Friday, July 22, 2011

You Know That One Lady In The Store With The Loud Kid & Frayed Nerves?

  Well, today it was me! The morning started off fairly well, but somewhere around 11:30, this train veered wildly off track and I'm just now recovering. It actually started to unravel last night. However,  just like that one annoying thread that you think will break off if you pull it just right, then in a matter of seconds your shirt needs a new hem, that was this morning. My mother's air conditioner stopped working around 8 last night, so we made arrangements for an HVAC service to come this morning and I was to let them into the house. I got a confirmation call this morning at 8:30 saying to expect the tech by mid-morning. I thought, "Great! I need to go to the store and I'll still be able to do that when the tech leaves."
  I'm sure at this point, my eternal optimism (or naivete) is painfully obvious. I know these things rarely go as planned, but I thought they would today. When no tech by 11:30 I called and found out he'd been delayed. OBVIOUSLY! They said he was about half an hour away. He did show and he fixed the problem, but the whole thing took until 1:30, and was a major distraction from our usual routine of lunch and nap. So, here I go loading my three children into the car during the hottest part of the day and sans nap-time. Oh, side note, my two year old is also feeling under the weather. Fast forward to 3pm, where we are standing at the checkout, my nerves are shot and my two year old, normally quite well behaved, has reached his sell-by-date. My daughter and oldest son are cranky and fidgety, while the ruler of the pack, is climbing out of the cart and causing a scene that I never believed would involve me.
  And now, my apology, to every other mother I judged so harshly, because she had unruly children or seemed overwhelmed. I am sorry. You never know the whole story and now I've had a large piece of humble pie for my afternoon snack.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Desperate Housewives and the Sliced Bread Affair

  Part of my experiment at home, actually a large part, involves the kitchen. I have been making my own pasta, tortillas and bread in an effort to cut out preservatives and artificial junk at every opportunity. It also saves money. There is something to be said, though, for the ready sliced, sandwich size bread that you can grab at the store.  So, here are some facts, for those of you who like trivia (for the rest of you just hang in for a paragraph because I'm going somewhere with this). While it was in the works by 1928, Wonder Bread first marketed sliced bread nation wide in 1930.[1] This new-found convenience quickly became part of the average household, so when the U.S. government imposed a short ban on selling sliced bread in January of 1943, it left many housewives in a bind. This letter from a very frazzled home maker appeared in The New York Times not quite a week after the ban.
   "I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household. My husband and four children are all in a rush during and after breakfast. Without ready-sliced bread I must do the slicing for toast—two pieces for each one—that's ten. For their lunches I must cut by hand at least twenty slices, for two sandwiches apiece. Afterward I make my own toast. Twenty-two slices of bread to be cut in a hurry!"[2]
  I found this hilarious! Don't worry, though, because while the ban was an effort to save on packaging cost during WWII, it lasted for a brief three months. I will tell you that, after making all our bread for awhile now, it does take more time cutting each slice as you need it. A warning, though, to anyone prepared to try this at home... I learned the hard way that home made bread is better stored whole, since it has no preservatives or conditioners and will dry out quickly if sliced. Now, having said that, if you are ready to forge ahead, I will gladly include the first recipe I tried and that we have come to love.
  Yummy White Bread
1/4 C. Milk
1 1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp Salt
1 1/2 Tbsp Melted Butter
1 Pkg Rapid Rise Active Yeast
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour
  Start with a large mixing bowl and yeast. Add enough very warm water, usually 1/2 c. or so, and whisk until well blended. Whisk in salt, sugar, milk and melted butter. Stir in 2 cups of flour to start. Keep working flour in until it get too sticky, then you get your hands dirty. Work the flour in and knead until it starts to feel smooth and no longer sticks to your hands or the bowl. Turn out onto a clean and lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. For the true amateur (like I was) kneading is like mashing and twisting the dough. Now place it in clean bowl and cover with clean towel. It needs to rise for at least an hour, in a draft free area. Warmer is better. I put mine atop the fridge. After an hour, turn out and literally punch down the dough. This lets the air out and you can now roll it out with a rolling pin. Once you've rolled out any air bubble, you can make a loaf by rolling the dough up (like you would roll up a poster only tighter) and pinching the ends together. Tuck the ends under to make a neat little loaf. Place in a greased loaf pan and let rise for another hour. The dough should be over the top of the pan and ready to bake. Bake at 400 degrees for appx 30 minutes. Since ovens vary, start checking it at 25 minutes. You're looking for a golden top and it should sound hollow if tapped with a wooden spoon. Let cool completely before storing.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2 Chicken Breasts & The Magic of Thanksgiving in July

So, today is lean Wednesday... It's the last day of my two week grocery budget and I always have to get creative for dinner. It seems that no matter how much planning I put into it, the pantry gets low by the 14th day. I've got two lonely chicken breasts left in the freezer and I have 3 children and a husband to feed. Time for the magic noodles! I don't know if everyone does this, but in our family, at least since my great grandmother's day, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we had turkey, mashed potatoes, and "the noodles." That's not all, of course, but those were the staples and base for the whole meal. It's been tradition to make these egg noodles and boil them in turkey broth, salt and pepper. The broth thickens up and you have a delicious and hearty starch-fest that is soul-warming and delicious! I've discovered, though, that if you throw in some chicken breast, it can be a meal unto itself. Now we are on our way to the grocery store for one dozen eggs, because that is all I lack to start this magic meal. And the best part is, I'm going to share this recipe with you. Its one of the cheapest meals you can make and its always a crowd pleaser at my house. For the less picky family, you can always throw in some peas, carrots, celery, etc. to make it a more rounded meal.
Here's what you'll need:
Home Made Chicken and Noodles
A large mixing bowl.
3 Egg Yolks
1 Whole Egg
1 Tsp Salt
3 Tbsp Cold Water(use more as needed)
2 C. Sifted All Purpose Flour

Whisk your egg yolk, egg, salt and water until light and well incorporated. Slowly add in flour and stir until too thick, then knead with your hands. It should be not too sticky, but smooth and well combined. Your should knead for about 5 to 10 minutes until your reach the right consistency. Then wrap in plastic for a few minutes and let it rest. It will be easier to work once it has rested. Flour a large surface and turn dough out. It is easier to work with in smaller batches so you can divide it in two and roll it out separately. Keeping it well floured, roll out the dough until its appx. 1/16 an inch thick. Sprinkle flour over it, then roll it up, like a jelly roll, as tightly as you can. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into equal(eyeball it, doesn't have to be perfect) slices, about 1/8 inch each. If you divided the dough, repeat the roll and slice steps until all the dough has been cut. Now unravel the noodles on well floured surface and allow to dry. If your aren't cooking the same day, then you should let them dry out all day and then freeze in a freezer bag until you plan to use them.
Today's batch laying out to dry.

Now if you are making chicken and noodles, here's the rest of the story:
In a dutch oven (or 5qt pot) coat the bottom of pan with veg. oil and heat over med-high. Salt and pepper both sides of 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breast. If bone-in is all you have, this of course works also, just an extra step of de-boning. Place the chicken breast in the pot and cook for a few minutes on each side, just enough to brown the outside of the breast. Once the chicken is browned, add enough water to cover the chicken. Throw in chopped onion or garlic to flavor the chicken. Bring to boil, then reduce to medium heat and simmer covered for appx. 30-45 minutes, or until the chicken is fork tender and easy to pull apart. Remove the chicken to a plate. You will need to add enough water to the pot to boil your noodles, so judge for your self. Bring to a boil and add the noodles. Because the noodles are thick, it may take about 20 minutes to cook. Just stir occasionally to make sure they don't stick to the bottom and burn. While noodles are cooking, shred the chicken into bite size pieces. Once the noodles are tender, cut one just to make sure they've cooked through. You are looking for any white in the middle of noodle. If no white, then you're good. The stock will thicken naturally during the cooking process because of all the flour and starch. Once thickened, throw the chicken back in, salt and pepper to taste.
I've replaced my finished picture with this far more appetizing one that my little sister took.
She went home after I showed her how I made it and did it herself!

I hope this was clear and easy to understand and that your family will enjoy it like mine does!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spilt milk, peanut butter triangles and holding Barney hostage

Heavy negotiations ensued today during lunch, when my two year old, after spilling half a cup of milk on the table, insisted that he was finished with his peanut butter sandwich. It was at this point, in an act of desperation, that I threatened to turn off Barney. Harsh? Maybe. Selfish? Somewhat, since I really loathe Barney and his friends, but I promise, it was much more important to me that the self-proclaimed king of the world finish his lunch than that I not have to listen to a full 25 minutes of purple, fluffy we-are-the-world. While it may not sound thrilling to everyone, I can't help but find the humor in arguing with a curly-headed little cherub about peanut butter. I mean, who is he to make decisions? He's got a red juice-mustache and last night he refused to take a bath because he saw a tiny crack in the bathroom tile that he swears is a spider! This is not a new crack. We have discussed it at length during potty-training attempts. However, this particular night, that might-be spider became a terrifying, bubble bath-ruining spider. All composure was lost and I bathed the midget while he stood up, screaming in hysterics the entire time. Score one for Declyn. So, it was vitally important that today, during lunch, the score was evened, balance restored.