Saturday, February 27, 2010

For Heidi

I did think about posting the hummus recipe, but my silly brain tells me things like "your blog is turning into a cookbook" or "people that like hummus probably already have a good recipe" so I didn't. But you're right, it's worth sharing.

A little background: On Wednesday I was making a mexican lasagna, a dish based on the what-do-I-have-around-here concept of cooking. I intended to include a can of black beans but a 3 ft distraction meant that when I looked into the can I had just opened, I saw garbanzo beans staring back at me. Oops. I had bought them on a whim a couple months ago thinking that perhaps I'd make hummus...someday. Needless to say, those little beige beans in front of me meant that someday had arrived, well, sort of. I put them in the fridge for a soon-but-not-now-someday and opened the correct can of black beans and finished dinner.

Yesterday, I had planned on grabbing some Lenten Friday food at the grocery store. When my plans changed, I scoured the kitchen for a meatless meal solution. Lo, there were my garbanzo beans waiting for me in the fridge. ;) (hehe, yes, I just wrote "lo")

I've made hummus once or twice and I have to say I'm not a fan of tahini which seems a crucial ingredient. I've heard of substituting peanut butter but a) the thought kind of makes my stomach turn b) Iain's allergic and I really wanted him to be able to eat the hummus. Recalling that tahini is sesame spread, I wondered if I could substitute sesame oil. I googled it and came up with the following recipe from this link, that seemed quite promising:

  • 1 can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed and towel dried
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons warm water


In a food processor, blend chickpeas lemon juice and olive oil. Add garlic and spices, then sesame oil and water and blend to a smooth paste. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water if mixture is too dry.

I made a few adjustments to my version:

-I only used 1 tbs. sesame oil (the stuff is very strong)
-Because I used less of the above, I used a bit more water for a total of nearly 4 tbs.
-I did use 2 crushed cloves of garlic but even with 2 it was a LOT of garlic flavor. I'm thinking maybe next time I'll try using garlic powder for a less punchy flavor. That or perhaps just 1 fresh clove. If you try either, let me know how it works for you.

So, that's the great hummus recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thank you, Jesus, for friends!

Warning: this post may ramble.

Mark is gone for the annual Men's Retreat, leaving me here with my two favorite blessings. As much as I might gripe, internally (I hope), about Mark's busy work and school schedule, I must say that it has prepared me well to be 24/7 single-parent while he's gone. ...ok, except for getting up at the crack of 8 am with Iain. Yes, I'm spoiled.

Mark left at 7:30 this morning and I decided it was sleep-in day. Iain actually obliged after a bit of crying, and fell back to sleep (or gave up?) and we all slept in. I fed Lydia a couple times in there, but we all managed to get a few extra hours of sleep. It was wonderful. Surprisingly, Iain was rather hungry when we all got up and asked for "Daddy? Chicken?" as soon as I walked into his room. I'm sure it would warm Mark's heart to know that Iain has actually asked for him quite a few times today, and seems to know that it's just not right that he's not here.

Knowing that I had a full weekend of entertaining kiddos ahead of me, I planned, planned, planned. We started off with a bath for Iain, followed by running some errands. I was even successful in my find-a-reasonably-priced-exersaucer-hunt (from Once Upon A Child)! Iain seems to like it...Lydia does too, I think.

We all crashed for a late nap. I paid for it this evening, putting Iain down around 9 and having him up again for about 1/2 an hour at 10. Well, here's to hoping that he sleeps long in the morning (can you tell I'm not a morning person?) :)

I was going to cap off the day with a grocery run, but a friend called and asked if she and another friend could come over. Shortly thereafter, another friend called to say she was just finishing up Stations/dinner at church across the street and could she stop by. It was wonderful. I guess when the guy is gone the gals will call...hmm, that doesn't read as well as it sounded in my head.

The long and the short of it is that I had 3 friends over this evening and we all sat around and ate my homemade hummus (I found a great recipe!) and watched speed-skating for hours. We also drank some Baileys. yum!

Well, Lydia is crying. No rest of the...well-rested, actually :) I'm delighted to say! Let's pray it stays that way and that I make it to Sunday with my sanity intact-ish.

God bless you all!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Why buy pizza ever again?"

This was Mark's question, last night, after a homemade pizza victory. To be honest, I've never tried to make homemade pizza. If you've read my recent adventure with cinnamon rolls, you may correctly guess why: pizza dough is a yeast bread. 'Nuff said.

