Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#14 Fiery Hot Texas T-Bones with Smashed Potatoes

 So this one was a fun one! I had to go to the liquor store, I have purchased more alcohol in the last two weeks than I have in an entire year prior.  The liquor of the evening...bourbon.
 The meat was spiced and rubbed. Rub a dub dub...meat for our grub.
What do we have here? Why it is bourbon and matches. Whatever would one have need for matches and bourbon? Why dear Rachael instructed me to flame the pan. When I was reading through the recipe last night, I was a bit shocked by the fact. So I started researching, I read a hilarious telling of someone's great balls of fire. I found out what to do and what not to do. These are important things to know when combining by cooking skills, my house, and flames in the presence of my children.
For your viewing pleasure, we video taped the great flambe. Great balls of fire is right batman.
video
  Craziness! Fun with a splash of nervousness. I love that DD calls out, "Be careful Mom!"

The flavors, the fun, the fire... it was fantastic!
Mark this one as one that will be done again.
-Mom

My job was the smashed potatoes. I cut them up. I cooked them. I browned the bacon and onions. Then I got to smash them. They were so good! I called dibs on the rest for tomorrow's lunch. The steak was good too. On the subject of the fire let's just say I was on the other side of the room. ;)
-DD

Random Act of Hatred

We have all heard the phrase random acts of kindness. We have all been on the receiving end of someone's generosity and care. Last night, I was on the receiving end of a random act of hatred. At least I hope it was random and not targeted. While DD was in rehearsal someone stabbed a three inch nail into my rear passenger tire. I did not see it when we got in as it was the other side but I promptly heard the whamp, whamp, whamp as I tried to leave the parking lot.
A three inch nail in the side, I had not run over it, it was jabbed in there. Mean people suck.
The people at the front desk, wondered if someone had mistaken my vehicle for an ex lovers. My husband wondered if I pissed someone off at the theater or cut someone off on my way into the parking lot. Um, no and no. I wonder if someone was dared to do it as a part of an initiation. Whoever it was for whatever reason, they suck.
Thankfully our second vehicle was being unused at the moment. And thankfully, I have a dad who loves me enough to leave the comforts of home at 10pm to come get us and take us to our extra vehicle.
Unfortunately, the timing is horrible as I have a jam-packed day from taxi service, to kid's club in the garden, back to taxi services, cooking our recipe of the day, and dress rehearsal at the theater tonight. Somewhere in there I will be adding, call the tire shop, pay for a new tire, have it installed and figure out how to get an extra vehicle home. Insert sad face and a sigh.

Monday, July 21, 2014

#13 Saucy BBQ Chicken Sammies with Potato Salad

 Sammies, I am not sure if the term is a Rachael Ray exclusive but it is short for sandwich. If you have a sandwich, you need a bread. This one called for a soft bun so I decided to make my own. I really need to stop for a moment and sing the praises of Better Batter. It has become my go-to all purpose flour as it substitutes quite nicely in most recipes and their site has a few recipes that have been really working for me. Today, I decided to give the Italian Rolls recipe a try. It mixed up nice into a soft, sticky batter that I spooned onto the parchment paper using a serving spoon dipped in water. I then used my wet hand to give them a little shape. Let them rise for 15 minutes then wash them with egg whites.
 They turned out fantastic. 10 beautiful golden brown beauties.
 There were a few things going on in this recipe. The potato salad, the relish, the BBQ sauce and the meat mix.
 I had never poached chicken before but here it is, chicken in a beer and broth bath. 
 The kitchen was busy with activity from start to finish for this one. But the work was worth it.
#13 Saucy BBQ Chicken Sammies with Pepper and Green Onion Potato Salad
I loved learning the basics of a solid BBQ sauce. Since we try to avoid corn syrup, I sometimes have a hard time finding a BBQ sauce that tastes good and is corn syrup free. I love knowing we can make it ourselves and it was not as difficult as I thought it would be. This one was a bit spicy for me but with a little less hot sauce and a little more brown sugar I think we can tweak this to our liking with no difficulty.

