My mom adventures in Fort Collins


Kitchen success: Oriental Pork Soup
February 29, 2012, 7:12 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , , , ,

I’m a fan of the slow cooker. I don’t know a whole lot of people who aren’t fond of meals that practically cook for you, do you?

But, in general, I’m not one to repeat a recipe that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the first time around. Boy, am I glad that I made an exception in this case.

Boy, Betty, am I glad that I rediscovered you. What other recipes do you have in there that I need to try?

The other night I tried a recipe out of my ol’ Betty Crocker’s Slow Cooker Cookbook. When I first got it a while back, I tried a few recipes and this was one of them. I definitely remember not having been “blown away.” Well, this time, I followed the recipe almost exactly (this is rare for me). Much, much better.

Here it is, as it appeared in the book:

Oriental Pork Soup

6 servings

1 lb. Chow mein meat (There is a note that basically says use “Ground Pork” if you can’t find this)

2 medium carrots, sliced into julienned strips

4 medium green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

¼ cup soy sauce

½ teaspoon finely chopped gingerroot

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 can (49 ½ oz.) ready-to-serve chicken broth

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup bean sprouts

  1. Cook meat in skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, sirring occasionally, until brown; drain.
  2. Mix meat and remaining ingredients except mushrooms and bean sprouts in slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on low setting 7 to 9 hours, or high for 3 to 4 hours.
  4. Stir in mushrooms and bean sprouts.
  5. Cover and cook on low heat setting about 1 hour, or until mushrooms are tender.

1 serving: Calories 220, Fat 13g (Saturated 4g); Cholesterol 50 mg; Sodium 1720 mg; Carbohydrate 6g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 21g

Mmm, just looking at this soup in the crock pot kinda makes me salivate.

A couple of notes:

Apparently Betty Crocker shops where there is something called “chow mein meat,” but I don’t. So follow the book’s note and substitute just regular old ground pork. Don’t use ground turkey, which is what I did the first time I made this soup. Ground pork gives it so much more flavor.

I used nearly 1 Tablespoon of fresh ginger, and 2 cloves of garlic.  Personally, I loved it. Don’t use ground ginger, another mistake I made the first time around. Fresh ginger all the way. Oh, and I used fresh bean sprouts, not the kind in the can.

I used the low-sodium chicken broth. I used three 14.5 ounce cans, and then added a bit of water to make up the difference. To me, the sodium on this dish is high. Even with my substitution of the low-sodium chicken broth it tasted plenty salty (tasty salty, not overly salty, but still). If you wanted to cut it further, you could use even less broth and swap it for water to make up the difference. Or use light/low-sodium soy sauce. Or just cut back on the soy sauce.

Also, if you want to go gluten-free on this dish, I think all you’d have to do is use Tamari or gluten-free soy sauce (which happens to be what I personally prefer, it’s the yummy-est). The note in the book says to serve each bowl with a scoop of rice, and that’s what we did. It was deee-lish, somewhat wonton soup-ish without the wontons. Even my kids ate it. (Well, one of them moreso than the other, but that’s actually a pretty decent success in my house.)

Verdict: We’ve got a winner

Tell me, what else should I be making in my crock pot?

Oh, and P.S. Is it un-PC of me (or Betty, for that matter) to be calling this “Oriental” Pork Soup? I was always taught that objects can be referred to as “Oriental,” but it just feels kinda wrong. I’ll blame it on Betty. Old bitty.

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I’m out of touch

True confessions from a person who is sadly apathetic to this fact.

  1. I own nothing made by Apple. To be completely honest, I did own an ipod shuffle circa 2004, and Cory used it for a while until it finally broke.

    For all I know, this version doesn't even exist anymore and it's sitting in the Smithsonian. (from support.apple.com)

  2. I don’t have a smart phone.I have the same flip-phone that I purchased in December 2008.

    Okay, my phone isn't quite this old, but still. (from zackmorrisphone.wordpress.com)

  3. I don’t have cable TV.If it weren’t for tabloid magazines at the gym, I would have no idea who any reality TV stars are.