Besides being scared off by the prospect of making yeast dough, there is just no way to get around the fact that homemade pizza is not the real deal. I suppose one might convince oneself that homemade pizza is a different product all together and thereby move beyond that hindrance, but as good as I might be at self-brainwashing, I still love "real" pizza too much, and hate yeast dough too much, to want to waste time on a sub-par homemade pizza. If you've ever had homemade pizza, you're probably well-acquainted by the deficiencies: (and I mean no offense to my mother who makes a darn good homemade pizza - as homemade pizzas go). The temperature (or lack) of the oven is largely to blame. Pizzas made on a cookie sheet or other flimsy metal baking pan are the worst of the worst. They end being something between casserole and lasagna. Whatever they are, they're not pizza. Pizza made on a pizza stone is a vast improvement, as the stone absorbs a great deal of heat and does to the crust what a baking sheet/pan could never do - gives it its crustiness. However, even this lends itself towards a dry crunchy/tough crust and, true American that I am, I'm not looking for some dry fancy thin crust, no, I want that amazing deep-dish experience that you can only get from your local pizzaria. You know what I mean - ok, let's admit it: greasy, crusty on the outside, soft and lovely on the inside, deliciousniciousness that is "real" pizza.

How to accomplish this? Was it even possible?

That was why I never wasted my time on homemade pizza. Until one day, when I had a three-word-epiphany:

Cast. Iron. Skillet.

Even then, it took awhile for me to brave the experiment. It wasn't until we were so desperately out of groceries that all I could scrounge up for dinner was a list of the following:

-Frozen roll dough (storebought - a wonderful way to get around making the dreaded yeast dough!)
-Sharp Cheddar Cheese
-Shredded Parmesan Cheese
-Ham delimeat
-Red Onion

And that's when I put it together, along with the jar of pizza sauce sitting in the cupboard, bought just after my epiphany, in hopes that one day the dream would come to life.

I defrosted 9 frozen dough balls in the oven and when doubled in size put them in an oiled bowl and kneaded them together. I let that rest for a bit and when it looked alive, I transferred it to my well-oiled (bottom and sides!) cast iron skillet. I only have a 12" pan, but I think I'll be buying a larger one for future pizza nights. (Note: I think 9 rolls was too many; I'll try 6 next time). I stretched the dough to fit, letting it rest for about 5 minutes when it wouldn't stretch more. (Note: I recalled, at the end, that the preferred method is to flatten the dough and grab it by the edge, so it hangs free and rotate the dough, allowing gravity to pull it to the preferred circular size. I will try that next time).

Having fit the dough to the skillet, I let it rise just a bit. Then came the fun part: making it yummy.

I put a garlic clove through a garlic press and spread the mush around the perimeter crust portion of the dough, followed by a bit of salt. (Note: I will use 2 cloves next time). The crust was completed by a liberal sprinkling of shredded parmesan cheese. (I left the cheese off a portion for Iain who is allergic to dairy).

I spread on the store-bought pizza sauce, cut up some ham, sliced some red onion, and topped it off with parmesan and shredded cheddar cheese (b/c that's what I had on hand).

I preheated the oven to a blistering 500 degrees and popped that sucker in. I baked it for about 12 minutes, but in the future will go for around 15, maybe even a bit more - we were hungry and impatient.

I also should have let it rest in the pan a bit longer after removing it from the oven, before serving it, as our seconds were a bit crispier on the bottom and thereby even more tasty than our firsts.

This was GREAT pizza. I highly recommend this method for homemade pizza. It bakes up to a delicious deep-dish crust with all the elements that I had previously found lacking in homemade pizzas: crispy without being dry, soft/chewy inside without being tough, good flavor (esp. the garlic/parm crust!), in a word: YUM!

Mark is attending the annual SPO banquet tonight, so I will be trying attempt #2 this evening. I'll let you know how it turns out. :)

P.S. You can't beat the price! I think the cost of this pizza was in the neighborhood of about $2-3. (Using cheese from Sam's Club cuts costs, otherwise cheese can get pricey).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mommy's morning off...or not

I love my children; I really do. But when I got a call from the NET office, asking if I could come in for 3 hours to help address invitations for the annual NET banquet - with childcare and lunch provided, it was a no-brainer. Let's see: stuffing, stamping and addressing (which I enjoy doing) chatting with other lady friends (which I enjoy doing) letting other trusted folks watch my kids and give Iain some social time (which both of us enjoy) and free lunch (which I enjoy!) yep, sounded like a winner to me.

It was a nice morning. The only downside is that I had the "problem" children of the day. I told them, when I dropped Iain off, that he takes a couple minutes to settle in and goes through a bit of separation anxiety. This usually lasts from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. When he appeared with a NET staffer, not 5 minutes later, looking quiet content, I could only guess poopy diaper. Nope. Apparently, one of the other children told this NET staffer that Iain missed him mommy, prompting a visit to find me. Hunh. Any guesses how much childcare experience this staffer has had? I'm guessing not much. Perfectly pleasant Iain quickly turned into cling-to-mommy-as-though-your-life-depends-on-it Iain as I walked him back to the gym. About 10 minutes later a screaming Lydia was escorted to me, for feeding. I decided to keep her with me, as she does just fine playing on the floor. Not 10 minutes after that, another (inexperienced?) NETer brought Iain in again, with claims that he'd been asking to go to the bathroom. Now, Iain is big for his age, there's no denying that, but considering he was clearly wearing a diaper, it seems a likely guess is he's not potty-trained. Further, he wasn't poopy or very wet. Final verdict from every mom in the room: poor kid was trying any tactic he could come up with to use on these suckers to get himself back to mommy. Needless to say, he wasn't too happy about heading back to the gym, again.

