Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jesus loves the pancakes?

According to the folks over at, today begins Pancake Week.

Pancake Week is grounded in ancient tradition. During the Middle Ages, it was common practice to prepare for the austerity of Lent by purging the pantry of luxurious foods such as eggs, butter and milk. These ingredients often became big batches of pancakes. To this day, many communities around the world feast on pancakes all the way through Shrove Tuesday--also known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras--before the season of moderation begins on Ash Wednesday. In fact, another name for Fat Tuesday is Pancake Day.

Who knew?
Not me, that's who!

In the future when I am asked why I believe in God, I will just point to the flapjack stack and give a sticky toothed grin.

Everyone in this domicile loves a pancake stack. We eat it for breakfast and then we eat them for a snack. Sizzles even likes to read about pancakes, when she isn't munching on them. One of her all time favorite books is Hey Pancakes! She also loves Curious George Makes Pancakes.

At least once every six days, we make a plasteful of pancakes around here.

And let me tell you, there is no cardboard box involved.

We make pancakes from scratch! Sadly, I have a couple of friends who said they didn't even know that was possible.

Lord have mercy, the masses must be converted!

Over in the sidebar is our all time favorite Best Quick Pancakes recipe. I tore it out of a Martha Stewart Living Magazine a million years ago. She did a whole pancake extravaganza. It featured this recipe, Crepe Batter, Best Buttermilk Pancakes, Cranberry Syrup, Silver-Dollar Pancakes, Dutch Baby, and Yeast-Raised Pancakes.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Crook Commune

From time to time we drive over to Birmingham and merge families with my good friend Jen for the weekend. Together, we have five kiddos all under the age of six. It's like the orphanage in the movie Annie, without the bald rich guy.

The weekend ritual is a bit like this: Jen and I cook like maniacs and the men allow themselves to be viewed as human circus rides. The husbands willingly partake in games entitled "Bouncy Booty, the Monkey Game, and the Weeeee Game."
Just to clarify, the men invented those games so really they hvae no one to blame but themselves.

So to recap: For Jen and I it is all about the food. For the kids it is all about the fun.
The husbands get to obsess about the presidential race at nausea while they chase children around the backyard. They are also in charge of ensuring that no one is peeing off the front porch.

Back to the food:
During that weekend visit, I brought over some organic stone ground grits which I snagged from the Morningside Farmer's Market. They were purchased directly from my friends at Stoneview Farms.
Jen and I love a grit. Grits are mmm.tasty! Grits are also perfect for feeding a slathering of children. So we made shrimp and grits. I think the whole meal cost about $16 and it ROCKED.

Wait a second. Come to think of it, we didn't share any with the children. We fed them fish fingers. Hmm.

For the best shrimp grits we all have ever had, head over to the sidebar.
The picture above shows most of the children drinking Mexican hot chocolate that Jen made from scratch. Can you guess which half-pint is the kid clan ring leader?

(His name is Mr. Lucas, a four year old who waltzes into his Montessori school and is immediately greeted by kids twice his age. Even four years old can give off the cool vibe. )

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thrifty Thursday: Shopping at Whole Foods on a Budget

Whole Foods is expensive. Actually, Whole Foods is crazy expensive and I hope that this small blog can help other moms figure out a way to shop at this place and stay on a budget. I won't go into all the reasons I am trying to eat mostly organic, or why I can muster up the energy to enter this store even when I am without sleep and with two children in tow. I will simply assert that Whole Foods (WF) is the closest thing I can find nearby, that captures the kind of grocery store I am looking for in this world, and plays out the kind of food politics I want my dollars invested in. SO, every Thursday I will post a couple of money-saving tips that I have discovered during my quest to cram a grocery budget into a Whole Foods shopping excursion. If I have the time, I will even provide the week's menu and I will let you in on what I am spending.

So let us get started:

Top 5 tips for shopping at Whole Foods on a budget:

  • Bring your own bags from home or reuse last week's paper bags. To be honest, I am not automatically inclined to bring cloth bags to the grocery store. But at WF you are given 10 cents off for every bag you reuse. The cool thing is that this even applies to reusing the WF paper bags that the store supplies for free. For me ,this is a weekly saving of about 70 cents to $1. It is also a great way to avoid having mountains and mountains of brown paper bags erupting from the space between my dryer and the wall where I store my bags. I know this isn't much but over one year that amounts to $52 which is an extra $52 into the kiddo college fund. (Assuming it makes it there of course). I recommend just emptying the groceries and then putting the flattened stack of bags in the back of the car, so you don't have to worry about remembering them.

  • Skip the pre-made food altogether. I know it is beautiful but that nearly one-third of most WF is the devil if you are on a budget. Just close your eyes and walk away really really fast.

  • Shop in season. This is a universal grocery tip. Produce tastes better and is cheaper when it is season.

  • Buy the house brand and know that 365 is typically less expensive than the Whole Foods label. But the 365 brand isn't always organic so pay close attention if that is important to you. Also, Whole Kitchen (the Whole Foods brand name for many items) tends to be a smaller amount of food in a similar sized package so you may want to compare beyond just the price.

