned. So, here’s just a quick rundown of the rest of the day before we got to continue our Pumpkin Hunt:

  • Soccer game (we won! Go RED BULLS!)
  • Quick visit with friends before leaving the fields
  • Load car with boxes from storage
  • Stop at house (that was filled with people and food… it would have been rude to
    not have a quick visit with them as well, so we stayed there longer than we had
    planned)
  • Add a few more things to the car, hoping there would still be room for the kids to
    sit (there was)
  • Drive and hour+ to the new place
  • Unload the car (to the 3rd floor apartment)

Now that we’re unloaded and sufficiently exhausted, it was time to head out for some shopping and pumpkin hunting… our first stop had the last-minute costume things we needed, and the food, and the other home necessities we were looking for…but no pumpkins. But what they did have was squash. Butternut and Spaghetti. Both made their way into the cart for the night’s carving activities. When all else fails, we carve squash, because the carving must go on. (Wait… that’s the show that must go on… nevermind. 😉 )

We did make one final stop before ending our hunt. There is a grocery store near our new apartment, so we swung in there, to find they still had plenty of pumpkins sitting out front. We made our choices and headed for our new home.

Enjoy! Our first Fireplace Decoration in our new home!

While I began cooking dinner, the kids set to work on their pumpkins. But they weren’t happy with carving just pumpkins. They wanted to carve the squash, as well. Afterall, that is why we bought them, right? I listened to their talking and giggling while I cooked and
put some more things in order in the apartment and started to feel like we really are at home, wherever we are together. I love you, kiddos!

 

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Eye Roll Worthy Ranch

I make an eye roll worthy Ranch dressing. It will make people roll their eyes for different reasons, but will almost always bring on the eye roll in some form.

Believe it or not, some people don’t understand why I would make my own Ranch dressing (or any other dressing for that matter) when the condiment aisle is filled with so many choices and it wouldn’t take any effort. These people are rolling their eyes at my preference to make my own dressings (and many other things) because they think I waste my time to make something that I can just buy in a bottle… but they don’t know what the next group of eye rollers know…

Anyone who has ever tried my Ranch dressing has rolled their eyes. It’s that eye roll of pleasure. Yes, I don’t mind if I do say so myself, my Ranch dressing will make your eyes roll back in your head!

My secret is simplicity! And I’m going to share it with you.

Eye Roll Worthy Ranch Dressing:

  • buttermilk
  • mayonnaise
  • garlic
  • fresh herbs

As with most of my “recipes”, there’s not much recipe at all, just a list of ingredients. And with this one, it’s a matter of taste and how much dressing you want to make. So, here’s how I do it.

Start with equal amounts of buttermilk and mayonnaise (I never measure, but it’s probably about 1 cup of each). Mix in 1 pressed garlic clove and 2-3 tablespoons of fresh herbs. My favorite combo is dill and chives. I’ve used oregano and marjoram and thyme, also. Generally, I send my kids out to the garden to choose 2-3 herbs to mix in. Whisk all of it together and put it in a jar in the fridge. It’s best to allow at least 30 minutes for the flavors to blend together before serving.

I would try to give you an idea of the shelf-life for this, except it rarely lasts more than 3 or 4 days in my fridge before I find the jar empty. 😉

I serve this up with salads, potatoes, oven fries, fresh veggies… you can make this a thicker dressing for a dip by adding more mayonnaise than buttermilk.

Enjoy!

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Breakfast is Ready

9pm. And breakfast is ready. Ok, well, not completely… but I have finished what I can do and the rest is up to the trusty ol’ slow cooker. We will get up in the morning to a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, and all we have to do is scoop it into our bowls and add our favorite toppings. There. Breakfast. Done.

I know what you’re thinking… oatmeal? slow cooker? HUH? Here’s the deal. I am NOT a morning person. Even the simple task of boiling some water to cook up some oats is just too much for me. I need immediate food in the mornings, otherwise I tend to eat nothing at all. So before going to bed each night, I have to set my coffee pot to brew my coffee before my alarm clock ever goes off and I have to figure out my breakfast. If I’m having a banana or a bagel or a bowl of cereal, I set it next to my coffee pot, ready to go. My oatmeal bowl is sitting next to the slow cooker, with the butter, brown sugar and dried fruit right there to be stirred in as well. No thinking for me before I get my coffee and my food.

Yes, it is July. Yes, it is hot outside. But I need a hearty breakfast for a long day of traveling for work tomorrow (in which I often don’t get lunch until very late in the day), and the girl child has morning soccer practice, so she needs a nice hearty breakfast too. It’s also a great breakfast to have ready when the kids are having friends stay the night. That way whenever they get up, breakfast is ready.

I know you’re just dying to know how you can make this for your family. I promise you, it will be one of the easiest breakfasts you make for them!

