Love in the Kitchen - making fast, healthy, homegrown meals you'll enjoy

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring is...

... springing?

Though we are still experiencing some wintery weather on occasion... like tomorrow and the next three days... (well, wintery for San Diego), I am looking forward to when I can walk in this.

Nothing says summer like the smell of fresh-mowed grass!

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Monday, March 29, 2010

The Importance of Life Planning

The Mr's Grandma went into a nursing home this weekend. She's nearing the end, and the nursing home is the best place for her now.

Grandma never made any arrangements for her "golden" years. She's 94 now. From the time she was about 70 until about 6 years ago, she lived with her younger daughter. Her health began to decline and my in-law's decided to have her come live with them. She was there for about 4 years, health and sanity declining the whole time. This was tough on all of their relationships.

Finally they couldn't take care of her any longer and they had to find a board and care for her. A place where they could deal with a few health issues (incontinence, limited mobility etc.) and allow my in-laws to be just family again, instead of care-givers.

This came at a hefty price. Because grandma never planned and has no assets, my in-laws had to pay for the board and care. My father in-law went back to work part time. Not a lot of time, but it has tied him down at a time when he should be relaxing and enjoying his life.

Last week Grandma was admitted to the hospital and the doctor prescribed skilled nursing for her. This may not mean anything to you - it really didn't to me until Grandma.

Skilled nursing is what you get when you go to a nursing home. On-staff nurses, doctors and therapists. People who know what to do when a medical crisis occurs.

"Skilled nursing" also means Medicare and Medical will cover the charges. For my father in-law it means he can stop working.

We also discussed hospice care. Hopefully this doesn't mean much to most of you either.

Hospice is a service, not a place. Hospice brings care into your own home, be it a private residence, an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Most people want to and can stay at home but if your care becomes too complex to manage at home, hospices also provide inpatient care to control symptoms in a hospice unit, a hospital or a skilled nursing facility. It is an option for people whose life expectancy is six months or less, and involves palliative care (pain and symptom relief) rather than ongoing curative measures, enabling you to live your end days to the fullest, with purpose, dignity, grace and support.

And it is covered by Medicare. Or Medical - when both hospice and nursing homes are required, one pays for the hospice care and one pays for the nursing home.

And they are quite competitive. The nursing home people say that hospice care people are greedy and push the patients into "dying early" and the hospice care people say that nursing homes just want the money from Medicare/Medical and don't have the expertise to give patients in their final days the care that they need. Not sure how to determine who is correct.

So, in the midst of having to come to terms with her mother having to go into a nursing home and nearing the end of her life, my mother-in-law is trying to deal with pushy sales folks, choosing a facility, determining what kind of care Grandma needs... it's a lot of stress for her.

We wouldn't need to worry about these kinds of things at this stressful time, but Grandma didn't plan for her future.

What I've learned - in addition to how I don't want to go - is that I need to plan ahead for my long term care. We need to know where we want to go if we end up needing to go somewhere like that, and how we plan to pay for it. We don't want to leave it up to The Children. That kind of stress no one needs.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Being a Step Mom

I'm pretty sure I don't need to hear how their "real mom" does things. (As in "Actually Susan, my real mom gets us a bigger jar of peanut butter. I like that one more.")

Yes I know it is natural. And it (mostly) isn't about me. Sometimes it would be nice to be right though. I'm just saying.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday Started Early

The Girl had a swim meet this weekend. Over an hour away. At 7:00. In the morning.

We got up and 4:30 and left before the sun rose. The day started pretty chilly - the temperature was 39 F when we got to the pool.

The Girl competed in 4 events. She's fairly new to swimming, but she's taking to it like a fish in water. So to speak.

The weather did warm up and The Girl had a good time. And I got some nice photos.

I'm hoping though, that the next swim meet can either be closer or later. A 4:30 wake-up call can really throw off the weekend.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

How I Don't Want to Go

The Mr's grandma is in the hospital. She's not doing all that well... basically it is a waiting game now. She has congestive heart disease and limited kidney function. The end could be hours, days or weeks but probably not longer. She is 94 years old and has led a full life.

We've been at the hospital with her for a couple of days. And this confirms to me that this is NOT how I want to go.

My grandfather Arthur died in hospice. Not a fun way to go. Grandma died at home. In pain but where she wanted to be.

When my time comes... hopefully a long time from now... I want to go like My Grandpa Ernie did. One morning he went ice fishing. Something he did often. He did not tell Grandma that he would be back later. Which was odd. He had a heart attack on the ice and died instantly.

