Monday, September 28, 2009

A super easy, really yummy way to eat tomatoes!

Today my "best neighbor in the world world" neighbor lady shared something so yummy with me that I have to pass it on!

She takes tomatoes and slices them, skins on. Then she sprays a cooking sheet with olive oil spray, spreads the tomato slices out, and sprays them again. After that she puts them in the oven on 425 for around 40-45 minutes. That's it!

Out come the sweetest, most flavorful tomato slices in the world! Perfect for snacking on alone, or adding to pizza, name it.

Tonight when I make lasagna, I'll substitute one sauce layer for the tomatoes that Marilyn so kindly shared with me. I can't wait! Thank you, Marilyn!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Apparently, 1/2 tsp. and 2 Tbsp. are VERY different!

So this morning I decided to make stew. Sounds perfect for a Sunday, right? I went to one of my favorite blogs, A Year Of Slowcooking, and found a delicious looking recipe.

Wow, it looked good, and worth making. As I was getting it in the crock pot, Dusty was "watching" a game on the computer (I say that loosely, because watching it online is essentially watching a graph which, apparently, means something that I don't understand). As a result, I was really trying to remember the recipe and only make him flip to it when I really needed help.

By the way- that is not a good idea. After putting in 2 Tbsp. of red pepper flakes, I checked one more time...and realized that the recipe called for only a half teaspoon! I tried to get as much as I could out, and was maybe successful in getting a half a teaspoon removed.

All day I smelled this stew. It smells amazing! Seriously- I'd be so proud to have company right now, since the smell would make them think I'm domestic and what not. I was really excited to eat it. Even though after the first bite I knew it would be hot, I decided to push on through.

After a small bowl, I have come to a few conclusions:

1) That is a seriously great recipe.

2) I put A LOT of pepper flakes in.

3) I can't hang with the big boys on this one- Dusty, Ashley, Brian and any other people with flame resistant taste buds will just have to eat this.

4) I need to try it again...without the extra fire.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

You know your kid knows that he doesn't have rich parents when...

...he gives up on a handheld video game system being gifted to him and just decides to make his own!

Skyler has come up with the coolest thing! He takes a sheet of paper and on it he draws some hand held video game (PSP maybe? I forget) 9 times. Each time, the screen shows a different scene from his favorite video games or cartoons.

Tonight, with Alex's help (Alex suggested a few scenes to draw), Skyler made 2 sets of paper video games. Then Alex, Skyler and I took turns playing each other. "Playing" consists of holding the paper- folded to the right scene, of course- moving it like crazy and making the appropriate shooting/flying/running/jumping noises. The person with the "best" noises always wins. For the record, Skyler determines the winner.

Alex and I have yet to ever win a game.

Here's to creativity!

I'm giving up Diet Coke.

For real this time, everyone.

If I call you and beg you to bring me one- tell me to stuff it. If you see me drinking one, please take it away!

In light of the fact that Dusty is quitting smoking, I'm really trying to feel healthy again, and I'm tired of paying for soda, I'm giving it up!

Just wanted to let everyone know, so that I can't go back on my word!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back to school night and a crock pot success!

Tonight was back to school night at Skyler's school. I felt that it was a success. First of all, the principal did an excellent job in addressing the concerns that parents have as a result of budget cuts. I was so impressed that she addressed it head on and acknowledged concerns!

Then we headed to Sky's classroom. Alex and Dusty had stayed home, and Tyson joined Skyler and I at the school. Tyson was so trilled to see Skyler's journal! We both went "Ahh" when we saw that Skyler had written "I am so excited for back to school night because my dad"....then we both cracked up when we realized that the rest of the sentence was "is bringing my bakkugan toys". Haha. So much for Dad being SOOOO cool! Skyler's teacher had good things to say about him, and West has a great sense of community. Tyson and I let Skyler play with all his buddies on the playground until the boredom of standing on a playground got the best of us, then we headed to my house for some dinner.

