Wednesday, September 30, 2009

13 Nicknames in Our Family

For some reason, none of my grandparents were called the traditional "grandma." It wasn't until I married into the Good Guy's family that we used that name. His sister already had 3 kids, so his mom already had her name. Have you noticed that the oldest grandchild gets to name the grandparents? Here are some nicknames we had/have in our family:
1. Mamie (my mom's mom)
2. Bumpa (my mom's dad)
3. Gram (mom's mom's mom)
4. Bunk (mom's mom's dad)
5. Nonny (mom's dad's mom)
6. Pa (mom's dad's dad)
7. Granny (dad's mom)
8. Mamaw (my mom)
9. Bapaw (my dad)
10. Grandma (Good Guy's mom)
11. Grandpa (Good Guy's dad)
12. Mamacita, Mom, Momma, Mommy, Hey-Mom, (names my kids call me)
13. Kiki, DeetDah, and Naan (names my little brothers called me)

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Just In Case We Get Sick

There is no denying that the flu is a very real threat. Not necessarily life threatening, but it would be incapacitating if the adults in our family all caught it at once. That being said, we have done a little preparing in our home. First of all, we bought a $10 box of masks...just in case. I no longer think it's way out there to have them on hand, especially when some of my sons have a hard time remembering to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. We also have some huge containers of hand sanitizer and lysol spray. One last thing we have bought is a large amount of 7-up and gingerale. It's for sick tummies, not parties.

We have done one other major thing to prepare. We have filled a full size upright freezer with meals. We now have two freezers and two frige/freezer combos. The other freezer is filled with meats, fruits and vegetables. The inside frige/freezer is filled with regular foodstuffs while the outside frige/freezer combo is filled with eggs, cheeses, extra pancake mixes, chocolates, condiments, syrups and space for more leftovers or premade foods. The freezer of that appliance has fish and more cheese.

So, back to the meals in the freezer. We have bags of gravy, soups and spaghetti sauce. We have 9 X 13 pans of macaroni and cheese, lasagne, goulash, tetrazini, and other pasta dishes. We have loaves of bread, bags of muffins and cupcakes. We also have some convenience foods like pizza rolls and egg rolls. All of it is ready to be thrown in the oven but any of the family age 10 and older (which pretty much includes everyone but Princess Pat).

I am not saying that everyone needs to go on a baking/cooking spree and load up every nook and cranny of freezer space with food, however, I'd like you to think about what you'd do if you and your family all got sick at once. Do you have a network of friends/family that would help? Would you survive by crawling to the kitchen and opening a can of soup? Do you have enough food to last you a week or two if you were too sick to shop? The latest CDC recommendations are to stay home at least a week after the flu fever has abated. That is a long time in quarantine.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Stories: Some of Bumpa's Adventures

My grandfather was a story teller. It kills me that most of his stories weren’t recorded on tape or video, because he had such a way of telling things. He’d get started and then get to a funny part and start laughing. His shoulders would begin to heave and he wouldn’t be able to say a word for laughing so hard. None of us knew what he was thinking about, but we would join in the laughter because he was enjoying himself so much that it became infectious. I sure miss him.

Bumpa was born in the 19-teens as the youngest of six children. He and his gang were like real life Little Rascals. There was a corner general store down the street from their house where you could get just about anything like food, clothing or hardware. When he’d get a penny, he’d go down with his gang to the store and stand in front of the candy section. The man behind the counter would ask if Bumpa had made up his mind and he’d say, “Yes, I’d like this, this and this” and the man would start to scoop it into the paper wrapping. Then Bumpa would say, “No, I changed my mind, I’d like that and that instead.” So, the man would start again. After Bumpa changed his mind over and over, the man behind the counter would he’d start yelling at the kids to hurry up because he had other customers. Finally, on one particular day, after the candy was wrapped up in paper and string and all paid for, Bumpa grabbed the end of the string on the counter and ran out the door with the store clerk running and shouting behind him.

