Thursday, July 29

Road Trip Food

Our family loves road trips but the highway's readily-available foods can leave us feeling less excited about the adventures ahead. Our favorite road meals and snacks don't require too much prep work but they really save money. Plus, without lots of grease and sugars, keep the drivers alert and happy. 

The cooler is normally stocked with chicken salad (recipe below) or egg salad, hard-boiled eggs, apples, raw veggies and cheese or yogurt. Another bag holds bread and crackers for the chicken salad and almonds. Our Klean Kanteens full of water make it easier to not give in too much to soda requests and keep the car free of a bunch of empty bottles rolling about. 

I learned the hard way that thick paper plates are a must and pre-made sandwiches just aren't worth the complaints of smushes and sogginess. I keep a bag stocked with plates, napkins and utensils so the parent not driving can serve as chef. 

While I'm usually able to pack enough snacks to last the whole trip, the drive back home usually involves a meal or two out and we almost always give into the temptation of milkshakes. Between that and heading to our home sweet home, we're a rolling band of happy campers.

Chicken Salad
(Note: I'm not big on measuring, so these amounts are approximate. Adjust to suit your own taste.)

3 c shredded chicken (I roast mine with thyme, basil, pepper and sage for this recipe.)
1 c halved grapes or chopped apple 
3/4 c chopped celery
1/2 c chopped pecans
1 - 6oz container plain yogurt 
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all but yogurt together. Add yogurt gradually to get the consistency that you prefer. 

Serve as a sandwich, wrap or with crackers. 

Tuesday, July 27

Kitchen Project

As usual, my decision to paint the cabinets turned into more. I also painted the walls and took out the microwave which we'll replace with a range hood. I'm so glad this task is done!



Wednesday, July 21

The Blueberry Farm

Earlier this week, the girls and I visited a pick-your-own blueberry farm and pick we did. Even though it was super hot, we picked sixteen pounds!!
It was a very nice farm with seven acres of non-sprayed bushes. We were told that there were several varieties of blueberries and that we could sample as we went. I never would have believed that blueberries could taste so different. There was one that, blindfolded, I would have guessed was a small grape it was so sweet.
I have frozen about half of them for muffins and breads this winter and will can my second batch of jam tomorrow. How many have I eaten? I really can't say...a lot but I've enjoyed every single one!!

'All Food Is A Vehicle For Butter'*

If you haven't noticed the new tab I created for food sources, please check it out. I was excited to learn today that the company we order ghee from was recently featured in the New York Times. Check it out here.

*My husband's favorite saying seemed like a fitting title here. 

Tuesday, July 20

Summer CSA - Week 11 (or Yes, I Do Know That I'm The World's Worst Blogger)

Well, I've made good progress on my kitchen project to the neglect of most everything else in my life. (Except running. This is week three back on the trails!!) I'm hoping to paint the walls this weekend so I can post a pic.

Last week's share included lots of deliciousness...corn, heirloom tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, pattypan squash and potatoes. With the kids gone all week, we didn't eat much of this until the weekend. Sunday, we grilled out and the girls made some skewered veggies. I chopped up the leftovers for tonight's pizza.

I'm gonna share an embarrassing little fact because it epitomizes the week I had last week. I just grabbed a bunch of stuff out of the refrigerator for the grilled veggies, not realizing one of them was a cucumber. I was so exhausted I took it for zucchini. Grilled zucchini? Delish! Grilled cucumber? Not so much. So check out my poor, little desecrated cucumber below and laugh...I am.

Tuesday, July 13

Good Times

For the first time, all of the kids went to church camp. I know they're having lots of fun but home just isn't home with their silliness, needs and crises. I'm not good at relaxing without them around. (And, yes, I'm aware that I need to work on that in the next few years!)

To beat feelings of aimlesness, I decided to take on the most daunting house project I could think of -- painting the kitchen cabinets.  It's exactly as much fun as I thought it would be. Which is to say...none. But I've wanted them painted for a long time so, this week, my mantra is 'good things come to those who do.'

Hopefully, by the time the kids get home, the living room won't look like the kitchen threw up in it and I can share some pics!

Friday, July 9

A Day In The Life, Vol 1

Today finds me with my 14 and 12 year-olds in a house that could use some serious post-vacation straightening. After trying music and humor to get them moving, I summoned my most authoritative 'boss' voice. I told them they were 'hired!' for the day and they had five minutes to get dressed, brush their teeth and hair and report to work.

They had all kinds of questions....

  • What?! Oh no! Why!? Ack! That's not fair!! As your very wise father has told you since birth, life's not fair. For anyone. Get over it. Move on.
  • What if we don't want to work? You don't eat.
  • What if we are late? You get fired.
  • What if we don't show up? You get fired.
  • What happens if we get fired? You are hired back at a lower rate of pay.
  • What if my zipper is stuck? You get fined for indecent exposure.
  • What if my co-worker puts stickers in my hair? People will point and laugh. 
  • What if my co-worker won't get out of the bathroom? There a port-a-john outside. Hardly used.
  • But I'm almost done with my book! That's what lunch breaks are for.

Lunch break has rolled around. The house is starting to look great! And the kids are in good moods. Which may or may explain why my son has decided to speak eliminating all vowels from words. The afternoon should be FUN!!

More to follow...

It's now 2 pm. They are finished! Of course, I'm not but they accomplished more than I thought they would. Woo-hoo!

I must share that when it came time to carry trash and giveaway stuff downstairs, E wrinkled her nose at the trash part. I asked if she thought she was too good to carry garbage. Her reply was this, "Well, I am wearing purple, the color of royalty."

A little stank eye took care of that. After all, she may be my princess, but royalty we are not.

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

My sister-in-law hosted a tomato-canning workshop last night and asked attendees to bring a seasonal dish to share. I found this easy and delicious recipe over at Smitten Kitchen and adapted it. It went over well and is so pretty. As usual, I forgot to take a picture. I'll have to add that later...

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

1 lb green beans
1 lb cherry tomatoes
1/4 onion
2 T red wine vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
2 ounces fresh mozzarella (optional)
salt and pepper

Trim and cut beans into 2" pieces. Parboil until just tender, about five minutes. Remove promptly from water and spread on cookie sheet to cool. Halve tomatoes. Cut mozzarella into small cubes.

For the vinaigrette, mince the onion and place in a bowl with the vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil. Taste and adjust to your preference. 

Tomatoes and cheese can be tossed with the vinaigrette ahead of time but the beans should be added just before serving as the vinegar can discolor them. 

Optional: Garnish with fresh herbs such as basil, parsley or chervil. 

Thursday, July 8

Gotta Let It Go - A Rant

Today, I'm really frustrated. As I've mentioned before, we are adding on to our house. Our excavator has proven himself to be a dud. It's a shame - I had hoped my intuition about him was wrong. We are weeks and weeks behind and nothing is happening until we find someone to complete the job. Our fence has been disassembled so our dogs are in a little pen. Our yard is a ridiculous mess. I'm going to take the weed-eater to the small patches of grass that remain so I don't feel so ashamed when I look out the windows. The back deck is covered in dying plants that I moved from the garden for regrading. We can't drink our well water due to an excavator mishap; if you've been reading here very long you KNOW how I feel about drinking from plastic bottles - ugh.

So, I think when he shows up to load his equipment, I may just accidentally trip and dump my dead asparagus (a three-year crop) that I could have harvested next spring into the cab of his truck. And gasp with wide-eyed-wonder when he finds a running garden hose stuck in through the window. That or I'll be waiting with my underfed dogs....

So, dear reader, I still hold out hope of posting before and after pics of the lawn and garden beds that I have so carefully planned. And I know that there are people in the world with actual problems of which this is not one and all this will pass and I really, really will forget all about this stress but, today, I'm just ready to give up.

I'll be back to sunshine, butterflies and ain't-life-grand tomorrow. Promise!

Wednesday, July 7

Summer CSA - Week 10

We had a great relaxing beach vacation last week with C's high school buddies. We were five families with eighteen kids ranging from 14 years to 2 months...never a dull moment, for sure. We shared a huge house on the beachfront which made things so easy. The kids could run back and forth for water and the restroom and it was easy to station adults to supervise both at the beach and the pool. The men cooked supper every night and handled all the cleanup. I really, really missed being in the kitchen but I know it was a lot easier for the mothers of the younger ones.  I got my fix by making breakfast a few mornings and desserts at night.

