Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Fondue Zoo

We made fondue this afternoon . . . fun and tasty, but chaotic, chocolate-covered insanity! Here are the recipes:

Cheese Fondue

Combine 1/2 cup buttermilk with 1 tablespoon cornstarch until smooth. Stir into 1 pound shredded swiss cheese. Heat over low until fully melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Transfer to fondue or crock pot to keep warm. Serve with bread cubes or veggies for dipping.

Chocolate Fondue

Combine 12 oz semi sweet chocolate with 1/2 cup half and half. Heat over low until fully melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Transfer to fondue or crock pot to keep warm. Serve with chunks of fruit, cake, and marshmallows.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Today's been a typical Tuesday. Work (we made granola for snack this afternoon -- and they gobbled it down!,) run to the grocery store after work for cooking project supplies for tomorrow (a parent is coming in to make fondue with the kids!) came home and made dinner (a pita pizza and halved grape tomatoes dressed with a little salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar,) disappointment that Gilmore Girls is still in reruns, and then I did "Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss." That DVD kicks my butt, and my abs are going to ache like crazy tomorrow!

See, many of you know I'm working on losing a little weight . . . and I've already lost about 12 pounds. Well . . . I have about 12 more to go, my deadline is approaching quickly, and I'm sick to death of being hungry all day long! So . . . I'm working on incorporating a little more exercise -- walking, yoga, etc. If any of you have words of wisdom and/or encouragement, I could sure use them! AND . . . if you ever want to go for a walk, let me know! (I'm trying to walk during the week now, too, even though I spend most of my day chasing around preschoolers and tromping through the woods!)

I should get moving -- pack a lunch, shower, etc. Until tomorrow, my friends!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

true confessions of a granola muncher

I think I have officially become a hippie-earth-day-granola-muncher. Well, I still drive my very fuel inefficient truck . . . but there are a few other things. (I carry my groceries in tote bags . . . I buy recycled toilet paper . . . I only use cloth napkins . . . I don't use paper towels for cleaning any more . . . I buy environmentally friendly cleaning and laundry products . . . I buy fair trade coffee when I can . . . I collect my compost and take it to work . . . I recycle everything I can . . . the list goes on and on . . . !)

In the true spirit of my recent environmental awareness (thanks Dodge!), here's my recipe for granola (I made some tonight):

4 cups regular rolled oats (NOT the quick-cooking kind) (you could also substitute 1 cup of the oats with 1 cup quick-cooking barley for a change of texture and flavor)
1/2 cup chopped nuts of your choice (walnuts, pecans, and almonds are my favorite -- feel free to mix 'n' match)
1/2 cup flaked coconut OR an additional 1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp cinnamon (you could also add nutmeg, too -- about half as much)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses or maple syrup (the real McCoy -- none of that "pancake syrup" business -- 100% pure, my friends)
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp oil (I like walnut oil -- gives it a nice, rich flavor)
2 cups dried fruit (raisins, cherries, blueberries, chopped apricots, etc. -- or you could omit this if you don't like dried fruits)

1. Combine the oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a 9X13 pan.
2. Combine the honey, molasses or syrup, water, and oil in a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil, then pour over the oat mixture. Stir gently to evenly coat the oats.
3. Bake at 325 for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. Cool completely before transferring to an airtight container.

HEY! I just had an idea for a cool variation -- honey-nut granola. Use 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup water, omiting the molasses or syrup. Use chopped peanuts, and omit the cinnamon. (You could even use roasted peanut oil!) I'll have to try that sometime . . . !

All Good Things . . .

Today is the end of my spring break. Bah! I spent this evening packing up spring gear to take to work tomorrow -- light mittens, baseball hat, rain pants, rain coat, hiking boots, etc. I'm really hoping this bout of warm weather sticks. :)

Oh yes. And I had to fix the butt of my rain pants with duct tape. I hope it sticks. Rain pants are expensive!

Church was exciting this morning -- and Happy Easter! Two services in a row is always a little difficult -- taxing on the voice, and really hard to look interested in the sermon the second time around. We did, however, sing two rousing versions of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah, congregation-sing-along-style. Always a fun time. ;-)

After church, Christine and I went for a walk around Lake of the Isles -- and no, we didn't lose the car this time. ('Cause Christine drove.)

I just dug out a bunch of cat toys Oliver hasn't played with in a long time, and he's going berserk -- he doesn't seem to know which direction to turn first, so he's been stalking ME! (Leaping out at me from behind doorways, etc.) Apparently I make a good cat toy. Who knows.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

nearing the end of spring break . . .