    I should say, I do know who some reality stars are. Seriously, who is this broad? (from bravo.com)

  4. I like to use the English language a certain way. I do not use emoticons, and I refuse to use “lol.” If and when I text, I don’t abbreviate and I never use numbers for words. “You’re” is not the same as UR, no matter how many times I read it that I way. I would rather punch the number 1 fifteen times to find the apostrophe than to go down using UR. Not on my watch.

    This is what you might as well be saying to me. I can't read this stuff. (from dank.org)

  5. I do not use a GPS.I actually really love maps, and I love finding my sense of direction. I remember trying to give someone directions to my house, and after the third time of her asking, “Can I just have your address?” I finally realized that no one wants my stinkin’ directions. They’d rather have a screen tell them where to go. I think my feelings got hurt a little.

    I mean, Dora gets along just fine without GPS. (from trak.tv)

As further commentary on my distance from mainstream America, I was somewhat shocked by this notion: Apparently, no one likes voicemail anymore. Here, read this about how pointless voicemails are. I will tell you that I have no feelings about voicemail (a sign that a person is truly out of touch is that his or her opinion is nonexistent, as in “I didn’t even know I should have an opinion about that!”). It’s neither here nor there. I leave them. I do realize that leaving a message longer than 10 seconds is a bit tedious to deal with. But I will not cave by texting you because you think it’s easier to read a message. I hate to be contrary, but I think it’s a pain to write my thoughts with a keyboard where I have to type the same number multiple times in order to find the correct letter (see number 4 above) as opposed to just speaking my thoughts. So, I will continue to leave a voicemail. Consider it a quaint little piece of old-timey technological antiquity when I leave you a message.

Please join me by telling me any ways in which you are out of touch, and, if applicable, why you are okay with it. Maybe you’re not okay with it. And that’s okay, too. Or, maybe you’re completely in touch. In which case, tell me what stuff has truly changed your life.



Revisionist history lessons in parenting
February 25, 2012, 5:52 pm
Filed under: Parenting | Tags: , , , , ,

You have probably heard people say, “You either get the life you want, or want the life you get.”

I wanted to be the kind of mom who loves to do every little thing with her children. When I was pregnant, I had visions of myself wearing my baby while I did everything. I would hang laundry while my children frolicked and sheets blew gently in the breeze. We would wander through the sunny fields of pick-your-own-strawberries laughing and singing. My children would tag along on errands, help prepare our foods, assist with chores, and play nicely with one another. Our days and nights would be filled with cooperation. Teachable moments would abound, and they would listen attentively while I stopped whatever-it-was-I-was-doing to explain things. Life would be lovely, organized chaos, and it would all go off without a hitch.

Well, here I am with a four year-old and a two year-old, and life is a far cry from this idyllic vision I once had. Or is it? Follow along.

Here is just a sampling of what we have done in the past week to entertain ourselves:

  • Scout removed half of a box of tissues from the box, and placed them in a laundry basket.

    Basket o' tissues now sits in our bathroom

  • Together, we made some pillow forms the other day, and the kids even helped me stuff them! This morning I had let them go on ahead of me downstairs while I quickly made the beds, only to have Cory call, “Hey, are they supposed to be drawing on those pillows with markers?” Said pillows are now in the laundry.

    The girls stuff the pillows with that fun (and messy) polyester fiberfill

  • We went to pre-school, the gym, the library, a trip to Target and Kohl’s, and a trip to the grocery store. Every single one of these errands required us to get in the car. Ruby did the “limp noodle” as I tried to force her into her carseat, and both kids whined about having to wear jackets. Our trip to Target was me mostly waiting on two children to catch up to me, though I managed to get a decent work-out in while chasing after Ruby at the library.

    Buckled in, with security blankets (for added security, I guess)

You know those delightful articles that extol the virtues of allowing your children the freedom to choose their activities, to use play to discover their world? Well, I am about to spin our last week into the type of lessons that can be learned.

First, the tissues. That’s easy. She was moving the kleenex from their tiny box and giving them the freedom to stretch and be wild in the comforts of the laundry basket. My child, the liberator. As an added bonus, we now have the most unconventional tissue box in all the land: a laundry basket. My child, the interior designer.

Next, the pillows. Endowed with a sense of accomplishment by collaborating on the creation of the pillows, neither child could bear to see the pillows linger in their boring white facades. They wanted to reveal the true essence of the pillows, and the vibrant blues and reds and oranges of the markers suited the blank canvas so well. Additionally, they did this activity together. They used their creativity to encourage one another. My children, the collaborative artists!

Last, our weekly to-do list. Simply riding through life will not do. Challenging authority, wandering off on independent adventures, rejecting the utilitarian notion of automobiles, bucking silly fashion trends that might say, “Wear a winter coat when it’s thirty five degrees!”, and living life in a way that colors-outside-the-lines–That is the life they seek. They refuse to simply run errands, and instead wish to impart their idea that every task can become an opportunity for learning and growth. My children, the independent thinkers!

See how that works? Who says revisionist history is a bad thing? I think I might open up my own charter school right now!



Kitchen success: Chocolate of the Gods Mousse
February 25, 2012, 12:55 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , ,

Cory got me a food processor for Christmas. We are the type of people who give gifts like this: “Oh, did you ever buy yourself that [insert product here]?” “No.” “Good, I was thinking about getting you that for Christmas.”

While not a super romantic gift, it is actually a very decadent gift. I had been eyeing this item for a while. It now sits in my collection—along with my high-efficiency washer and dryer, my Kitchen Aid mixer and an accordion folder of medical bills—of “Things that make me feel like a grown up.” I’m finally doing some fun stuff with it. I’ve made peanut butter, and I’ve made this delicious hummus-esque recipe. But, this dark-chocolate mousse might be the biggest adventure me and the Cuisinart have taken thus far.

Straight from a book I got from the library that I’m actually hoping to read in its entirety, here is the recipe from Renee Loux (from her book The Balanced Plate).

Here's the cute little martini glass and wine glass that I served the mousse in. My kids didn't eat that much of it. Like I said, it was rich. But, this recipe also makes a surprising amount.

Chocolate of the Gods Mousse with Raspberries and Mint
Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients:
2 cups Hass avocados (about 2)
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2-4 Tablespoons organic sugar (optional, for the sweeter tooth)
2 Tablespoons Omega Nutrition coconut butter (optional)
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 cup pure cocoa powder
1 pint raspberries

Directions:
In a food processor, blend the avocados, maple syrup, sugar (if desired), coconut butter (if desired), vanilla, balsamic, and soy sauce until smooth and creamy.
Add the cocoa powder and blend until smooth. Sifting the cocoa powder before adding it is a good idea to prevent lumps. A simple metal strainer works well.
Distribute half of the raspberries evenly among 4 to 8 dishes. Follow with a dollop of mousse, a sprinkle of mint, the remaining raspberries, and more mint.
Leftover mousse can be stored in a tightly sealed container for up to a week in the fridge or frozen for up to a month.

Nutrition: 170 calories, 7g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 3 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates,7 g dietary fiber, 25 mg sodium

A few thoughts:
I didn’t have raspberries and I didn’t bother with the mint. I had some strawberries on hand, so I made a simple strawberry sauce to top the mousse. I did use the coconut butter (though not the particular brand she mentions), but only because I happened to have it. I did use the sugar, but I was a bit confused about the amount of avocado that I had, so I only used 1/2 cup total of maple syrup. And, totally don’t bother sifting the cocoa powder unless you live for tedious kitchen work. It’s going in a FOOD PROCESSOR for crying out loud.

This is a rich mousse, much more semi-sweet or dark-chocolate type of flavor, not the sweeter milk chocolate version. I liked it. Definitely nice to have a bit of fruit to go with it, as it can be a bit much, and the tart berries cut that a bit. I personally wouldn’t depend on this “saving.” I think avocados can get yucky in the fridge. I tossed whatever was leftover.

Verdict: It’s a keeper

Tell me what else I need to make in my Cuisinart!



Patience
February 24, 2012, 6:23 am
Filed under: Family | Tags: , , , , ,

My wee little blog is a bit of a surprise to me. I started this all almost two years ago. I made a few posts over the course of the next eighteen months of the blog, but it was only last month that I really got up the gumption to do this again. Write again.

Then, I really liked it. And now I really, really like it. It’s become a good outlet for me. I think of little ideas all day long, and it’s all just for me. It’s been such a great joy for me to jot down the words that I want to write, that I would want to read. To document my domestic life, my family life, my not-really-related-to-anything thoughts.

And the weirdest thing happened.I realized that I’m not the only one who reads this.

I was really shocked when I found the first “like” or “comment.” My thought bubble would have gone something like, “Wow, how did this person even find my blog?” Then, today, I got a comment on a book review that I did. From the author of the book. And yesterday a sweet fellow blogger nominated me for a blogger award. Which is just so stinkin’ fun. It just makes me want to write and write and write.

It’s just that I have one little problem. My lenten resolution.

In order to honor my commitment and not cheat, I’ve only been checking email. Pinterest and wordpress only for an hour a day. It goes by surprisingly fast. Funny how I can think of 10 ways to shorten the length of my shower, or to speed up laundry, but I can’t seem to expedite the process of slowly cruising the internet.

It’s an odd thing: my ideas—whether ideas about what to write here, what to cook for dinner, what craft project to start next, you name it–seem to be increasing at the same time my time on the internet is decreasing.

Plus, there’s them.

 

See, we're such good helpers! And we've been keeping mom so busy this week because Daddy gave us a punishment of "no TV" for a week. So that really cuts down on her computer time.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m currently learning a lesson in patience. Why am I always learning a lesson in patience?

P.S. I am writing this all on a word processing document, and I will cut and paste it over to wordpress. I don’t think this is really cheating.

P.P.S. I speed up my shower by brushing my teeth while showering, and infrequently washing my hair. I speed up laundry when I drop the towels over the stairway instead of carrying things down the stairs. But only when the kids aren’t looking. Don’t want them getting any ideas.

P.P.S.S. Feel free to comment. I get to read it in my email, and since I’m “allowed” to check email, that’s kinda not cheating.



Love me some Fat Tuesday
February 21, 2012, 5:03 pm
Filed under: totally unrelated to kids | Tags: , , , ,

Oh, it’s the day before Ash Wednesday and all through the house, a mommy is planning to be pure and devout.

Just kidding.

A fairly innocent Mardi Gras banner, courtesy of jerryssandwiches.com

Actually, as I was sharing in a comment on a fabulous blog called Rich, Full Life, I do enjoy maintaining a certain amount of cultural catholic traditions (even if I haven’t been to mass in a year). The lenten season is one of those times where I really feel the catholic girl in me coming out.

Tomorrow, my lenten resolutions begin in earnest. I find that it’s easier for me to adopt a practice of fasting and asceticism for 40 days. As opposed to the New Year’s resolutions that I should keep for the rest of my life. My two biggies for the pre-Easter season?

  1. No Facebook
  2. No buying stuff

Allow me to elaborate. No Facebook is pretty self-explanatory. I do not allow myself to log in to FB. I do allow myself to log in to Pinterest, wordpress.com and check email, though. In the two previous years that I’ve done this, I haven’t had these other equally addicting sites. Soooo, I decided that I’m only allowed an hour of online pinterest and wordpress perusing. Since the whole purpose of this is to connect via more direct forms of communication, I am allowed and encouraged to use the phone and write–gasp!–snail mail letters.

As for “not buying stuff,” it goes something like this: Aside from groceries, medication, dog food and household essentials (i.e. if our coffee pot breaks, GOD FORBID!), I am not allowed to purchase anything. Not fast food, not clothes, not crafting supplies (this one might be the most difficult for me to abide by… oh, sweet mary, I’ve got a craft fetish). The idea here is that I can work with what I’ve got! And, as an added caveat to the grocery shopping, I’m not allowed to stockpile. I am allowed to shop for perishables but not for anything else unless I intend to use it in the next week or so. I am a horrible “oh-I’ll-throw-this-into-the-cart-’cause-it’s-on-sale-and-we’ll-use-it-at-some-point” type of shopper. The idea here is to live within my pantry’s means. To use it up. To be intentional about my purchases.