  • Sometimes it pays to shell out an extra 40 cents. There are some house brand items that in my humble opinion are not worth the saved pennies. If an item ends up in the trash can because no one in the house will touch it, it doesn't really matter if it was 40 cents less than the tasty competition. A few examples of rejected Whole Food knock-offs include: Knock-offs of Stacy's Pita Chips (WAY WAY WAY to much salt on those suckers and let it be known that Sizzles licks salt straight out of her hand), Whole Foods fig bars (okay if you haven't had Fig Newman's recently then these beige little stinkers will suffice. If your kids eat Fig Newton's or Fig Newman's on a regular basis I doubt the Whole Food fig bars will cut it), Whole Foods knock-off cheetos (I don't eat this kind of thing often but I will say, dude, these are just gross and just try not to purchase them. Ever.)

So there you go, a couple of tips to start you on your way. Go forth and pinch those pennies for the greater good!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winnie the Pooh Pumpkin Muffins

Did you know yesterday was the birthday of Winnie the Pooh author, A.A. Milne?
Yeah, me either, until I stumbled upon the information while trolling the blogsphere and getting my daily fix of Sun and Candlelight.

Winnie the Pooh books were some of my favorite chapter books as a child. I remember being the lone kid in the first grade who spent the entire library hour on my knees trying decide which Winnie the Pooh book I was going to rescue from the dark bottom shelf. I liked Pooh books so much that I bought one of first chapter book in the series as soon as I got pregnant with Sizzles.

I think I even tried to read it to her the first week of her life but alas, she was more interested in hearing Brian's voice narrating the first of the Harry Potter books. Sizzles laid her stake as a daddy's girls right from the get-go.

But last night, she was at my shoulder when I checked out Sun and Candlelight so I read to her the entry and she got VERY excited about the idea of having birthday candles for Winnie the Pooh. So, although I was pretty tired from a crazy day at the CDC, I went to the bookshelf and found our copy of Winnie the Pooh. Sizzles brought it to the computer screen, declared it a "match" and demanded to know where the candles were.

Of course we needed something to put in the candles and after rummaging around the pantry, it was determined that he had all the ingredients for homemade pumpkin muffins. We whipped up the muffins and read the first chapter while they baked. After they were done, we shoved in the candle and song our homage just in time for bed.

This morning while we watched last night's snow melt away we ate Winnie the Pooh pumpkin muffins and then headed off to school.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Sound of a Simple Snack


Are you Listening?


Its coming. . .
Listen, its almost there.

POP! Ping! Pop! Pop!
Pop!, Pop!, Pop!, Pop! PING!,

"I hear it! Mommy, I hear the popcorn!"
"Mommy, I Looooove popcorn!"

POP! Ping! Pop! Pop!
Pop!, Pop!, Pop!, Pop! PING!,

"Can I shake it? No, I don't want to get to close to the fire. The fire is HOT."
"You shake it."

"Is it ready?"
"Can I have some salt? I Loooove salt."
"Can I taste? Can I have some?"

"Mmm. I love popcorn! It is so TASTY!"

As mentioned at Boys Rule My Life, today was simple Friday. The challenge was to think about all the noises we let into our lives and to attempt to lock out noises that disrupt or dampen our day.

The loud HUM of a running microwave and the piercing BEEEEEEP BEEEEEEP BEEEEEEP that repeats until the food is removed reminds me of the fact that in our house we abandoned microwave popcorn years ago. In our home, we practice the simple tradition of making popcorn on the stove top. Making your own popcorn is an inexpensive snack. Bags of corn kernels cost only a dollar or two and you only use about 1/3 cup of corn at a time.

Sizzles loves to sit on the counter, and listen to the popcorn as it explodes inside my heavy-bottomed stainless steel Dutch oven. During the pictured endeavor, we even sprinkled some freshly ground Parmesan cheese onto the popcorn. There are all kinds of heirloom popcorn kernels that can be explored with the kiddos.


And don't forget to Listen.

Here is information I found on the web, about some of the popcorn varieties available.

YELLOW is a butterfly popcorn variety with an exceptional yellow corn taste. It has a high expansion rate, popping big and fluffy.

WHITE is a smaller kernel popcorn than the yellow, still with a relatively high expansion rate, popping up large and fluffy. It has a very mild corn flavor.

MIDNIGHT BLUE is a large kernel blue popcorn with an exceptional expansion rate. After it's popped, the kernel is white with blue hull speckles; it has a unique flavor.

MIXED BABY RICE is an heirloom variety which is HULL-LESS. The kernels are shaped something like rice and are white, red, and striped red in color. When popped, it has less volume than other varieties, the kernel is white and the flavor is light and delicate.

MAUVE is an heirloom variety which is a favorite. It has a moderate pop, and is tender and tasty! The meat is white to creamy in color.

