Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Conferences

On Monday we had parent/teacher conferences at Hollis's preschool. I find this hilarious in and of itself, but there I was for 15 minutes with Ms. Nancy. What I learned is that Hollis is practically perfect in every way...okay 97% perfect. Apparently there are issues with the jacket being put on upside down, preferring to play instead of completing his work (I don't know where he would have gotten that) and not coloring. The coloring perplexes me the most since I was an avid colorer as a child and feel this may be evidence of a maternity ward mix up. But, I've had him this long, so I'll probably keep him. I was also surprised to learn that sometimes "doesn't participate" in the singing. I find this odd considering the amount of singing he does at home, in car, at Target...everywhere except school apparently. He is certainly bringing home the songs from school though. Here is one of his current favorites. As you listen, remember that he attends preschool at a local church and you maybe as surprised as me to hear it.


video

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mix it up Monday: Peanut Butter

I am sure you have heard that we are not supposed to be eating peanut butter products. We are big peanut butter fans around here and I, for one, have found it hard to know what is safe and what isn't, or might not be. One way to get around the problem is to make your own peanut butter products. Everyone agrees that the Jif and Peter Pan in your pantry are safe, so get them out and mix up some salmonella free snacks. Of course, you could throw caution to the wind and add in your own salmonella, but I wouldn't recommend it. I picked this recipe, from Dinner and Dessert, because it is similar to a peanut butter cookie, but has a little something extra with the chopped peanuts and chocolate chips. Also, if you go back to the Peabody post, you will see that she used salted peanuts in place of the unsalted ones called for. I think next time I will do that too, for two reasons: 1) I like salt and especially salt and chocolate 2) John complains when he sees unsalted nuts in the pantry. These are quick and almost as easy as picking up tainted store bought cookies, the hardest part will be waiting an hour for them to cool. You probably already have most of the ingredients, so make these...they'll make your kids happy; unless your kids are allergic to peanuts, in which case, stay far, far, away.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Love Bars
Slightly Adapted Recipe

2 cups unsalted peanuts
2 cups creamy peanut butter
2 cups tightly packed brown sugar(light)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces (I used chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toast the peanuts on a baking sheet in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the nuts to room temperature before chopping by hand.
Use a stiff whisk to blend together the peanut butter and brown sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk until thoroughly blended. Add the peanuts and the chopped semisweet chocolate, mix well. Transfer mixture to a 9X13X2 inch pan. Use your fingertips to press the mixture onto the bottom of the pan and into the corner and sides, creating an even layer. Place the pan on the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for 22 minutes until set in the center. Remove from oven and cool at room temperature for 1 hour before cutting.

Source: Dinner and Dessert from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, who adapted them from Death by Chocolate Cookies by Marcel Desaulniers

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vacationing

John has been on vacation since Sunday afternoon. He would tell you that he is "traveling for work". Pssshh...let's look at the evidence and you decide:

1. 4 hour plane ride during which, I assume, he was able to listen to, read or watch whatever he desired. Likely the only interruption was by someone asking him if he wanted a snack or drink.

2. He is in a part of the country were yesterday the average temperature was 85 degrees. It was 25 degrees here yesterday. He would argue that he wasn't able to enjoy this warm weather because he was in a conference room all day. I would argue that it doesn't matter because I was inside all day with a three year old and a dog with anxiety issues - and it was cold.

3. He is sleeping in a fancy hotel room, which I imagine has room service - more people to bring him snacks and drinks. I also imagine the hotel doesn't ask him to clean up the kitchen, take out the trash and the dog and bath a small child.

Sounds like a vacation to me.

In the interest of full disclosure I do have to admit that he did miss out on some fun things:

1. Another trip to aquarium where Hollis saw his first 3D movie.

2. Free inauguration donuts at Krispy Kreme.

3. Hugs, kisses, I love yous and construction work.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mix it up Monday: Lesson learned

