Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Menu of the Week board

Before we had kids, my husband and I discussed parenting styles and what was important to us as a family unit.  We decided (among other things) that eating together was an important activity to do as a family, for bonding, talking, sharing.  We also like to plan our meals in advance, so my husband can help with dinner  -- whether he preheats the oven or takes care of the side dishes.  We are definitely a family team. 

In order to make our weekly dinners a smooth event despite the frequent trips to school, Tae Kwan Do or the stables during the week -- we plan the weekly menu.

We had this little glass plate on a stand with a dry erase marker that I got several years ago at one of those kitchen stores.  It was a clearance item and I think I paid $2.00  for it!  We have used that for the past few years, but I don't like it getting pushed around on my already cluttered countertops.  So - enter an idea I saw on Pinterest (yup - I actually took action on a Pinterest idea!) -- a collage frame and scrapbook paper underneath - a different frame for each day of the week.  Well, I found an 8-frame collage at my local big box store and decided that it was time for a change.  I love the look and my husband was impressed of how cool it actually turned out.

Isn't that cool?  I love the way it came out and I can change the paper backgrounds to reflect the seasons or changes in decor.  The entire project cost about $12.00!

How do you make weekday mealtime easiser?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Outside of the Box

I don't like shower curtains.  I don't think they are functional, most of them are ugly and the ones that aren't ugly are trendy or too matchy-matchy for my decor.  I do use shower liners, but the curtain part -- that one large piece of fabric that covers the liner for decorating purposes -- I don't do them.  Instead, no one ever said that I could not use curtains -- yes, regular curtains -- tab-top or pocket, whatev -- that is what I use.  The bonus with thinking outside of the box is that your choices are diverse and usually you can find pretty decent sales on curtains -- ever clearance prices -- I'm talking DIRT CHEAP to do a bathroom re-do when you think outside of the box.

Which brings me to mention that my husband and I felt that the dull cream colored walls of the master bath made the bathroom look, well -- dingy.  I suggested painting the walls white -- to make the rooms (our master bath is 2 rooms) look brighter and to flow the cabinetry.  He was skeptical that it would work.  It is just white - said he.  No says I! White is clean, flowing, Mediterranean feeling.  The new look of the bathroom is brighter and makes me happy.  I didn't take any before pictures, but I can assure you - the new look is fabu!
 The detail on the new "shower" curtain is lovely - and simple.  My husband doesn't like anything too "girly" or flower-y. 
And I think the white complements to muted rose color trim...and my one accent piece of a faux amaryllis on a cool twig/bamboo shelf unit.

I love to re-arrange rooms and change accents.  We recently did that with our great room/den and it makes the room look huge!

I think the next re-do is going to be the master bedroom, so I will try to remember to take before/after shots.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Friday Pizza Night

Whole wheat in grain form

adding grain to mill

freshly milled whole wheat flour

the sponge

dough before rise

the risen dough

pizza crusts ready

the kid's pizzas

one side pepperoni, one side margherita

just looking at the finished product makes my mouth water
Who doesn't love a good pizza on a Friday night after an exhausting week of work and running around?  Too bad where I live there isn't a good "pie" to be had.  See, I'm from New Jersey.  The pizza from "Joisey" is just too tasty and it gets in my mouth.  The pizza here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland - not so good.  I don't know if it is the water or what.  And you can't get a slice around here -- only whole pies.

Being that I like to play with food, I decided to make pizza.  Not just any kind of pizza mind you -- but real whole wheat pizza, with flour from my kitchen, milled from grain from the mid-west.  So, let's see how pizza is made on the Eastern Shore by the Jersey girl.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  That will warm up your kitchen enough to get some good breadmaking rise going on.  Get your whole grain on  out, and mill about 10 cups in the WonderMill.  Once you have your flour, measure out 2 tblspns of good yeast, 5 cups of water no warmer than 100 degrees, 1/3 cup of oil (I use Gold Label Coconut Oil for good belly reasons), 1/3 cup honey and mix together.  Let it sponge for about 15 minutes.  Once that is done, turn on your mixer with your dough hook (I use a Kitchen Aid, but am pining for a Bosch Universal Mixer) and add the remaining milled flour - about a cup at a time.  That should knead for about 10 to 15 minutes.   Once that is done, take it out and whack it a few times on your counter.  Place in bowl, cover with a little olive oil, drape it with a tea-towel and come back in 20 minutes.

It - is - Ah-LIVE!  Your dough should have doubled in size.  now you can use it.  You can bake bread or you can make pizzahhhhhhh!  Since I am making pizza, I'm going to roll, roll, roll the dough....I can make 4 pizza pies out of the dough - 2 - 14" pizza crusts, 2 - 12" crusts and a loaf of bread.  1 for son who likes more cheese and less sauce; 1 for daughter who likes a balance of sauce and a whisper of cheese - sometimes pepperoni; 1 for husband -  meaty and cheesey; and 1 for me - usually I drag mine through the garden, sometimes I like a hawaiian with pineapple, ham, peppers and onion, sometimes a margherita with lotsa garlic and fresh tomatoes and basil.

...and you can't have good pizza without a nice glass of red wine (or 2!)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Product Review: WEN

My kit of Wen by Chaz Dean
I've mentioned earlier that I have a very strange addiction to Health & Beauty Aids.  I love to try new products from toothpaste to toe creams (get it? head to toe stuff) as well as make-up, hair care peripherals, vitamins, etc. etc.  It is very bad for my budget and I have had to curtail my spending in this area, mostly due to my husband's comic book - I mean graphic novel subscription service. HOWEVER, I recently decided that I could not stand the shampoo I was using and decided to make a purchase of WEN by Chaz Dean.  Now I don't work for the company and I paid for this stuff outright, but I thought I would do a real review by a real person - ME.

