Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The First Day of School....again

Today I had my second first day of school for the 2009-2010 school year. Weird. I can't say I so much like having to do the first day stuff twice in one year - it is boring and yuck. And I am so bad at learning names - so, so bad. I want to be one of those people who can hear a name once and just remember it (and the matching face, of course), but I can't. And to be in a job where you have to learn 100+ new kid names every year. Yikes. It gives me a complex.

I am trying things a little differently this semester compared to last - so I hope it works. I was thrilled at the 100% pass rate, but that is a double edged sword because now the only way for my performance to go is down! Maybe I should have thought this through a little more before I got all super-teacher on them first semester. Should have paced myself. Crud.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grayson's 1st Haircut!

I gave Grayson his first haircut today. He is 17 months, 1.5 weeks old. It has taken him so long to grow hair, it was kind of sad to have to cut it. There was actually not that much to cut - he just needed a few places in the back trimmed up where he had a few rouge curls. He was so good. He sat on his little chair and held pretty still and let me clip away. He's such a sweet little boy. There, I said it. Little Boy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Pork - in under 30 minutes

I am a little obsessed with food again. I think we got off track with making decent food because we were overwhelmed (shocking, I know) and we started to resort to pretty bland and boring food. Like I said in an earlier post, we are looking for things that are easy - but better than "cooking" a frozen pizza. So for tonight we tried this...

Sweet and Spicy Pork
adapted from Cooking Light, June 2005

This comes together VERY fast.

  • 1# boneless pork tenderloin, sliced into thin chops (we made 6 slices)
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp EACH minced garlic and ginger
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2/3 cup of salsa
  • 2-3 Tbs of chutney or preserves (we used a combo of hot mango chutney and strawberry preserves)
  • cilantro to garnish
  1. Heat the oil in the pan on med/med-high and mix the soy, ginger, and garlic together in a small bowl.
  2. Put the pork in the pan and immediately spoon they garlic mixture evenly over the chops.
  3. Turn pork over when it starts to get a little golden brown.
  4. When cooked to your preference (don't over cook, there is always carryover) remove from pan and cover with foil while you make the sauce.
  5. For the sauce - put the salsa and chutney in the same pan you cooked the pork - stir until well blended and heated through.
  6. Serve pork slices with sauce on top.
The Stats: If serving 4 (again, we made it serve 2 with a lunch leftover) - the entree is 169 calories, 5.1 g fat, 24.4 g protein.

VERDICT: OMG - this was so easy it was crazy. It took my 25 minutes from start to finish, INCLUDING the time it took me to wash three potatoes, wrap them and toss them in the microwave, find the pole beans in the freezer and get a pot of them going, find all the ingredients and chop everything and slice the pork. You can't even preheat the oven and cook a frozen pizza in that time. Oh, and before you gasp at the massive pile of white stuff on my potato - it's yogurt :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dinner: 5 ingredients in under 30 minutes -- Green Chicken Curry

Super fast and pretty tasty...start the rice first and the rest will be ready right as the rice is finished cooking.

Green Curry Chicken
(Cooking Light 2009-October)

  • one pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into 1" cubes and sprinkled with salt
  • 2 bell peppers (your choice of colors), diced
  • 1 14 oz can of lite coconut milk
  • green curry sauce (1-4 Tbs depending on the heat - add 1 at a time and taste!)
  • 1 cup long grain or basmati rice
  • fresh cilantro to garnish (optional, but nice)
  1. Start the rice first, omit the fat - otherwise follow package directions
  2. Spray a nonstick pan with cooking oil and then lightly brown the chicken.
  3. Add 1 Tbs of curry sauce and cook for 1 minute. (Taste and add more, if needed)
  4. Add 1 cup of the coconut milk, bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until the chicken is almost cooked through.
  5. Add the bell peppers, the remaining coconut milk, and 1/4 tsp. of salt. Simmer 5-6 more minutes or until bell peppers are cooked to your liking.
Serve the curry over rice and garnish with cilantro.