Now, dinner was cool. It was an experiment, to say the least- but it worked! At about 2 PM I realized that I hadn't planned dinner out too well. I hadn't thought of a vegetable! Since Dusty was staying home because he didn't feel well enough to go, I certainly didn't want him to cook. So I made corn on the cob and beets in the crock pot.

Corn on the Cob & beets- crockpot style:
1/4 cup chopped leeks
10 garlic cloves, smashed, divided
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 stick butter, divided
4 ears corn, broken in 1/2
4 beets, quartered and peeled
1 cup water
salt & pepper to taste

Spread 1/2 5 smashed garlic cloves and chopped leeks on the bottom of the crock pot. Pour in 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Put 1/4 stick of butter, broken in to pieces, in crock pot. Layer corn on the cobb into the crock pot, then add beets where space permits. Sprinkle with remaining butter, olive oil, garlic and salt & pepper. Pour water in before putting lid on.

Cook 4-5 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

Dinner went well. The men and Skyler loved the beets, and Alex at least gave them a try before giving up in favor of just the corn. And Skyler was just so happy to have his dad, mom, brother and step dad to hang out with at the same time!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Really, really good zucchini bread! (And it is gluten free!)

I wasn't going to post this, since they are not my recipes at all...but it is so good that I cannot help it.

I figure, seeing as how nobody really reads this and I certainly don't make money off of it, I'm ok, right?

So here is the zucchini bread recipe I used. I am in love!

From Better Homes and Garden's cook book (you know, the red checked one that takes you back to the days of high heels and aprons and apple pies made from scratch!).

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used a gluten free flour mix)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (I probably used at least 2 tsp., I'm a cinnamon freak!)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 beaten egg
1 cup sugar (see my note on this!)
1 cup finely shredded, unpeeled zucchini
1/4 cup cooking oil (I used EVOO and it tastes great)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted (I skip the nuts, but that's just me)

(I shortened the directions- look in the book for the longer ones!)
Preheat oven to 350. Grease the sides and bottom of a bread pan- set aside.

In one medium bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and nutmeg. Set aside. In another medium bowl (or mixer) combine egg, sugar, zucchini and oil. Combine dry and wet mix, fold in nuts if desired. Pour in to bread pans.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Now here are MY notes:

About the sugar- I started using baker's sugar a few months back. At first I bought it because a recipe called for it and I didn't realize that it was just a finer version of regular sugar (LOL...I'm new to this cooking stuff!). But, wow! It makes a huge difference, if you ask me, in the texture of baked goods. It gives the food a much smoother texture. So if you're all about taste, use regular sugar. If you want the extra wow factor, get yourself some baker's sugar!

About the gluten free flour mix- At first I was using Pamela's baking mix as a flour substitute. Then a helpful New Seasons employee explained that they sell everything I'd need to make my own mix, and it is much less expensive. So Dusty googled a recipe for me and I am really happy with my savings AND the finished result. Here is the recipe:

New Seasons had both brown rice flour and tapioca flour in the bulk section, and the other ingredients are made by Bob's Red Mill. *Just a reminder that we are gluten free for ADD management- if you were going to bake for a person with Celiac, you wouldn't want to get stuff out of the bulk section because of the possibility of cross-contamination!*

And lastly- The bread came out pretty crumbly. To avoid this, I could have added a little more xanthan gum. But I don't want to! The crumbly texture made it even better to my taste buds! But if you're going for cleanliness and making this gluten free, it is something to consider.

Go ahead and double the recipe- it's THAT good!

Dusty is on the road to recovery!

Dusty had a check up today, a week after being in the hospital for pneumonia. Good news! His lungs are clearing up, he still hasn't smoked, and his pain has gotten a bit better. Right now his biggest challenge is exhaustion, which the Dr. says will be around for about another month to month and a half.

But at least he's better. We are so glad! He went and scared us all! He has been working 4-5 hours a day. He is not ready to step up to full time yet, but is working hard to get there.

