Sunday, February 27, 2011

Costco Favorites

We purchased a membership to Costco this year. Initially, we chose to purchase it because E's contact lens Rx was about $80 less expensive at Costco, literally paying the $50 membership & then some. Although the bulk of my grocery shopping is done at local stores, there are a few items at Costco that are sooooo good and worth the (slightly) extra expense. I have found that when I buy their big bags of produce, none is spoiled or wasted. Really fresh, high quality.

My favorites (in no particular order):

1) Fage 0% Greek yogurt. Dense, decadent. Swirl in a tad of homemade jam or honey.

2) Persian cucumbers. No waste here. They are so crunchy, we polish off the 2lb bag in no time.

3) Mini sweet peppers. Bright red, orange & yellow peppers. Sweet, crispy & great snack food.

4) Tabouleh- I have had my fair share of tabouleh and this stuff is the best I have ever had. Perfect balance of lemon, garlic, parsley...mmm.

5) Rotisserie chicken. Again, best (& biggest!) I have ever had. At $4.99, it is 2 meals for us.

This weekend, I will be trying their cake as it is T's & R's birthday party for the family. I will weigh in on the cake then. Cake is, after all, my weakness.
Here is a pic of the dried cookies!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Drying Time

I had a cookie order due tomorrow that is now drying on the island. Royal icing takes about 8 hours to dry, a little less in the dry winter. The cookies look really slick & shiny since they are wet but will dry with a matte finish.

No luster dust on these tomorrow-they are for a baby boy shower.

Thankful that my headache is completely gone & excited that our basement will be nearly finished tomorrow...2+ LONG years!!!!!
The baking & icing went quickly tonight as I discovered that I could place our computer monitor in the window that peeps into our kitchen. Rick Steves Europe & Alfred Hitchcock Presents on hulu are great choices for late night projects. My girlfriends all had a night out & I missed them sorely, but T's father flew in early and it turned out that I needed to drop him off around 5:30ish.
Have a blessed weekend! Did I mention that our basement will be getting finished?!?!?!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What's Your Farmville?

So, I never played Farmville. Back in my Facebook days, my page would be littered with friend's Farmville activities until I learned that I could block the feed. There were several reasons that I never chose to play, but the chief reason lay in the fact that I was wary of being drawn into what has become an addiction for so many. Google "farmville addiction" to see the seriousness of this "game".

One friend in particular had seemingly endless days of Farmville play. Sometimes I would try to see if she had taken a few hours break from her farm chores. It made me wish that there was some method of determining how many real crops, actual barns, etc. could be grown and/or built if those hours (days!) were spent digging in her backyard, sweating and hammering. Crazy. Maybe we would be able to feed the entire Midwest if all the virtual farmers invested their efforts into what would result in a tangible harvest.

The wonderful women from my Tuesday study were discussing Farmville and we all agreed that one of the things that makes it so appealing is that the virtual farm feeds our love of instant gratification. In our society of split-second communication, waiting seems like such a chore (and bore). As we were discussing Farmville, I was feeling pretty proud of myself, thinking that I deserved a pat on the back for avoiding the pitfall of Farmville.

Then one of these beautiful friends piped up: "So, what's your Farmville. Everybody has a Farmville".

Way to kill my self congratulatory moment. Then I started "farmville" may not be listed on a personal page for all to see that my day has been spent tending virtual cows and crops, but I have wasted my time in other ways.

Here it is. My Farmville definitely falls into the computer category. Often I am incredulous when I marvel at the wealth of information I have at my fingertips. Being a foodie and lover of creativity, sites like allrecipes and etsy can beckon to me like a dear friend. I suppose that it is easy to justify since much of the time I am looking for good recipes or frugal ways to plan my meals or organize my laundry, etc. But, would it not be better if I were actually planning those meals or folding those towels?

What to do? Well, every day I have been making an effort to limit my computer time and I have been more disciplined. The rewards are huge: tidier home, content family, more time living the life I love.

