Saturday, May 31, 2008

A day of firsts

Today Ripley accomplished 2 "firsts"
He came into our bedroom this morning fully clothed. Underwear, pants, shirt, sweatshirt, socks all on and his shoes in hand. The sweatshirt was on backwards, but hey - not bad!
The second "first" was riding his bike without training wheels. Yes. That's right. No training wheels at the age of 3 1/2. The amazing thing is, we never adjusted his training wheels up, we just took them off one day. After that he tried on three different occasions to ride his bike, on the third "session" he got it. Of course he hasn't quite mastered stopping -- but that's for another day. He can turn and bike in a big long circle around the driveway though. Wow.

My first harvest 2008!

Here is my first small harvest. Bloomsdale slow-bolt heirloom spinach. Spinach is perfectly happy in early spring -- so I was able to plant mine in April. Really, my plants aren't quite ready for harvest, but I wanted to make a certain soup that required spinach. I didn't have any on hand so I decided to go outside and take a few larger leaves of some of the larger plants and thinned a few plants that were too close to one another (I always struggle to thin a perfectly good plant). I ate some leaves right out of the garden after a quick rinse and they were delicious! Isn't it beautiful?! It's not too late to plant your own. Just sow right into your garden. And, because they like the cool weather you can plant in the mid-late summer for a fall harvest.

Now for the recipe ... The soup recipe if from a book titled Seriously Simple by Diane Rossen Worthington. If you don't have a copy you should race out right now and go and buy one. It is fabulous. The soup is Lima Bean, Zucchini and Spinach. It is a lot better than it sounds. It is yummy and healthy. Here it is:

2 T olive oil

3 leeks white and light green parts, cleaned and thinly sliced (I didn't have leeks so I used one large onion)

4 zucchini, thinly sliced (I didn't have any so I used the crown and part of the stem of the typical bunch of broccoli that you'd find at a grocery story)

2 C fresh or frozen Lima Beans

4 C vegetable broth or chicken broth (I used 2 C chicken broth and 2 C water b/c that's what I had)

1 six ounce bag of fresh spinach leaves

1 T fresh lemon juice (I used the zest too ... why not?)

S and P to taste

1/4 cup sour cream (I used half and half b/c that's what I had on hand)

1/4 C freshly grated parm cheese

In a large saucepan heat olive oil and saute leeks for 3 minutes. Add zucchini and saute for 7 minutes. Add the lima beans and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add spinach, cover and cook another 3 minutes. Puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender (if you don't have one - run out and get one right now, cheap and so much easier to use than other options). Add lemon juice, S & P. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and swirl a spoonful of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese into each serving. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I found this note sandwiched between Benjamin's bedroom window and the screen - facing the outdoors. Uproariously Hilarious. Have to save this one.
To: alians
Ma zaoola
please stay hear
bubse no mooging doo bob
but do not harm us we come
bon Jas so mom lus irm ing
in peice it is hard for us
zee body oooon demen zo zgoing
to be freinds do you understand
Ma zaoo, Ben
pleas stay, Ben
If this needs any explanation ... the top line is the alien language, underneath is the English translation.

Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches

These are so easy and so yummy. Makes enough for 8-10 BBQ Sandwiches. I serve them (if I can) on Whole Wheat Buns, with bread and butter pickles, Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce (I know, gee, not homemade! EEeek!) and I personally like a little mayo too (but not for Victor, Portugal being close to the mediteranian and all -- he's anti-mayo, pro-olive oil). Enough jabbering -- here's the recipe:
Slow cooked in the oven for 3 + hours (can go over, just make sure there is enough water so I doesn't dry out)
1 lb. Stewing Beef
1 lb. Stewing Pork (you can use all pork if you prefer)
1 chopped onion
1/4 C sugar
1/3 C vinegar
1 C water
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
Put in 9x13 pan and sprinkle with Garlic Salt and Celery Salt. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 3 hours. When done, smash with potato masher. You can drizzle with BBQ sauce, but I just use BBQ sauce on the individual sandwiches.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Staring Benjamin . . .