Gather your ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup steel cut oats (important to use steel cut, NOT rolled or quick cooking)

Mix the above in a heatsafe bowl (not directly in the slow cooker). Place bowl in the slow cooker and fill the slow cooker insert with water until the water reaches the top of the liquid in your other bowl. Cover with slow cooker lid. Plug in your slow cooker (like how I remind you of that very important step? I’ve forgotten it a time or two…or more… 😉 ), turn it on low. Now go to bed and wake up to fresh cooked oatmeal!

Mixins (as many or as few as you like):

  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • dried fruit, raisins
  • cinnamon

Variation:

You can add a chopped up apple to the oats as they are cooking. You can also add all the flavorings like cinnamon and sugars, even the dried fruits, while it cooks. I keep it plain because we all like ours a little different.

Leftovers:

We don’t usually have leftovers of this. But I sometimes make sure we have leftovers because it does re-heat pretty well and then I can take it to the office with me on a crazy morning. When I do that, I reheat it with the butter and dried fruits and stir it really well before adding in the sugar.

Oatmeal is also a great addition to bread. So if you’re making your own bread, you can mix in some oatmeal to add some texture and make it a little more hearty.

Enjoy your breakfast!

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Bagel Day

Making bagels is one of those things people just don’t expect to be so easy. A bit time-consuming, but easy and worth the effort! I have made these bagels many times, and the last time I made them was Memorial Day weekend while my sister was in town. She went for a quick run one morning, (I say “quick”, but it wasn’t. It was 13 miles- a half marathon! She’s AWESOME!) and I thought she’d enjoy some fresh-out-of-the-oven bagels. (And she did.) My niece came by that afternoon also. Just to hang out with my kids and my sister’s foster daughter. They hung out, played some games and she marvelled at me actually making bagels from scratch. She called me an awesome cook. Yeah, my head got a little bigger that day.

On this particular day, I created blueberry bagels (using a bag of dried blueberries) and cheese bagels (using a mixture of asiago and parmesan cheeses). There are still a few sitting in the freezer. I think my kids have forgotten that they are there. But my niece remembered. She was over a few nights ago and asked if she could steal a couple bagels before she left for work. Of course I said yes. Because what good is making the food if I’m not gonna share it, right?

In the past I have made bagels to bring to work, and even sent a few along on a hunting trip for a friend. And do you know what’s funny? I don’t really love bagels all that much. But I really enjoy making them! And sharing them, of course! 🙂

The bagel recipe follows… it uses a mix (that I also included the recipe for) and someday I’ll post other recipes that use this same mix. Enjoy!

Bagels
· 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast or 1 (1/4-oz.) package
· 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water 110F (45C)
· 5 cups HOT ROLL MIX **
· Cornmeal
· 3 qt. water
· 1 Tablespoon sugar
· 1 egg yolk, beaten
· 1 Tablespoon water
· Poppy seens, sesame seeds or coarse salt
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water. Beat in 4-1/2 cups HOT ROLL MIX. Let rest 2 minutes. Add enough mix to make a very stiff dough. On a lightly floured surface knead dough until smooth, 5-10 minutes. Add more mix to surface as needed. Dough will be quite firm. Lightly butter bowl. Put dough in bowl and turn to butter top. Cover dough with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30-45 minutes.

Punch down dough; knead 4-5 times. Divide in half. Divide each half into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Flatten each ball with palm of hand. Holding a ball with both hands, force one thumb through center. Place bagel on lightly floured surface. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover lightly; let rise in a warm place 2-30 minutes.

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Sprinkle with cornmeal; set aside. In a 5-qart pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add sugar. Lower hear to keep water boling gently.

Use slotted spoon to carefully lower bagels, one at a time, into boiling water. Turning often, cook until slightly puffed, about 5 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Drain bagels briefly on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 400F (205C). Arrange bagels, not touching, on prepared baking sheets. Combine egg yolk and 1 Tablespoon water. Brush bagels with egg yolk mixture. Leave plain, or sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or coarse salt. Bake 15-20 minutes in oven until browned. Cool on a rack. Makes 16 bagels.

—-Make-A-Mix cookbook

My notes: Add more flavor! You are limited only by your imagination!
· Mix in chives and garlic to the dough. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
· Mix in cinnamon and craisins or raisins
· Mix in dried minced onion and top with additional onion

** Hot Roll Mix
· 5 lb. (20 cups) all-purpose flour
· 1-1/4 cups sugar
· 4 teaspoons salt
· 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Stir together to distribute evenly. Put in a large airtight container. Label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6-8 months. Makes about 22 cups Hot Roll Mix.

Variation
Use 9 cups whole-wheat flour and 8 cups all-purpose flour instead of 20 cups all-purpose flour. Decrease sugar to 1 cup.

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