I think my two resolutions are big for me. To be more intentional about communicating with people. And to be more intentional and conscious of my consumption.

Now, how does this all relate back to the Big JC? Why, I’m so glad that you asked. Actually, I was once a very devout girl. I think someday in the future, once my kids are older and life is a bit more predictable, I’d like to again adopt some religious practices. But for now, this is kind of it. My spiritual and religious life has become something personal, and I don’t get a chance to share it often. This is one little way where I feel connected to the larger catholic community. I also adore the thought of leading a more simple life. Making mine less technologically enhanced and less consumer driven are only two small ways that I can make a more intentional effort at living simply. Plus it’s hard for me. The whole point is to do something that is hard, to put yourself in solidarity with others who suffer. Granted, I’m well aware that another person’s starvation is in no way even remotely on par with my self-induced facebook boycott, but there are many ways that I hope this will translate to me being more aware of practicing a better, more loving life. And, that, my dear friends, is totally what JC was all about!

But for today, you’ll find me on the computer. Gorging myself. And yesterday I bought myself an $80 pair of workout pants. Yes, you heard me right. Laissez le bon temps rouler!

What about you? Binging on anything exciting today? Preparing for any austerity tomorrow?



The time I picked up a hitchhiker (with my baby in the backseat)
February 20, 2012, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Parenting | Tags: , , , , ,

I had almost forgotten about this whole story. It stumbled out of my subconscious recently, and I’m not sure what triggered it. Maybe it was my previous post suggesting that the #1 worst-ever thing I’ve done to my children was burn them (or watch them burn themselves). Yeah, strike that. I think this one takes the cake.

Well, he really didn't look anything like this guy, but I thought it was a good photo. Courtesy of sodahead.com

So, yeah, there was this one time I gave a stranger a ride, whilst my precious baby lay sleeping in her bucket seat in the back of the car. To be clear, I didn’t drive him from St. Louis to Tallahassee, I gave him a ride that couldn’t have been more than a mile.
This happened in Denver when Scout was little, so maybe early 2008. The man first approached me in the parking lot of a grocery store. He told me that he lives in Fort Collins and had come to Denver with his girlfriend to meet her family. Apparently, it didn’t go well and now he needed a way to get back to Fort Collins. He found out that he could take a bus from a depot downtown, but he needed money for his ticket since, yep, everything he had was left behind in the girlfriend’s car.

I felt for the guy. I saw him coming up to another person in the parking lot before he approached me. And sure, he had pock-marks on his face that might be a telltale sign of a meth addiction, but at least he was polite. So, I gave the man a few bucks.
Then he asked me how to get downtown. Seriously, have you ever tried to give directions from a parking lot to the light-rail station? I didn’t know how to tell him how to get there, but I knew how to get there. In a synapse fire that should have never happened, I thought, “I can just give him a ride.”

Yes, I gave a possibly-homeless, probably-shady, definitely-unknown-to-me man a ride to the light-rail station from the grocery store. And I had Scout with me at the time.

The whole two minute ride to the light-rail was the longest of my life. What on God’s green Earth was I doing with a stranger in my car while my baby was in the car with me? I have no idea what happened to this man next, but I dropped him off and said a little prayer of gratitude that my horrible judgement did not result in an atrocious outcome for my little Scout. Seriously? Horrible, stupid thing to do. Mommy brain might be the culprit for a lot of stupid things that I’ve done, but I’m pretty sure this is the worst decision I’ve ever made.

I did confess all of this to my husband that night. He knows me, my impulsive nature, my bleeding-heart antics. Rather than chastise me, he said, “Yeah, you probably shouldn’t do stuff like that when Scout is with you.” I’m proud to say, I’ve done nothing of the sort since then.