Monday, February 28
Haddock Smokeys from Country Cooking of Ireland
2 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped (may use canned diced tomatoes)
1 lb smoked haddock, skinned, boned and diced
1 cup grated Irish cheddar
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
bread & butter for serving
Preheat oven to 350*. Distribute half of the tomatoes evenly between four 6 or 8 oz ramekins/individual baking dishes. Scatter the haddock over the tomatoes, dividing it equally between the ramekins, then sprinkle half the cheese over the haddock, again dividing equally. Cover the cheese with the remaining tomatoes, and season generously with pepper. Pour the cream over the ingredients, and scatter remaining cheese over the top of each. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 min or until the tops are golden brown. Serve with good bread and butter.
Next up, a fantastic cake recipe from Modern Alternative Mama - a white bean vanilla cake! If you don't tell people this has beans in it, they will never guess! But this is about as fabulously healthy as dessert gets and one of the fastest, simplest recipes I know. (Added bonus, it's gluten free!)
White Bean Vanilla Cake
3 c. white beans, cooked and plain
9 tbsp. coconut oil
1 c. + 2 tbsp. raw honey
2 tbsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on medium, then high until smooth. Pour into two well-greased 9" pans and bake at 350 for 35 - 40 min. Once cooled, remove from the pans carefully and serve plain, with fresh jam (fruit blended with honey), fresh fruit, or however you like!I spooned some strawberry balsamic preserves and whipped cream on top and it was delectable!
Sunday, February 27
But now that my Prince has returned, I'm quickly falling back into more constructive habits... and that means new recipes!
From Pioneer Woman Cooks - The Marlboro Man Sandwich! Seriously, follow the link and try this - it's fantastic!From The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook - Brown Sugar Coffee Cake. (I used about a quarter of the recommended sugar in the cake itself, doubled the streusel but used half the recommended sugar and had excellent results.) You don't have to use a skillet for this - you can use any appropriately sized baking dish, just keep an eye out because the cooking time may differ.
Note: These are not my pictures, and I have not copied the recipes over here in hopes that you'll visit the talented people who made these delicious items and scrumptious pictures available for me to borrow. Both recipes and full instructions are available at the sited links. Thank you.
But there's no rest for the weary, and home less than 48 hours he was already hard at work on one of our long looked-forward-to projects: painting the bathroom!
This is the first apartment we've ever had where we're allowed to paint. It's also the first one with jarringly disjointed bathroom colors/fixtures. The tiled floor in a combination of strange and inexplicably colors that somewhat-but-not-really resemble blue, green or teal. It immediately jumps out and screams "Hello! I'll be your floor today", rather like the hideous monstrosity of a carpet they used to have at the Radisson when I worked there in high school. The fixtures and counter were variations on an almond/cream kind of color, the medicine cabinet, coving tile and trim were all white, and the battered walls a neutral color somewhere between primer and real white. Very strange.
We decided to go with a Victorian blue and chocolate brown color scheme for accessories, because it instantly toned down the floor and added some much needed depth to the space. After much sorting and testing of paint samples, we decided to go with a color called Vanilla Wafer, which is a lovely butter-cream shade.
As you can see, this is Arthas's first experience with painting a room and he was rather dubious about the whole endeavor.
Here's a shot during the first coat - the inside square is the old color. The new one is so much warmer and more welcoming! We also chose a very thick paint, which helped conceal the less than wonderful drywall patches and smoothed out the walls' appearance. (I say "we" euphemistically - Eric gets total credit for that!)
Here's the finished product! I'm thrilled with how well the new color ties together the counter, shower curtain and other fixtures! You can't tell in these pictures, but we didn't paint the ceiling, so the molding along the top and the ceiling itself stand out slightly, making them look higher and simultaneously giving the room a warmer, brighter feel. We're very happy with how it turned out, and looking forward to similar successes in our other rooms in the weeks to come.
Wednesday, February 23
I believe it is a testament to human ingenuity that we can write and read novels that speak hard truth more effectively and soberly than a non-fiction manual ever could.
I wept more than once over these pages, forced to viscerally confront realities that all my survival- minded preparedness reading has made evident, but previously allowed me to keep at arm's length.
An EMP - ElectroMagnetic Pulse weapon - could, in a split second and without warning, throw the entire United States back into medieval times, without hope for true rescue, restoration or recovery. Over 80% of our population would die in less than a year and we would be faced with horrors few of us can actually comprehend. The threat of such an attack already exists. We should already have been preparing for it for years.
Make time to read this book; keep some tissues nearby. It will change how you look at the world. Permanently.
Tuesday, February 22
As you've probably already heard on the news, a 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch, NZ yesterday killing an estimated 65 people and wreaking havoc on the downtown area. The floor of the airport bounced like walking on a trampoline.
I know that because my husband was there. Waiting for the plane that was supposed to take him on the first leg of his journey home.
It's rather ironic, really. I tend to think of Antarctica as the more dangerous part of his trips given the bitter cold and isolation from help, but NZ gets 14,000 earthquakes a year - and this is the second time in a row there's been a significant quake while he's been in Christchurch.