After all that, I thought naps would be a cinch. But no, it was threatening to be a no-nap day for both my little ones, up until about 20 minutes ago. It's about the time when Iain usually gets up from his nap and I believe he's finally settled into one. Here's hoping.

In case you're worried for my poor children, I'll add that I'm fairly sure that Iain is a mini-me in regards to his need for mommy-attention. From what I've seen, his behavior in settings like the above is a fairly good barometer of his need for quality mommy time. So, I see quite a bit of that in our future. :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Iain's Spa and Style

Mark and I are hoping to go to Hawaii later this year to celebrate our fifth anniversary. This may sound like a bit of a crazy dream to some, especially considering Mark's uh, modest, salary. However, if's package deals are any indication, this poor economy in which we have been living may once again do us a favor. We shall see...there are still quite a few variables to sort through, not limited to a nursing babe, future pregnancy (last night I had a dream about #3!), the cost of central a/c, purchasing a new-to-us minivan, etc. etc. In spite of all these obstacles, I am a firm believer that, as my father always says, money is a tool. If it's a tool, it's not the ends, and I am certainly not looking for a pile of cash to sit in for our fifth anniversary (or to drive around in, for that matter). I believe that we will have a wonderful fifth anniversary, however we celebrate it. (Though, come to think of it, the nursing babe and future pregnancy aren't really obstacles that can have money thrown, or not thrown, or whatever, at them.) hmmm.

Just in case Hawaii doesn't pan out, I am blessed to live with Minnesota's greatest masseur. He's an exceptionally talented 2 year old. He doesn't know he's a masseur, and seems to be under the impression that mommy's back is the world's funnest jungle-gym. It works like this: I'm exhausted and lie down on the living room floor. Iain comes over and climbs, walks and tumbles all over my back. It's wonderful. What's not so wonderful, as I discovered this morning, is when he has shoes on - not because of my back; in fact, with the strength of the knots in my back, the shoes feel great - but rather because when he stepped on and subsequently slid off my head, my hair stayed with his shoe and I heard and felt a rather agonizing riiiiiiiiip and saw a lovely bunch of my hair walk across the floor attached to his shoes. Ouch. As much as I'd love to have a chic-short hairstyle, this isn't the way I had envisioned achieving it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Married to a saint

Knowing that a happy wife makes a happy home, Mark spent the evening redoing my laptop. Being "amish" I can not explain what he did, but what I do know is this: things look a little different and my keystrokes appear immediately. Hurray! :)

For those of you waiting with great anticipation to hear what Mark thought about my outfit, yesterday, his exact words upon entering the house were "interesting outfit." He wasn't sold on it until he read my blog at which point he said he supposed he might be coming around to it.

As for my recent post about desiring greater creativity, I did not intend to belittle or ignore whatever "gift" I may have as a writer - and while I do acknowledge enjoying writing, I also know that my grammar, punctuation and word usage often leave much to be desired. I consider my writing akin to my opinion of playing basketball: I love "street ball," but start focusing on the rules and roles and I quickly lose interest. Additionally, writing is fun and I enjoy sharing my thoughts and stories, but it's not a material craft, and I suppose that's what I was getting at. All that aside, it's so nice to know that there are some out there in internet land who read and enjoy my posts - otherwise I don't think there would be any convincing Mark or myself that this was at all a worthwhile use of my time!

To close, I'll leave those of you in dreary MI wishing you were here: It's a beautifully cloudless sunny day and we've got about 25+ inches of accumulated crisp white snow on the ground. On the not-so-positive side of things, this is a classic headache day. It's just too darn bright. Oh the things I have to suffer through here in gorgeous Minnesota. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sasquatch Lives!

Today, I feel ridiculously feminine and I'm hazarding a guess that it's a good thing Mark isn't here to "appreciate" it. I'm sure you recall my prior mention of a hatred for current fashion that demands layering in order to be decent. (I'm also feeling similarly toward my laptop, which is displaying my typing with a 10 keystroke delay.) Perhaps this is another veiled (pardon the pun) answer to my prayer for increased creativity, but I have suddenly found myself dreaming up strange new wardrobe ideas. Today, for instance, I am wearing my new post-post-partum-but-not-quite-"my"-size-yet jeans (regardless, I feel very skinny in them because the cut is fabulous!) and a gray turtleneck sweater on top of which I have on a short-sleeved, lowish-cut blue blousey shirt. I can only imagine what my sister, who never let me live down wearing sweaters UNDER my overalls as a child, would say! :) Yes, I have layered on top of a sweater. Strangely, I love the look - it's got an early 60s vibe to it, I believe. As I already mentioned, I'm not sure Mark would feel the same...but by the time he comes home from work I'll have had a few hours to decide if it's presentable enough to demand that he conform to my unusual fashion expression.