No one in the house was a fan of the potato salad. I prefer a mayo potato salad rather than a vinaigrette. The sammie however was scrumptious!
-Mom

I got the job of cutting up the pickles for the relish. I had my mom set some aside for me to munch on. Yum!
The BBQ chicken sammie was so good, a bit spicy but still so good I went back for seconds.
-DD

Freedom and Insanity

This week should prove to be the craziest week of the summer.
The boy is a member of YLP, Youth Leadership Program, at Fenner Nature Center. He meets weekly with other youth and helps shape the future of the nature center as well as maintain it. This week he has volunteered to be an assistant at their week long summer camp, Wilderness Rangers. It is right up his alley as it covers the fundamentals of fire starting, shelter building, water purification and navigating in the back country.

Sweet tart, aka DD, will having quite the week as she does VBS the Blast in the mornings. Hangs out with a friend that we are transporting to VBS for a couple of hours. Throw in cooking our recipe for the day. Then it is off to the theater from 6-9:45pm for Tech week, a series of dress, sound and tech rehearsals getting ready for Opening Day on Friday. Closing the week with three performances of The Little Mermaid.

Yesterday, I got a really unusual phone call. A friend of a friend was looking for a ride for their son to and from VBS so he could volunteer. I said I would, hopefully I can figure out who he is at pick up today.

Which leads me to FREEDOM! I am kid free all week from 9-noon. By free I mean, free to pay bills, clean the house, blog, go shopping, do school prep and read with no kids to distract. Close enough to freedom for me.

We will be coming and going in a whirlwind of activity but it should be a grand adventure.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

#12 Spiced Lamb Chops on Sauteed Peppers and Onions with Mint Couscous

 Blessed day! Church today was amazing, one that we will sit down later in the week and watch as a family. ;)

Okay, look close at this picture. You may need to click on it to see the shock of the day.
 Did you click on it? Did you see it?
This meal has proven to be the trickiest and most expensive meal to buy. First off, lamb loin chops. I have never had them nor have I ever purchased them. I found them easy enough after asking the butcher. The cost $7.55 for four. The recipe called for eight but hubby is on business so we have been halving the recipes when he is away. Next up was the pine nuts. I could not find them at our normal grocery. They were also not at our awesome farmer's market/grocer. So on the way home from church we stopped at the international bulk food store. After looking up and down every aisle, I asked for help from the owner, whom directed me right to them. Then for the shock; for a sixth of a pound it cost $11.99. YIKES! I only needed 2 tablespoons. So now I have a whole package of pine nuts. Good thing I have basil and Parmesan to make pesto. Lastly, the couscous. Since we are gluten free I needed to find a GF variety. I checked the three previous stores we had already shopped at this weekend and no luck. I googled it to see if it even existed, it does. I finally found it at the health food store for $7 and some change oops it was really $3.79. We used just under half the box. Thankfully, I was able to get the herbs from the garden. Hey sis, I took some of your mint. I hope you don't mind. My mom offered up some of her parsley. I have planted it in the past and never used it. Now I am using it all the time. Thanks Mom and Sis!

As for preparing the meal, it was uncomplicated. DD tenderized the meat and seasoned it.
 I sauteed all the veggies and made the couscous. Unfortunately, Rachael got the measurements for the couscous wrong. It should be two part liquid to one part couscous and she had it listed as equal parts. Shame on me for not checking the package first. My couscous was crunchy but I quickly boiled some water, added it in and let it set a couple of minutes for the kids servings.

Here it is, Spiced Lamb Chops on Sauteed Peppers and Onions with Mint Couscous
I thought it looked and tasted elegant. Too bad hubby was not home to enjoy this one as it was more of an adult dinner date than a family meal the kids appreciated. They were not impressed, even the teen.
I may make it again some day. When we have money for a nice dinner date sans kids.
-Mom

Lamb chops- not very much meat on them. The couscous was undercooked. And you know how I feel about veggies. Good thing I wasn't very hungry. -DD

