Friday, January 30, 2009

Right now I'm thankful for...

Good dental care.

Christian radio.

Free babysitting.

A clean playroom.

Happy children.

Pumpkin cream cheese muffins

Who needs Starbucks? Seriously.

I gave up my errand day drive-thru addiction this month, mainly because we're pinching pennies to pay for more important things. Like dental bills and swim lessons. But also because it adds up to more calories and disposable cups than my waistline and carbon footprint need.

Instead, I stole a cute ceramic mug with a lid from my mom's house to take tea with me. (She made me give it back when she saw it in my car the other day -- oops!) And this morning I was inspired to attempt those yummy pumpkin cream cheese muffins I get sometimes.

I've kept our Halloween pumpkins on the patio table outside to stay chilled the last few months. We had some unusually warm days last week, so I decided to bring one in to use for cookies. I split it up and roasted it for 90 minutes. Then I ran out of energy, and just filled a canning jar with the pureed pulp, and moved it to the fridge after it cooled and the lid sealed.

This morning I decided it was time to bake some muffins. I didn't put the cream cheese inside the muffins like Starbucks does, because only two of my kids will eat it at all. I can't say these are going to help my pants fit any better than the drive-thru, but they sure are yummy!

Pumpkin muffins w/ cream cheese spread

1 cup pureed pumpkin
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamon
(I would have used ginger, too, but couldn't find it.)

Preheat to 350. Blend wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients. Grease muffin tin or use paper cups. I use a mini muffin tin because they bake up in only 12 minutes. Try 15-18 for regular sized muffins.

Sweetened cream cheese:
8 oz. soft cream cheese
2 Tbp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Blend with a fork until smooth. Spread on top of cooled muffins as desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Right now I'm thankful for..

Clean sheets and blankets.

The rain.

Hot tea -- and new mugs to sip it from.

Watching the boys dance.

God's never-ending grace!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I haven't done this meme in forever, and I actually have a stocked fridge right now! Plus, this week Laura is having a giveaway of an N’ Stitches Designs envelope system wallet -- and it's so cute!

So, here's my plan (subject to change if I spend too long in the garden or hanging out with friends!)...

To Bake:
Monday - Granola
Tuesday - pizza dough
Wednesday - cornbread
Thursday - sandwich bread
Friday - dessert for potluck

Granola, Honey Nut O's, oatmeal, eggs and toast...
Sunday - waffles and bacon

Monday - sandwiches
Tuesday - Spring rolls and fried rice (Chinese New Year party!)
Wednesday - leftover black bean soup
Thursday - Quesadillas
Friday - Sandwiches
Saturday - Frittata w/swiss chard
Sunday - Burritos (use taco leftovers)

Monday -- Citrus and garlic roasted chicken and root vegetables, with sauteed kale
Tuesday -- BBQ chicken pizza (using leftover chicken), salad
Wednesday -- Black bean soup (use homemade salsa from my December tomatoes), cornbread, and salad (make stock from Monday's chicken)
Thursday -- Salmon, mashed potatoes, and broccoli
Friday -- Vegan night at the Purple Flowers'
Saturday -- Organic ground beef Tacos
Sunday -- Lentil soup (use stock made Wednesday)

What are you cooking this week?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Clear-Yer-Head Cold

Usually, I like to begin a new year with a little downtime.

After the rush and excitement of the Christmas season, we take it easy and slow. We stay inside to avoid the cold. We rent movies. Read books. Plan the garden. Knit. Reconnect, and prioritize.

But this year I decided to just to jump right in to new activities. I had Ideas! Plans! Friends who wanted to join us! The boys were eager. We had fun!

Then it was time to go to the dentist for a root canal. No biggie. I gave birth at home to a 10lb 10oz baby. I can open wide even without novacaine.

I can handle pain with a purpose when the end is in sight. What I hate are colds that drain my energy, cancel my plans and seem to go on indefinitely. Then I'm a big baby. Miserable wretch. A tyrant who finds hatchets in her shower.

After the root canal, PMS hit -- just to make life more interesting. And the next day, my annual January head cold arrived. The one I avoided while everyone else was getting sick in December -- the reason I usually start the year with some downtime.

My head pounded, my glands swelled, my ears ached. But the worst part? I got very, very cranky. Instead of going to bed, and letting everyone fend for themselves (read: eat whatever fast food Scott could bring home), I played the martyr. I've been cooking from scratch, but there was nothing put up for a sick day. The toddler nursed. It hurt to eat. My blood sugar dropped.

I was grumpy and unappreciative of the help I was getting. I was unprepared for my minor crisis. I am so easily distracted from the path behind Christ's heels.

I had all these little goals spinning in my head. Good goals. Things that reflect my desire to be a better steward, nurture my family, create community, keep growing and learning.

But I hadn't really discussed them with Jesus -- not to mention my family. I was running around, trying to uphold my standard, my thoughts focused on my want-to-dos. And then I got sick, couldn't keep up, and got frustrated.
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "
--Matthew 15:10-11
Eventually, my head started to clear. I realized my focus had been off, and I wasn't going to fully recover until I took some time to set it straight.

So, here I am.
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
--Deuteronomy 4:10

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
--Hebrews 10:22
Today we drew nearer to each other out in the garden, clearing out the old, overgrown tomato plants, pruning the peach trees, weeding the spot where the peas will be planted.

Even the most blessedly short, mild winters leave something to be pruned and made new again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chocolate "Dirt" Muffins

The thing about belonging to a CSA (community supported agriculture) is that you get to try new things. Like, root vegetables that taste like dirt, according to my husband. He hates beets. Or so he says. This morning he ate no less than seven Chocolate "Dirt" Muffins, as he calls them, so he must not hate them too much. (He said the butter he slathered on helped.)

