Archive for December, 2011

Bubba U

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Every night, Oliver and I read books before he goes to sleep.  One of his favorite books is an alphabet book with pictures. He is so happy to be learning his alphabet and his smile is contagious.  No matter what is going on in the world, or in my life, he reminds me to slow down and appreciate the little things.  After a year like we just had, I am grateful for the reminder and am humbled to be a part of his little world.

I taped tonight’s reading to share with you the simple joy of a boy who is learning his ABCs.  If you ever feel stressed, just say, “Bubba U” and smile.

 

 

Super Simple Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

A few Thanksgivings ago, I thought I would be Miss Fancy Pants and make my own cranberry sauce to wow my guests.  Turns out, it was so easy and delicious that I will never go back to canned sauce again!

For simple Cranberry Sauce you need:

1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
1 Cup of sugar
3/4 Cup of water

Wash the cranberries in some cold water and discard any bad ones that you see.

I like dumping my cranberries onto a cookie sheet and running my hands over them.  The bad ones are much easier to spot this way.

Throw the cranberries, sugar, and water into a saucepan, stir to combine and bring to a boil.  After it boils, reduce heat so it simmers.

 

 

 

After a few minutes, the cranberries will start to pop releasing its pectin into the mix.  Pectin is a natural gelling agent and as the sauce cools it will thicken.  Stir your sauce every few minutes.

After 10 minutes, most of the cranberries have popped.

After 15 minutes, you can remove the sauce from the heat and transfer to serving bowl.  I like to cook an additional 5 minutes or so to really break down the berries and boil off some of the liquid.

The sauce will thicken as it cools.  You can serve it warm and it will be more sauce like or you can make it in advance and store it in the fridge to firm up. 

This is our sauce after 1 hour in the fridge.  Perfect!  Not too sweet and not too tart.

Variations abound for this recipe. You can substitute orange juice for the water, add orange zest, cloves, cinnamon sticks, more sugar, less liquid, etc…  I haven’t found a recipe that I didn’t like so far!  Evelyn loves the simple version and eats it with her cottage cheese as a snack.

Ours lasted a week in the fridge.  Is it less expensive to make your own?  Well, a bag can cost anywhere from $1.50 (2 for $3) to $1.99.  There’s a few cents for sugar and you can make about 16 ounces.  A 16 ounce can costs around $1.50 during the holidays.  I’d say it’s about even cost wise, but flavor and presentation wise you cannot beat fresh cranberry sauce.

Organic Turkey and Trimmings Worth the Price?

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Thanksgiving snuck up on me this year.  We had just moved the week before and the sewer backed up in our house 3 days before Thanksgiving.  I told the hubby that there was no way no how that we were cooking turkey this year.  After several “but, but…” and “no turkey?” I felt like the Grinch who stole the roast beast and caved in.  Where or where was I going to find a thawed turkey with 30 hours to go until Thanksgiving?

Why Whole Foods grocery store of course!  According to their website, Whole Foods Market is “the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods.”  I bought a nice 11 pound organic/free range turkey, organic yukon gold potatoes, organic cranberries, organic green beans, and organic stuffing for our feast.  The price of waiting till the last minute to shop?  Pretty hefty. Close to a hundred dollars.  Other than the purported health, environmental, and humane benefits, was it worth it?  Or simply put, Did it taste good???

Well, everyone loved the mashed potatoes.  I don’t know if it was my cooking method or because they were organic.  (BTW, did you know that potatoes were on the Dirty Dozen list of things food you should buy organic due to pesticide contamination?  Anytime I see little icons of babies wearing diapers under the heading “Developmental and Reproductive Toxins” I get a little worried!)

Poor Evelyn was very sick over Thanksgiving and couldn’t try any other dish.

Oliver dug the green beans, but we couldn’t tell a big taste difference from their non-organic buddies.  The homemade cranberry sauce ROCKED, but then again, it always does… (I’m posting the super easy recipe tomorrow so you can make it for your next holiday feast.)

As for the roast beast, er Turkey,  I have to give it a thumb’s down.  Being free-range, the turkey got plenty of exercise and the meat was very, very lean and muscular.  The turkey was 11.5 pounds, but was just a little bigger than a basketball.  It was very dense and the dark meat was very, very dark.  I know that Butterballs and other cheapo turkeys are injected with all sorts of flavors and liquids, so maybe the answer is to brine the free-rangers before roasting.  For $2.99/lb I’m happy that we had a happy/healthy bird, but I need to work on the recipe.

So the verdict for Thanksgiving 2011?  Other than the turkey, we couldn’t tell the difference in the taste of any other food we ate.  The turkey, with a simple herb and salt rub didn’t taste all that good.

Debating the health benefits is another post all together!  As for being frugal?  Organic food is usually always more expensive than their non-organic counterpart.  One can argue that paying more now on organic food will save you in cancer bills down the line, but that’s a story for another day.

 

Busy 3 Weeks

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

We have almost been in Atlanta for 3 weeks.  A quick update – Evelyn has pretty much been sick the entire time.  Oliver goes bonkers when he is stuck in the house.  We’ve unpacked about 50% of the boxes and the house is still a wreck.  That’s pretty much it!  Well, not exactly…

I do make an effort to get the kids out at least 4 or 5 times a week, even if it’s just to the grocery store.  My new favorite after hours exercise joint for Oliver is Ikea!  I’ve been there a half dozen times already and at 8pm it’s a great big place for Oliver to explore (run around like crazy/jump on the beds).  We’ve also become regulars at Monkey Joe’s and found our nearest mall for some early morning running around to be finished off with mandatory train ride.  I took the kids to one of our parks nearby and WOW, the playground is freakishly huge.  The climbing structure is at least 3 stories high – crazy.  We also checked out the kid’s museum downtown and a local play center by our house.  Throw in trips to the grocery store, a doctor and emergency dentist visit and we’ve got a full plate.

When I have time to myself, I head out and explore.  I found myself a Thai grocery store the first week here and have been back and forth to downtown Atlanta a half-dozen times.  I don’t need a GPS to get to Ikea anymore!  I’ve learned all the major roads/highways and found the major shopping centers.  Sometimes, I’ll just pull into a shopping center at 11pm to see what’s around and learn where I’m at.

This weekend we are decorating for Christmas.  After years of skimping on the lights, we are going all out this year!  Griswald will be proud.  Since we don’t plan on being here for next Christmas, we want to give the neighbors something to talk about.  “Remember those crazy renters a few years ago with those strobe light candy canes?”

My laptop has been on the fritz for the past week, but I’m back up and running now.  I’m going to backdate some posts with pics asap!

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