Saturday, December 4, 2010
And when churches interview for choir directors, it usually goes something like this:
"Nice to have you here! Now we have a few questions for you."
"You have a degree in music, I see. And how are you at running the nursery? We gear ours towards birth through 3rd grade."
"Ah! Classically trained! Great! We'll need you to run our Contemporary Service. But make sure it's low key enough to not make our older crowd mad, but loud and raucous enough to pull in the young people. You can do that, right? Do you know how to play the drums?"
"And before we go... how are you at the dessert bars? We try to have a potluck once a month and some of our older folks are starting to put cat food in theirs (...can't stop thinking about Christmas Vacation!!!)."
Dessert bars happen to be my mother-in-laws speciality. She's been their choir director now, for about 30 years.
So tell me I'm wrong.
Here's the Pumpkin Bar. Maybe your calling is be a choir director. You'll have a headstart on the other fools who only know how to bake cupcakes.
What you'll need:
1 Cup flour
1/2 Cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 Cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 Cup butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350*. Combine all these ingredients and mix until it crumbles. Press on the bottom of ungreased 13x9 inch pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
3/4 Cup white sugar
2 1/4 Cup pumpkin puree
1 Can evaporated milk
2 1/4 Teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Combine all these ingredients and beat on medium for about a minute or two. It will be very soupy. That's okay. Pour over crust. Bake for 30 minutes. And then combine the two ingredients below.
1 Cup pecans, chopped
1/4 Cup brown sugar, packed
Sprinkle the pecan topping over the pumpkin filling and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Like most recipes, if you use canned puree, you probably won't have to bake it as long... so keep an eye on it and take it out when you can slip a knife in it, and it comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan. And this is what you'll get...
Good enough to get you hired! I promise!
So, I had to go and make a snide little joke about getting an unfortunate headcold, before my big day of walking.
And guess who got herself a headcold?
I sneezed so many times, I started to loose bladder control. Only other women will know what I'm talking about here.
Then today, I coughed so hard, I'm pretty sure I cracked a rib. No joke. I can't bend over, lay down, or sit in a chair. I've gotten very comfortable standing, while I eat dinner. I'm still a little uncomfortable doing other things while standing. But I won't go there.
Anyway, all that's to say... I did not do the 5k. (Hangs head in shame.) I know. I felt horribly... while I stayed warmly tucked into my sweatpants, my family braved the 14* morning to exercise.
Here's my husband, parents, and Aunt...
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I am immensely thankful for...
...my husband, parents, and family, who make me whole. And make me laugh. Who taught me to see humour in the world, but also taught me to question and change the world.
...friends who don't give up on you, power through reading your blog (!), and will tell you when you've got something in your teeth.
...the daily use of the word, "enough."
...that others thought it worthwhile, to teach me how to read and write and balance my checkbook.
...the limited readership of this blog, which ensures that my high school English teacher doesn't happen upon the last sentence (or any post, for that matter) and admonish me for using "and" one hundred times.
...the fact that I have such abundance in my life, that I can afford to "play" with food.
...for clean water, a heated home, and clothes on my back.
...for people who would care, if suddenly, I was without any of those three things.
...for my dogs and my bunny, who bring joy beyond words.
...for unmeasurable grace and a God who loves us fully and wholly.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Several weeks ago, my Brother-in-Law texted me, asking for a dairy-free, soy-free pumpkin pie for his lady (my Sister-in-Law) and his boy (my dear sweet Nephew). This is what I found at http://www.onefrugalfoodie.com/ and tweeked; it's also nut-free and gluten-free.
What you'll need:
1/2 Cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon ginger
1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon allspice
1/8 Teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup coconut milk (don't use low fat)
Preheat your oven to 425ºF.
Combine the sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or allspice, cloves and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the sugars, pumpkin, and vanilla until smooth. Fold in the coconut milk.
Pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust (or see below) and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350ºF and continue to bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean. It may be a bit wobbly still, but it will firm-up as it cools.
Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for 2 hours (Be patient! This is important). Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.
A vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free crust that I came across in the "comments" section of the same website, and decided to use, is as follows:
2 Cups rolled oats
1/4 Cup agave sweetener
1/4 Cup vegetable oil (but coconut oil would work well here too)
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
Throw the oats in to the food processor and process them for the length of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday." Mix everything together and prebake the crust at 350 for 10 minutes, before you fill it with the pumpkin pie… and it turns out... but just barely. It looks and tastes, a little bit like a flattened, soggy bowl of oatmeal.