As for the title of this post, my look is completed by my new shoes. New Shoes!!! This is a rare treat for someone like me - wearer of the elusive size 12 shoe, as many of you know. On a family date at the Mall of America, we stopped in Norsdstrom Rack (think high-end TJ Maxx) because they carry larger shoe sizes, though their selection is usually paltry at best. Mark was excited to see that they have their semi-annual large shoe sale coming up on Feb. 20th and quickly signed up to receive mailings for these events. He felt a little silly signing up for women's shoe info, but I appeared at his side, large feet in tow, to save him from embarrassment.

We briefly perused the rack where Mark found a shoe and tossed it to me to try on. I was skeptical until it was on my foot, then it was love. True love. I was even wearing normal socks, not thin ones, and it was the most heavenly shoe experience - there was even space to wiggle my toes! And did I mention the style? Beautiful brown suede "ballet" flats. So cute! So feminine! So......SIZE 13?!?!?! Well, that explained the comfort. I'm trying to laugh so I don't cry. Meanwhile I'm chanting to myself a mantra about size not mattering if they're cute and comfy.
We bought them and I'm wearing them, and I love them. I'm coming to terms with the fact that these may be the most comfortable shoes I've worn in years, and now I know feet are bigger than even I imagined. Sasquatch indeed. Thank you Lord for Nordstrom Rack and their upcoming large shoe sale event. There is my silver lining.

By the way, for any of you fellow large-footed women out there, I've come up with a more self-esteem-friendly way to describe my large feet, as well as my large hands: I simply have long bones. Doesn't that sound so much more elegant? With the good comes the bad and a side-effect of having long bones, which makes for long legs (the envy of many women, to be sure) comes other long bones - feet, hands, arms (I've given up wishing for shirts that have sleeves that reach my wrists). So, I will try to be happy with my long bones that have given me long legs and be grateful for stores like Nordstrom Rack who have remembered us long-footed women.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A little bit of everything

The other night, I had a dream about grass...lawn grass mind you, nothing of the illegal sort. On that note, I'm looking forward to having some again in a few months. Last year I gave myself permission to ignore the yard while adjusting to a new home and a new baby. I knew I'd have 9 months of winter in which to plan exactly what I wanted to do with my 1/3 of a beautiful acre. Having awoken from my winter coma, I realize that it's already February and I haven't given our outside property a single thought, other than to occasionally notice that the sidewalks and driveway need to be shoveled. Some of our ideas include a "christmas" tree in the front, a bird-feeder within view of the kitchen window, a vegetable garden in the back, other flowers in the front....yes, well, we shall see.

In other news, my parents were here for the past week and we had a wonderful time with them. Iain is now a 2 year old and the proud owner of many fabulous new toys. I just hope we have more sons so that all these boy-toys get plenty of use! :)

For the past few months, I've been moping about not being a particularly creative person. I have so many artistically gifted friends that it makes my lack of creativity that much more apparent to me. Additionally, while they constructively spend their "free" time doing all sorts of wonderful crafty things, I find myself at a bit of a loss when I find myself with some time on my hands. While I could knit another scarf or do a puzzle, I don't simply want to waste time, rather, I have a desire to be productive even while passing the time. So, silly as it seemed, I asked my women's group for prayers in this regard. I wanted a worthwhile and productive past time or hobby. Little did I know, I was living amidst the answer.

Though it took a good two weeks or so to make the connection (how blind we are at times) no sooner had I asked for prayers for this, than I had a burning desire to finish the drop-ceiling downstairs. Additionally, out of nowhere I found myself dreaming about repainting the stairs. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that my first thought was "am I pregnant?!" How else could I explain this sudden nesting fit I was experiencing. As you might guess, I am not and further, as is true for most women, I do not "nest" until the latter months of pregnancy. It was not until I arrived at women's group on Monday that I made the connection. I excitedly shared the good news of my answered prayer and how I had just completed the office ceiling and am looking forward to finishing up the rest. "Ambitious" was the word one of them used, but I suppose it's all one's abilities. I consider many of their creative outlets quite a bit more ambitious than my ceiling or stairs simply because I do not share their natural giftings in those areas. Regardless, it's wonderful to have projects to do and insodoing improve our home and therefore our family life. Hurray! and Praise the Lord! :)