My hope is that this post was not offensive to anyone. Whatever your Farmville (and we all have one), I pray that we choose to be honest with ourselves and make choices that honor God with our time.

1 Corinthians 6:12 says:
Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Making Tortillas

Cilantro Lime Rice

Tortilla in my trusty cast iron skillet

Ready for the skillet

Tman working hard, using our new technique

One of my husband's favorite meals is homemade corn tortillas, salsa and queso fresco. T, my 9 year old, loves to help me make the tortillas and we have streamlined our "process".

In the past, I just used my tortilla press and it was a pretty easy way to make them except for the random sticky tortillas that didn't "peel" off easily. My husband's grandma from Mexico makes the BEST tortillas I have ever eaten & I watched her do it when she was visiting-the skill and speed to turn out so many tortillas was mind boggling.

We had watched a youtube video that showed how to flatten your tortilla by using plastic wrap and the bottom of a heavy cup. The pros: peeled off paper soooo nicely. The cons: sometimes inconsistent thickness, loud...our Sheltie barked every time we banged the tortilla with the cup.

So.....we used the plastic wrap inside the tortilla press & voila....really uniform, thin tortillas that we could press faster than we could cook.
Our recipe is simple: Maseca, bit of salt & enough warm water to make a firm dough that holds together in a ball. Roll into walnut-sized balls and press. Heat a bit of olive oil in skillet (cast iron works best) and cook until golden brown. We spread on salsa and crumbled queso fresco. Yum!

It feels like summer to pull a container of homemade salsa from our deep freeze. We had a CRAZY abundance of tomatoes this year & I made several batches of what I call sweet-hot-smoky salsa.
In addition, we made cilantro-lime rice. I use Martha's Everyday Food version. Delicious; tastes just like Chipotles'.
Have a blessed week!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day

I will unabashedly admit that I adore Valentine's Day.

My mom always did a wonderful job of celebrating with little gifts at our plate and a festive meal. One year we had piles of crab legs & drawn butter. (My dad did my Uncle J's taxes and that was his thank you gift from Alaska).

We had a kid-friendly affair with balloons and paper plates. Aunt Betty joined us and a grand time was had by all! For locals, we ordered Phillie's pizza-Mrs. Phillie's Double Decker. Luckily, I hit the gym for an hour last night because the pizza was stuffed with cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, sausage & barbecue sauce. We rounded out the meal with a Greek salad that I made and Rice Crispy treats for dessert.

It was the first year in many that I didn't make a heart shaped cake with buttercream & red cherry hearts. The tradition was passed on since T & I made 3 batches of treats for his class. The 1st batch was pink rice crispies, the 2nd was lavender and the 3rd was a deep violet. I piled the monochromatic treats on a tray & the kids enjoyed them.

Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day.

Coming soon...a blog post called "What's Your Farmville?" A follow up to a discussion we had at Bible study. And, no, I do not play Farmville. More later...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Crying Girl

Have you ever met a random stranger for whom you wanted to show kindness?
Did you seize the moment? Did you walk away?

Today I walked away. Tonight I am wishing that I had seized the moment...
While strolling through Goodwill, scanning for bargains, I was waiting to "pass" by a man who worker there. He was busy listening to a woman (about my age) as she poured out her heart to him. She talked about missing her mom so much among other things. Then she started crying a little. My heart went out to her...she seemed like a regular but very lonely girl.
Someone who needed kindness.
And I walked away.
About 5 minutes later, she happened to be about 5 feet from the rack where I was hunting for vintage treasures. Someone else engaged her, made small talk. And I walked away again despite a prompting from the Holy Spirit.
No surprise that she ended up in line right behind me at the checkout. I smiled and then told her that I liked something she was buying. Her face lit up and we made our own small talk, only to be interrupted by me purchasing my items. By now, I felt the full force of conviction. "Ask her if there is something she needs you to pray for!" "Ask her is she would like to come to your Tuesday study!" "Show her love, compassion!"
And I walked away.
The walk to the car was sickening. My feet wanted to turn around but my pride was blazing, thinking of every excuse not to care for this lost girl. For a moment, I searched for a pen, thinking that I would give her a contact, something....then when I couldn't find one, there was a sense of relief, soon followed by disappointment in myself.
I am writing this as an encouragement to everyone to "seize the moment". My fleeting embarrassment would have been much better than the shame and disappointment I felt. However, I promise that if I ever see her again, I will not walk away. There is a sneaking suspicion that I may get a second chance.
Matthew 25:40
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tongue Time Out