For the moment, everyone in the house is healthy! Woo hoo! Even Georgia is over her cold.

Right now I am watching Georgia and Dillon have an argument...I think. It's what I gather from the fact that they are 2 feet away from each other, barking in turn. The kids think this is hilarious, and are encouraging it by coaxing Dillon to "speak". Not that my children would ever do ANYTHING to disrupt peace and quiet, right?

They have tried to get Georgia to speak, but she just looks at them like they are nuts. Georgia, like me, doesn't understand a boy's need for loudness!

I love the fall!

It is so nice to sit and drink my coffee and stare out at the backyard these days! The leaves are changing colors, the air is crisp, and the wind makes everything feel fresh.

Soon I suppose I'll be frustrated with having to rake all those leaves and the wind will be bitterly cold...but at least now it is beautiful!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Turnip & Radish chips- the verdict!

Ok, here is the good, bad, and ugly about my turnip and radish chip experiment-

The good: YUMMY!!!!

The bad: I didn't cook them at a high enough temp. and they didn't quite as crispy as I'd hoped

The ugly: I didn't stop eating until every one was gone. >:-O

I took turnips and radishes from my veggie bin this week and, after eating some awesome chips Ashley bought, decided to make chips out of them. I peeled the turnips but left the skins on the radish, and sliced them up with Mom's food king (seriously, thing EVER!).

After I sliced them, I steamed them with really hot steam for 3 minutes. Then I threw them in a bowl and mixed them with olive oil, salt, pepper, ginger and cayenne pepper.

I put them on a baking sheet and baked them at 350 for about 35 minutes, turning them ever 7-8 minutes. I put them on 450 for the last 5 minutes and quickly discovered that I should have had it there the whole time.

Next time, I'll cook them on the top rack at 450, turning them every 7 minutes or so, and I'm guessing it'll take no more than 20 minutes. And I'll put a little less salt, since they are so addictive!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Great vegetable service and even better soup!

I'm in love with Organics 2 You! I've probably told most of you all about it ( that I mean my mom, since I'm pretty sure that mom is the only one who reads my blog!) by now. If I haven't, here is the scoop: every week (or at intervals that you want), they deliver a bin of produce to my door. These produce are all organic (and, for me, all veggies because it's what I wanted), and most are farm fresh and local. And the best part is that financially it makes sense! I'm afraid to tell them for fear that they'll change it...but they provide a really good value!

I did this for a few reasons: 1) to increase the amount of organic foods in our diet to help Sky's ADD and our general health; 2) to try new vegetables by just getting the box, seeing what it contains, and learning how to cook it; 3) because I'm lazy. Well, not lazy, per se, but I'd prefer to avoid the grocery store if at all possible.

So today my bin of vegetables contained italian kale. I've never actually made kale, though I've seen it used on the Food Network a lot. Woo hoo! The bin also contained a recipe for soup, which looks intriguing but wasn't totally my cup of soup. So with that recipe and another that someone online shared, I had some ideas and set out to make my own Kale-Bacon soup.

Here goes:

Kale-Bacon soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, sliced
6 potatoes, roughly chopped
1 quart water
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups white wine
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. italian seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups bacon (some fat removed)
1 bunch kale, chopped

In soup pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes at medium heat- do not burn garlic!

Add potatoes and saute for 5 minutes more.

Add water, chicken broth, wine, bay leaves, italian seasoning, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to low boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

In skillet, fry bacon until browned over medium high heat. Do not burn! Reduce heat to medium. Add kale, salt and pepper to skillet. Turn kale in skillet, allowing it to become tender and a more vibrant green, 5-8 minutes.

Add bacon and kale to potato mixture, let simmer 20 more minutes.


School, swine flu and a new family member!

Whew! What a week!