Okay, so the kit I ordered had the Sweet Almond Mint Cleansing Conditioner, Sweet Almond Mint ReMoist Intensive Hair Treatment, Sweet Almond Mint Styling Cream, a cool detangling comb and a free gift of Sweet Almond Mint Texture Balm. Once I ordered it (online) it took about a week for me to receive it.  I read all the instructions and found that the shampoo doesn't lather, but it works like a deep cleaning conditioner. I was game, so I gave it a go.  Now, my hair is medium blonde, not thin, but not full of body either, shoulder length and I do color it to hide my immature, I mean premature gray - so it is slightly damaged on the ends.  I can attest that after ONE use, my hair styled and looked better than it has in months.  I haven't had a haircut/trim since the autumn - so it was an incredible transformation. It was strange doing the shampoo part, because you have to section your hair into 4 areas, then take a few pumps of the shampoo, work it through, then onto the next section.  Once you completely massage the 4 sections, the instructions say to add a little water to make a foam, which it never really foams with my well water.  The instructions also say to use 10 to 15 pumps of the stuff -- it doesn't specify per section or for the entire head.  With my length and thickness, I use 2 pumps per section and it is plenty.  It goes without saying that the more you use, the more they will sell, so you can use your judgement.

I can say that I didn't need any of the other products in the kit because my hair is so fabulous without adding anything.  I have tried to Styling cream and it is "okay".  I didn't see a big difference in the effect of my hair before or after using it.  I also tried the Texture Balm, which I assume is best suited for shorter or layered styles.  I have not (as of this writing) used the ReMoist Intensive Hair Treatment.

All in all, I say if you need a change of shampoo and/or would like to add some bounce and rejuvenation to some lack-luster locks -- the time is now to try Wen!
(Wen is a registered trademark of Chaz Dean.)

IMPORTANT FOLLOW UP:  If you decide to order this stuff, beware of a 'membership' that you get rooked into -- make sure after you get your product and try it, decide to keep it, then call and cancel the automatic membership thingy that they sign you up for. (unless, of course, you want to keep shipments coming every 90 days!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Follow up for Wednesday's Dinner

One of my favorite comfort foods is Stuffed Peppers. I use a modified version of the one my mom made years ago that she got from this old Campbell's Soup Cookbook. I can just see the cookbook -- hard cover, sort-of spiral bound, tattered and stained. My mom, for the record -- is a horrible cook. She admits that she didn't know how to cook until my dad taught her, since he was a cook in the Army during the Korean War. Anyway -- the real recipe calls for ground beef and cooked rice with Campbell's Tomato Soup. I have modified it to use either ground beef, turkey or chicken (I've done it all) with QUINOA. You can cook them on the stovetop or use a slow cooker (which is how this batch was prepared.)
Without further ado, here goes....
I use a cup of quinoa (I found my health food store runs great sales on stuff and scored about 1 1/2 pounds of quinoa for just $4.43 -- that is a bargain!) and cooked it in 2 cups of beef broth for 15 minutes.
I then mixed the quinoa - once it was cooled to 1 pound of lean ground beef, adding minced onion, parsley and ground pepper to taste. I also take about 1/2 can of Campbell's Tomato Soup and add to the mixture.
(My photos are all askew and I have to figure out how to fix them!)
Moving on...rinse and dry the peppers, then cut off the top, saving the "ring" to use as a base in the crock pot. Make sure to remove the seeds and rind on the inside.
Stuff each pepper with the meat/quinoa mixture. Stuff 'em fat! Place in the crock pot on top of the pepper rings, then add 1 1/2 cans of tomato soup.
Slow cook those righteous things for 8 hours on low.
Serve with a salad and you have a yummy meal.

Dinner Follow Up

Hey! So, I wanted to take a pic of my fabulous meatloaf, but the family hit it before I got home (I had to stop at the store for some beef for Wednesday's dinner - Peppers stuffed with quinoa and beef).

So, the 'loaf was tasty and moist -- sweet husband cooked up some buckwheat (kasha) with chicken broth and made some delish broccoli. Daughter and I love to put pickle relish on our meatloaf -- try it sometime. I had a salad along with my meal.

I really really wanted the cukes in sour cream -- but I did not put that on the "honey do" list for dinner prep.

So -- I will post the photo journey of Peppers stuffed with quinoa and beef -- I stuffed the stuff in the crock pot....

I also have to share a beauty post because of my strange addiction to health and beauty aids....I'll get to it soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines Dinner

Tonight's romantic dinner includes a Turkey Meatloaf Surprise - the surprise being that I chopped mushrooms and spinach and put that in along with some bran, liquid whey (drained from making greek-style yogurt), liquid aminos, 1 egg, yellow mustard, sea salt/pepper, minced onion, parsley...
We will also have cucumbers in sour cream with sea salt/pepper, broccoli, and perhaps some kasha (buckwheat).
Since it is a Tuesday night and we have horseback riding and tae kwan do, we have to make things a little simple....
We will probably try to go out to lunch this weekend if we don't end up painting the bathroom....

I'll post a picture of our "loverly" dinner tonight!