Back then, in the wonderful days before television and video games and other mind-sucking electronics, kids really knew how to use their imaginations. All the pets had first and last names. Bumpa had a dog named Jack Dempsey and a cat named Bozo Buts They Drive Her Nuts and another one named Min Gump. With Bozo Buts, they tested out the theory that cats always land on their feet. They tossed her up in the air using a blanket held on all sides. When she passed that test, they dropped her out their second story window. Nonny, Bumpa’s mom found out about that and there was no more of that, ever again. Min Gump used to sleep on the top of an old fashioned wooden clothes drying wrack. When the boys walked by, she'd walk down onto their shoulders and lie, wrapped around their shoulders as they went on their way.

Ben Miner was the neighbor’s dog. He was huge, and considered mean by the kids in the neighborhood, but the boys who owned him would hook him up to a pony cart and invite all of their friends, including Bumpa, to have a ride. Ben Miner hated cats. One day, while he was pulling the boys, he saw Min Gump, the cat. He took off after the cat, dragging the boys behind him. In an attempt to elude the dog, Min Gump jumped up on a porch, but undeterred, the dog continued. The boys were being dumped out right and left. This was one of those stories that got Bumpa laughing so hard he’d have tears going down his cheeks.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Donna's Chocolate Mousse Pie

I the neighborhood that I just left, there was an older woman reknown for her pies. Everyone raved over them. She kindly shared it with me before I moved.

Donna's Chocolate Mousse Pie:

Baked single crust (or store bought graham crust)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 squares of unsweetend chocolate, melted
2 eggs
12 oz Cool Whip
In her words: "The key to this pie is thoroughly mixing each item as it is added. Soften the butter and combine it with the sugar. Mix until the mixture is creamy and all the sugar is thoroughly blended with the butter. Add the melted chocolate and mix completely until the mixture becomes light in color. Add one egg and mix thoroughly. Add the other egg and mix until it becomes very thick and creamy. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the defrosted Cool Whip. Fill you pie crust and refrigerate immediately."
This is really good with toasted coconut or chocolate curls on top.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Home Canned Pizza Sauce

My husband's first cousin plants 100 tomato plants each year in her amazing garden. She makes all her own tomato products and more for her married kids and some more for her brothers and sisters. She does marathon sessions using her stove and all of her camp stoves. I cannot imagine the work she does. I had 12 plants last year and was dying! Here is a recipe for pizza sauce that I make that is really, really
tasty. It is adapted from Ponderings From Picket Fence Cottage

Pizza Sauce:
25-28 good sized tomatoes (tennis ball size)
2 large onions, minced pretty fine
3 Tbls olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbls lemon juice
2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbls sugar (amount really depends on how sweet your tomatoes are)
2 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 Tbls dried oregano
1 Tbls dried basil
1 tsp celery seed
1 Tbls salt
Peel and puree tomatoes (I use my spaghetti pan with the metal insert with the holes in it to dip the tomatoes in boiling water ~ for 30 seconds). In a large deep stockpot, saute the onions and garlic until tender. Add the tomato puree and the rest of the ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally this on low for HOURS until it is reduced significantly. Be careful not to leave it too watery or it will make your pizza crust soggy. Ladle into pint jars and process in a boiling bath 25-30 minutes (be sure to see if your altitude demands a longer processing time).

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday Stories: Lessons Learned the Hard Way

I am in a confessional mood today. I was listening to The Musician vacuuming the house this morning and it took me back to a Saturday long ago when I was vacuuming as a chore. I was not enthusiastic about working that day. As an only child, I had a good list of things I was expected to do on Saturdays and vacuuming was not usually one of them. I pushed that Hoover through the living room, dining room, down the hall and into the bedrooms. By the time I reached my parents' room, I was pretty much sick of it. I decided to just do a cursory one two three swipes of the vacuum and call it good.

