Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bread Slabs - Gluten-Free

Sometimes, in the course of a meal, along comes a recipe that saves the day.

Such was the case on Sunday, Easter.

And the recipe was the chewy and savory Basil/Rosemary Bread Slabs from my wonderful, favorite, cookbook, Cooking for Isaiah.

The star of the show was to be the delicious and elegant Chicken Broccoli Rolls in Wine Sauce.  Yes, "was to be."

As it turns out, the 2nd page of the 3-page recipe was completely gone . . . missing . . . mislaid . . .disappeared.  And so I had to draw on my memory of a dish I hadn't made in 10 years.

As is so often the case, recipes trump memory

I distinctly heard someone on the other side of the table comment that the dish tasted rather like creamed tuna on toast.  ::sigh::  And Oldest Son responded, quietly, that maybe Easter dinner wasn't the perfect time to bring out old, unfamiliar recipes.

It is at times like this that I am really, really, really glad that I have a family-pleasing recipe like "Bread Slabs" to save the day.  And they're gluten-free to boot! 

Gotta love these little darlings!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

18 Years of Easter Baskets

This Easter, there were 3 changes that I wanted to make for me . . . just this year . . . but maybe to be repeated.  Just 3 little changes, but they did leave me with a bunch of bubbly happiness on the inside.

#1 - I white-washed the garish, carnival-colored Easter baskets:



Ah, delightful.  

The boys were mortified . . . simply mortified.

Oldest Son's Clemson-orange basket was suddenly a very soft, rosy, bunny-ear color.

Middle Son's screaming purple became a delicate lilac.  

He mourned for a day.

I remained unmoved.

Youngest Son, in desperation took his green and blue basket and headed for the hills.

It didn't resurface until Saturday night.

#2 - I did not visit Target or Wal-Mart to fill Easter baskets:

Instead I went to Fresh Market and bought things like
white chocolate pretzels with Easter-y swirls

mounds of German gummy bears

peanut butter-filled eggs

watermelon taffy

Australian licorice

and Lindt milk chocolate bunnies.

It made me so happy.

A treat just for me.  I'm sure the kids would just as soon have had the
junky stuff!

Because the candy was more expensive, I bought less.

And that was a good thing too!

#3 - No eggs this year.

I know . . . I almost felt criminal.

I just didn't want to do eggs this year . . . in any form.

I didn't color them, hide them, serve them, or decorate with them.

Instead, I gathered the yummy candies into little tissue paper pouches, 
plopped them in the baskets,
and the baskets were waiting on the table Easter morning.

I loved the simplicity, and I think they turned out cute.

It's amazing how refreshing changing up things a little can be.

Taking off the pressure of expectations.

Choosing less but better quality.

Freshening up what looks old and tired, instead of buying new.

Making the holiday special for me too.

And after 18 years of Easter baskets, I needed that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Fitting

First step toward the magical moment of GRADUATION . . . fitting of Junior-Senior/Prom dress.

A gift of a dress.

Couldn't find one long enough for 5'11" Oldest Daughter in all of town.

Gave up on going to the party.  

Expected instead to sit at home and watch dejectedly 
as the pics were uploaded onto Facebook.

Suddenly, surprised by finding another shop . . . finding a dress . . . long enough for these long legs.

A sweet gift from God, letting her know He's with her in every detail

As she moves through . . .

Each step.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pioneer Woman and Balance and Home

I like Pioneer Woman.

She makes me feel like she's just another mom, like me . . . even if she did write a cookbook, 
publish her love story, and appear on all the morning shows.

If you read her blog, you can see she's pulling back  a little lately on her schedule.

She mentioned (on this post) a new upcoming opportunity and then added:

And most of all, it’s something fun I can do without ever leaving [home].

And I’ve learned that the more I apply that filter to the things I want to do,

 the more my life tends to stay in balance. 

 And balance, I’ve learned firsthand, is a beautiful, wonderful thing.



There's something very centering about being there.

And not even just "being there" physically.


But "being there" emotionally.

Heart, soul, body and mind.

Home keeps me humble, focused, and . . . yes . . . balanced.

 It is a "beautiful, wonderful thing."

Yep, me and Pioneer Woman . . . just 2 BFFs learning life together.

(all pictures courtesy of tiny white daisies)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Birds These Days

There's not much that is more full of promise, hope and expectation than nests in the spring! 

The birds in our neighborhood seem to be quite challenged, however, in their building abilities, site selection and decisiveness.

For example, one bird worked away diligently in our zelcova tree and then later in the day, as Youngest Daughter and I walked under the tree, the nest came down with a plop right in front of us.  Back to Engineering 101 for that bird.

Youngest Daughter filled it with little pink flowers instead of the eggs for which it was meant.

And then you may remember the mourning dove that chose our hanging pansy planter in which to begin her nest and then left in a flurry of stress and distraction.