Saturday, July 19, 2014

#11 Italian Sub Stoup and Garlic Toast Floaters

Stoup, what is a stoup? Good question. It is what Rachael Ray defines as thicker than soup, thinner than stew. Stoup. This one had a blend of three meats; sweet Italian sausage, pepperoni and steak ham. I switched out the gemelli pasta with Tinkyada spirals after I searched up and down the pasta aisle to see what gemelli pasta even was. It turns out it is a kind of twist and I still had some spiral noodles left from the mac-n-cheese, win!
 This recipe called for making your own croutons. In the store DD kept saying we can just buy GF croutons. I was stubborn though and said no. The real reason was because I wanted to learn how to make them. So we did. We were rushing around trying to complete the meal before we had to head out to a potluck at the community garden so we did not take any extra pictures, only the ingredients pic and the final dish.
Italian Sub Stoup with Garlic Toast Floaters
I almost forgot to take the after picture as we rushed out the door for the garden. While at the garden I was engaged in conversation and enjoying the moment. I know mom got some pictures, I however did not. There was only a couple and a half left at the end, which is a good thing since I still needed a picture. I would say it went over pretty well, especially since most in attendance do not eat meat or pork. Those who do seemed to enjoy it.
The garlic toast floaters were great. Good flavor, nice crisp, gluten free thanks to Udi's baguettes.
Thumbs up from me.
-Mom

I decided I wanted to make something for the potluck too, so I settled on making Harvest Cake. It is a family recipe that is DE-LISH-OUS! I told my mom I wanted to make it all by myself, but she was available if I needed help.
Here is the batter in the mixer.
Tada! Harvest Cake. The people loved it and it was gone within minutes. ;)
As for the Stoup, I was not a fan of it but I did like the garlic toast floaters and my Harvest Cake. -DD

Whatever Happened to the Community Garden

Before the blog went silent I had shared how I was venturing into leadership at a community garden, Jolly Grove. I shared how we were preparing the land, getting it ready for it's inaugural season. It was 2010.

So much has happened in that time. Jolly Grove was a Land Bank property, owned by the Land Bank, leased by the garden. It had about 20 families, a children's garden, and donation plots that provided food for the South Lansing Kitchen. We were in the planning stages for our third season, I had just gotten approval to expand to reach out to the refugee community nearby, when we got word that the property was going to be developed. It was a bit disheartening. When the head of the Land Bank came to me and said, "Sarah, I think I have a property you are going to love for a new garden." I was skeptical. I knew the time commitment to start up a garden. I knew the labor involved. But still a part of me was curious so I went to see this new land. 14 acres in the middle of the city, mostly forest, some of it had been cleared for a housing development and then was shut down. Brush had grown up.
 It looked like A LOT of work. Yet it was charming too. It had a ditch running through it. I saw potential.
 With much encouragement from my mother, and a commitment of support from our three previous sponsors, we decided to go ahead and form this new garden. In April of 2012 we broke ground.
 Two acres of land were cleared, while keeping the natural integrity and habitat in the remaining 12 acres.
 As seen from Google Earth in May of 2012, I present to you Webster Farms Community Garden.

Part of the discussion earlier in the year had been my desire to reach out to the Bhutanese refugees nearby. I had helped a few move and a close friend was building relationships and shared the need for land, the longing to grow food for their families.
At the same time a church of Burmese refugees had approached the Garden Project wondering if there was land for their church to have a garden.
In the end we reached out to both communities.

Oh the work, there was so much work to be done. We moved all of the materials from Jolly Grove to Webster, the fence, the shed, the pallets and raised beds. Then we had to work at clearing the roots and debris from the land. After that came water solutions, we had to get creative. Then the fence. The fence was a must! We have a wide variety of wildlife in the woods and powerlines. We have seen deer, raccoon, a badger, groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, coyote, opossum, as many varieties of birds and amphibians. Slowly, the fence went up, the electricity was turned on. The fence has improved over the years as we try to keep out the critters. Here is a signage on the fence, communicating in three languages that the fence is electric and do not touch.
 Language. The first year that was a tricky barrier. We learned a few things very quickly. One, panni means water. Second, Namaste, the Nepali greeting as we were enthusiastically greeted. Third, those over the age of 35 struggled in their English as those under 35 especially the teens and young adults spoke excellent English as seven of their nine subjects were taught in English at the refugee camps. Out of pure need, I learned to speak Nepali. It was important for me to communicate to my gardeners who were quickly becoming my friends. Whenever I did not know a word, I would ask, write it down and practice it over and over. In my dreams I would say the words over and over.  I am still learning Nepali but I have grown tremendously with my vocabulary near 500 words. Between my broken Nepali and their broken English, we can communicate. The Burmese language is much more difficult as there are 300+ dialects and even Burmese struggle speaking with each other. Thankfully they are all one church so we can communicate to the Burmese garden leaders and they can share with the whole community. This year we are noticing great improvement in their English skills as they are communicating more and more.
 Resourcefulness! It amazes me. They do not run out to the store for trellises, they make them and they are beautful.