I am thankful that I do not not have these type of restrictive allergies... though if you've ever met my Sister-in-Law, you'd know that she's the cutest, prettiest little thing you ever saw, with a radiant smile and delightful laugh... which I can only assume, has something to do with the fact that she is not tempted daily, by Satan. And by Satan, I mean Block Cheese.
This pie (at least the pumpkin part) is good. Really good! And if you're allergic to to the smell of newborn babies (bleah) and butterfly kisses... this might just work for you!
Sunday, November 21, 2010
It sounded like a GREAT idea... in early September. When it was warm outside and I couldn't help but think... "oh dude! I've got like, two months to train." Which is a funny sentence in and of itself. Saying dude. And "train" as it pertains to exercise.
Then early October hit... and I'm thinking... "dadgum. I really should get to the gym sometime." And I casually email my cohorts to let them know about an old war injury that's flaring up... so chances are good, I'm gonna need to jog, rather than run, this 5k. (As if I do 5k's every weekend... and this one, is juuuust slipping away from me.)
Then early November rolls around... and I'm thinking... "dadgum. I really should get to the gym sometime." Yet I managed to convince myself that if I "work out everyday, from here on out... everything'll be fiiiiiine." I mentioned in a carefully worded email, that walking briskly might be more up my alley, but that I'm holding out hope. And sent the carefully worded email to seven people, who then forward it to seven people, who then forward it to seven people... and before I knew it, I was getting letters of encouragement from folks in Haiti and President Obama paused for a moment in the middle of his meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister, just to say good luck. It was touching.
And so today, November 21st, after I've worked out a total of two times, I've decided drop the charade and begin a prayer campaign called Operation Coldnflurry. And take pictures (as proof) on my phone, of an ice pack propped on my knee, sending it on to the familial participants, with a sheepish note that says something to the effect, "Cn't wlk. No 5k 4 T." (Because apparently vowels are too hard to type.)
The ice pack may or may not, have been a ruse.
So to kill the time that I'm NOT using to train for my first 5k... I made Pumpkin Nutmeg White Chocolate Chip Cookies.
What you'll need:
1 Cup butter, softened
1 Cup packed brown sugar
1 Teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Cup pumpkin puree
2 Teaspoons vanilla
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Cups white chocolate chips
1 Cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat your butter until it's nice and fluffy. Add brown sugar, nutmeg, and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Chances are good, that if you're using the homemade puree, you will not need to stop and fold in the remaining flour as the water content of the homemade puree is a bit higher.) Stir in white chocolate and pecan pieces.
Place about two inches apart on baking sheet and bake between 10-13 minutes, or until the edges turn golden and the middles no longer look gooey. Cool them on the baking sheet for about 2 minutes, before having them cool completely on a plate or rack.
Don't be fooled by the fact that these are from Better Homes and Gardens (which in general, is a little on the bland, overly sweet, "every-child's food" end of things). These are great! Each one, is like eating a slice of cake! Delightful... not to mention, helpful, when you're trying to "train."
Now, I'd better go lick some elementary school drinking fountains. See if I can't catch a very unfortunate cold by Thursday.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I turned on the heat.
I wasn't ready. But when my husband crawled out of bed on Sunday morning, his teeth were chattering... I'm a light sleeper, and it wakes me up. And makes me cranky.
Not to mention that when he went to hop in the shower, the steam was so miraculous that I could draw little steam hearts on my pillow. And write P+B 4EVR.
But the kicker was the holy livin' fit my husband threw, when he exited the shower to find that the towels were still in the dryer from the night before, and he was forced to dry off with a washcloth. Not pretty folks.
So, yesterday morning... as the thermostat reminded me that it was 50* in the house... I cranked that sucker up to 62* and lived the good life.
Coupled with a Spiced Pumpkin Latte (that tastes exactly like the overpriced monstrosities at Starbucks)... I might never have to get out of my pajamas again.
What you'll need (as listed and adapted from thekitchn.com)
1 1/2 Cups skim milk
1/2 Cup half and half (it's just the way I do things in my world)
2 Tablespoons pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg (make this however your tastes prescribe, just add up to 1/2 Teaspoon)
1-2 shots espresso would be ideal, but because we live like our ancestors did... and don't have an espresso maker... I used about 1/2 Cup very strong coffee. If your coffee maker has a 1-4 cup setting, make sure you use it, and add two heaping scoops of grinds to one cup of water.