I spent the day running errands and getting stuff done around the apartment today. Sigh. Only 1 more day of spring break left! I started working on some paperwork for work -- sorting observations of children and reworking the spring conference form. Now, we all have things about our job that we like, and things that we don't like. For the most part, I really like my job -- but I despise conference write-ups. I believe parent/teacher conferences are extremely important; however, I think the amount of time we teachers spend preparing for them is ridiculous, for a couple of reasons:

1. Most parents sit and nod their heads during the conference, then take the write up home and never read it
2. Most parents know their child pretty well and don't need me to tell them what they already know
3. There's never enough time to talk about what the parents want to talk about, which, I think, should be the whole point of conferences
4. We don't give parents a chance to read through the write-ups in advance (no chance to prepare questions!)
5. The way my new job does conferences is FAR too subjective for my liking -- too much opinion-sharing, and not nearly enough facts.

Ah, well. It's highly likely that you will be hearing more and more about how much I hate doing conference write-ups over the next couple of months -- it's that time of the year. I'll spare you for now.

In other news . . .

I also walked around Lake of the Isles today. And I lost my car. Ha! (Well, I was so busy listening to my music that I totally walked past my car without noticing, and had to double back once I realized what I had done.) Silly Catherine.

Apricot Curry Chicken . . . salad dressing?

Ann came over for supper last night, and this is one of the things we had:

big spoonfull of apricot jam, warmed up (just so it's easier to work with)
few glugs raspberry vinegar (you could also use red wine vinegar -- I just had some raspberry vinegar hanging about)
few glugs extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste
pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
few good shakes curry powder
few good shakes cinnamon

Omit the pepper and pepper flakes, and this would be a 0 on the Jon-O-Meter! (Well, depending on your curry powder -- but I've found most grocery store varieties are just smoky and sweet, not hot at all.)

Whisk everything to combine. Pour over 2 chicken breasts in a ziploc bag. Marinade in the fridge for a few hours. Grill or broil to serve.


Come to think of it, if you didn't pour that over raw chicken, the above might make a nice salad dressing! Must investigate.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

an attack of feng shui

I did not go to the art museum . . . I rearranged my apartment! (Nearly the whole thing, including closets!) (It's not really feng shui.) If I had a digital camera I'd take pictures for you, but since I don't, I'll tell you a little about it:

living room: couch is under the kitchen counter, desk is on the inside wall between the closets, dining table is on the wall between the clothes closet door and the door to my room, TV is in the corner between the door to my room and the windows, and I have reclaimed my coffee table! OH -- and I now have access to the bathroom via the living room and closet -- first time since I've moved in!

bedroom: basically went back to the old layout.

bathroom: added a storage cabinet (to make way for the door opening in the closet!)

So airy and spacious! And I have room to do yoga in the living room again!

Come and visit and see for yourself -- I think it's pretty cool.

I never did do the dishes, though. Shoot! Oh well. I still have 3 more days of vacation!


I have absolutely nothing to do today. (Well, that's not entirely true . . . dishes, a few little things like that.) It's great.

Aren't you jealous? ;-)

These week-long vacations are great -- like a perpetual weekend. Hooray for spring break!

And it's actually warmer outside now, so it's starting to feel a wee bit like spring!

I want to go to the art museum. Hm. That requires getting dressed. May need to rethink that one . . . .

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


I made polenta for supper tonight -- never done that before! It turned out fabulously. Here's the recipe I used, courtesy of Cooking Light:

For 4 servings:
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups 1% or 2% milk
5 tbsp yellow cornmeal
5 tbsp semolina (also known as pasta flour)
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup each grated parmesan and fontina cheeses (or just use 1/2 cup parmesan, like I did)

Combine broth and milk in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add cornmeal, semolina, nutmeg, and salt gradually, whisking the whole time. Reduce heat to low and keep whisking for a bit. Cook 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Stir in cheeses just before serving.

(Note: polenta is delicious, ooey-gooey cheesey, but firms up quite quickly. Make it just before you plan to eat it, and I suggest making only the number of servings you need -- the leftovers turn into a cake-like substance, which can be sliced and pan-fried, but I personally think it's much better the first time around.) :)

As my polenta was cooking, I made up a quick topping:

Saute together:
bit of olive oil
about a half cup roughly chopped onion
a clove of garlic, smashed/minced/whatever
few shakes Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 links turkey Italian sausage, cut from casings and gently broken up
Continue sauteeing until sausage is no longer pink. Add:
1 cup frozen spinach
half a small zucchini, sliced and then cut in half
Cook for a few minutes until the spinach is thawed and the zucchini is crisp-tender. Add:
1 can diced tomatoes with liquid
1/2 cup tomato soup (leftover . . . !!)
3 leaves basil, chiffonade
Bring just to a boil. Cut the heat and serve over the polenta!

Off to choir practice . . .

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

the makings of a great haircut

I had a good day today! Lauren and I went out for lunch (French Meadow -- great food, amazing desserts!) and then we went to IKEA. She'd never been, and had some things she wanted to shop for. Hooray IKEA! I think she got most of the things on her mental list, including a kitchen cart/island type thing. We also had cinnamon rolls and coffe. Yum. Then she dropped me off at the Aveda Institute for my haircut before she had to work.