The Stats: 282 calories, 6.8 g fat, 29.7 g protein

VERDICT: Very, very easy. A bit mild for us, but I think it was our curry sauce. I think one of the really nice things about this dish is the coconut milk makes it have a great texture, but the calories and fat are still really low. The recipe says it serves 4, but I think if this is a dinner entree with no appreciable sides is really serves 3 with a small amount left for a lunch. The stats above are quoted as if you make four servings - but still - even with three servings it has less calories than one of those nasty microwave 'diet' meals and is way more satisfying and filling.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Day in the Life...

Sometimes dinner is really entertaining and high fives are in order...

And sometimes they work together and things get a little crazy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nothing like a weekend trip that requires 1000+ miles of driving...

This weekend we made a trip to SC for Doug's Granny's 90th birthday (oh, and her twin's) party. It wasn't our first 'big' trip with the twins, but it was the first time we tried to pull something off like this in only about 48 hours. (I think it actually ended up being more like 60 hours, but you get the idea.)


Yeah!! for being able to stay with Chuck and Maria and enjoying some peaceful quiet time not walking on eggshells. Granny's house looks amazing and is so much brighter and bigger than it ever looked before. The only thing that could have made this better would have been if the weather would have cooperated a little more. We couldn't really go outside and play with the boys because it rained pretty much all day on Saturday and Sunday we were doing the birthday party and then driving home.

Yeah! for the boys behaving really well the whole time we were in SC. They were pleasant, took their naps when they were supposed to, slept all night in a new and strange place, and handled all the new places and people really well. Being in such an uncluttered location also really helped with Grayson practicing his new found un-aided steps. In the past few days he has been letting go and teetering a few steps at a time. It is too much fun to see him look so surprised (and excited) when he manages to make it a few steps on his own.

Yeah! for the boys getting to meet Snowflake the talking bird at Granny's party. They were both so excited to see the bird up close and when he started talking they were beside themselves. Gabe kept signing "pretty, pretty, pretty!" and trying to get the bird to talk to him. Grayson would have crawled IN the cage with him if he could have. He was so excited he kept jumping up and down, up and down!

We ended up needing to trim Gabe's hair while we were down there - Grayson really needs it, too - but he hasn't had his first hair cut yet and we wanted to make sure that we give it proper attention (set up the chair, save the hair, take pictures, etc.) We made sure Gabe's first hair cut was properly documented and we want to do the same for Grayson. Plus, he has been working on growing his little bit of hair for 17 months now, so cutting any of it off is a bit sad!

The down side of the trip really ended up being having the boys in the car for such long periods of time. We left to make the drive both days after dinner when they would normally be asleep, but now that they are in the upright car seats they really couldn't seem to get comfortable enough to stay asleep and they were sooo tired.

We stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way home (not our favorite place, but kid friendly) and enjoyed watching Gabe concentrate so hard on the little peg game on the table. He kept taking two pegs at a time out and switching their places. I don't really know why this was fun - but he did it over and over again.

We decided to make the drive back all in one big session since the boys didn't sleep so well in the hotel on the way down. It really wore us out, but everything seemed back on track on Monday, so we will count it as a success. I'm not in such a hurry to make such a long drive again any time soon, but it is good to know we can survive it. I am sure it will get a little easier when the boys are a bit older- but for now I think we did a pretty decent job.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is there a red neck in the house????

So I have moved almost 650 miles further north than I ever would have imagined I would have to -- and while VA is under the impression they are still "the South", they are sadly mistaken. How do I know? Well, let's make a quick 'for example' kind of list...
  • Most restaurants do not serve sweet tea
  • Even less people know how to MAKE sweet tea (no, it does not come in a Snapple or Lipton bottle)
  • Grits anyone? Not here.
  • If you can't tell me the ratio of water to grits RIGHT NOW while you are reading this, you need to stop calling yourself southern
  • Manners are few and far between. No one says Ma'am or Sir, please or thank you, and very few will even hold the door for you - and they certainly won't wave you in to traffic when you are trying to get out.
  • Did you see the pictures of the snow? Yeah, in the south snow=freezing rain.
There are many, many other examples - but listing them all is not the point of this post. THIS post is about the fact that I am NOT in the South; HOWEVER, that does not mean that we don't have your quintessential red neck population. I have been driving past this on my way to work since Thanksgiving.