In a saucepan combine milk, pumpkin and sugar and cook on medium heat, stirring, until steaming. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and spice, and whisk the mixture until it starts to get foamy. I use a cute little battery operated milk foamier, which I found at IKEA for about $2. It works wonders. Proof that I must continue my fervent prayers for having an IKEA built in the metro.
Pour into mugs. Add the espresso or the coffee on top. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, or cinnamon. I used nutmeg. Always use nutmeg.
And your cold, cold heart, will again... know warmth and gladness.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
As I continued to slow my speeding car, I clicked off the radio, put my silly phone away, and took a breath... a deep, slowing breath. And I gave God thanks, for little reminders that pass through our world... reminders of what simplicity and connection and "living out ones faith" might really mean.
Two distinctive, white cords dangling from either side of the brim of his black hat. And his friend? All be darn, if he didn't have a cell phone up to his ear. A CELLPHONE! And EARBUDS!
Justin Timberlake can bring sexy back all he wants... I'M BRINGING SIMPLICITY BACK.
(Yeah. I can't lie. This picture is really about showing you my favorite Thanksgiving plates.)
3/4 Cup light brown sugar
1/8 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon ground ginger (scant)
2 1/4 Cups pumpkin puree
1 (12-ounce) Can evaporated milk
In small bowl, combine sugar, salt and spices. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 45 minutes or until firm.
This recipe is a little bit Libby's, a little bit Food Network, and a little bit Yum.
And Simple. So. Take that, Mennonites.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Where the dogs are pretty
Cause it's time to gather
Set that sucker to three hundred fifty
The way it feels'll make you giggle
And grab a cup or two of water
Say bye to your daughter
Give your partner a holler
Cause by the time you're done
This won't be fun,
I can guarantee ya
In the pan you will put
About a cup per cubic foot
Line the pumpkins up
Face down. (pause) Yup.
Throw them in the oven
Get yourself some lovin'
Call your cousin
Eat a cookie,
How about a half a dozen
Check on the pumpkins half way through
You've got problems, if they're blue
They oughta be deep orange in hue
And when they are, that's your cue
This process seems long
But it beats singing a song
Or even writing this rap
As a matter of fact
After 45 minutes to an hour
Muster within, your girly power
Pull the pan out with both hands
Wonder again, how you feel about Iran's
1930's name change from Persia,
Did it lack courage-ya?
Anyway, I digress
Let's get back to this pumpkin game of chess.
Using your will and a set of tongs
Flip each pumpkin over where it belongs
They'll be steamy and dreamy
and look just right,
But I assure you, they're so hot that they bite.
Let them sit on the counter to cool
while you start the next batch, like a big ol' fool.
The clock will keep ticking
But you did the picking
So with a smile and a knife
Remember fondly, your old life
And get back to work
As your husband smirks
When your pumpkins have cooled just a bit
Take each one and give it a lift
Squeeze out the goodness into a bowl
Yeah, that's right! Now you're on a roll!
Compost, recycle and throw away
Cause now it's time to play
Beat that pumpkin, 'TILL IT'S IN YO EAR!
Hi. You had to have guessed.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
That's all I wanted. I should have known, that when I use the words trendy and JCrew in the same sentence... things wouldn't go as planned.
Photographic evidence of Wyatt's desire to eat Shuffles. And no Abby in sight.
As well as inappropriate play times. And inappropriate licking. And inappropriate... how should I say this... exposure. And a hundred other photos of Brett calling after Abby, and me, barely making it into the photo, and Wyatt, licking himself... and licking Brett... and then licking the bunny...
We finally gave up. Actually, I gave up. After the 92nd time of trying to run, kneel down, look fabulous, and take a decent picture as the ten second timer mocked me... I was done.
So we did the whole, "arms-length, high-school cheerleader" photo.
Not quite JCrew. But then, neither are we.
Here's what you'll need for Spicy Pumpkin Enchiladas (from Martha Stewart, who is very JCrew, but adapted enough, to make it more me).