Another thing I missed was our CSA delivery. The uncertainty of what we receive is a highlight of my week. Not sure what that says about the excitement factor of my life but oh, well...

This week our share included a sugar baby (I think) watermelon, tomatoes, patty pan squash, summer squash, cucumber, carrots, red potatoes, yellow cherry tomatoes, rattlesnake green beans and corn*. Would it be awful if I cooked this all at once for the yummiest feast ever?!? I bought some extras off the truck - two large watermelons, two cantaloupes, three pints of blueberries (one of which I ate half of for dessert--oops) and more cherry tomatoes. I forgot to buy green peppers which have become our new raw veggie of choice and should have bought more cucumbers. Those don't last long around here either.

*If you find a worm munching on the top of your ears of corn, count yourself lucky. Apparently, that's reliable indicator that your food hasn't been sprayed with pesticides. They normally only work their way through the tiny kernels at the top which are hard for us to eat anyway. So, bring on the worms!

NOTE: I'm having issues with transferring photos to my laptop. I'll update with the pic when I get that worked out.

Tuesday, July 6

Homemade Cough Medicine

The story goes that once while visiting my grandmother, who I had dubbed Grommie, I had a persistent cough. She offered to make me some cough medicine but, after my mom asked what the ingredients were, was told that I would never take it. And who could blame Mom? It's weird. As mothers of any age do, though, Grommie made it anyway and they both watched as I took it, licked the spoon and asked for more. (Sorry, Mom. I sure know how that feels...)

It stopped the coughing, though, so it's a remedy I've used with my own kids. The song-and-dance remain the same. With each kid, it's been...

'Oooh, That's gross. I don't want to try it.'

'Well, think about how bad store-bought cough medicine tastes.'

'Umm, yeah. Okay. I'll try it....Okay, that's not bad.'

To make some yourself, all you need is an onion and sugar. I'm not big on measuring while cooking so you may need to adjust this a bit.

  • Take a bit of onion, a little less than 1/4 cup. 
  • Place it in a small bowl and crush it until no solid pieces remain. I use a little tart-shaper tool. You could also use the back of an ice cream scoop or a spoon. 
  • Mix in a scant tablespoon of sugar. 
  • The mixture will look like a thick liquid with visible sugar grains.
  • Scoop it up in a large spoon and administer. 
I should add that I've used this successfully for both cold/infection coughs as well as the seasonal allergy type. 

    Friday, July 2

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

    C gave me this book for Christmas; I wish I'd read it sooner. After reading so many books on the food industry and its politics, this was a delight!

    Written by noted novelist Barbara Kingsolver, this nonfiction work reads like fiction. Chronicling her family's commitment to eat locally for one year, she leads the reader through the bountiful joys and surprising lessons learned as well as the struggles and hard decisions they faced along the way.

    Kingsolver's husband, Steven Hopp, contributes sidebars on food issues and her college-age daughter, Camille Kingsolver, provides recipes and a younger person's take on the journey.

    Thursday, July 1

    Sunscreen Recommendation

    Well, we have tried out some new sunscreens lately and have a couple of new favorites.

    For waterproof needs, we love Soleo by Avalon Organics. I found it locally at The Turnip Truck. I purchased a few bottles for our beach trip. I'll warn you - it is pricey. One tube was $19.99 but it spreads a lot farther than other lotions we've used. One tube covered four of us for four long days (including reapplications) of swimming in the ocean and pool. If I remember correctly, one bottle of aerosol runs about $8 and never stretched that far which helps justify the price.

    Further, it has gotten rave reviews from C and the kids on how it feels. None of the stinging eyes and skin I used to hear complaints about. I have been really pleased with how it holds up in the water but I think it helps that we've put it on 15-20 minutes before getting wet.

    The other brand we like is Badger. I actually found this at Publix ($13.99, I think) but they haven't restocked since I bought the two they had. I'm sure there are more reliable sources around. Again, this one feels great and goes a long way. It will hold up during a sweaty run or outdoor work but is definitely not water-resistant, though, which is a big complaint of most 'healthy' sunscreens.

    What blocks the sun's harmful rays in both of these products is titanium so you will be 'white' when you put it on (think of a lifeguard's white nose). If that bugs your kids, just keep rubbing it in. If they're like mine, though, eventually they'll say, 'Okay, nevermind, I just wanna go play.' :)