This story is out of a movie from Hollywood.
Benjamin has been struggling with baseball. It is almost like stage fright. He gets up at bat and hopes that the young pitchers will walk him to first. So he doesn't swing. The boys on his team are really good and very into the game. They are great kids. They come to every game -- everyone. They want to win. But they are also having fun. Their coach - a superintendent of schools of a nearby town - is fabulous. He has high expectations for them - and they know it. But he's encouraging, not demoralizing. And, he comes up with teachable moments about twenty times during any given game. The team is doing well and last week was tied for first in the minor league. Again, Benjamin went up to bat. The pitcher was a good pitcher and was throwing strikes. His coach told him so. So you can imagine Benjamin's team mates looking on while Benjamin didn't swing at pitch after pitch. Each time he was up at bat. Ugh. None of the kids were "down on him" at all, but they were disappointed to the point of tears when they lost the game. I actually had Benjamin apologize to one of his close friends on the team (who is one of the best players, one of the kids crying, and happens to be the coaches son). The reason being, Benjamin wasn't taking it seriously. He didn't get why these kids were crying. "It's just a game." he told me. I told Benjamin that it wasn't fair to his teammates who did take the game seriously, for him to continue on the team with a half-hearted attitude. Benjamin's buddy, Jason, kindly told Benjamin that it wasn't his fault, there were just a few plays that didn't work out. However, I told Benjamin that he needed to make a decision. Either decide to do your best and give your all, or decide that this isn't the sport for me. Benjamin decided he wanted to try harder. Victor had told Benjamin (with no success) that if he hit the ball and got on base, Victor would take Benjamin out for an ice cream sundae. I told Benjamin that if he didn't at least swing the bat at good pitches, he had to quit. Enough was enough. Admittedly, I went to the game last night with a bad attitude. Spring has stalled here and I literally have to pack my UGGs and wool coat just to stay warm. I have a million things to do at home, and here is Benjamin sleeping in the outfield, zoning out at the plate, and frankly embarrassing me a bit.
So here it is. It's time. Benjamin's up at bat. His coach had already made him "shake on it" and promise that he was going to swing the bat. Not hit the ball, mind you. Just SWING. Good grief. So, Benjamin doesn't swing at a ball ... "good eye" his coach says encouragingly. I'm looking out skeptically saying between gritted teeth "just hit the ball!" Finally, next throw, Benjamin swings. And hits. The cute little ball bounds only seven feet from home plate and Benjamin sits there staring like "why did that ball just move? what is happening?" All of his teammates are going nuts, screaming RUN and cheering for him like he is Manny Ramirez hitting a homer. Benjamin finally gets his act together and runs for first. Instead of running through the base, he slows and stops at first -- and therefore gets tagged out. But everyone is still cheering! "YEA BENJAMIN!!!" Benjamin gets a high five from his coach with an encouraging nod and "next time run through the base" instruction. Several pats on the back in the dug out. Wow. Benjamin is beaming like he just brought home straight A's to his mommy. Victor tells him we're going out for ice cream anyway - because if he'd run through the base, he would have been safe.
Again, Benjamin is up at bat. I'm a little more optimistic - but still clinching my teeth. Benjamin's coach nods at Benjamin encouragingly like "you can do it -- get it done Ben". Benjamin goes up at bat and hits that bloody ball again! This time the ball goes a little farther and Benjamin runs right away to first. The first baseman misses the ball and Benjamin is told to run to second. The Coach, The Mom's and Dad's in the stands, The boys in the dugout all go crazy cheering for Benjamin! Benjamin had the opportunity to run home after the next two hits and when he got to the dugout all of the boys crowded around him and gave him high fives and cheers. Don't you know he hit another one the next time up at bat and got on base again?! And, made it home. At the end of the game, Coach sat everyone down as usual to talk over the things they learned to do and not to do. He pointed out the good things the players had done. He reiterated how in this group everyone hits, everyone plays, everyone is a part of the team. When he got to Benjamin he congratulated him for his two runs and his accomplishment and handed Benjamin the prized reward of a "Game Ball" -- the first one handed out this season by Coach. Benjamin was beaming and his team mates were too. Everyone cheered.
Don't you know we went out for burgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and ice cream after the game?!
Benjamin can't wait to go back today for his next game.
Now I understand why Dr. Trivett asked Benjamin at his recent annual checkup if he was involved in a team sport.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Healthy Cookies for Kiddos (and grown-ups too)

These are souped up cookies that I altered slightly from Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious cookbook. I put so many things in these cookies you'd hardly believe that they stick together. But they do and the boys were excited to have them in their lunches this morning. Of course, they are not Tollhouse, but I'm guessing they will be devoured at lunch ... and I won't be ashamed or sorry for packing them.
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Chickpeas! Yes, chickpeas. Ripley doesn't know it yet, but it will be the first time he's had these! (ha ha ... little whipper-snapper) This recipe makes good sized fat cookies - well over 24 of them.
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Put a piece of parchment paper on the cookie sheet. (Jessica says use cooking spray, I say no chemicals -- then compost the parchment paper)
1 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 C trans-fat free soft tub margarine spread (I didn't have any of this, so I used some butter and a little Crisco b/c I didn't have enough butter. I think I'd try to use the trans-fat free stuff -- it sounds good)
1 large egg (Jessica says 2 egg whites, but I'm okay with getting the omega 3's from the yolk in spite of the cholesterol)
2 t vanilla extract
1 15ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 C chopped walnuts
3/4 C raisins (I soaked these in warm water briefly and used YELLOW raisins -- more camouflage)
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C Whole Wheat Flour (Jessica called for just the all-purpose, I added in the whole wheat -- why not??)
1/2 C old fashioned oats
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt (I used 1/2 t like tollhouse. Over 2 dozen cookies, 1/4 t salt? Come on.)
Sift together dry ingredients: flours, oats, soda, salt
Cream margarine/butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla, then add all of the chunky stuff: chips, peas, raisins, nuts. Then, slowly add in the flour while beating on a low setting. Stop when thick dough forms.
Drop the dough by the tablespoon onto the baking sheet. Press gently with a fork to flatten.
Bake 12 minutes -- don't over bake. If anything, slightly under bake.
Voila!! You've gotten whole grains, protein, beans, raisins and nuts into your kiddo. Super yummy warm. Wow.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Baltimore Orioles