2-3 Cups shredded chicken
1/2 Cup chopped white onion
2 Cups pumpkin puree or 1 can pumpkin puree
4 Cloves garlic, minced
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon black pepper
1 or 2 Jalapeno peppers, quartered
1 Teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 Cups water
8-10 Corn tortillas (6-inch)
1-2 Cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a blender, puree pumpkin, garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, and water. Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish.
Heat a bit of oil and warm the tortillas (one at a time) on a griddle or pan, lightly coating each tortilla with oil. This will keep the tortilla pliable when you roll it. Mound chicken and onions on warmed tortilla, and roll; place, seam side down, in baking dish.
Sprinkle a little cheese on top, then pour remaining sauce over the whole thing; top generously with cheese (and this is why, we will never look like we leapt out of a JCrew catalog). Bake until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
One morning, as I sat outside enjoying my coffee, thankful for munchkin's eating breakfast, literally watching a family of deer leap through the forest... I heard a rustle. I'm excited. Could it be the groundhog that I ate dinner with, returning to greet me? A squirrel? A turtle? A band of woodland fairies?
Nope. Just a 3rd Grade boy, running as fast as he could, holding his crotch with both hands and yelling as loudly as his little underdeveloped voice would let him: "A SPIDER BIT MY PENIS!!"
I know I heard it. The folks in the neighboring town heard it. A friend of mine from Indianapolis called and asked me how the boy with the spider was doing. And in Boston, there was a 20-something woman, shuffling to her front door to grab the morning paper, who heard it. Sure it was muffled by then... and it came out sounding like "Fire and light in Venus." But still, the young woman nodded, and after the night she'd had, mumbled, "Tell me about it."
But I digress.
As quickly as the 3rd Grade boy emerged from the forest, he was gone. Hightailing it to his cabin to inspect the damage. I said a quick prayer for the unsuspecting male teacher, whose break, was about to be cut short.
Then gave the boy props for telling it like it is.
I guess if you're gonna say something, you might as well say exactly what you mean. Right?
In the midst of all the political volleying that is going on out there... the churches that keep functioning but are afraid to say anything... the visionaries that talk to empty rooms because they don't believe in themselves enough to invite others... the everyday people that say "I'm fine," when they really mean, "I'm tired" or "I'm sad" or "I hurt"...
So here's Pumpkin Butter. It doesn't try to be anything other than, what it is. Pumpkin.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
This is comfort food at its finest. Cheesy, carbohydrate laden goodness. A hearty "A+" from both of us!
Sunday, October 17, 2010
The folks at the church where my husband serves... well, they're not exactly spring chickens. In fact, I'd say the median age is probably somewhere around 75 years old. And yeah... I know...
You're only as old as you think you are...
Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional...
There's a twinkle, in your wrinkle...
I get it.
It's okay. It's not a judgement. It's just reality.
I, on the other hand, spent a few hours serving as the official photographer, trying not to draw attention to myself, for fear that I might be recruited for the assembly line...
But it wasn't long, before my stalling tricks were noticed, and I was urged to help carry a few of the larger pumpkins...
T.S. Elliot once said that, "the years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do more, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down." I believe T.S. Elliot may have been wrong. 'Cause 30 something, is turning out to be a pain. In every sense of the word.
Friday, October 8, 2010
It's almost time...
...for October evenings spent de-stemming, chopping, baking, gutting, and pureeing pumpkins. Not one, not two... but multiple trash bags, filled to their breaking point... with tiny, perfect, pie pumpkins.
...for freezers that overflow with hope. And time spent cleaning up the containers that explode. And the magic act that is involved when you cram 30 cans worth of puree into an already full freezer.
...for chilly evenings made warm with the smells of nutmeg and ginger and cinnamon. And for eating my share of the pumpkin harvest.
...for buying pants that are a few sizes bigger than normal. And shirts.
...and for finding pumpkin puree under my cabinets and in my coffee maker and on top of my dogs head. And of course, in my ear.
Yep. It's almost time...
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
A side story: Many moons ago, I owned the most expensive pair of sunglasses ever. These suckers cost more than any article of clothing, piece of jewelry, or pair of shoes in my closet. Foolishly, I wore them. To the St. Louis Zoo (a delightful, free zoo... if anyone has a need for last minute vacation ideas). Taking in the sites and enjoying my day, I casually leaned over the railing to look at the water feature many, many feet below. And proceeded to watch helplessly, as my sunglasses became part of the exhibit.