Skyler began 1st grade with a great attitude and a lot of excitement. Though the school was a madhouse, we were thrilled to walk Skyler in to school and see him off on his first day. His teacher seems very nice, some of his best friends are in his class, and I think everyone (himself included) is excited to see how well he'll do with the ADD under control. Skyler had to choose 3 things to present to the class this week in order to explain "who he is". He chose a golf ball, to represent his love of golf. And a small car, to represent the Hot Wheels collection which is always spilling over in his room. And the third item? Was it a picture of his mommy? Nope. He wanted a picture of Georgia, to talk about his wonderful dog.

Alex started Tuesday morning just thrilled to be going to school. Then I told him that kids may not play video games before school. It's amazing how quickly he reconsidered his enthusiasm! After awhile, though, he had forgotten his school boycott and became excited again. He was so excited, in fact, that he insisted on wearing his backpack in to Skyler's school- you know, just in case the principle decided to reconsider the age limits. I bet there were a lot of people thinking "I knew kindergarteners were small, but isn't that pushing it?". While Alex was at the park today, he got 3 bee stings. Poor guy! My mom said that he took it like a champ and was soon irritated that Grandma was bothering to check out his wounds. So, pretty much- the bees didn't change him one bit!

Fast forward to Wednesday- they day before Dusty was to return to work from vacation. Dusty had begun feeling under the weather Tuesday night. Figuring it was exhaustion, he went to bed at 5:30. On Wednesday, not only had he NOT improved, but he was worse. Grandma Marcia picked up the kids from school in order to help him rest. By Wednesday evening, it was downright scary. I took him to urgent care where he was very quickly diagnosed with H1N1. The swine flu. work for Dusty. I'd say vacation was extended a week, but this is no vacation! No doubt he'd rather be working at the moment. Through some amazing family generosity, the kids have been gone since. While I miss them like crazy, this seems to be the best way to keep them healthy and give Dusty time to recover. I am on Tamiflu to prevent H1N1, so aside from boredom, I'm going just fine. But I sure can't wait to see Dusty happy again!

Today (Friday) my boredom got the best of me. I HAD to get out. So I grabbed a soda (which I'd sworn off 2 weeks ago- bad me) and started driving. Not the most economical thing to do, but considering my car gets good gas mileage, I thought it was a small price to pay for sanity. Well, on that drive I somehow found myself looking at dogs. This weekend is National Adopt A Pet weekend, and all the shelters are doing outreach programs at local pet stores. One such outreach that I happened upon had a dog named Dillon.

Dillon is 7-9 years old, male, and sweet as can be. Dillon pretty much looks like a thin but taller version of Georgia- with a bleached white hair do. Dillon stood out to me as "the dog". Now, we've seen dogs that we love in the past, but the problem has been Georgia. Georgia has what I like to call a princess syndrome. As in, any person or animal who doesn't treat her like a princess is immediately on the naughty list. For this reason, she has a real problem with dogs trying to assert their dominance, hit on her when she isn't interested, or act annoyingly energetic. Dusty, the kids and I watched not too long ago as she knocked a dog her size up in to the air (fortunately, a wall stopped him) for sniffing her butt. She thought he was moving too fast. So though I loved Dillon, I kind of assumed that Georgia would tell me, once again, that she didn't feel Dillon was her type.

The minute Georgia and Dillon saw each other, it was clear that he was not just "any other dog". She loves him. After seeing how happy they were together, I filled out the paperwork and paid $25 (it makes me sad that they have to practically give away an awesome dog because he is 7 years old) to make Dillon the newest Bigham. Dillon happily jumped into the back seat of my car, next to Georgia, and never looked back.

So here we are- Friday, September 11th (a day which always gives me pause...). The end of our first week of school. The kids love school, Dusty hates pigs, and Dusty and I (and the kids, once they meet him- it's a surprise!) love Dillon. And Georgia!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fashion shows, seafood and family!

Tonight was our 3rd annual "back to school dinner". Because we just got back from the coast, we had fresh clams and oysters to eat! Ashley, Brian and Grandma Marcia came over- Ashley brought an amazing dessert, by the way! Sure is nice to have Dusty around today. We love vacation time!