So the garden grew, it thrived. As did all the gardeners. That first year we heard so many stories. Many of them were farmers when they were still in Bhutan, this coming back to the earth was a homecoming.
 We learned culture. I learned the meaning of human suffering. The Bhutanese went through an ethnic cleansing were the men were beaten, tortured and imprisoned. Which lead to their fleeing the country and finding refuge in Nepal where they lived for 20 years in refugee camps.  I learned perspective.

The garden has been good. We have a Children's Garden were I run weekly Kid's Club. I teach them about nature, we go on adventure hikes and check out what is living in the ditch and among us. We plant, weed, water and harvest the fruits of our labor. Here is a picture from 2010, the Kids Club harvest party.

We are now in our third season, with everything growing beautifully. Even if we still have rabbits and groundhogs trying to intrude.

And the work still continues. This year we built a rain catchment shelter.
 And a land bridge/culvert over the ditch.
Things are always changing and there is always work to be done but some things are forever.
This is a place of beauty, growth, culture, love and respect.
This place is gloriously good!

You can check out more pictures on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WebsterFarm
Also, special thanks to my mother for her unbending dedication to this garden. She is known to all the gardeners as Ama, Mom! Also to our partners, The Land Bank, The Garden Project and SLCDA. Without them this would never have been possible. And lastly to this year's Americorp member, Brian, whose hard work is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

#10 The T2: Turkey Chili-Topped Turkey Chili Burgers with Red Pepper Slaw and Funky Fries

That has to be THE LONGEST recipe title!
Fantastic day today! First off it was payday so I went to Target and picked up some kitchen supplies.
 Score! Then Meijer had the cast dutch oven on clearance as well as the colander. Triple score.

#10 The T2: Turkey Chili-Topped Turkey Chili Burgers with Red Pepper Slaw and Funky Fries.
For my gluten free peeps the only substitute I made was the bun. I still had a coupe Udi's Classic Hamburger Buns so the kids used those.
 Mixing up the meat. This was not her first time but it is a job she likes as she is the grill master in our house. Daddy taught her all his secret tricks.
 Look at the beautiful colors going into those babies as well as into the slaw.
 Plated nicely on my new set. Since I have gone gluten free I have found I don't miss buns. I have now gotten to the point that I actually prefer burgers without them.
 The slaw was really tasty with a new kind of vinaigrette for me. It is a meal that will be enjoyed again.

We ate dinner early because of a local event called Blast in the Moonlight! A blast it is. Everything but the hot dog dinner is free. Our family plans our summer around this event, we will not go out of town during this time. We will reschedule something if we think we will miss it.
Here the kids are inhaling watermelon in the watermelon eating contest.
 And here I was trying to defend my title. It was this point I was thinking why did I eat our meal right before. But it did not deter me, inhale I did. I came in second, I lost to the young adult with downs syndrome that won over the crowd. For the record though, I did eat more. ;) As well as beat my nephew.
 A little later we tried our hand at dodgeball. I have some practicing to do if we plan on doing that again next year.
 Then it was on to the hula hoop contest, which is always a highlight for my kids. This year they were both in the same age division. They ended up taking first and second and got to go up on stage.

I always love this event. During the concert they hand out glowsticks to everyone in the crowd. As the sky darkens the hill glows. Finished off with a firework show at the end.
Fantastic day!
-Mom

It is just after midnight and DD has gone to bed. She said to tell you that she would have liked the burgers if there were not veggies in them. Also, that the watermelon eating contest for her age was rigged as they gave the smallest piece to the biggest boy. And she was very happy her brother and her won the hula hoop contest. All that practicing this week paid off.
-Mom paraphrasing for DD