About 15 minutes after I had put the vacuum away, my Mom came and sat down by me and asked me if I had vacuumed her room. I said yes. She then asked if I had done a good job. Again, I said yes. Then she got this very disappointed look on her face (and I am a typical "pleaser" oldest child that hates disappointed looks) and said that she knew I was lying. She took me back to her room and showed me how the vacuum had made tracks in her carpet and that she could see where I had vacuumed and where I had not. Feeling lower than dirt, I went and got the vacuum and redid her room.

Years earlier, when we were living in Thailand, I learned a different lesson in honesty. I had asked my mom if I could play over at a friend's. She had said yes, but the other mom said no. My friend and I decided to play anyway. I told my mom where I was going and then I sneaked into their apartment while the mom was in the shower. I played for about 10 minutes with my friend and then heard the shower stop. I hid in the bottom of a closet, but I was found and returned shame-faced to my mother. I don't remember what kind of punishment I received, I just remember the horrible feeling I had inside of being caught in a sneaky lie.

One last confession; once I killed a frog. I was younger than 4, because it happened in Massachusetts. I don't remember exactly how old I was. I was trying to impress some of the neighborhood kids. I don't know how or why I thought that gruesome act would boost me in their eyes. I found a small frog (maybe it was a toad) and I stepped on it until it was squooshed. Then, I went to my friends and showed them. They thought it was horrible.

Here I am, decades older, and those experiences still make me shudder with guilt. I try not to ever tell untruths. I don't sneak behind people's back (except pureed vegetables into main dishes). I don't harm animals ~ my sons still shake their heads over me crying after we hit a bird on the highway four years ago. I have certainly stopped trying to impress people with brash actions.

I don't think about those lessons often. Something, like today's vacuuming, will send me back to those experiences and I will remember. However, I think things like that shaped who I am. I bet we all have things that happened to us in our childhood that stayed with us even to this day and helped us grow into the people we are now.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pancake Muffins: The Results (+ menu)

There were so many of you that were interested in the results of my experiments that I got right to it and made these for Monday's breakfast. I made a control batch and then I made some varieties. I am so pleased with the results.

Note: Each of the following recipes make 6 muffins

Control: (Plain) Pancake Sausage Muffins:
2 cups complete pancake mix (the just add water kind)
1 cup water
1/3 cup sausage links, cut into small pieces
Brown sausage, drain and pat with paper towel to remove all excess grease. (I cooked up an entire pound to make all three of these varieties.)Mix water and pancake mix. Fold in sausage. Spoon into a greased muffin tin. Bake 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Maple Blueberry Sausage Pancake Muffins:
2 cups complete pancake mix
1 cup water
3/4 cup blueberries
2 tsp maple syrup per muffin
1/3 lb sausage links, cut into small pieces and cooked
Combine water and pancake mix. Fold in sausage. Fold in blueberries. Fill greased muffin cups halfway. Squirt 2 tsp maple syrup on top of batter. Top with remaining muffin batter. Bake 350 degrees for 15-20 mintues (these are bigger, so they needed a little more time than the control batch)

Chili Cheese Sausage Pancake Muffins
2 cups complete pancake mix
1 cup water
2 Tbls canned chopped green chilies
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 lb sausage links, cut into small pieces and cooked
Combine water and pancake mix. Fold in sausage, chilies and cheese. Scoop into 6 greased muffin tins. Bake 350 degrees 15-20 minutes.
Pancake Muffins on Foodista
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Other things on our menu this week are:
Chicken Cacciatore
Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Salmon Patties and Oven Fried Potatoes
Beef Stir Fry over Rice
Pork Chops with Buttered Noodles
English Muffin Pizzas
Baked Oatmeal
Egg Stratta Casserole
as well as peanut butter toast and cold cereal

Have a great week!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Saturday Stories: Traditions

I have been thinking a lot about what we teach our children; habits, sayings, ways of doing things. It seems like traditions are associated with holidays, like hanging ornaments or egg hunts, but I think perhaps some of the everyday things we pass on are also traditions. Have any of you ever said, "Well, that's the way my Mom did it, so that's why I do it" about something?

