Tuesday, January 31, 2012

{Pinterest Picks}: Garden Signs

It's a shipwreck of the poet's mind, the flotsam and jetsam of half-remembered quotations floating in the sea of his consciousness. It's a montage, a Work of Art made from rubbish.
~ T.S. Eliot

There is something about a driftwood sign in a garden that strikes a chord in me. Whether it is the daydreaming that happens when you think of where the piece of flotsam has travelled or the idea that something so unfinished and forgotten has been brought to life, I am not sure. This year our garden will get it's own little driftwood sign and I have been looking for some inspiration. If you have any ideas, please share them! I am thinking that the Little Man will make one too for his little garden bed.

These are the ideas I have gathered so far...what are your ideas?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meal planning and Cutting Costs, Not Quality

This is the time of year when I know I can save money on groceries because it is time for soups, stews and casseroles. My goal is to do this using seasonal, fresh produce, local meats and food preserved throughout the summer months. My grocery list will supplement what I have at home and purchase through the Farmers Market. My goal is to spend a maximum of $150 a week.

How will I do this?
1) Evaluate contents of your freezer, refrigerator and pantry.
Take a look to see what we need to use and have on hand.

2) Create a meal plan for the week and follow it.
Include all three meals and snacks. Plan to have a special dinner night each week where you try out a new recipe or splurge on a special treat. One of the nicer aspects of meal planning is that you don't have to think about what you are having for dinner each night and you can mix it up if your calendar changes. A helpful planning idea is to designate two nights a week for family favorites, perhaps Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays. Lately, I have been using Pinterest to gather ideas for dinner and then I share my "What's for Dinner?" board with my family and let them choose a couple. To save money, try to incorporate at least two veggie nights each week.

3) Buy produce and meat through CSA or Farmers Market and supplement at grocery store.
Buy more when there is a sale and fill that freezer. This is why you should always check the freezer first before you start planning.

4) Make your own bread.
We easily go through two loaves a week in our house. At almost $5 a loaf, that is $40 a month on bread alone. Imagine how much organic flour you could buy for $40 and honestly, nothing compares to fresh bread. While you are making your bread you can crank out some pizza dough for Pizza Friday and throw it in the freezer! One of my busiest working mom friends even manages to pull this off, read about her reason and a post about a family paradigm shift.

5) Avoid boxes and cans.
A can of organic beans can be close to $3 depending on the type. Buy dried beans, they really are easy to make! Foods that are boxed tend to be processed. You will get more band for your buck going fresh. In addition, most cans tend to bring health concerns with them. Good news: Muir Glen canned tomatoes are now BPA free! There are items that are inescapable, just think before you throw an item into your cart.

6) Buy specialty spices per recipe and grow some basics in a window box.
Salt, pepper, cumin, garlic salt, paprika, cinnamon, basil, oregano, cayenne and chili powder we need in bulk. Others tend to just sit in our pantry and lose their oomph. Rosemary, thyme, oregano and cilantro and very easy to keep year round in a small window herb box. If you support a little coldframe with lettuce, that could save you another $5-10 per week (depending on how many salads you eat).

7) When you buy items in boxes or cans, buy in bulk.
Ask your local grocery store if they will give you a case discount. We go through a lot of yogurt, so I order it by the case and then use the containers for seed starts in the spring.

8) Freeze leftovers.
Lasagna deja vu is leaving your family listless on Day Three? Freeze leftovers after they have been in the fridge for two days. Chances are they will be forgotten and then thrown away after a couple of days, so keep them and use them for a "You Pick" night.

9) Go berry / apple / pear / plum / _______ picking
Head to local farms or to friends' with fruit trees and have a picking fest with your family when fruits are ripe. If you have a reliable freezer, freeze for desserts, smoothies and oatmeal toppers throughout the winter months when seasonal fruit is limited. If you can't freeze reliably, invest in some canning jars and keep that summer freshness all winter long.

10) Make your own jam.
Remember how much bread we consume? We go through a jar every week to week and a half. At $6+ per jar for organic jam, we save a bundle when we pick and then make our own jam. It has a lot less sugar too! This summer I calculated that our homemade jam cost us about $1.85 a pint.

11) Drink more water.
This may sound silly, but it is true! Dilute your juice or just offer water. It is better for our kids to have less sugar and it saves money as well. And please do not buy bottled water, filter your own or drink tap water.

