Monday, November 30, 2009

Where's the Beef?

Probably not at my house. We have some property out in the boonies where we hunt deer and trap wild hogs. I'm so used to eating venison and wild pork that beef tastes funny to me. (I use venison and pork for burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, spaghetti, steaks, sausage,...) Once in a while I'll buy some ribeyes if they're on sale. I also buy chicken, but I make sure it's just chicken. It's sad to have to read the ingredient list on a package of drumsticks.

By harvesting our own meat, we don't have to worry about the animals being cooped up in feed lots and/or shot up with growth hormones. The deer and hogs graze and forage on natural food, roaming wherever they want. We field dress and butcher the meat ourselves, so we know exactly how the meat was handled from start to finish. We're not buying meat that has been trucked into town from halfway across the country. And if you've ever witnessed the destruction hogs cause, you'll know we're doing landowners a favor by eliminating some of them.

While it's a lot of work to process a deer or hog, we like having quality meat for our family. An added bonus is our children learn about self-sufficiency (and anatomy!).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gobble, Gobble!

It's almost Turkey Day. I thought I'd share some of my favorite recipes with you that would be great on your Thanksgiving menu.

Cranberry Relish
(Traditional cranberry sauce is too tart for me to eat more than about a spoonful. This relish is neither too tart nor too sweet. It's good warm or cold. It's also great on toast.)
4 cups fresh cranberries, cleaned
2 cups chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped seedless golden raisins
1 tablespoon orange rind
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 1/2 cups orange juice
1 cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients except sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes until cranberries have popped and are tender. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar. Cool. Store covered.

Pumpkin Cake Roll
(An alternative to pumpkin pie, this is delicious.)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup canned or cooked pumpkin
1 teaspooon lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
confectioners' sugar

6 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Line a greased jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs for 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar; beat for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick and lemon-colored. Stir in the pumpkin and lemon juice. Combine the dry ingredients; fold into the pumpkin mixture. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool for 5 minutes. Turn the cake out of the pan onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners' sugar. Gently peel off parchment paper. Roll up the cake in a towel jelly-roll style, starting with a long side. Cool completely on a wire rack. In a mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients; beat until smooth. Unroll cake; spread evenly with filling to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Roll up again. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before cutting. Refrigerate leftovers.

Herbed Cheese Ring
(If you're bored with plain ol' rolls, try this. It looks more complicated than it is.)
1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil, and rosemary, crushed

1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, oil, honey, egg, salt, whole wheat flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, and herbs; beat until blended. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Punch dough down and turn onto a floured surface; divide in half. Roll one portion into a 15”x10” rectangle. Combine filling ingredients; sprinkle half over dough. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet; pinch ends together to form a ring. With a sharp knife, cut 1/2” slashes at 2” intervals. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush each ring with egg; sprinkle with sesame seeds and Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Better Things to Do

TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six. Open your child's imagination. Open a book. ~Author Unknown

In Beverley Hills, they don't throw their garbage away - they make it into television shows. ~Woody Allen

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home. ~David Frost

If the television craze continues with the present level of programs, we are destined to have a nation of morons. ~Daniel Marsh, 1950

It's been years since we had a tv. We didn't watch it much when we did have it. Just a movie once in a while. When our daughter was little we got rid of it. We didn't want to raise a couch potato. Watching television is mind-numbing, certainly not something children need to be subjected to for hours at a time. Everyone knows that children are sponges, soaking up everything they're exposed to. Their little brains and bodies are still developing. Kids need to be learning, exploring, exercising, using their imaginations, and spending quality time with their families. For better or worse, these little people will grow up to be mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors, librarians, bankers, dentists, and presidents. What kind will they be?

Here are a few things to think about...How can a child be healthy when he spends hour after hour parked in front of the tv? How will he learn to interact with people when his best friend is a piece of furniture? How can he make a worthwhile contribution to society when he needs a celebrity to tell him what kind of toothpaste to buy? There are other questions I could ask, but do I need to?

- Read a book. My husband and I love to read. My daughter loves to read, too, and my son is learning to appreciate books (he's only 18 months old and doesn't yet have the attention span to sit through a whole book). The library has a wealth of information to offer you.