A little while ago, my sons went to a family reunion with my hubby's family. I stayed home with Princess Pat and packed for our move. When they returned, The Comedian started saying "Good Night!" when he was surprised. He picked it up from my mother in law. He said he liked the way it sounded. I asked him if he remembered his grandfather, who passed away a few years ago, saying that, too. That got him talking about other things he remembered about that Grandpa.

I take the peel off an apple in one long piece. My mother and her mother and who knows how many generations before that did the same thing. My son, the Musician has learned to do it, too.

There is a song that my great grandmother sang to her children as a lullaby, my grandmother sang it to my mom, my mom sang it to me and my brothers, and I sang it to my kids. Even now that some of them are teenagers, if I sing that song, they get quiet and go to sleep. It's just a nonsense song. In fact, just recently, I googled it and found out it is a jump rope chant. But to our family, it is a tradition that we have passed on. More than likely, at least one of them will sing it to their kids, too.

There are many things I do as a homemaker that I learned from watching my mom. I vacuum first and then dust. I don't trust a mop as much as a hand held rag on my hands and knees. I fold towels in thirds lengthwise before putting them over the towel rack. I'd rather stir with a wooden spoon than any other. I write in my cookbooks.

Some of our "traditions" are innocuous enough. Who cares how our kids peel an apple? But what about other things? Do they work hard because we do? Are they honest because we are? Are they good losers because we have more fun playing the game than caring about who wins? Do they control their tempers because we do? Or do they grumble because we do, watch too much tv because we do, hold grudges because we do? In the day to day rush of life, I don't often sit back and take stock of what traditions I am passing on to my kids. When I do, sometimes I am proud. Sometimes, I wish I could change a few things. But then, I can. I can change me. I can start new traditions.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cheerio Squares: a five minute dessert

Today was just one of those days where nothing seemed to go right. The biggest chunk of my day was spent in the car because I had to go to the pharmacy 3 times to get only a partial prescription for The Comedian. Moving has really messed up all of his prescriptions. I had refills from our old doc which was, of course, in another state. His new insurance didn't like that, so I have had to have a nurse over-ride all of those prescriptions with his new doc's name. The people in the pharmacy have bent over backwards for me, but because of the long weekend, things had not gone the way I'd hoped. Needless to say, after only 6 weeks of living here, the pharm tech knows me by sight and doesn't even wait for me to give a name before she whips out a little baggie of meds.

Okay, that was more than I meant to say, but the end result of all of my running around is that dessert was on the fly tonight. I came up with a five minute sweet that the kids loved (though one actually said it was too sweet ~ he'd cut himself a 6" X 3" piece, so don't take his word for it...gluttony will make any treat undesirable!).

Cheerio Squares
1 small pkg jell-o, any flavor (3oz)
2 Tbls butter
1/3 cup corn syrup
4 cups cheerios
Melt the butter, corn syrup and jello in a saucepan on medium heat. Stir until mixture boils. Pour over cheerios and mix well. Press into a greased 9 x 9 pan.By the time dinner is over, these have cooled and set. You could use any color or flavor. I used strawberry.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

King's Ranch Chicken and Adventures in Letting Kids Cook

I always try to put the recipe first in my titles to help with organization, but let me first tell you about yesterday's baking adventure.

The Musician, who is a freshman in high school, fancies himself a chef extrodinaire. He loves to bake goodies for the family, but hates to clean up anything. That is basically the reason why I don't often let him in the kitchen. I hate cleaning up after him because he uses as many measuring cups and dishes as possible. However, yesterday, I gave him a stick of butter and a Better Homes and Gardens Baking Book and let him go wild. He decided to make snickerdoodles. He also decided to let Princess Pat help.

