Friday, January 30, 2009

Good Things are Happening... Good Things are Edible

Good food is coming out my ears! Okay, not literally because that would be, well, gross, and waxy, and gross. And, no, this is not connected in any way to my desire to prepare more nutritious food for my family as mentioned a few posts ago.

Okay, two recipes I want to share just because even thinking about them makes my mouth water.

Under the "meat" header in my recipe box lies this unassuming little 3x5 card, not even a cute one specifically for recipes (it's fluorescent yellow, actually) that says "Whole Crock Pot Chicken." Don't let the tame nature of the name fool you. This is one great chicken! it's more rightful name would be something like "Fall-off-the-bone-and-melt-in-your-mouth Chicken." I'm copying the recipe below as I prepare it (not as it says on the card, because that much pepper -- white, cayenne AND black -- would send the rest of my family running to the fire department. And I might have to wash it down with something too). Here goes.

1 whole chicken or 3-4 pounds chicken pieces
1 T salt
1 t seasoning salt
2 dashes cayenne pepper
1 t onion powder
1 t thyme
3/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t black pepper

Remove skin from chicken. Combine spices and rub into chicken. Place in crock pot. I also sprinkle any remaining spice mixture over chicken in the pot. Cook on low 8 to 10 hours or on high 4 to 5 hours. It's that easy. And the juices make a kick-butt gravy base to boot (get it, kick butt-to boot -- HA! I know, it wasn't funny in the first place if you had to explain it).

Recipe number two includes one of those convenience foods I rarely have in the house, but just happened to this time. I went shopping while hungry and the Jiffy Fudge Brownie Mix was on sale. Between the two incredible desires to eat and save money, resistance was futile. I'm usually more of a from-scratch kinda girl, but this little box really did make life easy last night when I needed... NEEDED... a chocolate fix. These are fabulously moist, which is a brownie requirement for me. Okay here goes.

Better than Just Jiffy Brownies

1 four-serving pkg. instant chocolate pudding
2 c milk
1 box Jiffy Fudge Brownie Mix
1 egg
1 T water
2 T oil
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c flour

Combine milk and pudding mix as directed on pudding package and set aside. Combine brownie batter as directed on package, swapping out the chopped nuts for chocolate chips. To the batter add 1 1/2 c of pudding and 1/2 c flour. Mix well. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (wow, do I sound like a real cookbook or what?). Eat remaining 1/2 c of pudding while waiting for brownies to bake.

So there you go. Two wonderful recipes that will not help you feed your family more nutritiously this year. But they'll love you for it even more!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Identity Crisis

My Christmas cactus is having an identity crisis. No, it's not that it thinks of itself as a different kind of plant... it just doesn't think of itself as a Christmas cactus. First some background.

In 2007 the dear plant bloomed beautifully at Thanksgiving. So I had a Thanksgiving cactus. I was fine with that. It has dramatic bright pink flowers that I'm happy with any time of year. Then it bloomed again around Mother's Day. Okay, it's a Thanksgiving and Mother's Day cactus. And still I had no complaints.

Well this past Christmas the poor plant must have begun to feel stressed that it wasn't fullfilling it's holiday duties properly, and it attempted to bloom at Christmas time. It tried mightily, but alas, it was only able to produce about eight blossoms. I didn't complain (I try never to do that in their presence), although I was somewhat disappointed at it's weak show.

Now, however, it's loaded with buds. Apparently this year it's going to be a Groundhog's Day cactus! I attempt no predictions as to the dates of its next show.

Perhaps it's bored, and likes to keep things lively by blooming in honor of different holidays every year. Or maybe it's confused and unsure about when it's really supposed to bloom. Or perhaps it's posessed by a force that causes it to bloom against its will. Possibly it thinks it's dying (plants often attempt one last hurrah when they think their life is about over). I'm not sure whether I should pray for it, medicate it, put it in therapy or sit it down for a serious talk.

All that said, I'm still not complaining. Looking at it now, in all it's pregnant splendor, ready to burst with color and pollen, I think I'll just sit back and enjoy the pleasant surprise of random holiday flowers and its unique unpredictable personality.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Room for Improvement

I'm not one to make New Years resolutions formally, but around that time of year I do some pondering on potential areas of life improvement and try to be conscious of those areas throughout the next... well, until I forget about it.

One potential area of improvement at our house is food. No, not the taste -- we eat what tastes good! It's the nutrition. It's not that we eat poorly. There are either fruits or vegetables or both on the table at almost every meal, and at least half our bread usage is whole wheat. But I still felt there was room for improvement. What I really felt, was there was room for tofu.

Now I've only had tofu once about 10 years ago and I had to ask what it was. I don't recall a thing about how it tasted. But it sounds like a very good food -- high protein, low fat, low cholesterol.

Unfortunately you can't get tofu in our little town, so last time we were up in Dickinson I picked up a package at Wal-Mart. I went on-line, found a few recipes, and set forth to cook.

The first recipe I tried said to slice the tofu and dry-fry it (at first I thought it said deep-fry -- too bad). I followed the directions, but things went badly. I blame my pan, which was originally a non-stick teflon pan, but these days is a teflon-mostly-scraped-off pan. Needless to say, the tofu stuck, and then fell apart, and then smelled funny, and then got dumped down the sink before Wade got home and could see it and get grossed out.

On to recipe number two (I'm not easily deterred in the kitchen). This one went much more smoothly. I attribute this to the fact that prior to cooking (baking) the tofu, it was covered in grease. The little marinaded cubes cooked up to a nice golden brown. I added them to a beef broth to serve over rice. It looked pretty good. It tasted like nothing (which is how it's supposed to taste, from what I understand). It felt a little weird. A little too weird. Even for me -- and I love to eat! Levi actually ate all of his, although he did comment that the tofu cubes weren't as good as the bits of shredded roast in the broth. The leftovers went down the drain.

So our menu remains unchanged, still with room for improvement. Perhaps with room for beans. Beans are high in protein and fiber, low in fat and cholesterol...

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Celebration

To celebrate the fact that it broke freezing this week, we went to the park! And actually, it wasn't bad at all -- 32 degrees, sunny, not overly windy, respectable snowsuits, scarves and coats -- we lasted over two hours!

And a few more that aren't snow related, just cuz they're great pictures...

Dogpile on Daddy (actually, that's Lij on the bottom -- crazy)!

"Just Like Daddy"  ~  Levi, 5 1/2 years; Wade, age undisclosed