I know you do not get to choose your way out. But if I could... quick and doing something I loved would be the way.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Backyard Birds

We live on the edge of Mission Trails Regional Park, a large natural park for hiking and other activities. Because of that, we often see interesting wildlife in our neighborhood - even the occasional coyote in our front yard.

We also get a lot of different kind of birds. We put out a couple of bird feeders over the weekend and now have tons of finches.

Aren't they pretty? What kind of birds do you see in your yard?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Let THEM Eat Cake

We had a departmental meeting at work yesterday. An exciting one for a lot of people... because we had cake.

I passed on the cake, even though it was for a colleague's 30th anniversary with the company. I passed because I've invested a lot in my weight loss journey (I've blogged about it here, here, here, here, and here - apparently I talk about it a lot... ).

I get stopped fairly often and people ask about my weight loss. I get these questions all the time - How do you stay focused? How did you do it? Wasn't it hard? Don't you really want a piece of cake?

I've thought about this a lot over the last year. Staying focused on our new healthy lifestyle is critical to maintaining our currents weights. Like many other folks, The Mr and I used Weight Watchers to lose the weight. The key to our success is 1) deciding to lose the weight and 2) deciding to keep it off.

I know that sounds simple. But I believe that is where most people fail. To be successful, we had to really decide that we were going to change our lives. We decided we were not going to go back to the way we used to eat. We decided we were too young to give up on ourselves. We wanted to be able to enjoy our lives now and as we grow older. We want to be able to be an active part of our grandkids' lives (sometime in the DISTANT future).

And we think about this on a daily basis. We still monitor everything we eat and track our weight daily. We talk about how we feel and how we look every day. We make it a point to stay focused on our "healthy lifestyle" so that we don't backslide. It was hard (and not very fun) to lose weight, but it was harder and less fun being overweight.

This is me and The Mr just after Christmas this year.

I'm in a good place right now. I reached my "goal" weight about 15 months ago and have settled in at about 10 pounds under the weight I was a year ago. It's a weight I can maintain, and it's a healthy weight.

I'm happy with the way I look. I'm happy with the way clothes fit me. I'm even a little tickled when I go to a store and find that they don't make clothes in sizes small enough for me. I've never been in this place before.

I do want that piece of cake. I really do. But being in this happy and healthy place makes it easier to pass up the cake.

Let THEM eat it. I don't need it.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

A Glimpse of the Teenage Years

Here's the scene: I'm in the kitchen making dinner. It is Sunday night, and time for The Children to get here (this was a weekend they spent with their mom and step-dad).

I hear the car in the driveway.

I hear a car door slam, a second door slam, some bickering that I cannot quite make out.

The back screen door slams. And again.

I see a flash of movement in the hallway towards the bedrooms, and hear another door close.

An other flash of movement in the doorway to the office.

I say (to apparently no one) "Hello!"

And then, to The Mr, "Well, I guess The Children are here."

And they aren't even teenagers yet. Heaven help us all when that comes.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not to Bring Up Religion.... but...

The Mr and I play handbells for a Methodist church handbell choir. The Mr sings in a men's choir for that same church. As a result, we frequently end up attending more than on service in a weekend.

Like many churches, this church is facing dwindling memberships. They are trying different things to retain current members and attract new members. The most recent idea is to make one of the two services "traditional" and one of them "contemporary".

I like a traditional service. I grew up in the Catholic Church. We like our traditional and our ritual, and it always seemed to me like traditional Methodist services were pretty contemporary. For me anyway.

The pastor at the church is, by just about all definitions, a hippie. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, except that when she decides to make a traditional service, she can't help but "hippify" it. Making kind of a hybrid traditional/contemporary service. Example: Methodists recite the Apostle's Creed. At this church, we often modify it to refer to trees, creatures of the forest, flowers and the like. At the traditional service. Druidic references and traditional services don't seem to go hand in hand. To me anyway.

I'm not saying we shouldn't have a contemporary service - I just think it ought to be the service that is advertised.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wonderful Spring Day

The surfers are still wearing wetsuits... but Spring is here, and you can feel Summer just around the corner!

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Lemon Basil Pasta

I love fresh pasta. Must be my Italian heritage. My first pasta-making experience was making ravioli with my grandfather. He used Nana's recipe. Such as it was... I'm thinking that Italian grandmother's recipes were mostly in their heads.

I've made lots of pasta over time. Sometimes I use a pasta machine. Sometimes I roll it out by hand, which is more satisfying somehow.

