Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Super Simple Lemon-Raspberry Pie

1 box instant lemon pudding mix (3 ounces)
1 3/4 cup 2% milk
12 ounces fresh red raspberries
1 ready-made graham cracker pie crust (6 ounces)
1 8 ounce container nondairy whipped topping, thawed

Mix the pudding mix and milk together on low with an electric mixer until the pudding starts to thicken, about 3 minutes.

Reserve 9 raspberries for garnish. Fold the rest of the raspberries into the pudding.

Spread the pudding/raspberry mixture in the pie crust. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Spread the whipped topping over the pie. Garnish with the reserved berries.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Oven French Fries

5 large red potatoes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Grease a large baking sheets.

Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch French fries. Toss the potatoes in all the other ingredients. Place them in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn over. Bake for 15 minutes more.

Balsamic Chicken With Mozzarella & Tomato

We had a version of this recipe tonight and like the general direction. Here are my tweaks for next time.

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in strips
2 cups balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
1 handful fresh spinach
8 ounces shredded mozzarella
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 large tomato, quartered & sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
kosher salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Marinate the chicken in the balsamic dressing overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Pour the chicken, marinade and all in a baking dish. (I use a 10-inch quiche pan.) Bake for 20 minutes.

Arrange the spinach over the chicken. Top with the shredded mozzarella. Sprinkle with the basil. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes.

Arrange the tomatoes over the mozzarella. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.

I'm still not sure it will be exactly right. The spinach could be replaced with fresh basil if you have it available.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Super Sweet Cornbread

For a long time, I searched for a cornbread recipe that would mimic the super-sweet, cake-like corn muffins I got at my grocery store bakery. I finally found it a few years ago, and my family loves it!

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.

Mix the sugar, butter and vanilla thoroughly with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix in all at once.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.

This recipe can also be doubled and baked in a 9x13 pan. Cook for 50 minutes.

To make muffins with this recipe, divide the batter between 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What I Ate Today

Breakfast @ about 9:15

Snack @ about 11:45

Lunch @ about 2:15

Dinner @ about 7:00

Snack (courtesy of JoAnn) @ about 9:15

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

World War II Literature-Based Curriculum

I have long thought of developing a World War II literature based curriculum for youth about ages 9 - 13 (roughly 4-8 grade). I have some novels that I think would go well in just such a unit.

First, there is the classic "Number the Stars." This is the type of book that intermediate readers often read. It makes it onto many general reading lists for both social studies tie ins and simple literary selections. It is certainly a great book, but I would go beyond that.

I would want to include "Somebody Named Eva." I think when discussing the Holocaust, it is important to include more. It is necessary to show a complete picture, and kids at this age-level often don't get that. They get a list of goods and bads. Nazis are bad. Germany was bad. Many people went along with bad things. This of course is true, but I would like to see more philosophical discussion on why people go along with bad things. How does it happen? People talk about putting an end to bullying in the classroom, but it will never happen if kids aren't empowered to think about difficult issues and make their own decisions. "Somebody Named Eva" by Joan M. Wolf is the story of the Lebensborn Project, a program designed to make more pure Aryan people. This different angle to the atrocities of the Nazis in Germany during World War II adds dimension to the study.

Then there is the book I just read, "Milkweed" by Jerry Spinelli. This is a great book in its own right! It also gives a lot of history about Warsaw during World War II, particularly the Jewish Ghetto. The book doesn't tackle the Warsaw uprising other than as a passing aside. I think that is a good thing. It keeps it from becoming another cliche. The book is about people. Real people dealing with life, difficulties and moving on. I am surprised I had not heard of the book before.

To add an American side to the unit, I'd select "Lily's Crossing" by Patricia Reilly Giff and "The Green Glass Sea." One tells the story of a girl vacationing at Rockaway Beach and the other is about a girl living with her scientist father in Los Alamo. Both give different views to the things that happened during the war and provide excellent bouncing off points for discussion.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cheddar-Garlic Biscuits

These biscuits are so flavorful they don't require butter! My son thinks they are a little salty, but everyone else enjoys this variation on my regular spiky biscuit recipe. This rich biscuit make a nice change from traditional garlic bread with Italian cuisine.

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
6 tablespoon cold butter
1 cup shredded cheddar
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 425 F.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt & garlic powder. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender. Stir in the cheddar. Stir in the milk and cream all at once. Batter should be heavy and on the dry side.

Scoop 1/4 cup portions of dough onto a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until biscuits are browning on top.

While biscuits are baking, place topping ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for thirty seconds. Stir until the butter is melted and the ingredients are combined. When the biscuits come out of the oven, immediately brush them with the butter mixture. Use all of the mixture.

Spinach Casserole

This is a family favorite. Every member of our family gobbles this up, including those who hate spinach!

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 10-ounce boxes chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
8 ounces cream cheese
2 eggs, well-beaten
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 teaspoons ranch seasoning powder
12 buttery round cracker, crushed

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, and saute until tender and starting to brown. Turn off the heat. Add the cream cheese and ranch powder, and stir until the cream cheese is softened. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the spinach. Stir in the cheddar.

Turn your oven to 375 F. Grease an 8 inch square cake pan. Spread the spinach mixture in the pan. Sprinkle with the cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 minutes.