Eric called last night and sent an email this morning, assuring me that he and the rest of his crew are safe and just biding time until the airport can be reopened and their C-5 cleared to leave. They're prepared for such contingencies, and making the best of it.
I'm very thankful this morning. For their safety, for the strength and positive attitude with which Eric and his coworkers consistently approach the interruptions and unexpected events often involved in their work, for a global communication network that allows him to contact me and let me know he's all right.
Waking up to the realization of how richly one is blessed and how different the world could have looked this morning but for the grace of God really puts life in perspective!
Monday, February 21
Sweet & Salty Cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups crumbled potato chips
1 cup small pretzel twists
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
Preheat oven to 375*. Combine flour through salt. Beat butter through vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips through pretzels.
Drop by rounded tablespoon-fulls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes.
Saturday, February 19
Wednesday, February 16
It's very refreshing and encouraging to see a couple under such scrutiny and close observation choose to publicly and gracefully love, honor and respect each other. Kate's conscious choice to seek out, respect and abide by her husband-to-be's wishes allow Prince William to lead as a husband is designed to. He is responding the way a real Man does, by actively protecting the woman he loves and looking out for her best interests in everything.
As the article's author so poignently notes "Being female and trying to wear the pants in a royal relationship doesn’t work – but taking a controlled step backwards does..."
That principle applies to every successful marriage - not just the royal ones. I sincerely hope that the intentional example this young couple is setting will have a wide-spread and positive impact on their generation and those that grow up watching them. What a precious legacy a beautiful and loving marriage would be for them to leave their children and their nation in this era where such examples are so rare!
I cannot imagine the physical and emotional devastation this woman and her family are dealing with right now. Certainly my prayers go out for healing and restoration in this difficult time.
At the same time, however, I am at a loss to comprehend how she could have been on such an assignment to begin with. Egypt is a Muslim country. Muslims, by explicit definition in their holy literature, consider all non-Muslims to be inferior and inherently subservient, deserving of abuse and humiliation. They also, by definition, consider all women inferior to all men. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying - something else their holy books give them explicit permission to do with immunity.
This information is not a secret! How is it that we can know these things and still decide that it's reasonable to send an American, non-Muslim woman into an unstable situation where she is a high-profile prime target? At what point will we, as a society, decide it's better to keep our people safe by acknowledging the unpleasant reality of life and law under Muslim rule than it is to play cheerfully ignorant and stay PC?
Let us hope we reach that point before full scale Muslim rule invades America, or there may no longer be soldiers around to rescue us from the consequences of our choices.
This has nothing to do with a lack of good intentions or intelligence - most disaster planners have both in abundance. Instead, I believe, it is directly related to the failure to read science fiction.
Let's face it - science fiction writers can be a brutally cold, heartless bunch and they adhere religiously to Murphy's Law. When they write a crisis, it's a flat out catastrophe on every side! The radios don't work, the attack comes during a crippling alien flu pandemic and the military commander leading the rescue charge is your girlfriend's ex who hates your guts. Nothing is ever simple, and survivors are usually left to fend for themselves and work out their own solutions against insurmountable odds.
These authors also have a soul-deep grasp on the Wizard's Second Rule, eloquently laid out in Terry Goodkind's epic fantasy novel Stone of Tears: "The greatest harm can result from the best intentions."
Go to your local bookstore and run your finger along the spines of the some of world's best known science fiction novels. How many of these stories begin with someone's idealistic goal for improving life or pursuing noble exploration into new frontiers?
Apparently, no one in the Mexican or EU governments read science fiction. So I forced to conclude as I read that Mexico plans to follow the EU's lead in establishing a "biometric national identity database" in which they are mandating the enrollment of everyone under the age of 18. The good intentions involved are supposedly the prevention of identity theft and promotion of ease and efficiency in travel.
If you haven't already recognized the nasty potential for serious disaster inherent in this plan, you aren't reading enough science fiction either.
Sunday, February 13
Each of the ten chapters introduces a Biblical woman and the positive life-change principle that her story illustrates. Each chapter ends with a page of personal reflection questions, a journaling prompt and suggested group discussion questions.
I was a little wary when I began the book, but the author's honest approach and streamlined style quickly won me over.
The ideas presented are neither commercialized nor trite; they address real issues affecting most women. Being intentional, cultivating a sound perspective, living above the drama and making good choices are a few of the habits on the author's list, and she makes sound cases for how and why we need to adopt them.
The chapter-end questions were impressive, precluding shallow or lazy answers. The inclusion of personal reflection questions, journaling prompts and group discussion questions makes this a versatile work, applicable to multiple settings and diverse learning styles.
Biblical references were clear and consistent, but you never felt beaten over the head with them. Examples were deftly laid out, both Biblical and modern day, to be graspable and inspiring to her readers. This one's a keeper for sure.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com
Friday, February 11
Fortunately for me, the library system here has a giant selection of cookbooks and is constantly getting new ones. This week two of the several I've requested came in and I was very pleased with both (that's a rare occurrence, picky as I am).
