Monday, February 28, 2011

The Big 7

I now have a 7-year-old. I don 't know why, but that sounds so much older to me than 6. If I blink, he might be 10, and then he'll be driving, dating, going to college, moving out, getting married, having kids, etc. Okay, take a big breath, we are still at 7. One day at a time and one year at a time.

I'm so proud of my "R." He's a good kid. He has a tender spirit and a strong sense of justice. He's not afraid to stand up for others or to speak up at inequality. In fact, it's hard to get him to stop talking at all. He is my social butterfly who genuinely believes that everyone he meets is his friend. I love his confidence and perspective.

Yes, he's a great kid, but far from perfect. Please don't read the above and think oh, she's blind to reality. Trust me, reality is vivid enough that I can't miss it. The awkward, goofy stage is sometimes more than I can bear. Every stage has its benefits and draw backs.

R has struggled with allergies for most of his life. The poor kid was born with an odd rash that had the pediatricians all guessing and it's been that way ever since. Yet it is that challenge that spawned my love of cooking and creating in the kitchen. My passion was born out of necessity. So if you have found a recipe that you love here, you really owe it to my son.

We celebrated #7 with a MYTHBUSTERS themed birthday party with some of his friends this weekend (and lots of loved ones over the phone/mail). The big deal was the appearance of a Wii.
We promised the boys back before Christmas that if they could save half of the money, that we would chip in the other half to buy a Wii. R's birthday money put the Wii fund over the top.

They have been begging for a LONG time for video games. We've postponed the gaming world purposely because we didn't want our boys (including the grown up one) to be anymore drawn/addicted to the TV than they already were.

We wanted their childhood to be about imagination and play. However, we've hit the point were our house is no longer where our kids wanted to be because they could go to someone else's house and play video games. We've always wanted our home to be open to kids/friends, so that we could supervise and have the influence in their lives. We figured a game console was just part of that equation.

Now comes the fun task of enforcing limits on usage and the type of games played which is another "discussion/battle" to be had. Lord give us discernment and wisdom to make choices which are best for our boys. Help us raise them to be men of integrity, that love God and love others. May they have hearts that seek to be generous and serve. Help them to work hard and enjoy time to play.

Happy Birthday big guy. We love you and are excited to see God's plan for your life unfolding.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gluten Free Chicken Coating

In our gluten-free world, I've been working on a thin (non-corn meal) coating to make chicken strips out of. I think we have reached success. My husband and kiddos devoured the chicken. This coating is lightweight so the chicken is the star, browns nicely, and develops a great crunch.

I used potato starch as the base for the coating. You'll find it in the baking isle near the flour and corn starch. However, it's much cheaper to find at an Asian or ethnic food market. I guess you could use corn starch as well, but I don't think the flavor would be quite the same.

1 c Potato Starch
1 t Salt
1 t Italian Seasoning
1/2 t Garlic Powder
1/2 t Onion Powder

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Dip the chickens strips in milk (cow, rice, or almond) and then into the coating mixture. Shake off excess and then add to a frying pan of hot oil. Allow to cook for 2-4 minutes until coating is browned and then turn. Continue to fry until chicken is completely cooked through and all sides are browned. Serve warm on their own, with BBQ sauce, sweet & sour, marinara, etc.

This tasted great dipped in sweet and sour sauce and might have to make a meal of that soon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dilled Chicken Salad

I've never been a fan of chicken salad. More accurately, I've always hated chicken salad. I'm a texture eater and chicken salad usually falls in the slimy category. With a gallon of mayo and gobs of watery grapes, I've not been able to see past the texture to even get close enough to taste.

That was until my friend Sheila at FM Cheapskate introduced me to her version of chicken salad. This has it all - creamy + crunchy, salty + sweet, easy + stylish. This one will likely be finding it's way into my lunches for work. However, this likely won't fall into the kids category any time soon.

Now Sheila makes this like I would, all by eye and taste. There were no measuring utensils out, but I tried to eye ball the measurements. Tweak this to any amount that fits your fancy.

2 Chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
1/2 c Mayonnaise
3 T Craisins
2 T Sunflower seeds
1 t Dill weed (more if yours isn't very fresh)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients to taste. Serve on sandwiches or on its own.

Thanks Sheila.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

So Much For Our Weekend

The kids are gone for 5 days on vacation with grandparents, my husband had a weekend off, and we were going to enjoy some time off. We still hadn't made it to go out to eat for our anniversary (in December) so this was the weekend. Unfortunately all that changed when I got a call on Thursday from my husband saying he was on his way home from the hospital.

He had been seen for cellulitis (bacterial skin infection) in his hand. They gave him antibiotics and sent him home with instructions to be off work for 3-4 days minimum. The fever/chills was setting in and we hoped he could kick it once the medicine kicked in.