12) Make a crockpot of beans once a week.
Beans are healthy AND inexpensive. This is one of the easiest and cheapest meal supplements you can make to fill in the gaps throughout your week. All it takes is sorting, rinsing, and then pop them in a crockpot with a 2-1 ratio of liquid to beans and let her go on high for 3-4 hours. The taste is significantly better than out of the can and the sodium content is extremely lower. You can use one variety or mix it up. If you really want to save some money, make some garbanzo beans and then make your own hummus. The recipe possibilities are endless and the meals are quick to fix. Good for your heart. Good for your pocketbook. Easy choice.

This is a start and while this is our ideal, we are human and the Good Apple will do just about anything for Stove Top stuffing. It would be ideal to live like Barbara Kingsolver in " Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", but this is within our reach. This will work for us at this time because I am not teaching, so perhaps that is the best way to start. I would love to can my own tomatoes however we live in a climate where it is tricky to grow them and expensive to buy them. We do what we can.

During the summer with my husband's long hours at work, we splurged a little more than we should have and now it is time to get back in gear. When I was teaching, pre-kids, we were spending approximately $1200 a month on food. Yes, just for the two of us. Mind you, we were drinking great wine and eating out a lot; however, now that I am staying home, meal planning has cut our budget by at least a third, we are eating much better meals and more responsibly than before. We are saving at least $75 a month on bread and jam alone! The little cuts here and there really add up when you look over the course of a month or a year.

What is reasonable for your family given the amount of time you have?

Can you list 5 goals to keep your family eating responsible, healthy and affordable meals?
Enlist your kids to help, it is the best gift you can give them.

Buying organic: The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15
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Mental Chew has been a little off this last week and I am mentally and physically exhausted. There has been a tragedy in my family and I need to regroup. My cousin went snow camping up on Rainier and hasn't returned. Huge search crews have been launched and on Day 12, still no sign after a major three day storm and a week plus of severe storm conditions on the mountain. This is a story without an ending. I went to the westside of the island today where I can look across the straits to the mountain and had a word with it. Please love today. Love this moment in your life. Create memories with your children and put the household chores and computers aside.

Please be patient with me and check in for updates.


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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pinterest Tutorials: Types of Boards & Your Blog

Have you been pinning your little heart away after reading through my "Getting Started" tutorial? Thanks to Momnesia and your multi-tasking brain you are starting to forget where you pinned some of your favorite pins, right?  Do not fret, I am here to help you.

Let's talk about your Boards.

Types of Boards  - The possibilities are truly endless, but here are a few ideas.

  • Hobbies - What are some of your passions? Gardening? Photography? Painting? Exercising? Reading? These boards can be a great source of inspiration to get you going!

  • Kids - Create a board for each of your kids, they are all individuals now, aren't they? Activities by season, cool kid food ideas, crafts, gift ideas, favorite books and more.

  • Recipes and Meal Planning - One of my favorite boards is my "What's for Dinner?" Board. On Saturday or Sunday nights, I will open up this page on my iPad and we will talk about our weekly menu. It is great a visual to get ideas rolling. At home we have a "repeater list" and as we eat a meal I will ask if it is a "repeater". We have just started this and so far, so good. I am trying to pin recipes as I go, but I will need to write a few more posts about our favorites before my list is complete.

  • Decorating Ideas - Are you redesigning a room? Building your dream home? Gathering ideas for when you win the lottery so you can build that much needed addition to your current home? Daydreaming? I have to admit, I like to get my Martha on, on the screen. I wish I was as creative as my Boards. When I was going through an "orange phase" I started pinning all things orange to get inspired and then, it fizzled. My husband has Pinterest to thank.

  • Party Planning -  There are so many wonderful party ideas out there and this is yet another area where my inner Martha dreams. You can easily gather ideas for any theme you can think up!

  • Organization - This is a favorite of mine as well. There are some seriously easy, inexpensive and creative ideas out there about how to keep your things together. Some of my favorites are reusing items you already have in your home that might normally end up in the recycle bin or trash. You can even break this into individual Boards for your kitchen, bathroom, kids' rooms, garden, garage, pantry...you get the idea. Note to self: must get a labeler.

  • Inspiration and Humor -  There are so many pins out there that have inspirational words or images and others that just make you laugh out loud. Keep these around for when you are having one of "those days".

  • Bucket List - Middle of the night. I can't sleep. It is time to dream digitally. What are activities I want to accomplish in my life time? A nice spot to nail down some goals.

  • Places you would like to travel - Another middle of the night favorite. Where have I been that I wish I could revisit? Where do I want to go? Am I feeling the need to be in a warm place while I am listening to the wind howl and the rain pour outside? Take me there.