I don't know if the Baltimore Orioles are reading my blog, but they have come to mate in my yard. They are gorgeous. Their "call" is beautiful, powerful and loud. I've been gawking at them as they chirp back and forth marveling at how pretty they are. However, I just read that they eat fruit (also bugs, nuts, seeds and nectar). Thank God for fruit tree nets. No fruit for you guys from my little orchard. Speaking of my little orchard. I have one sweet cherry tree, one Chinese apricot tree, one Bartlett pear tree, one Anjou pear tree, two peach trees, one Fuji Apple tree, one three-in-one grafted apple tree, one Cortland apple tree (for pies especially) and six tall blue berry bushes. Fun! Of course it will be a few years for anything substantial, but hopefully by then I will have really ironed out the organic spraying thing. Keep well! Happy gardening.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Victory Garden

Here it is ... my Victory Garden

Kids are Funny

At breakfast I was talking to Benjamin about baseball, which he's been struggling with, explaining that everyone isn't good at everything. I volunteered that I certainly wasn't good at everything. Ripley quickly spoke up and said "Yea, you're not good at throwing." (as in pitching a baseball) I agreed. Ripley reminded sweetly, not a hint of negativity detected just genuine honesty "You're noooootttttttt." "You're right Love, Mommy isn't good at throwing." Sheesh.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Portuguese Beans

This weekend when we were visiting Victor's parents for Mother's Day my Father-in-Law, who is Portuguese, was giving me a tour of his freshly planted garden. His potatoes are already poking up a good 2 inches out of the ground, as well as his beans. Every year he grows these broad green pole beans that are right from Portugal. They look a lot like a cannelloni bean from Italy. You can eat them when they are young like a regular "string bean" -- they usually cut them in a "French Cut" (but I guess it's really a Portuguese Cut) style, boil them in salted water along with a few eggs (still in their shells). Then, when they are done, the hard boiled eggs are taken out and minced, then mixed with a little balsamic vinegar (one teaspoon or more), lots of olive oil and salt. Pour the egg mixture over the beans. If you're feeling fancy, sprinkle chopped fresh parsley over the top. One of Victor's favorite summer dishes. When the beans are allowed to grow larger, the beans are shelled and dried -- then used in soups all winter long. Yum. SOOOoooooo .... My Father-in-Law gave me a large baggie of his Portuguese Bean Seeds saved from last year for planting. I'm excited to learn from him how he saves his seeds and to do a little studying on my own. He also gave me some bush Portuguese Beans that look like a light kidney bean. I've never tried growing any other type of bean besides your standard bush green bean, so I'm looking forward to getting into it. Especially because they keep so nicely, are a good source of protein, and are easy to grow. Happy Spring and Come Summer!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Where have I been?!

I forget every year how much work is involved in springtime. Now, not only do you have to keep up the inside of your house (which I'm not doing a very good job at), but now you're also enjoying the great outdoors and the beauty of spring while tidying up the outside of your house. This spring has been a different year altogether. Over the past month we have almost completed adding wood chips to our side yard between our yard and the neighbors to cut down on weeds. We do this about once every 3 years and this was THAT YEAR. We had a 20' x 40' garden added to our yard and we had 2 apple trees, 2 pear trees, 2 peach trees, 1 cherry tree and 6 blueberry bushes planted into our side yard -- eliminating two huge areas of grass that no longer will need to be mowed. Lucky Victor. Me on the other hand ... I've been hard at work. I planted several perennial plants -- which like the fruit trees will produce in time, but need some work in the beginning -- including 5 rhubarb plants, 20 strawberry plants and the 30 (yes 30) asparagus plants (from Seeds of Change) that Victor gave me for Valentines Day. I also planted seed potatoes (a first for me) including heirloom Russian Banana, Yukon Gold and Reddale -- all ordered from Abundant Life Seeds. Yesterday I also planted my broccoli and broccoli rabe spoutlettes in addition to more seeds. All of these things could have gone in earlier, but I had to wait for my garden to be put in. I did a lot of transplanting in my perennial garden as well. Not only did several of them need to be split, but I'm making room for a larger kitchen garden for my basil, chives, thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, etc. This area is right off my front wrap-around porch, so it's very convenient and leaves more room for vegetables in my larger garden. Already growing in the raised beds I've had for several years now are snap peas, shelling bush peas, 1925 heirloom bloomsdale spinach, May Queen lettuce, rare Scottish Macgreggors favorite beets, Rote Kugel beets, Dragon Carrots, and Chantenay Carrots. Happy Spring!