Now, those of you that go or have been to the Institute know, it's kind of a toss-up -- sometimes you get good haircuts, sometimes you get okay haircuts. Well . . . this time I got a GREAT haircut! It was so nice -- Andrew A. listened to what I wanted to happen, cut accordingly, and didn't make me talk the whole time. Hooray! Personally, I'd much prefer staring out the window or something, rather than making meaningless small talk with my hair cutting person. (And I'd also prefer they concentrate on cutting my hair, instead of making conversation!) He also used minimal product, which was nice -- I hate it when I have to come home and wash my hair because it just feels sticky and gross from all the product.

One funny thing did happen at Aveda -- I had to sit on a booster at the shampoo bowl -- apparently, I was too short. :) It was actually incredibly uncomfortable -- it kept sliding out from underneath my butt!

I then walked home from the Aveda Institute . . . a long walk, but nice. Thank goodness for portable tunes!

I'm off to browse a few new cooking and baking websites I've discovered . . . adios!

Monday, March 21, 2005

It all started with a turkey burger . . .

I took a turkey burger out of the freezer for dinner tonight, and then it exploded into happiness and excitement. Here goes:

Ingredients for happiness and excitement for 1:
1 green bell pepper, chopped
a bit of white onion, chopped
a little EV olive oil
1/3 cup couscous
chili powder
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 toy box cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
3 or so cloves of garlic, minced
few basil leaves, chiffonade
2 green onions, thinly sliced
juice of 1 lime
1 turkey burger

1. Drop a little olive oil in a small saucepot with a tight-fitting lid. Saute the white onion, about 1/4 the green pepper, and 1 clove garlic. Add salt, cumin, and chili powder to taste. Cook a minute or so to toast the spices. Toss in the couscous, and stir to coat with spices and oil. Pour in chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover, and cut the heat. Forget about it just until it's time to eat.
2. Cook the turkey burger. Stovetop, oven, George Forman, toaster oven, whatever. Prep the next thing, but keep an eye on it. If it's finished early, keep it warm under a foil tent.
3. Combine the green onion, remaining garlic, remaining green pepper, tomatoes, avocado, basil, lime juice, and salt to taste. Toss to coat.
4. Plate your couscous and turkey burger. Top the burger with about a half cup of the guacalsa/salsamole. Tuck in.

A few comments . . .

I totally wasn't sure about the basil, but it works in the condiment/salad thing. A lesson in "just try it!"

I forgot to salt my couscous . . . don't do the same!

This dish would probably receive a Jon-O-Meter rating of 2 . . . but if you omit the fresh garlic and only use the green parts of the green onions, I'd give it a .5.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

the passion of the . . . pizza?

So, I was sitting on the couch, reading a Jamie Oliver cookbook (AKA the "Naked Chef,") when I suddenly became insanely hungry. (Well, that happens pretty much every time I read a Jamie Oliver cookbook -- his passion for food usually gets me all fired up to attack the kitchen and create something new and interesting. And I want to eat it, too.) I'm just continually amazed that he can write, like, a whole page about how much he likes fresh peas, and all the exciting ideas that come from stumbling across some really fresh peas. That may sound odd to you, but I think it's cool.

Anyhow, I made a snack. I hesitate to call it a pizza, because I used a pita bread (too hungry to wait for bread dough to rise,) but it is pretty pizza-like. Here goes:

1. Take a whole wheat pita and drop a little extra-virgin olive oil on it. Smear it around with your fingers and wipe off any major excess. Wash your hands.
2. Place the pita, oil side up, on a toaster oven pan. Lightly salt (about a pinch) and heavily pepper (several cranks) the pita.
3. Combine about a half an ounce of fresh mozzarella, finely diced, half a stick of smoked string cheese, finely diced, a few good pinches of grated parmesan, and one gigundo basil leaf, torn to shreds. Toss this together and evenly spread over the pita.
4. Peel and finely slice 1 clove of garlic, and arrange over the cheese. Pop in your toaster oven at 450 for 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown and the garlic has softened.

Now, I dare you to eat only half of that.

Holy Ginger, Batman!

I did a little cooking this afternoon . . . I made crystalized ginger. I don't think I simmered it nearly long enough, because it's sort of strange. It's sweet, and then . . . holy cow! It finishes pretty hot. (I guess that's what I get for using a Martha Stewart recipe!) Methinks perhaps the chunks I cut were not thin enough, or the sugar syrup wasn't strong enough to leech out all of the heat. Or, it called for "young, fresh ginger." I just got what they had at Rainbow, which is probably neither young nor fresh. Who knows. Maybe crystalized ginger is supposed to be hot. Anyhow, if you like sweet-hot food, here's the recipe:

Bring the following to a boil:
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
Add a bunch of peeled, sliced ginger. (I guess, slice it as thin as you can?) Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour and a half. Drain, and toss the pieces in more sugar. Place on a wire rack and let air dry.