Last winter, some of the beets that came in our produce box ended up feeding the compost bins. I felt bad about that, but couldn't figure out how to eat them all myself. Then I started adding them to my Roast Chicken and Root Veggies recipe. Yum! My mom made sure she was always around to help me gobble up the beets, since Scott and the boys wouldn't touch them.

We got three more in our box this week, and I wanted to finally try a recipe posted on our CSA's website for Rich Chocolate Beet Muffins. Sounds weird, I know, but they were a HUGE hit! Who wouldn't want chocolate muffins for breakfast? My middle son said I should make them instead of chocolate cake for dessert sometime. Now that's kid approval! I'm actually going to plant beets this year!

So, here you go. I started last night by halving three beets, and roasting them in the oven, cut-side down in a glass pan with 1/2 inch of water, for 75 minutes at 400 degrees. Then I scooped them out of their peel and pureed them this morning.

Chocolate "Dirt" Muffins

2 1/2 cups beets, pureed
1/2 cup water or reserved beet juice (if you boil instead of roasting)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat Oven to 350ยบ. Line muffin tins with paper or grease them. In a large bowl, combine beet puree, beet juice or water, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add the beet mixture, chocolate chips and nuts to the flour mixture.

The batter will be maroon in color but the cooked product will be dark fudgey brown. Fill muffin tins ¾ full and bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes two dozen. You may use 2 loaf pans as an alternative and make sweet bread instead of muffins.

I used my mini muffin pan instead, baked them for 10 minutes, and made 60 little muffins, which we gobbled up with scrambled eggs (from our hens) and kiwi (also from our CSA box).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A little color on my counter

So, for the last year or more, I have dumped kitchen scraps into random bowls and colanders before taking them out to the compost. Sometimes these open bowls have sat on the counter for longer than necessary, marring the aesthetics of my kitchen with their messy, smelly, visible contents.

My mother, being quite aesthetically aware, even gifted, found this red metal bucket the other day. I'm sure she as tired of seeing my messy bowls as I was.

Isn't it adorable? It holds at least a full day's worth of (non-chicken-worthy) scraps for the compost -- and no smell! Thanks, Mom!

The Just Because Diet

Just because it's there, doesn't mean I need to eat it.

Just because the boys couldn't finish it, doesn't mean I have to.

Just because it's in a story we're reading, doesn't mean I have to bake it.

Just because it tastes really good, doesn't mean I should have three helpings.

Just because it's the season of dieting, doesn't mean I'm going to stop eating. ;)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Exposaroonie: Favorite of '08

Exposaroonie - Expose Yourself

I submitted my first photo to Exposaroonie! It's one I took last February of my middle son on the trampoline. Go vote for your favorite!

I love taking pictures, but I realized I only had a couple that I thought might be worth submitting. I took plenty of "stills" for my blog this year, but it's the subject matter that's interesting (to me, at least), not the shot.

Now that I have my D40, maybe I'll actually learn to use it properly! I signed up for a photography class at the local camera shop with a new friend of mine, and it starts Tuesday, so we'll see what fun that brings!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Baby, it's cold outside...

Cold is relative, of course. This is California, and we'll take our winter however we can get it. Even if our snow has to come in the form of sugar cookies.

Yesterday we headed to the park with a bunch of our homeschooling friends, and the kids were so cold their fingers and noses were aching in the first 10 minutes. After running around for half an hour trying to warm up, those without coats took a break from climbing up the slides to huddle under a fleece blanket together.

Unless you're planning a trip to the nearby snowy mountains, most people don't even own real coats around here. I only remembered gloves for one of my boys, the other two had to hide their hands in their sleeves.

Of course, after a while, they were having so much fun (and their digits were so numb) that only the parents noticed the sun still hadn't shown up, and it seemed like it was getting colder, not warmer. Eventually, we had to drag them away, crying, "But it's NOT cold!"

Back home we made hot chocolate first thing, and settled into our cozy, warm, 64-degree house.

It's been a lovely week. The day before, we spent all day with friends turning paper into snowflakes, making snowflake crystals, and eating snowflake cookies -- of course.

In case you don't have real snow outside either -- or maybe you do and the cold is truly foreboding...

I used our snowflake cookie cutter and this recipe to make vegan sugar cookies and frosting. Because of the soymilk, the frosting isn't truly white, so you might try rice or cow's milk instead.

We used white coffee filters for easy cut-out snowflakes. Just fold them in half, then in thirds to get six sides.

Crystal Snowflakes (courtesy of Hogwarts Homeschool, Mugglefied by me)

3 cups boiling water
9 Tbs borax
Heat-proof glass or jar (wide-mouthed canning jars work great)
White chenille stem ("pipe cleaner"), cut into thirds
Fishing line or string

1) Twist the cut stems together, and spread into a snowflake shape.
2) Tie one end of the string to the shape, the other to the pencil, with just a few inches between so the wire snowflake doesn't sit on the bottom of the jar.
3) Fill the jar with boiling water, add the Borax one Tbs at a time, stirring each time.
4) Lower shape into the mix, set the pencil across the opening of the jar.
5) Let it sit overnight undisturbed.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year 2009!

I wish I had some reflective, inspiring post to give you to mark the new year, but my head just hasn't been there. Instead I offer you 10 Random Things I Did This Week...

1. Finished knitting a sock.
2. Drank too much coffee.
3. Spent 20 minutes picking the fuzz out of my hairbrush.
4. Cleaned the chicken coop.
5. Made red beans and rice for the first time.
6. Found out I need a root canal.
7. Actually spent less than $25 on a trip to Target.
8. Slept in till 9:30 one morning.
9. Woke up at 6 one morning.
10. Took pictures of the K'Nex spider web the boys made...

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