I was talking to a colleague at work about her lunch in Little Italy (up the street from where I work). She was telling me about this delicious pasta she sampled, flavored with lemon and basil. And, it just so happened that I had lemons, fresh from my tree, in my house. I stopped at the store to pick up some basil (it will be a few more weeks until I can harvest that from my garden) and some "eggs".

I use my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook attachment to make this dough (see the recipe below for ingredient measurements).

Once mixed, I split the dough into small balls. MUCH easier to roll out a small piece. Especially if you like reasonably thin pasta. Which I do.

Roll it out flat. Roll and roll. Extra flour helps with this.

Flat. And thin.

See? Thin.

Then I (carefully) roll it up and slice it.

After all of the dough is rolled and cut, you'll end up with a pile of noodles that looks something like this.

You'll want to boil in in a LARGE pot. Takes about 6 - 10 minutes. You can tell when it is done as it floats to the top. Drain and rinse.

I used a few tablespoons of lemon juice to toss the noodles. Added just that extra bit of flavor.


Basic Egg Pasta Dough - "Pasta al' Uovo"

To make about 1/2 pound (2 servings):
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 tablespoon lukewarm water

To make about 3/4 pound (3 to 4 servings):
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 tablespoons lukewarm water

To make about 1 pound (5 to 6 servings):
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lukewarm water

  • Place the flour on a large floured surface.
  • Make a well in the center. Break the eggs into the well.
  • Add the salt, oil, and water. Beat the mixture in the well with a fork.
  • Using a fork, gently start to work the flour into the liquid.
  • Continue until the dough becomes sticky and difficult to work with the fork.
  • Use your hands to form the rough dough into a ball.
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface.
  • Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
  • Cover with a bowl or towel and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Proceed with rolling and cutting the pasta according to your recipe.

For Lemon Basil Pasta Dough

Follow the recipe for Basic Egg Pasta Dough for 1 pound.
Instead of 3 eggs, use 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk.
Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, and 3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil.
Add remaining ingredients and proceed as directed for Egg Pasta Dough.

For more great recipes, check out The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap! And if you have a recipe to share, please join in the fun!

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Note to summer...

I may not be loving the time change requiring me to get up "earlier" but I do love coming home in the sunshine. Note to Summer: you are welcome to come any time. We're ready!

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patty's Day

A little Irish history for you... Wearing of the orange vs. the green.

The "Tricolour," the national flag of the Republic of Ireland, has three equal stripes which illustrate the Irish political landscape.

orange — standing for Irish Protestants
green — signifying Irish Catholics and the republican cause
white — representing the hope for peace between them

The color orange is associated with Northern Irish Protestants because of William of Orange (William III), the King of England, Scotland, and Ireland who in 1690 defeated the deposed King James II, a Roman Catholic, in the fateful Battle of the Boyne near Dublin. William III's victory secured Protestant dominance over the island, to the enormous benefit of the 17th-century colonizers of northern Ireland — the English (mainly Anglicans) and Scots (mostly Presbyterians). Sometimes called Orangemen, Protestants in Northern Ireland celebrate the anniversary of the battle each July 12th.

Green as the color standing for the Irish Catholic nationalists of the south may have something to do with shamrocks and verdant landscapes, but more importantly, green symbolizes revolution.

One of the reasons that one wears green on St. Patrick's Day is because the Catholic side of Ireland is identified with green, and St. Patrick is a Catholic Saint credited with converting the island to Christianity. Whereas the Protestants are identified with orange, and are often called "Orangemen", as in King William the Orange. The clashes in Ireland between the Catholics and Protestants are often clashes of the green and the orange.

I've got some Irish heritage. These are my great-great-grandparents. Daniel and Sarah McConaghie. This was back in Ireland, on the farm they owned outside of Belfast. We're Northern Irish. I still wear green - don't want to get pinched! ;-)

Hope you enjoy your St. Patrick's Day, orange or green!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Fever

I've got a severe case of Spring Fever today. Egged on by this...
... a view of my backyard... with the temperature at my house... 89.6. Nice.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

The Weekend

Some things we did this weekend:

  • Took The Girl to a St. Patrick's Day parade
  • Bought The Mr's parents a blu-ray player with Netflix connectivity and installed it
  • Recaulked the bathroom counter and shower door
  • Replanted some herbs
  • Made lemon basil pasta (yum!)
  • Ate at Irish, Mexican and Italian restaurants
  • Wished I had more time to sleep
  • Watched "12 Monkeys" - wow... excellent movie, great acting, but kind of creepy...
  • Did 3 loads of laundry
  • Chatted with an old friend via Facebook
  • Listened to The Children snipe at each other... over and over and over

Seemed to go by awfully quickly. Maybe we'll stop to smell the roses (so to speak) next weekend. How was your weekend?