- Go outside. Look for caterpillars, chase butterflies, dig in the dirt, swing, "poison" armadillos. Olivia makes "armadillo poison" by mixing dirt, grass, green onions, rosemary, and peppermint (I've told her she'll have to find a substitute for my green onions). Sit in the hammock with a book and soak up some Vitamin D.

- Play games. Olivia likes to play Go Fish, Old Maid, and Checkers. I can't wait for her and Jesse to learn to play 42. It's my favorite game. It'll be so nice for the four of us to huddle around a card table playing 42, sipping hot chocolate, when it's too cold to go outside.

- Plant a garden. Good exercise, good food, good education for the kids.

- Make something. Sew, knit, crochet, draw, work with wood, paint. Be creative. It's satisfying to spend time working on a project and have something to show for your effort.

- Go somewhere. Go to a library, museum, zoo, or arboretum. Take a picnic lunch.

- Learn to play an instrument. My husband and I used to play music a lot before we had kids. I hope music will be something we can enjoy as a family when the kids get bigger (we don't seem to have time for it right now). By the way, people who play music tend to be better at math.

- Cook from scratch. It'll take a little more time than opening a box, but it's worth it. This is time you can spend with your children and the food will taste better and be more nutritious. It's hard to beat a loaf of homemade bread fresh from the oven.

- Perform random acts of kindness. This is something I need to work on myself. Take a meal to a sick friend. Help an elderly person with housework or yardwork. Volunteer at the library. Let your kids see you do something good simply because it's good. Let them be involved so they'll learn about charity and unselfishness.

Monday, November 9, 2009

In the Blink of an Eye

I can't believe it's been almost 5 years since my first child was born. (My daughter's birthday is Wednesday.) The last 5 years flew by faster than 2 years of graduate school. Here's Olivia soon after she was born.

Here she is when she was about a year old. She's changed so much. She's been walking for 3 months, has several teeth, and knows a lot of words (although she doesn't say many).

This is at her second birthday party. She knows some of her numbers!

For her third birthday she got a tricycle. Unfortunately, it's hard for her to pedal it on our dirt road. She now has a bicycle, too, but it's also hard for her to pedal.

At 4 years old she's such a grown-up little girl (sometimes!). She's a good mother to her babies.

Now my baby is almost 5. She's doing kindergarten work. She can read fairly well (except for having trouble with words like "gnashed" and "pterodactyl") and can count to 100 with just a little help. She has a very active imagination.

It really is amazing how fast they grow up. Watching them evolve from helpless infants into independent little people is awesome. I bet the next 5 years go even faster.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shower Shenanigans

That's it. I'm going to quit taking showers. At least not after my husband leaves for work or before he returns. It seems every time I take a shower, disaster strikes.

To the best of my recollection, the first major ordeal was when Olivia cut her hair. I think it was about a year ago. She would have been 4 or close to it. She had NEVER had a haircut. One day while I was showering, she took her little scissors and cut bangs and shortened the hair framing her face. I was speechless. Luckily, she did a pretty good job.

Another time, Jesse played Picasso on the end of the bookcase. And on the wall. The bookcase and wall are off-white; the crayon was purple. I didn't even try to wash it off because it'll probably happen again. I figure I'll scrub it off or paint over it before we sell the house.

More recently I got out of the shower to discover Jesse had eaten half an apple. You might wonder why this made the list of "ordeals." I wouldn't have been upset if he'd just eaten half an apple. He had gnawed on 6 or 7 apples for a grand total of half an apple down the little red lane. We had apple juice that night.

Last week Olivia poured a tea kettle full of water all over Jesse (don't worry - it wasn't hot). In the living room. Jesse was drenched from head to toe. Water was all over the recliner and carpet. And Olivia had tried to tell me "Jesse had a diaper leak."

Yesterday I discovered Olivia had cut Jesse's hair. I'm not sure when it happened, but it must have happened when I was in the shower.

I don't spend a lot of time on my appearance. I don't wear makeup. My mother cuts my hair about once a year. Some days I don't even take the time to comb my hair. So I didn't think spending 5 or 10 minutes a day on the most fundamental personal hygiene was too much to ask. Apparently I was wrong.