Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Midweek Ramblings

My good friend Kim wanted the recipe for the Slow-Cooker Carnitas I shared with her a few months ago. We ate the carnitas with fresh cilantro leaves and prepared salsa rolled inside flour tortillas. This recipe is simply a delicious and easy way to make carnitas. Since this recipe makes a lot, you can freeze batches of the cooked pork for future meals. My only suggestion is that you may want to adjust the salt in this recipe. I found it was a bit too salty for my taste. Then again, I don't remember if I used a smaller grain of salt which may have increased the saltiness.

Below is another simple dish that I served last night. Surprisingly, Ashley loved it. It was tostadas.

Easy Weeknight Tostadas
Mission brand tostadas shells (or similar)
1 lb. 93% fat-free ground meat
garlic powder
16 oz can vegetarian refried beans
4 oz light cheddar cheese, grated
1 small jar of prepared salsa
lettuce, shredded
1 small onion, diced

Brown the ground meat in a skillet until it's no longer pink. Season with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Remove from skillet and pile onto a large serving platter. Warm up the refried beans in the same skillet until warm. Remove from skillet and make a separate pile on the same platter. Place 4 tostadas shells in the warm skillet, cover with a lid, turn off the heat.

Arrange the cheddar cheese, lettuce, and onion into separate piles next to the meat and beans on a serving plate. Stack up the warmed tostadas shells next to the other ingredients on the serving plate. Allow diners to make their own tostadas by layering the refried beans, meat, salsa, lettuce, onion and cheese according to their desires.

Ashley and I recently joined Lighthouse Baptist Church. I am so pleased to see that Ashley is very excited about being involved in the children's ministries. She joined the children's choir and young girls dance ministry. We also attend weekly Bible study classes.

Last Sunday, Ashley performed with the choir at both the 8 am and 11 am services. She just joined on Saturday and had only one day to learn and practice three songs. The children sang How Excellent Is Your Name, How Great Is Our God, and one more song which I couldn't figure out the name. She did an excellent job!

Tonight is Bible study. Ashley had to learn the names of the first 10 books of the Bible. I had a workbook lesson to complete along with scripture to remember. I am loving our new focus on spiritual growth and learning.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Food Is On My Mind

**Note: This post was started on September 5 so the weather temperature is from last week.**

The weather has been sinfully beautiful this weekend. It reminds me so much of my home town which I miss often. When it's 70s - 80s degrees outside, I throw open all of the windows and bathe in the warm breezes. There's nothing like have clean, fresh air circulating within your home. It's always made me happy and I came to find out that it's good feng shui.

I had a hankering for some food, something simple, something easy, something homemade. I started out by concocting a drink.

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie
4 large strawberries, cut into 1/4" slices
1 small, very ripe banana, cut into 1/4"slices
1/2 lemon
8 oz. Almond Breeze Vanilla Beverage
dash cinnamon (optional)
dash freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Place strawberry and banana slices into a quart freezer baggie. Squeeze lemon juice over the fruit in the bag. Push out the extra air from the baggie and seal. Place in the freezer. (Tear or cut up the lemon half and grind it in your garbage disposer or place it in your dish water as a natural boost to your regular cleaners.)

Remove the fruit from the freezer when the pieces have frozen solid. Break apart the fruit, if they have froze together. Place frozen fruit into a blender, add Almond Breeze beverage, and blend until smooth. Add more Almond Breeze, if needed to make a desirable consistency. Add spices and serve.

You can add supplements such as soy powder, wheat germ, or ground flax seeds to boost the nutritional value of the smoothie.

Don't forget to rinse out the baggie and re-use it for your next fruit smoothie.

Then I decided to work on two frozen desserts. One was a peach sorbet. The other was made of coconut milk. I've had a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt machine forever. When I first got it, I made a couple of batches of ice cream which were absolutely delicious yet expensive to make. The expensive convinced me not to use this machine for years but I couldn't let it go. Now was the time to put it back to work.

I didn't have enough fresh peaches or nectarines to make the sorbet. So, I found a large can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup and decided to use that. I put the entire can in the freezer while I started on the second recipe.

I had a can of coconut milk sitting in the back of my refrigerator. I got it out, opened it, and discovered that the milk was frozen solid. While the peaches were freezing, the coconut milk needed to thaw.

Now, I went on to the next experiment. I bought some yellow squash, zucchini, and eggplant from the farmer's market last Friday. I decided to concoct a squash and brown rice casserole.

Summer Squash and Brown Rice Casserole
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 small yellow squash, slice into 1/4" rounds
3-4 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4" rounds
2-3 Fairytale eggplant (or other small, mild variety), sliced into 1/4" rounds
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
4 T. flour
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 c. milk (or milk substitute)
8 oz sharp cheddar or cheese of your choice, shredded
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
4 c. cooked brown rice

Grease a large casserole dish with olive oil. Set aside.

Saute the squash, zucchini, and eggplant in the extra virgin olive, in batches, in a heavy pot. Remove the vegetables and set aside.