MUSHROOM FLAKE pops up round; it's used mostly by people who want to caramelize their corn. Once popped, it holds its shape during shipping better than other types. It has a lighter corn taste than traditional yellow popcorn.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

When Dinner Bombs

Tonight's dinner was a mess. I have been trying to find some quick fix meals that meet my persnickety standards and the standards of my little clan and it was actually going quite well until tonight.

I acknowledge that I am hard to please. I have never really been into processed foods, I love to cook and once upon a time I even reviewed restaurants (only about 10 and then I got pregnant and started barfing and that was the end of that). But three nights a week I need to get in the door and get food on the table that is homemade and fast. Did I mention I also try to eat organic and local? Biting off more than you can chew will be the title of my next blog. :)

Part of the problem has been revealed to me over and over again. God has repeatedly made it clear to me that I have no business trying to cook a rice noodle. I overcook them and they turn to mush or I use to much sauce and they turn to mush or I over zealously toss them and they turn to mush. Have I learned? Um, NO. I am the ram your head into the wall a million times before accepting the truth kind of girl. And tonight, I rose to the rice noodle wall occasion. I am shamed to say I thought I could whip up a Pad Thai without bean sprouts, limes, and fresh roasted peanuts. I am ashamed to admit, I took some bottled peanut sauce and tossed it with some frozen shrimp and sauteed veggies and called it a day. If Bill (my super awesome friend who now is a snazzy food writer and nominated for a James Beard Award) is reading this post - I am so very very sorry. To all the hard-working cooks in Thai restaurants across this land - I am so very very sorry. To all who are about to take a look at this picture of my nasty, nasty concoction -

let my treachery be a lesson to you all and let it be known that cooking should be done with your full heart and full attention and if you don't have time to do it the right way, then just serve fried eggs, salami and toast for dinner.

Um. Did I mention that Sticky-Butt has a habit of placing her fried eggs on top of her head to get a laugh?

I'm proud. So very proud.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Has this happened to you?

Ugh. My post just got zapped when I hit "save as draft." Does this happen to other people using blogspot/blogger?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Down with Frazzled Fridays, Up with Slow Fridays

Sometimes getting dinner on the table in my house can look like a Friday night pit stop at Talladega. We are all so tired by Friday. Brian has typically driven to Alabama and back and I have juggled working part time and being at home part time. Friday is a day that I work, so by the time I walk in the door I am eager to get my hands back into homemaking and often that equates to lofty schemes of elaborate meals.

On many Fridays, in the attempt to hit the kitchen chopping, I don't slow down to connect with the very thing that is driving me to cook - my family. Sizzles and Sticky-butt are also tired from the week's escapades but they are also eager to pick up on our Thursday adventures. This frantic energy creates frazzled Fridays and they are no fun.

Over the holidays, in addition to gorging on cookies, chocolates and a disturbing variety of meats, I also gorged on books. Several books I have been consuming are about slowing down and prioritizing family life. One of the books, entitled, Mitten Strings from God - for mom's in a hurry, was recommended at a blog I have been visiting, titled Happy at Home. Although this mom and I seem different in many ways, we both long for a simpler approach to our lives. Even better, today there was a challenge posted about Slow Fridays. This challenge was issued at Boys Rule My Life and it was perfectly timed with this Friday when our home successfully slowed down. Here is how we did it.

I picked up a pizza, clementines, and cookies from Whole Foods on my way home. I walked in the door, gobbled up my hugs and we sat down for pizza. While we all ate, Sizzles told me about her day with daddy, and Sticky-butt signed "more" over and over while shoving pizza hunks into her plump little cheeks. We were covered with pepperoni grease and smiles. Then Brian opened his anniversary gift one day early (a Star Wars t-shirt), and slipped off to take a nap (the girls were up a lot last night for some reason). I then piled the girls into the bathtub and we sang while I washed hair and pizza off most of their bodies. Then we read books and put Sticky-butt to bed.

The best part was that Sizzles picked up the playroom and then asked if we could do art! ( I have been introducing art time to her for a couple of weeks in an attempt to escape the lure of the television). We painted Popsicle sticks with paint and glitter glue and then traced our hands on the back of wrapping paper while listening to Nora Jones. By this time, Brian was back up and just in time to read her a book and take her off to bed. A successful (although a bit unusual) slow Friday. FINALLY.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The perfect poem for New Year's Day

If you have never read the poetry of Billy Collins, stop what you are doing and google his work. To quote Sizzles, "He is my everything, and my best!"

Happy New Year and Enjoy!


by Billy Collins from Picnic, Lightening (the first stanza)

This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you can find
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
Think of an egg, the letter A,
a woman ironing on a bare stage
as the heavy curtain rises.
This is the very beginning.
The first-person narrator introduces himself,
tells us about his lineage.
The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings.
Here the climbers are studying a map
or pulling on their long woolen socks.
This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn.
The profile of an animal is being smeared
on the wall of a cave,
and you have not yet learned to crawl.
This is the opening, the gambit,
a pawn moving forward an inch.
This is your first night with her,
your first night without her.
This is the first part
where the wheels begin to turn,
where the elevator begins its acent,
before the doors lurch apart.