His patience with her and her zeal for cooking were very cute. She stood on a step stool while he measured ingredients. She got to pour some things in the bowl. It was going really well. He realized at the bottom of the recipe (note to Musician: read the entire recipe before you begin!) that the dough had to refrigerate for an hour before he could bake it, so there was a pause in the baking fun. He went off to the family room to watch a movie with his brothers and Princess Pat came to play with me. After the hour, the Musician called his sister back to the kitchen and of course she went running. I heard them banging pans and scooping dough. After about 15 minutes, he came to find me with a funny look on his face. Apparently, he had rolled the dough in cinnamon and sugar and placed it on the pans, but had been so sucked into his movie, that he left for a few minutes. When he came back 10 cookies were missing and Princess Pat was chewing fast. She has now earned the nickname "the Cookie Dough Kid." The rest of the family shared the 16 remaining cookies after dinner and the Musician learned to pay more attention to his cooking than the television.

On to the chicken recipe. Kings Ranch Chicken can be time consuming or easy depending on the ingredients you use. You can make the cream sauce from scratch using butter and flour or you can use cream soups. I opted for the easy version:

Easy King's Ranch Chicken
1 small bag (10oz) torilla chips, crushed
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Rotel's tomatoes and chilies
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 small onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
2 Tbls butter or olive oil
Cook the onion and green pepper in butter until done. Combine all ingredients except tortilla chipsand cheese in a bowl. Put 1/2 cup of mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish. Pour in 1/3 of the chips, top with 1/2 the chicken mixture and then 2/3 cup of shredded cheese. Repeat, ending with chips and cheese. Bake uncovered 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until bubbly all the way through.

You can substitute light soups and/or corn tortillas for the chips to save on calories or fat.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Saturday Stories: Having a Rainbow Family

When I was a little girl, I never gave two thoughts to how things would be when I grew up. I was going to go to college, get married and have a family. I planned all along to be a stay at home mom, because that's what my mom was. I played house with my dolls. Barbie and Ken got married and lived in the townhouse in my room. The Sunshine Family used my Barbie camper.

Life went on, I went to college, I got married, and then No. Babies. Came. There is no way to explain to "fertile folks" what it feels like to want children and not be able to have them. I felt like a failure. I felt cheated. I was ashamed for being upset when friends got pregnant. After six years, I had stopped going to baby showers and I left town on Mother's Day. Even after we decided to adopt, it took a few years for us to get our kids. Not knowing how long it would take, we set up a nursery. I shut the door to that room and often pretended it wasn't there, but some days, I'd go in and sit in the rocking chair and sob.

We opted for open adoptions. Twice we had been picked by girls and had the adoptions fall through. Then one day, I got a phone call from an adoption agency on the other side of the state; a place I had never even heard of. The agency had contacted a doctor in that town who had, for some reason, mentioned it to an old college roommate of my sister-in-law who just happened to know we wanted to adopt. She gave the doc our phone number who in turn gave it to the agency. We drove to meet the birthmom and 12 days later, the Musician was born. We picked him up when he was 6 days old.

We had had about 3 weeks to get used to the idea of adopting transracially. When we started the whole process, we just assumed we'd adopt kids that looked like us. We didn't have any problem with skin color, but it didn't cross our minds to adopt outside of our race. I just want to say right now that I was so bloomin' desperate to have a child by this time that I would have taken one with green skin and pink hair.

We adopted four boys altogether. All of them had white birthmoms. The Musician is part Pacific Islander. The Thinker and the Engineer had African American birthdads. The Comedian is a mystery. He has black wavy hair and olive skin. Two of the boys were also drug babies. That brought an entirely different set of challenges. There are four and a half years from the oldest to the youngest. The youngest two are 10 weeks apart in age. We called them the "Almost twins" for a long time.