Well, apparently not having found any other spot to suit her completely, she is back and has laid 2 adorable eggs.  She's become used to children, dogs, and life going on just under the bottom of her basket.  Papa Bird, however, has not become accustomed and cannot reconcile himself to Mama's indecisiveness.  He sits up on the roof ledge just waiting for Mama to grow exasperated again, so he can say, "I told you so."  Humph.

And then there is the bird with the impaired site selection ability.  This bird chose, of all places, the 24' x 45' fenced area in which we keep our two large, boisterous, and bird-o-phobic dogs.  Somehow this bird built its nest within dog-reaching range and managed to get an egg laid before she realized that she must have had a migraine when choosing her location.  She abandoned her nest while her life was still her own.

Youngest Daughter and I rescued it, and it sits on a shelf in her room, looking sweet and springy.  Just love those touches of blue the bird chose to weave in her nest!  Nest built right in the jaws of danger . . . but it sure was beautiful.

Really . . . what are they teaching birds these days!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Necessary Knitting

There are all kinds of reasons to knit. 

Today I'm starting some necessary knitting.  My dishcloths are in shreds, and once you use a knitted cotton dishcloth, there is no going back to some other cheap substitute!

Let me just insert here that as pretty as lace-patterned dishcloths may look, they just can't stand up to the wear and tear of every day use in a family of 7.  Leave the beauty in your drawer and just pop it out when company comes so they will think you always indulge in such luxury of freshly-knitted, lace-patterned, bright red dishcloths.

I'm looking forward to starting this dishcloth by Mason-Dixon.  Love the bright colors and the nice, tight stitching.  No more sissy lace-knit dishcloths for this family.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sun-Dried Tomato Artichoke Chicken

Who needs another recipe of "something-to-do-with boneless-skinless-chicken-breasts"?  Definitely me!!

So, when this fascinating offering came across my path, I snatched it up.

The chicken in itself is nothing special . . . lightly floured, salted, pan seared . . . yawn.

It's what the mixture of the sun-dried tomatoes, the artichokes, the wine and the lemon juice do that make magic.  And it's quick and easy too.

Who could resist?

Sun-Dried Tomato Arthichoke Chicken

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (I was doing well to find the dried on the spice shelf)
1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 1 lemon (1 tablespoon)
1-14 ounce can quartered artichoke hearts (drained)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cut chicken into 1-inch chunks.  Preheat large saute' pan on medium-high for 2-3 minutes.  Place flour and chicken in zip top bag, seal bag and shake to coat.  Place oil in pan,then add chicken.  Cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Stir in wine.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Cook 2-3 minutes or until liquid is slightly reduced.

Sprinkle lemon juice over chicken.  Stir in remaining ingredients (except thyme and cheese) and cover.  Cook 2-3 minutes.  Remove pan from heat, stir in thyme, sprinkle with cheese.  Yummmmmmmmmm!

I would like to add that should certain members of your family find the taste of wine, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes not to their liking, the whole dish can also be thickly covered with barbeque sauce on their plate and still found quite enjoyable.  ::sigh::

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dead Meat

I am about to be in trouble.

It all started with this son.

Yes, this one.

And, of course, this one.

This child was never meant to live in a subdivision.  Never meant to politely walk the dog down the street, quietly swing in the backyard, and never, ever allow the kickball to be kicked into the neighbor's yard.

No, he was meant to be out on some acreage somewhere, shooting his Airsoft gun, riding a 4-wheeler, climbing trees and biking up mountains.

And I tell him "no" all the time.

But this one time he and his friend asked to go out on the roof and up the roof and just sit there and feel the wind blow in their hair and talk about all the wild and daring adventures they would have if they only just could.

And after holding out for quite a long time, I finally said "yes," out loud to him and then spent a while muttering to myself little things like, "no one will ever know" . . . "it's only just this once" . . . and "if life were fair he would be somewhere rappelling down a mountain anyway."

I allowed it for one-half hour.  I watched to make sure they were calmly sitting.  I let them have their adventure.
And then I called them down and thought smugly to myself that indeed I had gotten away with some quite bad mothering.

That was Friday.

And now it's Saturday.  And I have just seen my vocal and opinionated Dear Neighbor walking across the front lawn and engaging My Husband in conversation.  I see her wildly gesturing toward the peak of the roof.  I see her extending her arms and waving them up and down.  I see her stamping her foot and resting her hands aggravatedly on her hips.  (She's actually a wonderful neighbor to have when there are pot holes to be filled or prowlers spotted or the electricity goes out.  Quite wonderful indeed.)

The problem is that My Husband does not exactly see eye-to-eye on Middle Son's need for adventure and challenge.  He comes from good, sensible Midwestern stock.  Common sense, dependable people that do things like put shoes on when they go outside, push their chairs up to the table when they have completed their meal, and put away tools when they're through using them.

This dear man will not understand me letting Middle Son up on the roof for an adventure.
Yep, I'm about to be dead meat.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Win/Win!