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

About Me

An interesting list. By the end of the year I hope to have crossed at least one more off the list - can you guess which ones?

(the bold ones are the ones that I have done)
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disney

8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a thunder and lightning storm

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Been sky diving (indoor skydiving counts, right?)
66. Visited a Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone
78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Got a tattoo
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

On Being a Step Mom

Being a step-mom means...

  • giving up the french fries for which you saved WW points and have been craving all week
  • getting up early on Saturday to go to a St. Patrick's Day Parade in which girl-step-kid is volunteering... and not staying for said parade because said kid is "old enough" to just be dropped off
  • getting up EXTRA early on Saturday to take said kid to a swim meet... and cheering while attempting to entertain boy-step-kid
  • watching "Finding Nemo" or "There Goes a Dump Truck" approximately one billion times
  • not putting spice in anything so that said children will eat
  • having endless conversations about Pokemon (seriously.)
And doing these things while wearing the standard step-mom nose-wart. Of course.

One day, though, (a long time from now) it will all be worth it when I hear my own words coming out of the kids' mouths. As in "Go close the door - were you born in a barn?" or "Sometimes life isn't fair." The standards.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

What to Do With Jalapenos

A few weeks ago, we planted a bunch of jalapeno plants.

They seem to be growing nicely.
In fact, if you look close....
... you'll see flowers! Pre-jalapenos!

I love spicy foods and am looking forward to cooking with these little guys when we get them. I also am looking forward to making my own chipotles. Here's a recipe for chipotles in adobo sauce that I'll be trying later this summer!

Chipotles in Adobo Sauce

7 to 10 medium-sized dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and slit lengthwise
1/3 cup onion, cut in 1/2-inch slices
5 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a pan with 3 cups of water. Cover and cook over very low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the chilies are very soft and the liquid has been reduced to 1 cup. This recipe will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

For more great recipes, check out The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap! And if you have a recipe to share, please join in the fun!

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Harvest

We planted a dwarf orange tree last weekend... a blood orange tree. A couple of oranges were already growing on it and I picked one of them this evening.

I cut it open...

... and look at the inside! Orange... but also red!

The orange was pretty small, so I juiced it into a couple of tall shot glasses.
The Mr and I enjoyed delicious fresh squeezed orange juice. About one sip each. ;-) Really tasty though - can't wait until the yield is like our lemon tree!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Intro To Ethiopia

So my sis is in the process of adopting a baby from Ethiopia. The Mr and I are excited to be able to go with her to pick up her baby (whenever all the paperwork goes through and we finally get "the word" that we get to "travel"). I don't know about you all, but I don't know that much about Ethiopia. I mean, of course I know that it is a poor third world country (where we were told people were starving when we didn't eat our dinner)... and that it is in Africa. That about covers it.

I've been doing some research - and am sharing some basic facts here with you.

Ethiopia is in northeast Africa, landlocked, and is bordered by Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, Eritrea to the north and Sudan to the west.

The gross domestic product per capita in 2008 was $328 - contrast that with the GDP per capita of the USA at $46,716. Wow. That is poverty on a level I have never personally seen. I've been to China, Thailand and Indonesia - all are much less prosperous that the US, but nothing like Ethiopia. Should be a real experience.

Though my mom always told me people were starving in Ethiopia, it turns out that they have some interesting cuisine.

Some things you might find on a menu at an Ethiopian restaurant:

  • Alecha: Stew, either chicken or beef, but not hot and spicy stew.
  • Berbere: Thick, red paste composed of paprika, salt, ginger, onion, garlic, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, pepper, coriander, and fenugreek blended by water and oil.
  • Doro Wat: Chicken stew.
  • Fenugreek: Little brown seeds that are ground into tan powder for spice seasoning.
  • Injera: Thin, spongy pancake-like flatbread made from teff flour used to scoop up and wrap food in place of utensils.
  • Niter Kebbeh: Spicy butter made from sautéeing onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg in butter.
  • Shiro Wat: Vegetable stew popular during religious fastings.
  • Sik Sik Wat: Beef stew.
  • Teff: Ancient grain of Ethiopia available in whole-grain form as well as ground (teff flour) in health food stores.
  • Wat: Essentially means stew—typically made from base of berbere paste so it is hot and dense with spices.
We're really looking forward to going (and not just because we're going to have a new little niece to spoil)! As I learn more about this interesting country, I'll pass it along.

(photos and data from Wikipedia)

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