We have become immune to the strange questions people ask about our family. When my husband and I would go out with the boys, people would look at the kids, then their eyes would travel up to us and then they'd swing back to the boys. I got a twisted kick out of the confusion on their faces. It only got more amusing as time went on and I actually got pregnant and had Princess Pat. Now my wonderful big boys can be seen carrying a pale adoring sister around. None of my kids look alike although two of them are actually birth first cousins. Only one resembles us in any way.

Love doesn't really care what color skin is or where ancestors came from. Love endures rude questions from strangers. Love puts up with damage caused by addictions of birthmoms. Love adapts to the challenges of being a rainbow family. Love built our family. It keeps us going when we want to tear our hair out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just 13 Things

1. I have contemplating this blog lately. I have left it rather anonymous, but I am wondering if that is what I need or what you, the readers, want. Is an impersonal food blog attractive?

2. I drove 90 minutes to Phoenix today with my son, the Comedian and Princess Pat. We visited our new pediatric endocrinologist. I really like him. He is changing the growth hormone prescription to a nifty pen injector (Previously, I had to mix a dilutent into the hormone vial and then use another syringe to administer it). I did not however enjoy being sent to a supposed walk in radiologist for a bone age test afterward. We sat for 2 hours in a waiting room. Princess Pat had a hard time being still, the Comedian was way too interested in the lobby tv which was playing Dr. Phil solving bedroom problems, and I was just plain tired. I finally asked for the paperwork back and left, knowing that I still had a 90 minute drive and would barely make it home in time for the other kids. I will have to get the x-ray done locally.

3. The Good Guy is working in Florida. I am living with my parents in Arizona. I hate being a single parent. The Good Guy visits off and on every 6-8 weeks. Being in my parents' home makes for all sorts of gray areas of authority. The kids are confused and haven't figured out who is in charge anymore.

4. If hurricanes just sent rain and didn't cause all sorts of misery, I'd be really excited that Jimena is heading our way. By Labor Day, we should be getting some great leftover moisture.

5. A dear friend of my mom's, who works for the local school district, brought us leftover milk tonight. It is slightly past the pull date, so we are doing a huge batch of cooking tomorrow to use and freeze it. Any suggestions?

6. Once a week, we have peanut butter toast for breakfast because the cook is just too tired to make anything else.

7. Princess Pat is tall for her age. So tall, in fact, that people are surprised when they hear her talk like a little girl who recently turned three. She is head and shoulders above her peers. I still remember the girl in 5th grade that everyone called "Mount Everest." Eventually, she will be glad to be tall, but I dread the angst she will feel in her prepubescent years.

8. Every cat in our new neighborhood is black. How strange is that? We added ours to the number. The wandering tom of the block (who goes by a different name at each house) is smaller, but more muscular than ours. We call him "Hammy" another neighbor calls him "loud mouth" but his owners call him "Skittles." Another family has a black female, called "Cher." The coyotes often kill the cats around you think the black ones hide better?

9. I sat at the dining room table for 3 hours tonight while my son with severe ADHD tried to color a map. I am a bit brain dead after that torture. I think that is why this post is so disconnected.

10. Now that all four of my sons are sharing a room, in bunk beds no less, I am Iwondering how fast the Thinker's cold is going to spread. I'd like a case of lysol.

11. I have a sleep number bed and I love it. It took years of suffering through regular springs and then a temperpedic bed(which was great for the first year, but then developed permanent depressions), I am so glad we took the plunge 2 years ago and bought it. I am a number 30. I keep the Good Guy's side up to 100 when he is gone. He likes it at about a 5 when he's home.

12. I plateaued in my weight loss. I think the move and the stress and everything else submarined me. I lost 25 pounds and couldn't get the last 10 off. It may not be realistic to want to be the same size as I was in my 20s. I am in the healthy weight range for my height. Should I just work on maintaining?

13. So, what did you think of this crazy post? Do you want to know more about me and the gang I live with or should I just shut up and post a great cream pie recipe? Let me know, will you?

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