And, I made crystalized ginger because I needed it for . . . Maple Pumpkin Custards. Those are still in the oven . . . I'll let you know how they taste!

Hooray for Handel!

The congregation applauded us today -- that rarely happens! Aparently, they were so moved by our performance of one movement of Handel's Messiah that they wanted to let us know. (We all looked at each other kind of dumbfounded -- I think our performance felt a little flat to us, actually.)

Speaking of Handel, we will be performing the entire Messiah on Sunday, April 10th at the 11:15 service. Please come! It should be a good show -- we've hired an orchestra and everything. Whee, violins and stuff! If you come, we can go out for brunch afterwards!

Something else funny happened during church today. Since we had the big fat Handel score to carry with us, someone in the choir had the forethought to make photocopies of the hymns for this morning so we didn't have to carry a hymnal and the big blue score. So, we didn't have hymnals. Partway through the service, the senior pastor decides to add an impromptu hymn . . . which we didn't have. He kept looking back at us all strangely as we were singing "da-da-da" and waving our palm branches along with the congregation.

Don, our organist, was kind enough to play REALLY loud in order to drown out all the da-da-da-ing. HA!

I was laughing so hard I could barely da-da-da.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Spring? Break

It's the freakin' middle of March and it snowed a bunch today. Phooey. (At least it didn't snow enough in Minneapolis to force a snow emergency. Well, it didn't snow enough YET.)

The kids at work are so stinking sick of snow, snow clothes, getting pelted in the face with bits of frozen, whipped water when you're trying to play, etc. I'm sick of it, they're sick of it, we're all sick of it.

The best part? This evening officially begins my Spring Break. Ha. Fine title.

I also found it funny that it took me less than 40 minutes to get home (I didn't leave work until after 6, however,) the roads were mostly dry and plowed, there was almost no traffic, and both my babysitting job and my plans with friends cancelled tonight due to the weather. Huh. I just didn't think the driving conditions were THAT bad?? Poor Epic Hero -- I hope there were at least a few people at the show. (Ha. I just made a type-o -- I typed "snow" instead of "show." Wonder why?)

Damn, damn snow. I'm cranky and going to go read a magazine now -- I'll stop griping because I'm sure you're equally depressed about the snow. Or you're somewhere else and thinking I'm completely nuts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

cooking at school

It's only Tuesday?? Gosh, it feels like tomorrow should be Friday already. (Just 3 more days until spring break!) I promised I'd post that recipe for bread pudding we make at school -- here it is:

2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour over:
5 cups bread cubes/torn up bread (the staler the better)
1/2 cup raisins
Smush down the bread to submerge it in the milk mixture. Let stand for a few minutes (say, a severe weather drill! This actually happened -- a child and I walked off for our severe weather drill, first Wednesday of the month at 1:00, hands dripping with egg and milk!) Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 or so minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean. Serve warm with milk, if desired.

We also make biscuits a lot -- here's an easy easy easy recipe:

Combine: 3 1/2 cups flour, 5 tsp baking powder, and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Cut in 2/3 cup shortening. Stir in 1 1/2 cups milk just until combined. Drop by rounded tablespoonfulls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Makes about 24 biscuits.

Dr. Seuss's birthday is sometime this week, and on Friday, I have a parent coming in to make Green Eggs and Ham with the kids. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Spring Fever

I have to say, I am officially, completely, 100% sick of winter. It's the middle of March . . . I'm not asking for 60s or anything, but would 45 be so difficult? I'm sick of snowpants and snowboots at work, sick of freezing my butt off any time I walk anywhere outside, sick of everything being bare and brown and nasty. Since all the snow melted, outdoors is looking a little bleak.

I'm also sick of winter food. I want fresh berries, peaches, salads, light and happy stuff. But it's friggin' freezing out, and the last thing I want to eat right now is a salad. I had tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. Don't get me wrong . . . I love tomato soup and grilled cheese, even in July. But right now, I'd really prefer the beginnings of spring, at least!!

I discovered a new healthy eating magazine and website today: Go check it out, unless you are having spring food cravings like I am -- in that case, wait a couple of weeks until the weather is warmer. It's covered with pictures of lemons and greens and other yummy spring/summer food.

I'm also ready for spring and summer clothes. (I rarely say that, but with the recent weight loss I've experienced, everything fits better!) I'm so sick of black and turtlenecks, I could scream. (Well, I'm never really sick of black . . . I'd just rather wear a cute black t-shirt than my lovely but overworn as of late black cashmere turtleneck.) I'm also sick of wool socks, sweatshirts, and other forms of winter gear, including but not limited to, gaiters, wool stocking caps, down mittens, and scarves.

Despite my angst about the weather, I AM actually enjoying my day off. I slept in a lot, read a cookbook, walked around Lake Harriet, got quarters and stamps, got a cup of coffee, and browsed around Patina. I think I've finally thawed out from my walk around the lake, so now I'm procrastinating starting my laundry. I am nothing if not a procrastinator.

That would be a silly name for a band: The Procrastinators. Ha, ha.

Here's a question: what's the silliest name for a band you can think of? Post comments, my friends!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

the great cookie caper

I just had the most fun babysitting I think I've ever had. I fed the boys dinner, they made shrinky-dinks, we made chocolate chip cookies, (the Nestle Tollhouse kind -- I don't need to post the recipe, do I?) and they decided to pack up the extra cookies on a plate and hide them for their parents. There was flour, sugar, and walnuts ALL over their kitchen, but it was totally worth it! They created this whole treasure/scavenger hunt thing -- they left clues all over the house in a sequence, leading up to the plate of cookies at the end! It was so sweet, and their parents were thrilled when they got home.

Plus, I made fifty bucks! In my mind, any event that involves chocolate chip cookies and fifty bucks is a success.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

provocations, popcorn, and payday

Did you know I set my comments preferences to allow anyone to leave a comment on my blog? Comments are fun for me. :) If you read my blog, please comment once in a while! I'll take suggestions for future recipes, help with planning menus for dinner, well, anything, really -- as long as I know something about it!

Ah -- you could even "Challenge Catherine" -- give me a list of ingredients (3 to 7 ish,) and I can try and come up with something you could cook with them. Just please be somewhat reasonable -- I can't think of anything you could make with popcorn, pineapple, and green tea, as an example. Well, except eating those three things individually as a snack. But that doesn't count.

Speaking of popcorn . . .

I have eaten out, at a friend's house, or at work (staff meeting) every single night this week. Convenient, saves on dishes, but leaves little to post about. I made popcorn tonight. Here's my recipe:

brown paper lunch sack
2 staples
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt (preferably popcorn salt)

Combine the popcorn, oil, and salt in the brown paper lunch sack. Fold over and staple closed. Microwave 2 to 3 minutes or until the pops slow down. Enjoy!

(This is courtesy of Alton Brown/Good Eats.)

Tomorrow is Friday. And payday. Thank the Lord.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Chelsea's here today, Chelsea's here today, yaaaaaaay Chelsea! (And Livi!)

Chelsea (and Livi) came to visit me at work today! We had lots of fun -- I think both Chels and Livi were a little overwhelmed. As Chelsea said, "there's a LOT more going on here than at our house!" Then we had an early supper at Ziggy's, browsed around that Tuesday Morning store (it reminded me a lot of Big Lots,) and then went to IKEA! We walked around for a long time, browsing and chatting. Low key, but lots of fun!

Monday, March 07, 2005

creepy old guys and curry chicken

Normal day at work today . . . nothing terribly spectacular. We had edamame for snack -- some of the kids were really excited, some were totally grossed out.

I walked over to Emily's for dinner this evening! Some creepy old guys in a car harassed me on my way there -- honked the horn and rolled the windows down and everything. I really wonder on what planet they grew up where that kind of behavior was okay? This particular harassment was pretty spectacular -- plenty of expletives and references to sexual propositions. Nothing out of the ordinary, though -- as Christine can attest, it just comes with being a single girl in the city. Smarmy old guys -- annoying, but harmless.

Anyhow, Em made curry chicken with apples and golden raisins, couscous, and steamed spinach -- yum! Thanks Em! All she told me about the chicken were some of the ingredients (I think we got sidetracked and forgot to finish our conversation about the food,) which were chicken, golden raisins, chopped apple, water, honey, and curry powder. The golden raisins and apples were mighty delicious mixed in with the couscous!

I love eating at other people's houses -- I like to find out what everyone else likes to cook and eat on a regular basis. It inspires me to try (more) new things in my own kitchen!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Happiness in a Mug

Best Cup of Hot Chocolate You'll Ever Have:

Ingredients per serving:
1/2 oz peppermint schnapps
1 cup milk or half and half
3 tbsp Ghiradelli sweetened ground chocolate and cocoa
4 (or so) homemade marshmallows (recipe to follow)

Place the schnapps in the bottom of your mug. Whisk together the milk and chocolate over low heat until it begins to form bubbles around the edge (a hot, but drinkable temperature.) Pour into the mug and top with marshmallows.

Homemade Marshmallows

2 1/2 tbsp unflavored gelatin (just shy of 4 envelopes)
1 cup cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp vanilla
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup water in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Let sit 30 minutes.
2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining water in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over low until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat and cook syrup to 244 degrees Farenheight.
3. Remove from heat and beat syrup into gelatin until thick and tripled in volume, about 15 minutes.
4. Beat in vanilla just until incorporated.
5. Lightly spray 9X13 pan with cooking spray. Dust liberally with powdered sugar. Pour marshmallow into pan and dust top with sugar. Let air dry overnight. (I recommend putting a cooling rack on top of the pan and weighing it down with something if you have pets.)
6. Cut marshmallow into cubes using kitchen shears. Toss in powdered sugar and store in an airtight container.