It would be a good day indeed if each and every day I could find time to do something creative . . . knit for a nice, long, uninterrupted stretch . . . work on a page of my journal . . . cook a new recipe.  But many days don't allow for that kind of time investment.  So, it's helpful to put a little dollop of creativity here and there, even if it's as simple as getting Youngest Daughter's bed made really beautifully and smooth with all pillows plumped or arranging all my knitted dishcloths in their little wrought iron basket.

Today my little something creative was gathering up some leftovers that I've frozen over the week in small jars and containers, wrapping them with some twine, gluing on die-cut flowers and little notes and sharing with a friend who won't cook "just for herself."  (I'm afraid she's living on Panera hot chocolate!)

She got:

* Chili with Tortilla Chips, Sour Cream, and Shredded Cheese
* Italian Chicken Rice Soup with fresh Parmesan and Italian Bread Squares
* Melon Smoothie
* Braeburn Apples and Caramel Dip
* Garlic Lime Chicken with Mashed Potatoes

I got:

* Yummy leftovers put to good use
* A chance to be creative
* The joy of sharing

A win/win situation all around; wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Saturday Bagel Mornings

When all the kiddos were little, a family tradition was born.  Bagels on Saturday mornings.
About once a month the Man of the House heads out early, early to fight the crowds and bring home the prize . . . still-warm, mouth-watering, teeth-exercising bagels from the local bagel shop.  Everyone gets their favorite:
Man of the House:  Salt.  Topped with copious amounts of crunchy, Kosher salt.  How can this possibly be desireable?
Youngest Daughter:  Asiago Cheese.  Ripped into little pieces.  Cream cheese spread on all the little pieces.  Extremely time-consuming.  There's a reason babies of the family grow up to think life is all about them.  ::sigh::

Youngest Son:  Cinnamon Sugar.  Sticky.  Gooey.  Delicious.

Middle Son:  Cinnamon Raisin.  A classic.
Oldest Son:  Jalapeno Cheese.  And any other kinds that he can ferret out during the course of the day.  Can easily down a half dozen.  Burns it off playing basketball and generally keeping his 6'5" teenage body fueled.
Oldest Daughter:  None.  Gluten-intolerant.  Knows she'll pay for any gluten indulgence.  Walks away from it.  Disciplined . . . tough.
Me:  Sun-Dried Tomato/Spinach.  Gluten-intolerant.  Know I'll pay for any gluten indulgence.  Gobble it down spread thickly with cream cheese and a tall glass of orange juice.  Pathetically undisciplined . . . horribly weak-willed . . . hopelessly in love with Saturday Bagel Mornings.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Halfway There

The blazing Prairie Fire throw is halfway done, and I still remain enchanted.  I thought I'd be out of my mind with the knit one, purl one of the moss stitch by now.  But instead, my fingers have started to move automatically and my mind can wander elsewhere as the stitches slip off the needle one by one.

I was, actually, going at a galloping pace with nary a slip-up, until the evening I was in the passenger's seat of the family vehicle while Oldest Son practiced his parallel parking and I was a-knitting and a-purling.  Parallel parking just wasn't going right for him, the test was in the morning, he was stressed and frustrated, I was stressing and worrying for him, and before you knew it, the even bumps of the moss stitch had turned into the beginnings of some unwanted ribs. 

Of course, that meant ripping out rows and backing up to the pre-parallel parking stitches.  Most frustrating to be sure.

So, we're back at it.  Knit, purl, knit, purl.  There will be some lovely warm toes this fall.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring Comes to the Front Porch

Spring has come right to my front porch.  Mama and Papa bird have chosen a hanging plant, alive with raspberry-colored pansies, to be their home.

One must, however, consider the wisdom of these birds in choosing this particular location for their home.  How long did Mama and Papa Bird look around for a home?  Was Mama drawn in by the beauty of the flowers and the view and foolishly talk Papa into a spot mere inches from the front steps?  Did Papa think the fact that it was semi-sheltered from the weather make it secure and safe and not listen when Mama commented that being one stride away from a human's front door could be a concern?

Did these birds checked this place out? 

Have they noticed the front door slamming open and shut at all hours of the day?  Have they seen the parades of children up and down the front steps?  Did they notice the 2 large dogs peering intently out the window, ready to protect the house from all that moves on the outside?  Have they watched scooters, skateboards, and BMX bikes whisk along the porch and down the steps . . . or the rail?  Do they know that eager and excited children will be banging on the window, peering into the basket, thrilling with the excitement of a tenant on the porch?

I think not.

I watched Mama and Papa all day.  Papa seemed incredulous at the commotion and noise and left to watch from a safe distance on the peak of the roof.  Mama jolted and jumped and jostled at each new intrusion into her little world. 

And finally, at the end of only one long and disturbing day, Mama gathered up her skirts, gave Papa the high sign, and they were out of there.  Home abandoned.  Relocation begun.

I watched her fly away.  I knew what she was thinking.

I called after her, "I understand, Mama Bird!  Sometimes you think you'll lose your mind!  But it really isn't so bad once you get used to it!"

She never looked back.