Here is what I have learned: if I want to bake and blog about it on the same day, I need to start the process before 10:30pm. Who knew? I finished the Date Nut Bread at about 11:45pm last night, and frankly didn't have it in me to write a post. I also haven't tasted it yet, so maybe take my words with a grain of salt, or sugar as the case may be. Although, I did have to stay up late to finish it, the bread itself, like most quick breads, was easy to put together. I have never baked with dates, so that was interesting. I bought them whole and had to chop them which was more difficult than I expected. I have one of those hand choppers, where the blade chops and turns. They were too sticky to do that way, so I just chopped them with a knife. After chopping the dates the recipe calls for you to soften them by add a cup of boiling water and butter. It does have 1/2 cup of walnuts, but you could also use pecans or leave the nuts out all together. The recipe call for baking for 55 minutes, but I baked it for more like an hour and five minutes. This is the second recipe that I have had to extend the baking time, so I am starting to wonder if there is something wrong with my oven...God forbid. It looks like a nice moist bread that would be great for breakfast with a little cream cheese. I will let you know how it tastes tomorrow, but I do have to admit one thing, I threw out last week's Pumpkin Swirl Brownies, they just weren't doing it for me. Oh, well...win some, lose some.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Censorship

Before I had Hollis I was a firm believer in self censorship. I felt that parents were solely responsible for the television shows, movies and books their children were exposed to. I have come to realize the flaw in this mindset: TV commercials. Seriously, are there no standards? Now, I understanding advertising revenue and demographic and whatever, but sometimes my three year old watches football with his father. Or we might want to watch the news while dinner is cooking. Or maybe just have something on that is not animated. Hollis has learned more for 30 second spots than he has in 6 months of preschool. Maybe you remember the foot in the toilet incident, well I am pretty sure he got that from a Two and a Half Men commercial. During this spot, which came on as I was looking for the remote to turn the TV off, had the two main characters one of which was standing in a toilet. The volume was turned down, in an attempt to keeping him from hearing anything he shouldn't, but apparently the picture was all he needed. A few days later he asked me about the ad and why, "that daddy was standing in the potty". I tried to explain that it wasn't real, but I don't think it took. "Well, what do you expect, having network TV on", you may say, but what about Noggin on demand? While going through the two page on demand menu in order to get to a Noggin show, they ran a commercial for the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler movie, Baby Mama. Having learned my lesson, I again had the volume turned down - too late - he had already seen the scene with Amy Poehler's character using the sink instead of the toilet. Again, lots of conversation about make believe as well as why we don't potty in the sink. So my stance on censorship has softened somewhat over the last year or so...now I think all commercials should be heavily censored with preschoolers in mind. I think this is a public policy we can all get behind.

And now, the obligatory Hollis picture.
Hollis and John taking their "mini nap".

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mix it up Monday

I did actually bake these yesterday, but it was nearly midnight when I finally took them out of the oven. You may remember the Great Hazelnut Debacle of 08, since then Kroger has decided to occasionally stock chopped hazelnuts. Oh, Kroger, how I love thee and your haphazard inventory (don't get me started on the Danimals - the one dairy product my child will drink). So I have had a bag of chopped hazelnuts just waiting to be used. I had planned to use them at Christmas, but good grief, the food, it was overwhelming. So I searched out what I thought would be a different use of hazelnuts, but lo and behold, they have already been made here and here and over here. I guess I don't get any points for originality. My problems do seem original though. To start with, I had 3 oz of semi sweet chocolate and 3 oz of unsweetened chocolate. After some google research, I decided that the thing to do would be to add some extra sugar. Now, I really thing that was unnecessary. They aren't overly sweet, but I think the sugar in the semi sweet would have sweetened the unsweetened chocolate enough. Mine also did this funky "rising" thing. I don't know how to describe it and am not sure you can see in the picture, but the center sort of...well, rose. You know how bread rises in the center and then splits, like that but without the split. Why would it do this? I have no idea. The recipe calls for a baking time of 40-45mins, after 45 mins mine was no where near done in the center so I baked it for closer to an hour. I was happy to see that Aimee from UtHC also complained about the forty bajillion bowls, spoons, measuring cups and spatulas this recipe used. I hate that. They also aren't what I would call a traditional "brownie", they are thicker and more dense, more like cake. But, they are good and would certainly fit the bill for a Halloween or Thanksgiving treat, or a Monday when you have hazelnuts to use.