Now, I know that sounds like a lot of work, but . . . it's worth it. I usually make 1 batch in the fall which is more than enough for hot chocolate throughout the winter and if I have any left come springtime, I make a pan of the best Rice Krispie bars known to man.


Mop your floor with vinaigrette?

My, I have been busy today! I did laundry, dishes, cleaned my apartment, recured my cast-iron fry pan, and worked on some paperwork. I discovered something interesting today! While preparing to mop my floors, I discovered I was all out of wood floor cleaner. So, I thought I'd log on to the web and see if I could find a recipe for a home made wood floor cleaner. I was in luck! I found this site created by Michigan State University that was filled with every single kind of home made cleaner you can imagine. Definitely check it out, especially if you're on a tight budget or trying to take better care of the environment.

I tried out the floor cleaner that is equal parts vegetable oil and white vinegar. It cleaned beautifully, and my floors are nice and shiny. The drawbacks? The floors are a wee bit slippery (I think in a day or two they will be fine, once the oil has a chance to absorb,) and the whole apartment smells faintly of salad. (Oil and vinegar are the two main components in vinaigrette . . . !!)

Moral of the story: I will pick up some Murphy's Oil Soap at Target . . . but it's good to know that salad dressing would work in a pinch. :)

I had appetizer supper: an egg roll (Pagoda white meat chicken, methinks,) some pineapple, and some spinach and artichoke dip (on Wasa Crispbread) that's been in the freezer since Christmas. Here's the recipe, courtesy of Cooking Light:

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
8 oz fat free cream cheese, softened

Spoon the above into a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Combine 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella and 2 tbsp grated parmesan and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, bread, etc.


It's very easy to adapt as well. Sometimes I make it and bake just half if it's for a small party and freeze the remaining dip in 1/4 cup blobs on a cookie sheet. When they are good and frozen, I move them to a ziploc bag -- microwaveable single servings for later!! You could also make the dip in a small crock pot -- which would stay nice and warm during a lengthy party!

Later . . . .


Okay, so here's the info about overindulgence:

There's also a really great book (which I have and Chelsea, you can borrow if you'd like!) called How Much is Enough? by Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft. I attended a workshop with Jean and David this fall, and know lots.

Basically, the summary of the whole thing is making sure your children or the children for which you care do not think they are the center of the universe -- helping them understand how much is enough stuff, attention, time, choices, etc. It's a great book, an easy read, and the website has tons of information. This research helps parents and caregivers feel okay about saying "no" to their children in a society that is swinging towards very permissive parenting.

What scares me is when I hear people say, "I just don't like saying "no" to children." Man, that's frightening.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Not bad for someone who had a whopper of a migraine this afternoon . . .

I was just browsing the web, looking at cooperative board games manufactured for children. (We have several of these at work, and favorites include Princecss, Sleeping Grump, and Max the Cat. Especially Max the Cat. Kids are so attached to that game that they take the pieces and hide them around the classroom so no one else can play! Hmm . . . .)

I started thinking about cooperation versus competition with children. This is especially interesting to me because I wrote my Master's thesis on the impact of personality theory on cooperative learning. I waffle -- sometimes I think cooperative learning and cooperative board games and all that is great and fabulous, and other times I wonder.

See, I truly think we should be pushing our children/the children we care for (in my case) to cooperate. We want children to share and take turns and ultimately be able to empathize with one another, which will lead to feelings of altruism one day. It feels good to cooperate -- no one wants to be the "loser" in a game.

However, I think we need to teach children how to lose. (And how to win, for that matter!) Children need to experience disappointment and frustration from an early age, in a safe environment, surrounded by people who support them. If they don't know what those feelings feel like at age 3, what will they do with them at age 13? 23? 30?

Ask me if you want to know about all of this research I've done into overindulgence theory. It's pretty interesting. It seems like not such a big deal . . . until you look at the lifelong psychological damage that is done.

Children need to win, and lose, and learn how to work together. It's all about the balance.

That's what I think, anyway. What do you think?

Friday, March 04, 2005

A Recipe for Disaster

I made a fabulous snack.

1. Warm up 1 ounce brie cheese and spread on a piece of Wasa Crispbread. (I like the Multigrain kind.)
2. Top with dried cherries, chopped pecans, and a drizzle of honey.

Mmmmm . . . .

Perfect combination of salty, sweet, and tart.


I blew the "diet" today. (I hate saying that word. DIET. It seems to cliche, almost.) I need to reorganize the freezer and move the Girl Scout Cookies to the BACK!

Oh well. !!!

Happy weekend, everybody, and go become a member of Minnesota Public Radio if you haven't already.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

An Experiment in Linkage

Duncan Sheik's "Daylight" came today -- I love! The music is beautiful, of course, and the cover art is pretty slick, too. Gotta love Duncan.

Ann, Emily, and I went out tonight to see Jeremy Messersmith play at the Acadia. He was pretty darn cool -- he has this sort of breathy, mellow, lilting sound -- a wee bit remniscent of the Beatles, I think. He gives out free CDs at his shows, and he has this witty, dry sense of humor. If you ever get a chance to check him out, please do!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Shower Power . . . NOT!

You all know how much I love my apartment, right? Well, as of late, I have 1 complaint -- my shower has been acting . . . funny? Well, let me explain.

I'm going along with my shower, when suddenly, the water becomes HOT -- I mean, all the cold water disappears completely. I get scalded. It's not like someone flushed the toilet or anything -- the blazing inferno sometimes lasts a few seconds, sometimes 2 or 3 minutes. (Very inconvenient when involving a head full of shampoo.) The kicker is, when I hit the little pin thing that controls whether the water comes out the faucet or out the shower head, the water through the faucet feels fine. It's like the cold water got tired of climbing all the way up to the shower head and decided it needed a little break before it could continue.


Deja Vu

Shoo-Fly Pie

(Preheat your oven to 450)

1. Make your favorite pie crust recipe and put it in a pie tin. (I have a fabulous recipe . . . but it's my great-grandmother's and you'd have to beg me in a bad way for it! Betty Crocker does a nice job as well.)

2. Combine 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1/8 tsp cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Cut in 1/4 cup shortening. Reserve.

3. Combine 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses, 1/2 cup very hot water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp baking soda until everything dissolves and the mixture begins to foam. Pour the syrup into the pie shell, then top with the crumbs. Protect the top of the crust with strips of aluminum foil and bake as follows:

10 minutes at 450 degrees, then
30 minutes at 375 degrees, then
30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Quick Black Bean Chili

Combine the following in a crock pot and cook on high 4 hours:

30 oz black beans, rinsed and drained
30 oz diced tomatoes with liquid
14.5 oz chicken or vegetable broth
14 oz canned corn, rinsed and drained
2 green peppers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 to 6 green onions, thinly sliced
juice of 2 small limes
handfull chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, minced
2 to 3 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp (or more) cumin

Jon-O-Meter Rating: 2.5 (but I bet it would be a 1.5 if you left out the jalapeno and reduced the chili powder to 1 tbsp -- not nearly as exciting, though!)

Pancake Mix

Whisk together:
4 cups AP flour
1 cup buttermilk powder
2 tsp baking soda
4 pinches salt
1/2 cup sugar

Cut in:
1 stick butter

Store in freezer. To prepare, combine 1 1/2 cups mix, 1 egg, and 1 cup water. Whisk until smooth.

Crazy Clusters
melt 1 bag chocolate chips with 1/4 slice parrafin wax. (Or use leftover chocolate from your party last week, like I did.) Stir in dried fruit, coconut, nuts, Cheerios, etc. until everything is well coated. Drop by tablespoonfulls onto waxed paper. Cool. Store in a cool place (like the fridge. Or your windowsill, since it's cold outside.)

Made-Up Pasta
1. I finely sliced about 1/3 of a yellow onion and plopped it in a pot with about a tablespoon of butter. I let that cook over low heat until the onion was just starting to turn translucent.
2. I added about a tablespoon of AP flour (give or take) and stirred for a couple of minutes.
3. I then stirred in about 6 leftover cloves of roasted garlic (from the Chx w/40 cloves last week,) and the last glass of white wine that was left from the party. I cooked and stirred until the mixture thickened to a glossy almost-paste.
4. Then I stirred in about a tablespoon and a half of parmesan cheese, one "Mini Babybell" cheese wheel (a semisoft cheese that comes individually wrapped in red wax from the Laughing Cow cheese people,) about a tablespoon of half and half, and enough chicken broth to thin it out to a sauce-like consistency.
5. Finish with the juice of one small lemon, about a handfull of chopped parsley (also leftover from last week,) a couple handfulls of frozen green peas, salt, and pepper to taste. Heat through and serve over cheese ravioli (or it would be fine over plain noodles, too!)

Don's Pancakes

Combine until smooth:
1 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, melted
pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 to 2 tbsp sugar

Cook 1/4 cupfulls over medium heat until edges are dry and bubbles pop over the top of the batter. Flip, finish cooking, and enjoy!


Combine the following well:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp oil
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup mashed ripe banana
nuts, chocolate chips, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. (or enjoy it plain)

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes.

CHICKEN WITH 40 CLOVES (to be served at tomorrow night's party, via the Crock Pot)

1 package "Fryer's Favorite" bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, and legs,) with the skin removed and lightly browned in olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
4 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
bunch of parsley
bunch of tarragon
1 cup chicken broth
ground nutmeg
40 cloves garlic, seperated but not peeled (a bit more than three whole heads)

1. Chuck the trinity (carrot, onion, celery) in the bottom of a greased 4 or 5 quart crock pot and toss them with your fingers to mix them up. Lightly season with salt and pepper, layer over a few sprigs of parsley and tarragon, and scatter about a third of the garlic cloves over.
2. Add about half the chicken pieces. Season well with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. (Remember nutmeg is quite potent.) Add a few more sprigs of parsley and tarragon, and about half the remaining garlic. Repeat these layers. Drizzle over the chicken broth.
3. Cook on low 8 hours or until chicken juices run clear. (Well, I haven't done this part yet, but I plan to tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.) Remove chicken to a platter. Fish out the garlic cloves and serve with crostini -- squeeze out the roasted garlic and spread it over the toast like butter. Strain out the veg and serve if you'd like to.


4 whole-wheat pitas, halved
8 leaves lettuce
16 slices tomato
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
15 oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Sauce: combine 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp tahini, 1 clove garlic, minced, and a pinch salt
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Combine the breadcrumbs, cilantro, cumin, salt, cayenne, garlic, egg, and chickpeas in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Shape into 16 patties. Cook patties in olive oil about 5 minutes per side or until browned.
2. Fill each pita with 2 falafel patties, 2 slices tomato, 1 lettuce leaf, and about 1 tbsp sauce. Makes 4 servings (2 pitas each.)

Chinese Dumplings
1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 medium head Napa Cabbage (looks kind of like Romaine)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 packages dumpling skins (available in Asian markets, or you can substitute potsticker wrappers)
white vinegar, soy sauce, and chili sauce for dipping

1. Finely mince and squeeze dry 4 to 6 large leaves of cabbage. Combine the cabbage, pork, garlic, salt and pepper.
2. Place about 1 teaspoon pork mixture in the middle of each dumpling skin. Wet your finger and run around half the edge of each skin. Fold the skin over the filling and pinch just the top to close. Then hold the dumpling vertically in your hand, making small folds and pinching the skin completely to close.
3. Boil the dumplings about 6 minutes, or until they float up to the top of the water. Drain and serve with the dipping sauces.

2 1/4 cups AP flour
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup Crisco
2/3 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 tsps baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp red food coloring
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease and flour 9X13 pan.
2. Dump all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat on low speed 30 seconds, then kick it up to high and beat 3 minutes. Pour batter into pan and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tbsps water
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla

1. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in saucepan. Heat to 242 degrees Farenheight.
2. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Slowly beat in sugar mixture on low. Add vanilla and just incorporate. Kick mixer up to high and beat to stiff peaks, about 10 minutes. Frost cake.

A Beautiful Day for Edamame

Welcome to my new blog! I was having so many technical difficulties with my old blog, I decided me and my blog would go shopping for a new home. I like blogger. Blogger seems so reliable. Simple. Easy to use. Hooray blogger!

I will also attempt to bring as much of my old blog with me as I can (the recipes, for certain -- I know how much you all like the recipes!) but I can't make many promises -- my old blog seems to have mysteriously disappeared. If it mysteriously reappears, I will copy and paste accordingly. Here's hoping . . . .

The other thing I like about blogger is that you get to title your blogs. I think that's cool.

SO! This afternoon during group time, I mentioned to the children we would have only a short time to play outdoors because our cooking project took such a long time. (We made bread pudding -- fabulous! I'll post the recipe later, because it's in the staff cookbook at work.) One of the children looked at me with a sad, slightly forlorn look on his face and said protestingly, "but -- but -- it's so BEAUTIFUL outside!" What a sweetheart. And it was, indeed, a beautiful day.

I made fabulous dinner, which was inspired by a chance encounter I had with a partial bag of frozen edamame in the freezer at work very early this morning. I thought, "well, edamame! Yum! I haven't had edamame in a long time!" So, I thought up this tasty concoction while sitting in rush hour traffic on my way home:

1. Melt 1/2 tsp butter with 1/2 tsp olive oil. Sweat 1 clove garlic, minced, 1/4 a small onion, sliced, and 1/2 a small zucchini, chopped, until translucent. Stir in 1 cup shelled frozen edamame and a good pinch of kosher salt. Cook until the edamame are completely thawed.
2. Stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in 1/3 cup uncooked couscous, put a lid on it, and cut the heat. Let stand 5 minutes.
3. Finish with a dash of cayenne pepper and the leaves from 1 stalk fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped. (And a squeeze of lemon would have been nice at this point, too, but I'm currently lemonless.)

I said more before in my magically disappearing blog, but I've gotta run -- choir's in an hour and I still have to shower. Until tomorrow, folks!