Prepare a Bechemal (white) sauce by heating the 4 T. olive oil in the pot. Stir in the flour, using a whisk, and continue stirring until smooth. Let the oil-flour mixture cook, but not brown, for about 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, warm the milk in the microwave for 2 minutes or until hot but not boiling. Slowly pour the hot milk into the oil-flour mixture, stirring constantly with the whisk to avoid lumps. Continue to stir until all of the milk is incorporated. Once the sauce starts to thicken add the cheese and stir until melted. Let the sauce cook until thicken, about 2 - 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together the vegetables, rice, and cheese sauce until combined. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish. Bake in the oven at 375 until heated through and bubbly.

This casserole can be a main course served with a tossed salad and bread. Or, it can be a side dish.

Now to the peach sorbet.

Easy Peach Sorbet
28 oz can sliced peaches in heavy syrup
1/4 c. - 1/2 c. light corn syrup

Freeze peaches in syrup until ice crystals start to form. Pour into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, adding corn syrup until desired sweetness is reached. Process peach mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.

Christina thought the sorbet wasn't sweet enough. I liked it because it wasn't too sweet. I think next time I'll try to use fresh peaches and add some cinnamon to the mix to make it more like a peach cobbler in taste.

Finally, the frozen coconut milk dessert. I admit that this didn't come out the way I wanted. That's what happens sometimes when you experiment in the kitchen. I searched the Internet for recipes but I didn't find any that met my needs. I won't torture you with my recipe. I'll keep trying variations until I discover something that works.

That's it for now. I hope you try one of the recipes and let me know what you think. Until next time. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why is Sunday considered the beginning of the week?

Aw, it's Sunday. The weekend winds down and the mental prep begins for the work week on Monday. How did Sunday become the first day of the week? Was it established in the beginning of time when God created everything as described in book of Genesis in the Holy Bible? I wonder how many people follow the biblical rules of resting on Sunday and keeping it holy by not working? Does not working include not doing any chores like cleaning, cooking, and running errands? If we do our chores on Sunday would that be considered a sin? What would be our atonement for this sin? I don't know any of these answers. I'll leave that to those more learned or inspired to discuss these issues and hand down their opinions to the rest of us. Okay, enough of that babble.

When my soon-to-be former husband and I agreed to a divorce settlement, I decided to ratchet up my return to the dating scene. My decision was based part out of curiosity and part out of my desire for companionship. It's been over two decades since I've been in the dating scene which primarily involved noisy and crowded party venues with hormone- or alcohol-filled young adults looking for fun for that night and rarely for much longer. So, where do I start? I don't want to delve into the dives of the club scene. After all, I'm a middle-aged, professional mother of three who is too busy to troll parties looking for a rough gem amidst a hedonistic milieu. Besides, how can you have an intelligent and audible conversation with music thundering in your ears?

I decide to subscribe to an online dating site. In order to increase my opportunities, I sign up for three sites: Tagged;; and Plenty of Fish. One of my first lessons from my reintroduction to dating is that it is a lot of work. It's like looking for a job. You present your best face (head shots), a glowing resume' (your online profile), and go through multiple interviews (online chats and messaging) in hopes of finding someone you'd like to meet in person. It's exhausting, entertaining, and frustrating. Through it all it's an interesting learning experience.

I'll share some of my stories in future posts because now it's time to get ready for church. Until then, take care and have a great week.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm Back!

Yes, I'm back on the scene. My divorce is nearly final. We had our scheduling hearing on August 5 during which we came to an agreement on the terms of our divorce and child custody arrangements. I was almost right in my last post that I was at the 1/2 point in this process. It's been quite a ride filled with betrayal, accusations, greed, confusion, hurt, and pain. Real life is much more interesting than staged reality TV or soap operas. I've been entertaining my friends and family with the latest drama in my saga.

I haven't had the creative mojo in months. Separation, upheaval, drama, struggling to pay expenses, acute depression, weight gain, weight loss, and being overwhelmed has an affect on my mojo. Now that the bulk of this mess is over, I am hoping to establish a new normal and get that mojo back. It's sorely missed.

I'm looking at my massive stash of creative supplies and it doesn't make me happy. I am feeling the need to purge and purge big. Looking at all of these unused materials reminds me of the vast resources committed to acquiring these items which have been sitting idle for months and in some cases years. This situation doesn't bring any happiness to someone I could have given a handcraft piece of my love to or to me. This is unacceptable. This must be addressed soon, at least sometime after I brood over how overwhelming the task will be.

I've returned to the land of the dating after being absent (for the most part) for over two decades. It's a curious thing to be middle-aged and dating. My expectations have changed over the years but I find that not everyone else's have. For example, I expect that at my age I should be able to meet grown up men who are financially-responsible, emotionally-mature, self-respecting individuals. Boy, was I surprised! Tell me it ain't so that at 40-something these men are using the lines of 20-somethings, they want to by-pass "getting to know you" in favor of a quick ride in bed, and they're overly interested in superficial aspects of the opposite gender. What can I say other than, "Idiots!" I'll share more stories in future posts.

That's it for my reintroduction into the blogosphere. I hope you come back to visit again.