After dinner, the boys got to do their fashion show. Because I am a super mean mom who keeps all their new school clothes tucked away until school, this was huge. They got to show off their new goods and choose their 1st day outfits. Alex is thrilled- he gets to wear a t-shirt tomorrow with "TWO TARS" (a.k.a. guitars) and an orange sweater- his favorite color. Skyler, as always, is going a bit more formal- cords, a button up collared shirt and and argyle sweater vest. Both boys enjoyed the cheers and compliments that Ashley, Brian, Dusty and Grandma were happy to shower them with (I was the behind the scenes cheerleader).

I am so excited! They are so excited! We'll be out the door by 7:50 tomorrow morning, and hopefully it all goes as smooth as I envision it.

Here is the chowder recipe I used, a hybrid of this one:, the recipe used by Pacific Coast Seafood, and the realities of not having all that was called for!

1/4 cup butter
6 oz. pancetta
4 cloves garlic
1/2 sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh fennel

I sauteed these ingredients for about 5-10 minutes at medium heat.

When the fennel was cooked a bit, I added:
2 cups heavy cream
6 cups clam juice
7 diced potatoes (skins ON! Don't remove the nutrition)
5 sprigs thyme
3 lbs steamer clams, steamed in garlic and butter, shelled & chopped
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
4 Tbsp. corn starch dissolved in 4 Tbsp. cold water

I brought those ingredients to a boil, reduced heat to low, covered and let simmer for 25 minutes. YUMMY!

To go with the chowder, I made gluten free bread with Bob's Red Mill's gluten free bread mix, a salad with some amazing tomatoes from my neighbor's garden (and freshly ground parmesan, as always!) and oysters in wine sauce for an appetizer.

The best part of the evening was for sure when my mom did the clean-up! Thanks, Mom!

Happy school year, everyone!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A (crazy) weekend at the beach!

Saturday morning at 9:30, we set out towards Lincoln City with plans of a grand Oregon Coast tour. Plans were to pick Skyler up from his dad's and hit the beach by noon. By the time we fell in love with Tyson's new puppy, had to stop 3 times for potty and forgotten item emergencies, and sat in holiday weekend beach traffic, we pulled in to Lincoln City by 2 or so.

After going out for a meal that reminded my why I don't like to eat out anymore (in a nutshell, I could make way better food and not pay for someone else's overpriced ****), we came out of the restaurant to find our tire flat. We figured it was a fluke, aired the tire up and headed for the outlet malls.

Did you know that the Saturday before school starts is the busiest day at the outlet mall, according to the employees? Huh. I didn't know that. One look at the place clued us in, though. After shopping as fast as humanly possible, we were all happy. Skyler got a really cool watch (he's been saving for one for a long time), Alex got a hat he adores, Dusty got some work clothes, and I got a good bottle of wine. Personally, I think I am the lucky one. :-) On the way out of the outlet mall, we saw a man on a really cool Harley Davidson just pulling in to the spot. When we apologized to him for the fact that Alex was staring at/stalking him, he offered to let Alex on the bike. Pretty much, Alex was in heaven. He got to sit on a "real motocycy" AND honk the horn!

Next up was our hotel. We were so excited to see that our $100 on a holiday weekend room was right across the ocean with an ocean view! We were a little less excited when we got in to the room and realized that $99 of that rate paid for the view, and roughly $1 of it paid for the atmosphere. Ah, well. It was inexpensive and still a treat. Luckily we got out of the room immediately to go play on the beach. I say luckily because after 15 minutes of beach play, the sky got dark, the wind picked up, and a storm quickly made itself known! At least we got our sand time! The boys were thrilled until Alex took a face plant in a stream right as the storm was really getting cold.

After dinner at a place that was super gluten free friendly but incredibly overpriced and tasteless, we were ready to go to bed. And that's when we walked out to find our tire flat. Again. Again, we aired it up, discovered a screw had recently declared our tire it's home, then looked up every tire shop around only to realize that they'd be closed through Monday due to the weekend and holiday. Dusty asked a gas station attendant where we'd get a tire fixed on a Sunday, and he responded with a hearty laugh before telling us "east".