On Friday, he woke up to find red lines moving up his arm to about his bicep and a hard bump under the skin. A trip to the med center had him increase his antibiotics (for the infected lymph node) and instructions to go to the hospital if it worsened. On Saturday (planned day for Anniversary date), he went into the ER because of increased pain near his shoulder. They gave him an IV of antibiotics and sent him home. This afternoon he went back in for another dose of IV antibiotics, but it appears that things are starting to get slightly better.

The boys come home tomorrow, we've canceled most of our weekend plans. Our "anniversary date" ended up being fried chicken and a DVD marathon of "The Closer" that I picked up at the video store.

I'm glad that the boys weren't here because I'm sure they would have worried and had a hard time to stay away from dad and let him rest. I'm glad they got great time with grandparents. I have enjoyed an enormous amount of sleep in their absence, but it wasn't really the weekend I had hoped for. At the same time, it was a lot better than sitting in a hospital if he had to have been admitted.

Someday we'll get to go out for our anniversary and use the gift certificate we've been holding on to for it. However, I think we are going to quit planning on it, because every time we do, someone gets sick.

Oh well. That's life. It is what it is.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lack of Menu

As you can probably tell, there is no menu this week. It's been a crazy, hit and miss, on the road kind of week. My in-laws took my boys on a vacation and all of our energies were poured into getting them there. My oldest had a long weekend off of school so it was the perfect chance to spend time with very much missed grandparents.

We drove to the cities Tuesday night to meet family at the airport Wednesday morning. Then we said goodbye as they flew off for some fun in the sun. What an amazing treat for my boys. I'm sure that they will be enjoying all sorts of experiences and making special memories.

I have to admit that I'm a bit jealous as it is snowy and blowing outside right now. It was hard to leave the airport without them, to put them on a plane without me... They are in loving hands, but as a mom I have a hard time letting go.

I was really excited for some time to myself and time with my husband too. Both are rare and precious. And as always, there's a hitch.

My husband spent a bunch of time in the ER today to find out that he has cellulitis, a bacterial infection in the skin. So he's on high power antibiotics and sleeping off the discomfort of it all. Here's hoping the medicine kicks in quickly.

So between all the travels, power outages, and running around, this hasn't been our healthiest week of eating. I can completely feel the difference between this and when we are eating healthy/whole food diet. So tonight I made a batch of fried couscous and boy was it good to eat at home.

So I wish you well. I hope and pray that you are having a good week with friends and family.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Irony of the Kid Label

When I started a new Kids category of recipes last year, I did it for myself. I was tired of staring into the refrigerator or at the menu planner and trying to think of "what can I cook that I don't have to fight my kids to eat?" I wanted a list of go-to recipes that we could rotate in and still try a few new things now and then. A meal without a headache is a beautiful thing.

This didn't use to be an issue for us. I had toddlers who ate almost everything. Somewhere along the line, my oldest son (maybe when he was 5 or so) started to get picky about what he would eat. We instituted the one bite rule that they had to try one bite of everything served to get some exposure without too big of a battle.

Over time he has gotten a bit more vocal about it, and introducing food allergies into the mix only made it more complicated. Over the past year I have served him some pretty disgusting stuff (many he did not have to eat because the only place it deserved to go was in the trash can).  And of course if big brother doesn't like something, that little brother tends to pick up on it. So now I have two more picky eaters (yes, they could be far worse than they are...)

This morning we hit a new low in the food adventure category that made me want to take the kid label off of every recipe. I felt like my son didn't like any of the foods that I gave him. This morning he refused to try a new popcorn chip. Yes a chip (and they are amazing and the bag is now empty). No, I don't normally feed my children chips for breakfast, but this morning I wanted him to sample them before I put them in his lunch. He had an all out fit over my audacity to ask him to try something new (even if it was a chip).

At 7:15, I really wasn't in the mood to discuss the benefits of a varied diet, the multiple taste exposure principle, etc. In fact, I was tired, emotional, and a lot frustrated. I had a bad attitude. I was quiet and snippy after that as we rushed to get to the bus stop on time. As he ran out the door, he popped his head back in and told me he was sorry for whatever it was that he had done to upset me, and darted off to the bus. It's amazing how conviction can come wrapped in such a simple act.

I was left in silence and near tears at his tender little heart. All I wanted to do was chase down the bus and pull him off so I could hug him and apologize, but that would have cause a lot of embarrassment for him and I'd have to apologize for that as well. So I sat there in silence and thanked God for my boy.

As I type this now, some 16 hours later, we've had time to talk through things and I got to apologize to him. I see how limited his food world is and his need to control what parts of it that he can. I understand that he is naturally fearful and hesitant. That's just who he is. I see that I was tired and at the end of my patience, and a 7:15 AM time slot is not the best time to experiment with him and new foods.