I was inspired to pick up 366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans and Grains by Survival Mom's February challenge of expanding one's ability to cook with rice and beans. They're unfailingly listed as staple SHTF foods, and we all dutifully stock them, but how many ways do we really know to cook them in delicious and enjoyable ways? The answer is always "not enough" of course! I found a surprising number of great recipes in here, though, with no strange or expensive ingredients or special techniques necessary. Also fantastic is the glossary and basic cooking information on all beans and grains, so if you're new to cooking with beans or rice this is the place to start!
Speaking of beans recipes, I tried a to-die-for (and ridiculously easy) recipe for Tostados (southwest style egg rolls) this week that you must try. I used this recipe as a base but scaled back the amounts, used wonton wrappers instead of tortillas (didn't have any on hand) and skipped the dipping sauce. I also didn't fry them - just brush lightly with oil and bake them - they'll come out just as crispy and delicious!
My other find this week is the epitome of comfort food - The Country Cooking of Ireland. This book is not only gorgeous, but full of mouth watering recipes I can't wait to try. I think I might even be able to successfully cook fish with a couple of these recipes! Again, no special dishes or techniques necessary. With an eclectic combination of antique recipes, high end restaurant dishes and simple, hearty comfort food this has tons of potential. Except that I am currently out of potatoes, so I can't make half of them until I quit stalling and go grocery shopping. *sigh*
If you are looking to try something new in your cooking, or if you're just sick of the cold weather and looking for something rich and comforting (and not filled with the crap commercial foods contain) then snag these from your local library... or stick around because I'm sure I'll post some of the successful recipes I try on here.
As soon I go shopping.... note to self: get a root cellar so you can keep a year's worth of veggies on hand and not have to shop so often. Please and thank you. :0)
Wednesday, February 9
I'd heard of most of the scandals and appallingly bad policy decisions covered in this book when they hit the news over the last couple years. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize they were abominable even then. But Geller and Spencer connect all the dots and sort out the propaganda from the documented fact, laying out the webs and interconnected schemes to paint a startlingly clear picture of just how far reaching and devastating the effects of Obama's regime and its intentions are.
I'll stop now before I start really ranting, but this is a very worthwhile addition to your reading list.
I've just finished reading one of the best books on preparedness and emergency planning that I've ever encountered. Find it and put it on your reading list - it is a must have!
Written by a physician with active experience in disaster preparedness and response, it brings to the table a refreshingly genuine call to action that it unmarred by political aspirations or partisanship.
In a unique turn, Dr. Redlener does not focus on stashing a room full of rice and beans or getting off the grid. Instead, he focuses primarily on mega-disasters (think Hurricane Katrina or 9/11) and uses them as a framework to address both large and small-scale challenges and opportunities, from a crumbling national infrastructure to the psychology behind Americans' wide-spread failure to have basics like three days of food and a flashlight with working batteries on hand in their homes.
Although it does contain some solutions and suggestions, this is not a how-to book. Instead, it speaks to the need for Americans to understand how vulnerable and unequipped our nation really is and why.
Especially enlightening were his disaster scenarios, all real-to-life, demonstrating the far-reaching impacts of a mega-disaster and the limitations of our current response capabilities. We assume that in an emergency help will come and someone who knows what they're doing will take over, despite the demonstration many times that real life often doesn't work that way. Each of Redlener's scenarios illuminates the many facets of emergency planning that daily go overlooked or unconsidered and brings to light ways we can act as individuals and communities to improve our standing before we find ourselves in such an untenable position.
This is a reader-friendly but high-impact read. Please check it out!
Thursday, February 3
First up, Kettle Corn. I read this recipe twice before deciding it couldn't possibly work. Then I did it anyway because I had to know. It was so good! Important note: I used brown sugar and did not measure it, but it was definitely less than called for and still delectable. I also dropped the pot in the sink and filled it with soapy water immediately, which made clean up a snap.
Next, Italian Lentil and Barley Soup. I picked this recipe because it was a crock pot version and because it was pretty representative of several variations I've seen, all of which are pretty close with simple substitutions like rice instead of barley, etc. The cider vinegar was really key to giving this mix some flavor, but it still only ranked as okay. I'm keeping the recipe because it's a good baseline for proportions, but in the future I'll make a point of using something additional to impart the flavor impact the original is lacking - sausage, bacon or a very strong homemade stock would all do the trick.
This timing of this recipe experiment tied in nicely with the Skill of the Month over at the Survival Mom - February's skill is cooking with rice and beans! Hop over there if you get a chance and check out all the good stuff people are sharing.
For a fun snack with a bite, try these Chicken Garlic Bites. So good and ridiculously easy.
For a quick and easy meal with a ton of personality, try Thai Honey Peanut Chicken
over rice. It's great even if you don't let it marinate as long as it says to, and you can throw it over rice, quinoa or - if you plan ahead - it would be great with homemade naan bread.
Finally, since I have yet to master cooking fish in the traditional fashion (and really see no point in learning since my husband always does a to-die-for job of it) I branched out and tried Haddock & Broccoli Stew. Please note that you can sub out the stock if you don't have fish stock and it will still turn out deliciously! Pair this with a loaf of your favorite bread (or garlic bread) and you are good to go.
Wow, that was actually more new recipes than I realized ... that should jump start me out of my lazy routine! :0)