This morning Dusty woke up and played SuperHusband by putting the spare tire on. This changed our plan, though, since we couldn't really drive too far on it. So rather than breakfast and sightseeing in Depot Bay before heading up to Seaside...we grabbed coffee by the hotel and drove up to the Tillamook Chesse Factory, after breaking the news to the kids that the Seaside arcade would have to wait. On the way to Tillamook, we decided to take a detour and show the kids Pacific City. The weather was stormy and we wanted to show them the beauty of the huge waves hitting the cliffs. Sounds great, right?

At Pacific City, you can drive your car on to the beach. Note: don't try this in a Civic on really wet sand. Not only did the car get stuck- it got stuck so close to the water that a wave broke really close, sending water rushing under the entire car and sinking our little hybrid even deeper. After frantically trying to dig, push and drive the car out, a guy with an SUV towed us out. Aside from some embarrassment and hurt pride, it turned out ok.

The cheese factory was great, though by the time we got there Dusty and I could have been happy fast forwarding to bedtime. Why does Tillamook Ice Cream taste so much better at the factory? It is just fabulous. Almost made up for the face that we almost lost our new car to the Pacific.

All in all, it was a good trip. Although we feel like perhaps we have had better luck on other vacations! We are looking forward to clam chowder and oysters in the next few days after stopping by a local seafood company.

And that's all, folks! Now if we can only get the tire fixed...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ok, I give in. Camping isn't so bad!

Now that I know I have your attention...we are home from camping! Dusty, Skyler, Alex, Georgia and I hit up Trillium Lake this week. We had a blast! The weather was ok. Actually, at night we froze, but we had so much fun during the day that we didn't care.

Alex "caught" a fish with a fishing pole fashioned out of a stick, fishing line and a sinker. A lady who was fishing next to us watched happily while Alex squealed "I GOT SOMETHING!" every time he pulled up a piece of seaweed. After awhile the lady pulled up a fish who was in shock from just recently being dumped in to the lake (the boys got to watch the lake being stocked with 4000 trout!), and decided to make good use of the fact that the little guy wasn't putting up a fight. She asked me to distract Alex, and while I did she slipped the fish onto his line. Alex is so proud of the fish that he caught! Ask him and he'll tell you all about it! Alex also really enjoyed bike riding. And marshmallows. He wasn't so thrilled about sleeping in a tent, but he had big brother to encourage him on that front.

Skyler is just a joy to watch fish. He rarely catches anything. I, personally, would be frustrated as heck. But his never ending enthusiasm is just contagious. It doesn't matter if he's been out there 3 hours and hasn't had a bite- who knows? In the next 5 minutes, he just may catch a trophy fish! He spent hours at the lake, just happy to be there. He enjoyed riding his bike until one of the pedals fell off, and says that sitting by the campfire is his favorite activity. When Alex had a hard time falling asleep because he was scared in the tent, we heard Skyler singing country songs to Alex until little brother was asleep. Skyler went with my on the 2 mile lake loop, and although we had to stop and rest more times than I can count, he really was a trooper.

Dusty, I think, could spend eternity standing in waist deep water with a fishing pole. He seems to really be enjoying his vacation, and we are so happy he is ours for the week!

I thought camping was fun! I pre-cooked all of our meals, so the only things required for cooking were a dutch oven and grill tools. Super easy to clean up, super easy to make! I'm still not thrilled about tent sleeping, but the air mattress we borrowed from Val and Bruce made it manageable. I loved sitting in a chair by the lake, watching all the boys fish. It was just perfect.

Georgia loves camping. Well...she actually likes anything her family is doing. She is not a fan of riding in a car. My goodness, I've never seen a dog shake so bad! But she made it, had a good time, and is now lounging about exhausted.

Next up is the Oregon Coast! We'll only be gone two days, but we are all excited!