All that being said, I decided to keep the KIDS category. However, it comes with this disclaimer.
*All recipes labeled as kid friendly were enjoyed at one time by my children or someone else's child(ren). However, there is no guarantee that the next time I make it that they will enjoy it again, change their mind, or even want to try a bite of it.

Good night and good luck with your kids at the next meal time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Roasted Pheasant

There are two types of pheasant that I was familiar with... the fancy kind under glass and the rustic hunter kind. Well, I'm finding there is a few types in between.  My husband actually made the most amazing dinner for me a few weeks ago. It was a delightful and tasty welcome home.

Once again we learned the secret to good poultry is a good brine. No more dry and flavorless birds for us. I loved the subtle taste of the bay leaves that come out from the brine.

Take a peek at the recipe for roasted pheasant and test it for yourself. The brine my husband made omitted the juniper berries because we didn't have any. Don't think it really needed them.

The leftovers stayed moist and we used them to make soup and quesadillas.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I've had a wonderful weekend so far. I spent last night and most of today with a friend, scrapbooking! I haven't been able to devote any time to that in almost a year. I forgot how much I enjoyed it and how frustrating it can be. Last night I was in my zone and knocking out pages (unfortunately I'm still working on 2006). Today, not so much. Oh well. It was fun, regardless of what I accomplished.

So here's the new menu for the week.

SuperBowl Sunday:
B - Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes
L - Sandwiches, hot dogs
D (Party) - Meat Balls, Salsa, Bacon & Tomato Cups

B - Pancakes & Sausage
L - Leftovers
D - BBQ Pork Roast, Rice, Green Beans

B - Cereal & Cereal Bars
L - Turkey Sandwiches, fruit
D - Potato Starch Chicken Strips, Pasta, Loaded Spaghetti Sauce

B - Waffles & Sausage
L - Quesadillas
D - Out

B - Waffles
L - Grilled Cheese & Soup, fruit
D - Ham Bits, Rice, Corn, Carrots, Peaches

B - Smoothies & Sausage
L - Fried CousCous, Hot dogs, fruit
D - Pizza, Carrot Sticks, Peaches

B - Apple Juice Oatmeal, Sausage, Eggs
L - Grilled Cheese, Soup, fruit
D - Fried Rice, Applesauce

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Venison Stew

Sorry, no pictures from dinner, but it was eaten and enjoyed. Yes, I said I enjoyed venison. This is new. I've not been a fan until finding a few simple preparations that remove the wild game taste.

If you are not a fan of venison, you can replace it with beef.

1 lb Venison steak, cubed (or beef)
1 T Oil (Olive, Sunflower, or Safflower)
4 large Carrots, peeled and chopped
4-5 large Potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 Bay leaves
2 t Sea Salt
2 t Pepper
1 1/2 c Beef broth
2 T Corn or potato starch

In a hot skillet add the oil and venison. Sear (brown) the meat and add it to a crockpot. Mix in the potatoes, carrots and bay leaves. Add the broth to the pan and use it deglaze (pick up the tidbits off the pan), and pour over the meat/veggies. Season with salt & pepper (and a bit of Worcestershire if you'd like). On low, cook for 8 hours, or 3-4 hours on high. 

When meat and potatoes are tender, drain the juices off into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Make a slurry (mixture) of the starch and 3-4 T of water and wisk into the juices. Bring to a boil to thicken. Season to taste. Pour over meat and veggies and serve. Be sure to remove the bay leaves before eating. The are NOT edible.

With a nice crusty bread to dip in the sauce, you've got a hearty meal for those cold winter nights.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meal Plans

Happy February. Here's what we've got planned for the week around these parts. The end of the week is going to be pretty simple since I'm going to be enjoying some girl time with a friend scrapbooking. It's gonna be a good week.

B - Cereal bars, Cereal
L - Sesame Chicken, Rice, Carrot sticks
D - Leftover Quinoa Spaghetti w/loaded spaghetti sauce

B - Ninja attacked waffles (what I called them because they fell apart)
L - Sandwiches, apples
D - Venison Stew 

B - Ninja attacked waffles
L - Quesadillas, salsa
D - Basil Cream Chicken (marinara for R), Quinoa Pasta, Brocolli

B - Pumpkin pancakes (from the freezer)
L - Grilled Cheese, Applesauce
D - Packed lunch for on the road

B - Pumpkin pancakes (from the freezer)
L - Leftovers
D - Chicken Fiesta Enchiladas (from the freezer) & Leftovers

FRIDAY - My scrapbook weekend
B - Apple Juice Oatmeal, Cereal Bars
L - Hot dogs, Organic french fries, apples
D - Pizza, apple slices

SATURDAY - My scrapbook weekend
B - Sausage, eggs, toast
L - Hot dogs, Chips
D - Hamburgers, Applesauce, Carrot sticks