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Reading Challenge

 Read, read read, all summer long. Read, read, read while I sing this song.
It was Memorial Day weekend that I issued a challenge to my children. I asked them to read 100 books by next Memorial Day. Well, at first it started out that I would like them to read 100 of the 150 books I placed on a book list sometime in the next two years but to be really crazy, why not read them all THIS YEAR?
And the fun part? I am reading them too. Although I have challenged myself to read all 150. If I found some value in them to be placed on the list, then I should obviously value them enough to dig in and read them myself. You see when I was a tween and young adult, I missed out. I was reading crap, literary fodder, books that were watered down and weak. Gasp! I know, I am ashamed.
That is where my life philosophy serves me well, it is never too late. Also, I now believe a good children's and young adult book is good for all.
When I made the reading list, I scoured the internet, read reviews, looked for classics that have withstood the test of time as well as sought out new treasures. I looked for award winners. I looked for depth of character. I looked for real life as well as found a few fantasy, threw in a healthy dose of biographies and nonfiction. Then I printed the list and challenged the kids. Their first goal was to read 14 by the middle of August if they wanted to go to an amusement park they have never been to. I am all for bribery. It works.

In the first month, I read the following:
 My daughter and I fell in love with the Penderwicks.

In the last three weeks I read these gems:
 There were some truly excellent stories in this lot. Every single one of them were well written. Although Hereville:How Mirka Got Her Sword was not really my thing, being a graphic novel. And I was surprised to see Odd Boy Out was a picture book, how did I miss that? Oh well, we all got an easy read out of that one.

Have you read any of these titles? Which was your favorite?

“Clearly one must read every good book at least once every ten years.”
C.S. Lewis
For some us we need to just read them, it is never too late.

#9 Turkey Noodle Casserole

My daughter is into contracts lately, she made me sign on today. It read, "For every minute I am late (to theater) I will be paid $1. Time arrived______ Money earned______
I got her there on time. The theater has a saying, "If you are early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late. And if you're late, you're in trouble." No trouble for me or my pocketbook. For the record, she has never been late but she was concerned today as I had three errands to run on the way and she was certain she was going to be late. She is very conscientious of these things.

The boy proved himself useful today as he made a repair to the toilet. Handy one that 13 year old.

Turkey Noodle Casserole, at first glance made me think of Tuna Noodle Casserole which I despised as a kid because of the peas. So I was a bit leery to dive in. I should not have feared. Not pictured is the cheese, gruyere. I am going to be a cheese aficionado by the end of the year. As we are nine recipes in and we have already used six difference cheeses if memory serves me correctly.  
 The new skill for today, for both of us, was making bread crumbs. We were standing in the GF aisle at the store and we were debating about the bread crumbs, make our own out of the extra baguette in the freezer or buy some there at the store. DD says, "Let's make our own and save money." I love that girl! I had never done it before but I think I have watched it on a cooking show at some time in my life. We placed the baguette in the oven and crisped it up, then threw it into the food processor. Easy!
 The melted cheese and the crispy bread crumbs gave this dish a nice golden look.
It was FANTASTIC! My favorite dish thus far. Seriously, so good.

And as always we had leftovers. These ones went to our Americorp member helping at the garden. He is a college student and also gluten free, so I thought he might like it! He loved it. In his words, "A total winner." "Heavenly!" "THANK YOU!!!"
He may just get other leftovers as he was so appreciative.
-Mom

It was NOT a winner in my book. It had mushrooms and I despise them as well. When I was first cutting the cheese it reminded me of my grandma's dog but the cheese was actually good. -DD

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

#8 Mega Meatball Pizza and Zippy Italian Popcorn

It is 11pm and I may be crazy but we went for a twofer. You know DD was looking forward to pizza. Well, I guess I was too because when she got home from drama tonight we decided to make #8 the Mega Meatball Pizza. I put a call out on facebook for some rosemary and within seconds my sister offered up some from her garden. With parsley from my mom's garden and the rosemary from my sister's we had everything we needed.
 To make it gluten free we made this pizza crust from Better Batter. Added the olive oil and rosemary and put it in the oven to bake. Meanwhile, we made the meaty sauce.
 Have you ever tried to grate mozzarella? It is rather difficult so we went with half grated, half sliced.
PIZZA!! A rather deep dish pizza.
 Pizza!
 The cookbook said it was a TV dinner and who are we to argue? We rented the movie Free Birds.
 Made the flavored popcorn and as I type we are watching the movie and snacking on the popcorn.
Hey, it's summer! I'm lovin' it!
-Mom

I'm watching the movie. -DD