Cut into squares, and serve. Makes 9 servings.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I struggle with eating meat.

I especially struggle with eating non-humanely produced meat.

Sometimes, I struggle with eating period. I often think that eating mindfully is impossible for me. Maybe I need to start at the beginning. I often feel called to do that. To start eating mindfully. To not eat until I figure out something I can eat mindfully, and then to add things until I am OK.

On the other hand, I have addictive, compulsive, rule-following tendencies which lead to disordered eating very rapidly. But if I was eating mindfully, could that possibly occur?

I often wonder if mindfulness is easier for others. To me, it is always work. Not the kind of joyful work that I pursue relentlessly either. The kind of work that wears me down. I see it though. I see this mindful path. I see that it is really the foundation of all of the worlds renowned religions and many of the most well developed philosophies, and when I practice, I do experience its benefits.

Unfortunately, I think that good things are not always as easy as many would like us to believe. (How is that for a vague statement?)

I heard this today: Everything in moderation, including moderation. I am not sure who said it first, but I like it. I am not a fan of moderation. (That is my unschooling brain. Moderation isn't inherently better than non-moderation.) But that quote drives it home better. Moderation is an absence or control of excesses or extremes. That sounds good to me, as long as that is in moderation too. There are times which call for excesses or extremes. Who doesn't love the occasional moments full of excessive laughter or joy?

Most people have things they do that ignite them. They may change over time, but there is often a theme. I have some. I am ignited when I learn foreign languages. I have trouble stopping. I want to go, go, go. It is pure bliss to me no matter how many frustrations present themselves. I also am ignited by research. I use to love old fashioned research at the library plowing through books. Access to a huge number of research libraries was the absolute best part of attending Syracuse University to me. Now, I have access to innumerable research journals through the libraries of which I am a member online. It is so easy for me to fall into research mode wanting to know more and more and more.

I also enjoy more personal research. You need a lost person found? I can do it. I can do it fast. I can do it when you have been trying for 5 years. (Yes, this has happened to me over and over and over again.) I have a kind of logic coupled with just the right amount of intuition to put together information and follow leads. To know which words are necessary in a search. To know which search tools to use. When I am in this flow, I don't want to stop. Even if I never knew this person I am looking for because I am researching for someone else, even if I am researching a topic that is not of personal interest to me, my brain steps in and starts cataloging and organizing the knowledge and desperately wants to fill in any gaps.

Those are probably not the things that grip you, but I bet something does.

Those passions should probably be pursued without moderation from time to time.

I got a little off track there!

I am uncomfortable with meat, especially non-humanely produced meat, but I am not sure where to go with that discomfort. We have somewhat reduced our intake of non-humanely produced meat. We do occasionally when the budget allows support humanely produced meat. I think I want to work further in those directions. That was the real point of this post.

Citrus Poppy Seed Biscuits

Today, I developed this variation of my classic spiky biscuits. The have a crunchy exterior and tender crumb and a mix of butter & canola oil adds some healthy fats. The citrus is obvious without being too tart. They are not a sweet biscuit but not exactly savory either. Next time, I may try sweetening them up a bit with a sprinkle of coarse sugar before baking.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (I use jarred.)
1 teaspoon grated orange rind (Again, I use jarred. I think it has more flavor than freshly grated.)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup 2% milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat your oven to 450 F. Whisk the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, sugar, rinds and salt together in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the milk, oil and honey. Stir just until the dry ingredients are all moistened.

Scoop dough onto a baking sheet to form seven medium biscuits. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Random Ramblings About Relationships

Tips on Dealing with Frustration and Anger in Yourself & Others

*Compassionate Listening - Listen, listen, listen and listen some more. Listen deeper. The goal of listening is both understanding and giving the other person the opportunity to express themselves and feel heard. Also to give the other person a basic sounding board as they work through their problems.

Compassionate Listening is work. It requires practice. It requires deep mindfulness and peace.

*Loving Speech - Speech must be slow to come. Words should be weighed. Each word should be spoken with deep love. The goals of loving speech are validation for the other person and increasing understanding both ways in the relationship. Loving speech should always be honest. If an honest thought is found to be unloving, it should not become speech.

*Place Understanding of the Other Ahead of Being Understood - A friend of mine once wrote that in any relationship one should always plan on doing 75% of the work. If you set out in that direction, accepted that premise, the relationship would proceed much smoother.

This is true with understanding also. The goal of your relationship should always be to understand the other person better. Yes, we all long to be understood. The point is that that will come better from the loving place of trying to understand deeply than from a continual effort to explain oneself or a continual dissatisfaction in how well understood you are.

Why should we deal with anger? What is wrong with anger and frustration?

In relationships, anger often leads to separation. No one wants to be around an angry or frustrated person. Anger is at least partially directed at oneself anyways. Relationships require togetherness.

Anger and frustration have their place as a foundation for change.

Relationship anger and frustration rarely are directed towards change. So listen well, practice at it, work on mindfulness at other times to better let go of your emotional response during difficult interactions. Weight your words and restrain speech when necessary. Share loving speech. Validate. Validate, validate, validate. (Yes, I am an unschooler.) Validation, seeing, being present - those are the foundations of healthy relationships.