Monday, April 30, 2012

A Seafood Dinner, Lemon Loaf Experiment, and a Homemade Bird Feeder!

Been wondering where my manicures have gone?
Down the drain, along with all the nutrients that normally keep nails growing.
I haven't had a nail to paint for a few months, and while I try different herbal supplements to improve the situ, I have ignored the paint bottles in my caboodle!
Well, except to paint my toenails, which I painted in March, when the sun came out and I could still see my feet. LOL

Tori's friends at the farm gave us this idea for homemade bird feeders one day. We finally got around to making them... smear peanut butter in the pinecone, then roll it in bird seed, and hang the cone from a string outside.

As with any craft, Tori was enthralled with the process,,,she was and meticulous and focused...

Since that one BBQ day when I asked her to take my picture, she has been ALL about grabbing my camera. Her is one of a dozen photos she shot of me hanging the pinecones.

Then, during a random conversation with someone who didn't know we had made these, I was informed that peanut butter can choke a bird to death. Apparently,  birds have this particular texture (?) on their tongue that prevents them from removing a sticky substance such as peanut butter from their tongue.
We took them down and bought real bird feeders (to be shown in future posts).

For dinner that night, I wanted fish. My husband hasn't made it to the fishing holes yet (lol- the fishing hole being the DELAWARE RIVER, helloooO!), though they're only a handful of miles away. So, I had to BUY fish, much to my chagrin. Rainbow trout, bass, tilapia...all the fish was $18 per pound, so I chose salmon, which was $7.99 per pound if I buy two! (No worries on the fishing ordeal, though. In June, we're to go camping before Baby Boy arrives, and Hubby is going to show Tori what fishing is all about! She's ecstatic!)

I made dinner with this salmon recipe (although, I cooked my brown rice separately in a rice cooker), and for the veggies, I braised (our favorite method lately) some cut up veggies from the refrigerator [choosing whichever veggies would add a pop of color and taste good together] in butter, olive oil, celery salt, onion powder, tarragon, and a pinch of cayenne for the slight 'bite' that my husband craves. On a medium high heat, it took but a few minutes to tenderized the veggies. Veggies over the rice, salmon sauce drizzled over everything.... it was another "Mm-mmmmm" meal in our family that night.
On Friday nights, we like to have dessert. That day, while shopping at Wegmans for my meal stuffs, I saw this cake at the beginning of our shopping spree. I knew I had to have it. Call it pregnancy craving, because I don't crave sweets. I crave bitter. But lately, I've wanted dessert dessert dessert (so completely opposite is this pregnancy compared to 5 years ago with Tori. She never had a sweet bite in the womb!).
Anyway, Coconut cake is what it is, in case you wondered. :)

And everyone's exclamations....

This recipe was so time consuming that I won't be offering it at the farm for sale. I wouldn't make anything! But, I did find another lemon pound cake recipe for muffins that I will share in a later post. And my family sure enjoyed eating it, thus I would make it for personal consumption.
 I found a note online that you can approximate cake flour by using 2T cornstarch for every cup of all-purpose flour (and then, remove 2 T of flour, so that in essence, you are replacing 2 T flour with 2 T cornstarch). This I did, and the cake turned out alright.
 I have found it to be more economic and more tasty to use fresh lemon zest in my recipes. It does take more time and effort, but it's well worth it!
 I've also found that having a 4 year old assistant creates an atmosphere conducive to FUN and ADVENTURE while baking! Actually, it seems that when she DOESN'T help me, I miss some ingredient or put twice the baking powder as is called for. Perhaps she contributes to my being focused.
 And she takes some fun photos!
 I don't have a food processor, so I used a blender to cream the butter, sugar, etc. Perhaps that is why my cake was more dense than a real poundcake, but it worked for me.

 Because this was an experiment for making lemon loaf MUFFINS, and the recipe was PLENTIFUL, I made both a loaf and jumbo muffins. In the end, I had much batter leftover (not enough for a loaf or whole pan of muffins, but too much to ignore). I suppose that I should have poured more in my loaf pan, being that it was half the height as a normal poundcake. LOL.
 Making the drizzle was the easiest part. Lemon extract and confectioners sugar. Mix. Done. But, I added lemon zest to the recipe, as I do with any lemon recipe.
 After twenty minutes, turn the oven temperature down....
 And cook for 30 more minutes... (Though the muffins were done at 20 minutes)
 Out of the oven...
 With glaze on top...
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Another delicious meal in the "W" household.

Here's a belly shot for my Cali family.
24 1/2 weeks (just a few weeks ago)

..that we had to get the camera out...

...were so extreme...

Friday, April 27, 2012

More of Our "Silly Sue" & Philly Cheese Steak on the Food Network

While we were baking, Tori had a laughing fit. I can't even remember what the topic was, but she was DELIRIOUS with laughter.

The boy in the belly at 23 weeks (March 22, 2012)


Craving Philly cheese steaks but are too far from Philly? LOL Try this recipe, but let me forewarn you that it isn't simple and it does take some time. The rewards are taste-bud pleasing and "oooh" inspiring!! My family has made this together three times, but I've never photographed it! Bobby Flay's video on the above link is helpful for amateur cooks. Very helpful.
We always tag team: I shred cheese, make the cheese sauce while hubby fries meat and cuts up veggies, etc.  It's a great recipe for family time and cooking together!

More Tori Photography

6-8 Tbsp Coconut oil (solid state)
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (arrowroot is preferred)
Combine equal portions of baking soda & arrowroot powder.
  1. Slowly add coconut oil and work it in with a spoon or hand blender until it maintains a firm but pliable texture. It should be about the same texture as commercial deodorant, solid but able to be applied easily. If it is too wet, add further arrowroot powder/cornstarch to thicken.
  2. You can either scoop this recipe into your old deodorant dispensers or place in a small container with lid and apply with fingers with each use. Makes about 1 cup. This recipe lasts about 3 months for two people with regular daily use.
  3. Here's my opinion on the deoderant: 
    CONS- It was messy to use (unless you have some type of mini-spatula to apply it with). It actually filled an old deoderant cartridge of mine just fine, but the application is still somewhat messy, in that the deoderant itself is melty and gets all over the cartridge itself. It doesn't last all day. I have to reapply at least once on a warm day.
    PROS-I have the assurance of natural ingredients on my skin with no concerns of cancer-producing parabens or chemicals, so I'm willing to overlook all the CONS that our society has grown used to fixing with chemical-ridden products.
    It's a matter of personal conviction, and I leave you with that.

    It has been difficult for Tori to wait for 'the last frost' before planting her flower seeds. So, a few weeks back, we couldn't resist buying a few flowers to plant.

She painted a portrait of each of us and one of Simon the Chipmunk. Can you pick out which one is Papa?
Here is her description of the portraits EVERY time we discuss it:
"That one is me. It's square with four sides. That one is you, Mom, with no eyes and no mouth. That one is Papa with a beard. And Simon has glasses on."
I suppose in my 20s, my portrait would offend me. Why did you paint me as a blob, when you clearly have drawing skills to paint a real face? And look how well you painted Papa! But, I am so in love with her art, and I have no inferior complex with my ever-loving daughter. :o)

I'll leave you with this thought:
...The parents.. saw their healthy child damaged by a diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine in April, 1992. Just hours after receiving the shot, their daughter Hannah went into seizures. Today she still suffers from residual seizure more here!

First bug catch of the season! We finally found a millipede under that mulch. She says it's not the right kind of millipede to allow to crawl on her arms. Tee hee, she is very specific about which bugs can crawl on her and which ones can't. Of course, I am particular in that regard, too. NONE can crawl on me.


And I noticed she wore her favorite white ballet flats to garden with. I suppose that the first planting of the season is worthy of dress shoes. :o)

We bought a yellow ranuncula and a few violas. On that first day, Tori was all about watering and caring for them. She even scolded me for getting water on the petals. lol

I can't stop snapping shots of my homeschooler while she paints. It is such a regular occurrence these days, and she enjoys it so thoroughly. It makes for great photographs sometimes.

Okay, did you catch my FBA post about homemade deoderant? Well, I finally made some and started using it. Later in the post, I will give you my first-hand reviews on it.

Focused like a true artist...

Tulips surprised us in the sideyard this year, since we didn't yet live here in March 2011 when they last bloomed. Tori took LOTS of photos! Here are two.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Salad Favorites, since spring is near! And a bit of gymnastics

This is my tribute to salads, since I'm eating a lot of them and thus, trying new salad recipes.

This link didn't provide a photo, much to my chagrin, because it is the most beautiful salad. And I don't have a photo of when I made it either. So, I shot one (sideways) of the magazine I took it from (which is bhg, the link provided above). It makes the perfect salad for spring or summer- crisp, bright, refreshing! The grapefruits and clementines I use in it add the tart, juicy side of springtime! I'm so curious to hear if any of you try it! Again, the people I made it for rave about it!

I couldn't resist sharing this photo. Our daughter used the water hose to "fill the tank" of her Jeep with gas. So cute and so creative. Perhaps she thought that filling it with "gas" would replace the need for a battery. (We need a battery for this Jeep I found for free, but I discovered the battery is $75, so there it sits for weeks on end)
Does anyone recall that our 4 year old took a soccer class?  She showed much improvement over the 5 week class. Over time, she learned gentle control of the ball with the insides of her feet. And she finally learned to quit relying on her hands to stop the ball.
However, at the end of the 5 weeks, we were adamantly informed that it was "a whole lot of hard work and I'm tired from it!" I recall she even told me that it would take a reaaalllly long nap to help her recover from all that hard work. LOL!

Another salad recipe I enjoy making is also from Better Homes and Gardens. Again, I never took photos of it, but here is the BHG shot of it. It's a taste-bud pleaser for sure and another spring or summer salad!
Indispensable Green Bean Salad

My husband and daughter have created this nightly ritual- a special bonding of sorts. It started back in New Jersey after dinner every night and involved only a stuffed Ty squirrel (who was aptly named Squirr-EL). Rick would make the stuffed animal talk to her, much to her 3 year old delight, because she was just beginning to have imaginary friends.
Our daughter quickly coined the phrase, "Talk to SquirrEL" and every night, she requested this game with my husband. Over time, Squirrel has taken a backseat to each new critter that becomes part of our family. On this particular night, Slimy (snake) and Pascal (chameleon) were privileged to host the game.

To this day, she rarely goes to bed without asking Rick to "make animals talk".

Cranberry Spinach with Gorgonzola
I'm certain I've mentioned this salad recipe, at least on my FB page! It is my absolute favorite, because it's easy, tasty, diverse, and I usually have these ingredients on hand! I love how this recipe affords me the opportunity to throw in whatever is in the cupboard- pecans or walnuts, cranberries or raisins, spinach or mixed greens, gorgonzola or bleu cheese or feta. But my favorite element in the salad is their deliciously EASY, tangy dressing! Of course, I love all things lemon... I keep a tupperware of the dressing in my refrigerator, and when I'm in the salad mood, I throw a bit of each ingredient in a bowl. Voila! A salad!
Cranberry Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola Recipe

I LOVE THIS GIRL! She's ecstatic here because she's wearing the Ariel pajamas we bought at the Disney store for $7. Her emphasis on the Ariel PJs, mine on the $7. :o)

Look! Look! She's tumbling off the couch again! I'm almost certain that gymnastics is in her near Autumn future!

I am one proud homeschooling mama! (In March) She learned to write her nickname, and a day later, she did it by herself when I wasn't looking!

"It is my belief that diet soda has contributed to the rise of breast cancer and multiple sclerosis that has been preceded by the use of Aspartame as a food ingredient in every country that has allowed its use."    ~Dr Monte
Visit this link to read the whole article regarding aspartame and other such harmful chemicals.