  • Holiday Boards - First, please don't start filling up your Christmas Board in August. Oye! This year I gathered ideas for homemade gifts, which I will make next year, promise and some fun home craft ideas which I actually used! Yeah me. Whenever those fun holiday ideas catch your eye, file them away. This might not be the year that you bust out the glue gun, but next year just might!

  • Gift ideas -  This one was a recent revelation. I am going to start pinning things I really like and when a birthday, anniversary, Christmas roll around...I am going to send it to my husband. Yup. 

  • Drumroll please..... YOUR BLOG POSTS!!! Yes. When you update your blog, pin it. Keep a board with a collection of your posts. Share the Board every once in awhile. Your Pinterest followers might very well be a different crowd from your GFC or Network Blog or RSS or Stumble Upon or Twitter or Google + followers. I am tired after typing that. This is one of the easiest to update since you can just tap on the button we installed on your address bar in your browser.

I think that will keep you busy for the week. Create some boards that would work with your blog...next time we will play with incorporating it into your next post! 

What are some of your favorite boards?
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Excuse the mess

Some days you wake up and your blog is a mess. Really? Well probably not for you, but that DID happen to me today. Sometimes it resolves itself. We will see if today is one of those days. :)
Thanks for being patient.
Today was not the day...considering switching formats.

{this moment}: snow days

A Friday ritual. A photos - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Black out

Imagine a World
Without Free Knowledge
Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Mental Chew. Learn more.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Black Bean, Lime, and Cilantro Naan Panini (Mah Na Mah Naan)

Wowza! I know that name is a mouthful, but so is this recipe. I started off with a recipe, but then it disappeared and other versions had beans on toast. Blah. On this particular day, I had a creative itch that needed to be scratched and it turned out that the kitchen was going to be my only outlet because every photo I took was like, well, beans on toast.

I started looking for an alternative to the bread. Focaccia sounded nice, but not right for this recipe; however the work load was dead on. I didn't want to pour a ton of time into something that could end up as a dead end recipe. Thin breads. Easy breads. Naan, and I had read this recipe before and it was bookmarked. The recipe said it needed to rise, twice. Not today. I would try it with one rising session. We'll see.

Next up, the bean spread and toppings. My family does not naturally lean towards vegetarian meals, so I knew it had to fit their taste in order to be a hit.

The following is the recipe I used. After I presented the sandwiches, my 4 year old remarked, "Mom, this is DEFINITELY a repeater". Nice. Home run. And, if I may say so myself, I also think they are repeaters. I kind of shocked myself on this one.

During our second round of eating this recipe for dinner the Little Man said we should call it "Mah Na Mah Naan". Freaking brilliant. From this day forward this recipe will live on our repeater list as "Mah Na Mah Naan".

Mah Na Mah Naan

2 1/2 cups dried black beans (you will have approx. 2 1/2 cups left over after making the spread)
4 cups of organic vegetable broth
2 cups of water
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh salsa
1/4 cup lime juice
handful of fresh cilantro
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
12 pieces of Naan (recipe follows)
salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: tomato slices, avocado slices

Rinse beans and sort. Place beans, broth, water and salt in crock pot on high for 4 hours. Stir occasionally and keep beans covered with liquid. Add water if necessary.

In a container (1 quart side mouth mason jar is perfect), add salsa, lime juice, and cilantro and puree with a hand blender (or use a blender or food processor, whatever will get you to a puree). Add one cup of beans and puree.

Add puree mixture to two cups of beans and cheese and mix thoroughly.

Spread bean mixture on Naan. Layer avocado and tomato slices and sprinkle a little mozzarella. Top with a second piece of Naan. Place in panini maker until cheese has melted. If you do not have a panini maker, you can use a frying pan. Slice in half and serve.

Naan Recipe - adapted from All Recipes.com

1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup organic white sugar
3 tablespoons organic 2% milk
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups organic bread flour
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter

In a large mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. On low and using the paddle attachment, mix in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Switch to dough hook and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.

Punch down dough and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray.

Preheat a frying pan over medium high heat. Add a small amount of butter to just coat the bottom.

At stove side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle.

Place dough on frying pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Turn over and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes.

Remove from frying pan, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.
Some singing inspiration for you.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekly Menu - January 16

Well last week's menu had some huge successes and some pitfalls. We will be starting the week with the same recipe because it was so easy and so well received. I will take photos this time around and post the recipe by Wednesday, I promise. The gnocchi needed to be smaller, with a richer sauce and served as a side dish, perhaps just as the post dictates! The tomato pasta soup was far too bland for our palates so I added: yellow squash, black beans, and roasted potatoes. The brilliant part is that the latter two were leftovers from earlier in the week. The beef tacos were incredibly easy and really tasty. Chicken Tikka Masala is always a hit. The best news of the week was the fact that this was officially a "no food wasted" week! I always strived for that, but I actually pulled it off this week. Nice.

So, this week. I am going to make extra beans again on Monday to incorporate into Wednesday's soup. I am catching on to some nice patterns. Monday, beans. Tuesday, veggie. Wednesday, soup. Thursday, crockpot. Friday, family favorite. Here is this week's line up:

Monday- Black bean, Cilantro and Lime Naan Paninis + green salad

Tuesday- Veggie Burritos (Sweet potato, broccoli, tofu, red onion, carrots) + green salad

Wednesday- Tortellini and Black Bean Soup + green salad (I will use beans from Monday and veggies from Tuesday)

Thursday- Beef mole chili + green salad

Friday- Jesse's Chicken Enchiladas After reading through this recipe, I realized that I have completely changed this one up too. I am making it per request for some good friends who will be joining us for dinner(and they will be heading home with some to out in their freezer for when their newest edition join them next month!). This is one of those recipes that I always make multiple batches of when I cook them. I usually throw a couple in the freezer for "those days".

I have been asked about our weekends. We usually pick and scavenge from the week, potluck with friends or throw some steaks on the grill and roast some veggies.

Out in the garden this week, I will be plotting out our garden beds with the Little Man to help "modify" his seed list.

Have a great week!
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pinterest Tutorials: Overview and Getting Started

You know how you always see something somewhere and then you try to find it and you can't. Story of my life and since the Momnesia has set in, it isn't any easier. The Internet is filled with ideas, tricks-of -the-trade, shortcuts, recipes, learning possibilities, Do-It-Yourself projects and oh so much more. Gone are the days of bookmarks that are comprised of long lists of website names that mean nothing to us. And for those who lean toward the OCD side of organization, we tried to create folders for those streaming lists of text to compartmentalize a little.

Now there is Pinterest. It is a visual bulletin board of sorts and it even allows it's users to create categories to help organize their ideas.
User Main Screen

There are two concepts to understand when using Pinterest; the first is "Pins" and the second is "Boards".

Pins are individual sites that you want to collect. They are bookmarked using an image. Boards are collections of pins. You may have a "Recipes" board, a "For the Home" board... the possibilities are truly endless!

Get your "Pin It" Button for your Bookmark Bar
Go to "About" at the top of your Pinterest Screen and select the "Pin It Button" option.

Pin It Button
The next step is to grab the button they provide and to drag it to your bookmarks bar.

Pinterest Add Button Screen
Important note: See how it mentions that it will "credit the original creator"? Awesome. Once someone clicks on the image, Pinterest takes them to the website where the image originated. Perfect.

Where do you get these pins? There are three ways.

1. Follow other pinners. As others pin their ideas to their boards, they will show up on your main Pinterest screen (accessed when you log in or by clicking on the Pinterest logo at the top of the screen).
    Repin Screen
When you click on someone else's pin you get three choices: Repin, Like or Comment. If you see an image that you would like to "repin" you click "repin" and then you can edit the information to suit your needs. Notice that you will be choosing a Board to place your pin on. You can select one that already exists or create a new one. More on that in a second. In addition, you can click on the Facebook box and share your pin (or not) with your friends on Facebook.

2. Pin while you are surfing the Internet. While you are cruising through your favorite kitchen gadgets website you see that MUST HAVE item, but you cannot afford it right now so you just head to your Bookmark Bar and click on your "Pin It" Button. 
3. If you have the web address of the site you would like to Pin. Copy it and select "Add +" at the top of your Pinterest Screen. You will see three options, select "Add Pin" and then paste in the web address of your chosen item. It will prompt you to choose an image from the screen and you are ready to go!

That's it! You are ready to start pinning!

Finding other Pinners
At the top of your Pinterest Screen, you will find your name. Click your name and you will see the following options:
Find or Invite Friends to Join Your Pinning
You can invite friends to pin with you or your can find friends via Facebook or Twitter.

Creating Boards
There are two ways you can create Boards.

1. As you are pinning or repinning, you might find something that doesn't quite fit into one of your preset Boards. When you go to the drop down menu for the Board selection, you can scroll to the bottom and create a new Board by typing in your title of choice.
Adding a new Board while repinning
2. If you know ahead of time some of the Boards you would like to create, you can go to the Add + choice at the top of the screen and then choose "Create a Board".

That is all for today! Get pinning!

Coming soon...organizing your Boards, sharing your Boards, using Pinterest from mobile devices and spicing up your blog with Pinterest. Do you have other tasks you want to learn about? Just let me know and I will take you there with this great organizational tool.

Follow Mental Chew on Pinterest 
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Friday, January 13, 2012

{this moment}: kisses

I have been working on something over here, was originally inspired by this lovely mama and it all started with Soule Mama.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

OXO Eggbeater or Transformer that Makes Pancakes?

In this day and age of power tools for the kitchen, cooking with your kids can be a little dangerous. Recently. in our kitchen, mixers, blenders and food processors have given way to wooden spoons and whisks so the Little Man can take part. It is getting harder to say, "Move ahead and Mom will do this part". Independent little minds and hands leave the room when pushed aside one too many times.

Over the Christmas holiday, LM wanted to get involved in the baking and I was forgetting to include him in the process. You see, he started making his own oatmeal in the morning, so now he is a chef and baker, on his terms, when he wants to be.

After receiving the OXO Eggbeater to demo (and giveaway), I thought I would try it out on him. "Would you like to help me make pancakes?" Sold, and THEN I showed him the eggbeater. "SERIOUSLY Mom, I get to use that?!?" Oh yes you do fine child.

So he made pancakes and they were mighty fluffy. Once he got started, he wouldn't stop and then it was time to clean the gadget. The beater section "shoots off like a Transformer". Cool. After removing the beaters, cleaning and then reassembling, he was convinced we bought him a Transformer toy that could make pancakes. I didn't even mention that he could make whipped cream with it!

Thank you OXO. Your attention to Universal Design in every product never fails and keeps my kiddo cooking. I am amazed by the ease-of-movement this eggbeater has and how easy it is to break apart and reassemble for cleaning. This is not the cumbersome and awkward eggbeater I remember trying to tackle as a kid.

Here are some more of the features and benefits of this classic kitchen tool:
*Smoothly rotating gears are enclosed for protection and easy clean-up
*Soft, comfortable, non-slip grips on turning knob and contoured handle
*Sturdy stainless steel beaters can be removed for cleaning or for tasting
*Beaters are elevated and continue to work while device rests on bottom of bowl
*Perfect for eggs, light batters, whipped cream and more
*Base detaches from top and is dishwasher safe

Seriously, these folks think of everything and they even thought about you. Leave a comment and I will randomly choose a winner Sunday at 10 PM PST to receive their own OXO eggbeater. Good luck!

Buy your own right now, HERE
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<*<*<*<*WINNER: Pam from Two Loons and a Book. Congratulations! *>*>*>*>

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Gardening with Kids: Seed Selection - Part 1

On Christmas Eve, I pulled the van up to our mailbox, grabbed the contents and hopped into my seat. I started shuffling through and our favorite seed catalog arrived amongst a pile of holiday cards. Merry Christmas. The Little Man was so excited, he grabbed it right out of my hand from his car seat. I caught myself because I almost snatched it right back. It is difficult to over come the power of those instincts at times.

Today I offered the seed catalogs to the Little Man with two markers. His job was to place dots next to the items he would like to see in our garden. Two years ago, he simply asked for pumpkin pie. No problem.

Not this year. This tiny task offered up a world of surprises. I assumed he would pick 2-3 items and then move on. I assumed wrong. During his first run, he marked about $500 worth of seeds and plants and then there was the second run, when he decided we should focus on fruit this year. I tried to share with him the challenges of growing fruit in the PNW, but he was undeterred. Cherries, apples, lemons, watermelon, cantalope, mangoes, nectarines, every type of berry, pomegranates, oranges and grapes. Sure. Then he wanted to plant at least 30 varieties of flowers and about 10 sunflower varieties. "Don't you think that would be nice Mom?" Um, yah.

At first, I was a little taken aback and sad that I would have to tell him we couldn't possibly plant everything he chose. Then it hit me. My 4 year old just spent half an hour with me going through a seed catalog. He was naming every item in every picture. He wants to grow MORE this year. He chose vegetables he hasn't tried before, yet he knew by name. "Maybe we could try some parsnips and eggplant this year?" Maybe? Of course. "When are we going to plant our starts in the window?" He remembers.

Next step, plotting the garden so we can see what we are actually going to plant now that our "dream list" has been created and also to determine if we are up for a little bit of expansion. Maybe this is the year we start the orchard.

Oh, and we just received two more seed catalogs in the mail.
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Sunday, January 8, 2012

This week's menu--courtesy of Pinterest

I just realized that every meal this week is posted on Pinterest, so here it is.

Monday- Black bean, Cilantro and Lime Naan Paninis (Mah Na Mah Naan)

Tuesday- Potato Gnocchi
I will be making these with pesto instead of Gorgonzola sauce.

Wednesday- Tomato and Pasta Soup - I will add some of my zucchini and some other veggies TBD

Thursday- Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

Friday- Chicken Tikka Masala with Broccoli - a favorite

I will post any modifications I made to these recipes over the weekend and I am sure I will to rewrite at least one! In addition, I will finally get pics of my Chicken Tikka Masala. It's about time!

What are you eating this week?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

{this moment}: seeking sunshine

I have been working on something over here, was originally inspired by this lovely mama and it all started with Soule Mama.

A Friday ritual. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
~Soule Mama

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Winter Salad

Chilis. Stews. Hearty soups. Casseroles. These all warm the heart and belly, however, too much of a good thing can work against the bod. As a result, I have been trying to do roasted veggie burritos, veggie stirfrys or curries and salads a couple of nights a week. These aren't the summer variety light version of each of these, but they are lighter than the other fair.

Last night we had my winter salad for dinner with a homemade loaf of French bread.
The salad is:
Chopped romaine
Crumbled bacon
Diced chicken
Diced pears
Dried cranberries
Poppy seed dressing

That is it. A simple, fresh meal with something for everyone. It is nice to feel refreshed after a winter meal and to get that crunch that only greens and produce can give you.

Tonight...lasagna...after swimming.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Five Fist Chili

It's funny how the simplest tasks can become so over-complicated through good intention.

The Good Apple loves chili. As I have cooked various versions over the years (chicken, turkey, beef, pork, white, lowfat, high fat, sweet, spicy...you name it), I found it odd that something so simple, that was made "on the range", became so complicated. It was time to simplify.

We are reducing our use of canned items, so that would be first. No canned beans, only dried. I tend to like a variety of beans to make it pretty and keep everyone happy.

I can't wait around all day and work on this dish this dish for hours...crock pot.

GA loves beef. Grass-fed island ground beef it is.

Tomatoes - diced, canned, BPA-free. Eden Hills or Muir Glen.

Onion - yes.

Spices. We like a little heat and a lot of flavor. I thought about sautéing some jalepenos, but then I was back to over-complicating things, so I landed on the power three: Chili powder, Cumin, and Cayenne. And THIS is where it gets fun. Take those three and mix 'em up. Five fistfuls of spice, that is all it takes. At first, I was apprehensive about not having an precise measurement, but then I started playing with these three and the fear dissolved. They each pack their own punch into the recipe and I have my favorite combo. Now it is time for you to discover yours!


  • 1 lb of grass-fed beef
  • 1 small onions, diced
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes (BPA free cans)
  • 1 cup of dried red kidney beans
  • 1 cup of dried black beans
  • 1 cup of dried pinto beans
  • 4 cups (1 box) of organic chicken broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 5 fistfuls of spice (chili powder, cumin and cayenne)

I use 2 moderate fists of cumin, 2 moderate fists of chili powder and a delicate fist of cayenne to keep the heat appropriate for the kids.


Brown beef in skillet and remove into a bowl. Add onion to skillet and sauté briefly, 2 minutes max. Remove the onions from the skillet and place in bowl with beef.

Place beans in a large bowl and rinse and sort.

Place everything in the crock pot: broth, tomatoes, spices, beef & onions, beans. Give the mixture 1-2 good mixes. I found if you put the beans in first, they will stick.

Put your crock pot on high. Now I know it is the Golden Rule never to open your crockpot once you have started; however, to keep those beans moving, I suggest stirring once an hour to hour and a half. Watch your liquid. No liquid and the beans will burn and you will ruin your chili. Cook for 4 hours, if you need to, you can go 8 on low and you won't have to worry about burning as much.

Suggested toppings:
Sour cream
Cheddar Cheese
Ritz crackers (The GA's favorite, not what I give the kids -ha!)

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2012 Goals

Take at least a picture a day, complete a major cleaning task every week,and spend at least 15 minutes playing with the babes outside EVERYDAY. Keep tabs on this, ok?

Also, I want to plant 3 fruit trees, add an artichoke bed and keep the garden going this year!!