Picking out a pair of sunglasses is no easy task. There's much to consider: size, fit, weight, and bling. Not one to stray far from the blacks and browns, I gathered six pairs that struck my fancy, and started the posing and eliminating.
First pair: crooked.
Back on with the Third pair: Yeah, no question... I really like you.
One by one, the eliminated sunglasses were placed back into their faux-nose sales racks, and in my hand, I had the pair that made me the most happy, that framed my face perfectly, and put a little spring in my step, which hadn't been before. The most perfect pair of sunglasses in the whoooole world.
So, of course it's tag was missing. This is Murphy's Law of shopping.
Several minutes and some pretty frantic spinning of the faux-nose displays... I came up empty handed. It would seem, that today was not the day, for me to purchase my sunglasses. Sadly, I placed the perfect pair of sunglasses back into its faux-nose sales rack and walked away. (Stopping only briefly, to grab a Snickers bar.)
A few minutes later, back in my car, the sun is shining brightly. I'm squinty and for one moment, I lament my lost purchase. Rummaging around in my cavernous bag/suitcase/purse, my hand comes up empty in its search for an alternate pair of sunglasses.
And then it hits me.
The perfect pair of sunglasses... pair number three... without the tag... that sadly, I had to leave behind...
Yep. Those were the sunglasses I walked in with.
Let's just say, I'm glad summer's over. And all reminders of the day I lost my mind, will be safely tucked in a drawer, until next Spring.
So, with the last of the summer harvest coming out of the garden, I give you my final jelly recipe.
(Technically, jelly doesn't have bits/chunks... and this has bits. But I've never heard anyone call it Jalapeno Jam... so.)
1 and 1/2 Cups cranberry juice (full on juice... no diet cranberry or juice mix)
1 Cup white vinegar
5 Cups sugar
1 Package of Ball pectin (I'm being a little specific here... because over the course of the summer, I've found that Certo pectin has not produced the kinds of results that I've wanted. No doubt, this is "chef-error" and for as many Ball devotes that there are out there, I'm sure there are just as many Certo lovers. But for this recipe, I'd suggest using Ball.)
Ladle into prepared jars and return filled jars to the canner. Boil jars for 10 minutes (starting your timer, once the water is back up to a full boil).
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup pear butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup buttermilk
Saturday, September 4, 2010
6 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
7 Pounds ripe pears
3 Cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 Teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 Teaspoon salt
Combine apple juice and 4 tablespoons lemon juice deep pot. Peel, core, and cut pears, 1 at a time, into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces; mix pears into juice mixture in pot as soon as pears are cut, to prevent browning. Cook over medium heat until pears release enough juice for mixture to boil, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pears are very tender, stirring every 3 minutes or so, for about 20 minutes (mixture will splatter). Remove pot from heat. Press pear mixture through fine plate of food mill into large bowl (which I did, but regret... next time I will use my blender). Return pear puree to pot. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, brown sugar, nutmeg, and 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until pear butter thickens and is reduced to 8 cups, stirring every 3 minutes to prevent scorching, for about 1 hour (yeah... I know... it's sort of insane).
Ladle pear butter into 8 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes.
Ever wonder why those jars of fruit butter -- in that speciality shop, where everything is overpriced, but you must walk out with something because the whole darn store is so inspiring -- are outrageously expensive? I'll tell you why. Labor.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Apparently, stuffed sole fillets that have been in the freezer for 8 months don't translate well, to the plate. So I boldly ignored the italicized wording on the side of the package that stated, "if frozen, consume within three months of purchase date." I figured that's a "guesstimate." But as it turns out... I figured wrong.
1 Cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup peach jam, plus 1 cup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium size bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs with the sugar and butter. Mix well and place in the bottom and sides of your lined cupcake pan. Make sure to press down with the back of a spoon or juice glass. Set crust aside.
Prepare the filling by beating the eggs and cream cheese together. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until well blended. Add 1/4 cup peach jam and mix until incorporated. Pour mixture into prepared crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
Remove cake from oven and top with remaining 1 cup peach jam. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight. Or until you can't stand it anymore.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
First things first... you can't go to a fair without gnawing on a footlong. Drenched in mustard. There is NO other way to eat a corndog, by the way... all the ketchup eaters out there, are just plain nuts.
Oh yeah, and we saw the in-laws and a cousin too...