My mouth needs a time out.

Deciding to 86 my phone until Saturday.

Psalm 141:3

Love to all! Bake cookies & eat veggies, too.

More Cookies

Another Irish Dancing Shoe Cookie order. Here is a picture; pink & black ribbons this time.
Happy Thursday!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Game Night

OK, church girls have more fun.

Too tired to write much. Will post some pictures.


Mini Sweet Peppers & Persian Cukes
Cuban Black Bean Soup with Limes & Cilantro
Homemade chicken pot pie
Turkey & Swiss tortilla roll ups
Chocolate Chip Cookies-Kelly's piece de resistance, as usual
Mini Red Velvet cupcakes
Elephant Ears
Mini Chocolate Cakes
Red Vines
Kaaron made a wonderful punch and we had soda, water & coffee.
Karly outdid herself with cute game decor.
Jessie, Karly, Kaaron, Kelly & I had a great time getting this fun night together for all the wonderful women at our church.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cooking with the Girls

So much fun cooking with friends tonight.

Here's a list of our ingredients:
1 pound butter
64 oz. heavy cream
20 cans black beans
6 cartons chicken stock
8 bunches cilantro
2 heads garlic
4 shallots
6 onions
5 lbs carrots
12 pounds potatoes
4 pounds peas
6 huge roasted chickens
1 bottle vino

We made 8 chicken pot pies from scratch with a white wine butter sauce.
Cuban black bean soup for 40.

Thanks Kelly, Jessie, Karly & Kaaron for all the help!!

Tomorrow...ladies game night.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Just a quick post as I have much to do on this frigid day.

Last night we had a cozy dinner & I made a cake to surprise the boys and my hard working, snow shoveling husband.

Allrecipes featured a photo of cupcakes with creamy chocolate frosting that looked so good. I had all the ingredients on hand, so I gave it a whirl & so glad I did.

This is AMAZING frosting. I am going to be making some more when I frost our Vantine's goodies.

Here's the link. See for yourself:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Your 8am Blizzard update

This is our street. The plows haven't touched it yet.

It's still coming down! Charlie would definitely be lost on the deck, not to mention the side of our house. Brewing coffee, enjoying living in a snowglobe.

We wake to this....

Around 5am...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oh, Chicago

Our power is back on after a 3 hour outage. I am starting to think that Laura Ingalls Wilder had a pretty rough life, especially during the blizzards they encountered. What brave ancestors we had. Sometimes I romanticize that whole pioneer era and although there were some wonderful aspects, there are so many hardships the endured. A storm like this would be terrifying without the buffer of our neighbors home, our heavily insulated walls, and readily available light, heat & food sources. Thank you, Lord, for Your excellent provision.
E & I lit some candles and made a giant bed on the floor for the boys & us. Luckily, E made it safely home & we sat down to a hot dinner of Swedish meatballs & mashed potatoes. Hooray for comfort food!

It is crazy to look outside & see such huge drifts of snow. The pictures I took were at 10pm and the storm is "just getting started". E's car will likely be buried in the morning. It's hard to believe that our beautiful Magnolia tree (photo #3) will be covered in lush pink blooms in just a few months...
The 2nd picture is our back deck. You are looking at 3 foot drifts concealing our fire pit.
Stay warm, fellow Chicagoans! Will post more pictures as the plot thickens on our blizzard story.