Martha Stewart's Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or other nuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.
  4. Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don't set.
  5. With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with nuts.
  6. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.
Least you think I sold Hollis to the gypsies, here he is enjoying a Pumpkin Swirl Brownie. He declared that he "loves it", to be fair though, he loves a lot of things right now.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mix it up Monday isn't quite ready, but I wanted to share a couple of things since I have such a slacker recently.
I didn't pick Hollis up from school today until 1:00pm. Don't worry, I didn't forget about him, again. Today was his first day of lunch bunch. Basically he eats lunch at school and plays for an extra hour. Whee an extra hour! What will I do with myself. Let me give you some reasons why this didn't pan out has planned
First of all, an hour is not that long and his school is 20 minutes from my house. If you figure an hour at the gym, an hour for grocery shopping and driving back and forth, I basically had time to throw the milk in the fridge before I had to head back out. Yeah free time.
Secondly, I have to send lunch with him. This is a problem because there is not much I hate more than packing lunch. I don't know why...but it is quite anxiety provoking for me. I talked about packing lunch all day Sunday just so I won't forget. Guess what? I forgot. In my defense, I told everyone in my house to remind and no one did. I remembered on the way to bed. I also have issues about what to pack for lunch. Maybe I just have issues. Anyway, no peanuts. Hollis eats peanut butter and jelly EVERYDAY. I offer him other things, but he always says, "peanut butter and jelly, of course". I don't know where he gets it from.
Maybe next week will be better.

Lastly, and completely unrelated, scroll down to the bottom of the page. See that new banner down there? That link will take you to Hopeline.com. Through the Kristen Brooks Hope Center, the Hopeline operates as a national crisis hotline number for people who are depressed or suicidal. The hotline connects callers 24 hours a day with a certified crisis center in their area within 20-30 seconds of the call being received. They also host conferences, community programs and education and a college music tour in order to increase awareness and decrease the stigma of mental illness. It is a worthy cause that I hope you will consider when making your charitable gifts this year.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Mix it up Monday

Last week I resolved to post some healthier dessert options this year and here is the first. A lighter dessert would not have been my first pick this week, but a promise is a promise and it turned out pretty good. This is an old Weight Watchers recipe, my printout is date Aug 2003, but is a good "lighter" version of blondies. I made a few changes by using the 50/50 whole wheat and white flour and flaxseed. Instead of 2 cups of flour, I used 1 3/4 cups and 1/4 cup of flaxseed. It has more of a whole grain texture than a regular blondie would. John tried one tonight and said it was definitely whole wheat. You could either use all purpose flour, or the blend without the flaxseed for a less grainy texture, but truly, they are not bad this way. One of the keys to keeping these low calorie is to cut them according to the directions, two-inch squares. I don't know about you, but I usually cut my brownies into larger than 2 inch squares...hmm, maybe that is part of the problem. You should get 24 two-inch servings. Each serving has 135 calories, 3.7 g fat and .6 g of fiber when made as directed. Adding the whole wheat blend and flaxseed will greatly increase your fiber. They would also be good with nuts added. But, while heart healthy, a 1/4 cup of walnuts has 164 calories and 16 g of fat, so that would probably take you out of the "light" category. Made they way they are written, these are any easy treat to make that you won't regret in the morning.


Weight Watchers Chocolate-chip Blondies
2 cups all-purpose flour (or a combination of whole wheat/white)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 cups unpacked brown sugar
6 Tbsp. light butter, softened
2 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup water
6 oz (3/4 cup) mini chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt
-In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy
-Add egg whites and vanilla
-Gradually beat in flour mixture alternating with water
-Stir in chips
-Spread into a foil lined 9x13 pan
-Bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes
-Cool on a wire rack
-Remove foil and cut into 24 two-inch squares

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008: A Year in Pictures

One day I will once again dazzle you with my witty content, maybe. For now, more pictures.


January - It snowed! You'll just have to trust me that that is snow, some people would call them flurries - we stocked the pantry.

February: Puddle jumping

March: Meeting the Mouse

April: The Easter Bunny brought his first bike!

May: The Braves game


June: We take a bite out of the Big Apple. On the ferry to the Statue of Liberty


July: Fourth of July parade


August: Hollis turns three - and starts school and goes to the beach (it was a busy month).


September: Trying on the firefighter pants

October: Halloween and his own firefighter outfit.

November: One little Indian Boy

December: Merry Christmas!

Four Christmases Salmon & Milk Style

You may be familiar with the movie. Here's how it played out for us:
Christmas #1: Hanging upside down and (nerf) firearms.

Christmas #2: Stories, snacks and Army shirts

Christmas #3: Ice cream and Krispy Kreme donuts, Mimi and G-dad and Santa brings trucks - what else?
Christmas #4: One more present for everyone, another truck (!) and wrestling with the big boys.

I hope yours was equally exciting!