Take a look - a close look. Do you see it???

Monday, January 11, 2010

Breaking in the new Crock Pot : Espresso Braised Beef Tips

It is official - we are swamped and it is a ridiculous thing to try and have two adults that work full time (plus) try and raise twins without help. It is kicking our butts. We need the two incomes ; can't really do anything about the lack of help; and we have to figure out something to make life a little easier/healthier/less hectic. So to that end, I have purchased a larger crock pot (my old one is too small to do a medium size roast) and I am trying to make a realistic goal of using it at least once every two weeks. We are also trying to do a better job of managing the grocery bill and trips. I bought two beef roasts on sale ($1.99!) and boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale ($1.79 pound!) this past weekend and now I am working on using them wisely AND easily. (Because cereal, I have been told, is not really dinner fare.)

This week we are trying Espresso Braised Beef Tips.

3 pounds beef stew meat (I used a tip roast) - chopped into 1.5 in chunks, blotted dry
2-4 Tbs flour w/ salt and pepper mixed in - all in a big ziplock
3 Tbs olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped large
3-5 carrots chopped into 2 in. pieces
4 new or red potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 small turnips, peeled and quartered
1 cup strong coffee
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup red wine
  • Use the ziplock bag to shake and coat the chunks of beef. In a larger skillet over med-high heat, heat half the oil. Add half the beef and brown on all sides. When browned transferred to the crock pot. (Don;t crowd the skillet!)
  • Add the onions to the skillet and cook until just starting to soften and brown a little. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  • Add the other veggies to the cooker, then add in the thyme and coffee.
  • Pour the red wine into the skillet and use to de-glaze the pan. Make sure you scrap up all the little brown bits.
  • Pour this liquid into the cooker, give it all a good stir, and cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours.

The Verdict: This was very easy and very tasty. It did need salt - I think it would have benefited from some salt during cooking. Also, we did not have turnips - so I just left them out and added extra carrots. I actually ran out of fresh carrots and added a bag of frozen baby carrots. You couldn't even tell the difference
I took about 2 cups of the liquid out of the crock, stirred in a little cornstarch to thicken it up, and mixed it all back in and then served with old fashioned home-made biscuits.

If you are feeling brave, I think something that would really make this an over the top dish would be a different treatment for thickening the cooking liquid. I would suggest crumbling a few gingersnap cookies into the broth while stirring in a small pot. It will thicken it nicely and add a hint of sweetness. Add the crumbs a little at a time or it will get to thick. I know it sounds weird, but trust me -- it works like magic.

BONUS: The kiddos like it and it is tender enough that they can manage to chew it up. Yummy!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Golden Yellow Corn Bread

Golden Yellow Corn Bread/Muffins
We make both versions of this in our house - usually in muffins form for ease of serving to three small children.  We use the sweeter version when pairing with something spicier.  This is such a great recipe (from the package) because it is so forgiving.  Sometimes we throw in some leftover corn, shredded or diced pepper jack cheese, and/or a big spoon of salsa.  It always turns out great.  You just can't mess it up.
1 cup Indian Head Yellow Corn Meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup oil
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten

Corn Bread:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Mix oil, egg, and milk together and add to dry ingredients, mixing until batter is uniform. Bake in a greased 9”x9”x2” pan for 20-25 minutes.

Corn Muffins:
Pour corn meal batter into greased or line muffin tins, filling about 2/3 full. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Recipe Variation:
**For a sweeter, moister corn bread or muffin, make these changes to the recipe above: use 2/3 cup milk, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup oil and 2 eggs. Reduce the heat to 400 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes.