Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hungry Families

Several months ago, Nick decided that he wanted to eat Lean Cuisine personal pizzas every day for lunch. I stocked up when they were on sale and soon had a freezer full of little pizza boxes. One day, he decided he didn't like them anymore. Since then, I've had 10 pizzas taking up precious space in the back of my freezer.

I find these frozen pizzas to be rather disgusting, so they did not get eaten. Pretty soon, they passed their expiration date. It's not like I could drop them off at a food bank, so today, I put a quick ad up on Craigslist offering them for free and clearly explaining that they were expired (thinking I would probably just end up throwing them away tomorrow if no one responded).

Well, people responded. The ad went up at 3:00 and by 5:30 I had 18 responses, to be exact. Several people said in their emails that their family was struggling and needed all the help they could get. Many people even said that they live right in my neighborhood and could be at my house in a matter of minutes.

This was a wake-up call for me. I knew that many families were going through difficult times financially, but today it hit pretty close to home. If we can afford to give, even just a little bit, let's not delay, ok?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Apples Galore

On Saturday, we made a trip down to Penrose (about 90 minutes from our home) to visit Third Street Apples, a pick-your-own orchard. We had a great day!

We picked Jonathan's, Golden Delicious, Jonalicious, Mcintosh, Seek-no-Further, and one tree labeled "Mystery Apple" :). The owners encouraged us to sample the apples; here's a shot of a cranky Baby chomping on what we thought was a small bite!

Baby got a chance to crawl freely amongst the trees while Nick and I picked apples.

We couldn't pass up the fresh apple cider and apple butter for sale in their gift shop.

When we got home, I made a batch of applesauce with Jonathan's. It turned out pink because I included the skins. Soooo yummy! We still have tons of apples left so hopefully we'll get enough applesauce to last us...a month? If we exercise restraint, that is.

I clipped this recipe out of the Gazette a couple weeks ago (9/16/09) and couldn't wait to try it for dinner tonight. I didn't take a picture, but it turned out beautifully and would make a nice breakfast for company.

The Ruby's Dutch Apple Pancake
(from The Ruby of Crested Butte Bed and Breakfast)

5 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large, tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In blender, combine eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar and blend until combined, about 5 seconds. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth, about 10 seconds.
3. To 10-inch ovenproof, nonstick frying pan over medium heat, add butter. When butter hhas foamed and foam has subsided, add apples and saute, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and remaining sugar. Stir together and saute until apples are glazed and edges are slightly translucent, about 2 minutes longer.
4. Spread apples evenly in frying pan and pour batter slowly over top, so apples stay in place. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until bottom and sides are starting to firm up, about 8 minutes. Transfer to oven and cook until top of pancake is firm and golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, invert pan over serving plate. Cut pancake into 6-8 wedges. Sprinkle each portion with confectioners' sugar.

Happy apple season!

A Few More Pictures

I found that helmet for $1 at Salvation Army! Sweet!

And no, it's not on backwards. I'm 99% certain.

Climbing up on the coffee table like the little monkey she has become.

Inspecting (with a beautiful face) her new cloth wipes made by mom & grandma.

A pokerfaced princess wearing pink piggy pajamas.

After rubbing handfuls of yogurt in her hair, shampoo-style.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Wow, two posts in one day. I just wanted to pass on a bit of advice that I may actually be somewhat qualified to give.

Before becoming a stay-at-home-mom (does anyone else HATE that title? We need to come up with something better but I don't have any ideas yet), I worked in banking as a branch manager. Part of my responsibilities included looking through people's personal financial records for loan applications. I also got the fun job of deciding whether or not to refund overdraft fees for bounced checks and other mistakes. I learned the importance of keeping a monthly budget and watching my own personal finances closely.

Here is my little gem of wisdom for you. Nick and I decided a couple years ago to make room in our budget for personal allowances. Nick thinks that "allotment" is a less embarrassing term. Whatever we call it, I make a trip to the bank every Friday to withdraw our cash. Everything that's not an approved household expense -- monthly bills, groceries, medical expenses, gas -- must be spent out of our personal allowances. That includes dining out, clothing, entertainment, etc.

You may be thinking that having a limited weekly allowance would be prohibitive. It's actually quite freeing. If I want to buy a new handbag (my weakness), I don't need to sell Nick on the idea first. If Nick wants to buy a new video game (I will withhold my opinions here), he can save up his allowance for a few weeks or months until he can pay cash for it. I think this system has prevented many arguments and reduced the stress in our marriage.

This takes some restraint; "bigger" expenses, such as shoes or a new winter coat, can take a long time to save up for. We're far from perfect. There have been some interest-free loans and even a couple bailouts. Originally, we intended to have all gifts and dining out covered by allowances, but eventually discovered that my gift expenses were unfairly higher (Nick doesn't go to a lot of bridal or baby showers), and our Saturday lunch out tradition is now "on the house".

In the end, this system keeps our monthly budget simple. I have no idea how much we spend on movie rentals or fast food or gum or socks-- and I'd like to keep it that way. We are each responsible for our own variable expenses. Best of all, if we have cash in our wallets to pay for something, we know we can afford it. That cash has already been set aside in our monthly budget. It doesn't really matter how big or small our allowances are -- they've shrunk during tough times and increased with job promotions -- it's the feeling of autonomy over some small portion of our expenditures that makes a difference.

One bonus we didn't anticipate? A small gift for each other is extra special now. A candy bar at the gas station or a concrete mixer from Culver's represents a small, thoughtful sacrifice.

Anyway, this is what works for us, so I thought I'd share the idea in case it will help you!

Sabey Update

It's been a while since I've posted anything on here. I realized that all I've been writing about is food, and that I am in no way qualified to give advice about cooking! It's probably time for a good old fashioned family update.

Now, I am REALLY bad about taking pictures. But here are a couple of our little Broncos cheerleader:

So, what have we been up to lately? Baby has been very busy, of course. She is soooo close to walking! She will walk holding only one hand or pushing her walking toy. Her physical therapist thinks that she is plenty strong enough; all that she is lacking is confidence at this point. I made her a little indoor "sandbox" with rice and various tools (funnels, shovels, cups, etc.). She loves picking up the rice one pinch at a time and scattering it all over the kitchen floor. We've been working on the concept of not doing that, but it hasn't quite sunk in yet! It's been really cute watching her personality and imagination develop. Today she was playing with a little horse toy, making it walk around with her car sound ("vroooooom, vrooooom"). I taught her to say "neigh", so she started walking the horse around shouting "NEIGH NEIGH NEIGH!".

Nick has been pretty busy with work lately. He loves his new job at A.I. Solutions. They basically try to predict when satellites are likely to collide with space debris or other satellites. The company is based in Maryland, but the branch in Colorado Springs is quite small; only 6 or 7 people work in his office. He is thrilled to work so close to home; no more leaving the house at 6 a.m. to try to find a decent parking space at Schriever Air Force Base.

I've been enjoying life as a stay-at-home-mom, as usual. I take a nap almost every day (my dream come true). I promised myself when Baby was a newborn that I would never feel guilty about napping again after all of the sleep deprivation she caused :). I'm been practicing my flute lately after joining the Pikes Peak Flute Choir. Baby crawls on my lap and puts her face right in front of mine while I play, squinting as I blow air into her eyes (silly girl!). My garden DIED due to the early snow this week. So sad! I've actually been enjoying the cooler weather. I will soon miss my daily walks with Baby or hanging laundry outside to dry, but it is nice to spend full days indoors whenever I get a chance. I love sitting on the floor reading books to Baby (a thousand times), doing puzzles, making play-doh (which Baby just thinks is a nasty food), walking Baby up and down the stairs (two thousand times), and of course, cooking. I've been baking all of our bread (sandwich bread, rolls, tortillas, naan, whatever), sometimes successfully, sometimes not, and trying other experiments like making yogurt in the crock pot. I'm discovering that I really love all things domestic. The feminists of my mother's generation would probably disapprove of how I spend my time, but you know what? I LOVE having the freedom and time to learn all of these interesting skills. Maybe someday down the road I'll start a home-based business or take a part-time job or become involved in local politics or something. For now, I'm just not ready to give up my naps and time at home with Baby. I'm enjoying every minute of it.

That's about it!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chimichurri Sauce and the Old Stone Church

First things first: Have I ever mentioned my favorite restaurant, the Old Stone Church? Located in Castle Rock, it's nearly halfway between Colorado Springs and Littleton, where my parents live, so we occasionally meet for lunch when a granddaughter visit is required. The restaurant is located inside a renovated church built in 1888; not only can you request the booth in the old confessional, but the atmosphere is quite elegant and quaint with stained glass windows and a bubbling fountain inside.

We've only been for lunch, as the entree prices are $8-12 versus $18-25 per plate for dinner. My favorite menu items include the Crab Cakes with Anaheim chile cream and angel hair pasta or the Brie cheese, grilled and served with roasted garlic, blackberry jalapeno chutney and flatbread. Nick usually goes for the flautas (crispy flour tortillas filled with grilled chicken and mild jalapeno salsa) or the traditional fish and chips with amber beer batter and jalapeno tartar sauce. I've tried half a dozen other menu items that were absolutely perfect. Don't get me started on the desserts - the bananas foster or white chocolate bread pudding are nearly impossible to share.

Perhaps the best part of the meal is the grilled flatbread served with bright green chimichurri sauce brought to your table as soon as you sit down. Chimichurri is a traditional Argentinian barbecue sauce made with fresh herbs, olive oil, and vinegar. While gauchos may have originally served it atop grilled steaks, the flavors can brighten up a variety of dishes, including pasta, bean salads, grilled chicken, fish, or vegetables, or a simple dipping sauce for bread.

Each batch turned out a different shade of green, but they all taste delicious!

Since my garden is overflowing with fresh basil, I decided to make a huge batch of chimichurri sauce this week. I froze most of it in Ball's freezer jam containers and reserved a bit to freeze in ice cube trays for use whenever we just need individual servings for bread dipping with dinner. If you are a guest at my house this winter, chances are you will be served beautiful, fragrant chimichurri sauce with some home-baked bread; that is, unless we eat it all first!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tomato Time

I thought I'd pass along a few more recipes for the home canners out there!

This is my second year making this recipe, and it is much more flavorful than store-bought salsa. Last year, I made 14 pints, which lasted, oh, about a month (I set aside 10 for Christmas gifts). I really want to make enough this summer to keep us swimming in all the salsa we can eat for the next year. So far, I've made 16 pints, but only 13 remain after eating and gifting a few already. Salsa is SOOO much work, but hopefully I get my act together to make some more this month!

I discovered this recipe in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal Vegetable Miracle. It's quite tasty, but I'm not sure if it's cost effective to make tomato sauce. For some reason, whenever I can anything with tomatoes, it only makes about half as much as the recipe promises. My 7 pints ended up costing about $4.50 each (plus the cost of jars, which I re-used from last year). You can easily buy a 28-ounce jar of tomato sauce for about $2.50, so homemade ends up being quite a bit more expensive (although I don't know the cost of a jar of organic tomato sauce, which would be more comparable).

I'm just glad to have some barbecue sauce in my pantry whose #1 ingredient isn't High Fructose Corn Syrup! I've canned 15 jars, 12 ounces each, and may even make more so that I have plenty for Christmas gifts. I served some roasted chicken with this BBQ sauce on it for dinner the other night; it's delicious!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Colorado Balloon Classic

We were out of the house by 6:15 a.m. this morning (a Saturday!) to visit the Colorado Balloon Classic for the first time. This is the largest hot air balloon festival in Colorado, taking place every Labor Day weekend at Memorial Park.

Baby was a little bit tired; very sweet, but very quiet. We packed chocolate zucchini muffins for breakfast, which seemed to cheer her up a bit.

Unfortunately, the weather was a bit foggy and they decided not to launch the balloons this morning. Usually, they do a mass ascension at 7 a.m., but today they just filled them with air and kept them tethered to the ground.

Mmmmmmmm....pork chop on a stick...at 7 a.m...

There's that smile!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Vegetable Garden: Harvest Season

Baby eyeing today's harvest.

I have a confession to make: I haven't stepped foot in my vegetable garden in weeks except to pick veggies. The weeds are persistent (as shown in every picture below!) but they don't seem to be crowding the good guys out yet. I've had some successes and some failures this year. Since we live at such high altitude, I thought I'd share what's happening in my vegetable garden for those gardeners in my region that want to compare notes. If you don't care, you may want to get out now...this is a long post :)

1. Lettuce: SUCCESS!

We had much more lettuce and mesclun that we were able to eat this year. Yay! From my understanding, lettuce is a spring crop that starts to bolt and go to seed during the hottest summer days. I planted it in a shady corner of the garden and thanks to our moderate weather at high altitude, we were still eating salads through late July. Now, some of it has gone to seed and I haven't made a salad in a while, but it may still be good -- I'll have to try a salad for lunch tomorrow.

2. Tomatoes: FAILURE!

"Uh, mom? Are you sure this is how a tomato plant is supposed to look?"

No, dear. Sure, there are a fair number of tomatoes (these ones are mini yellow pear tomatoes). They're tasty. It's just that there are no leaves for some reason. I wanted LOTS of tomatoes this year, so I planted 8 seedlings this spring. Maybe I didn't water them enough. I only applied fertilizer twice. Does anyone have any ideas why they turned out so sad?

3. Banana Peppers: SUCCESS!

All of my pepper plants are producing perfect-looking banana peppers. The above picture doesn't do them justice; many peppers are clustered in groups and hiding behind leaves.

4. Purple Pole Beans: FAILURE!

My first few bean seeds sprouted and grew to be about 4 inches tall before stopping. They were located near the ant colony and were riddled with bite holes, so I assumed that was the problem (ants or aphids). In July, I replanted them on the opposite end of the garden, in the same spot where the garlic grew. The same thing happened! Weird.

5. Zucchini: SUCCESS!

Now I understand where zucchini gets its reputation. Every time I visit the garden, there is at least one huge, shiny zucchini waiting for me; they seem to appear overnight! I think they taste best when harvested small, but sometimes they're practically the size of baseball bats by the time I notice them.

6. Basil: SUCCESS!

I'll admit, I didn't have much faith in my little basil plants. Only 9 seeds out of the dozens sowed became sprouts, and they were pretty puny for a while. In the last few weeks, every one of them has really blossomed into a decent sized plant. I desperately need to harvest it so they will grow even bigger!

7. Carrots: SUCCESS!

I've been cooking with carrots for most of the summer. It's nice to just head out to the backyard whenever a recipe calls for a carrot or two. It's my understanding that you can just leave these in the ground until you need them (instead of needing to harvest them soon after they reach maturity like most other veggies). The only problem I've had is that the dirt is so clay-like (too dry? too wet? not sure) that it's nearly impossible to pull those suckers out of the ground without a trowel.

8. Cucumbers: ????????

I've been excitedly watching the cucumber plants sprawl this summer, expecting a bumper crop. The strange thing is, today I harvested my first cucumber. It seems that the leaves and plants are doing OK, but for some reason it's not producing much. Maybe it's just a bit behind schedule and I'll be making greek salads all September and October.

9. Miscellaneous: some good, some just OK

Sugar snap peas: These finished producing in late spring, and I only harvested a couple bowls full. They were OK, not too exciting.

Cherries: Our poor little cherry tree just is not thriving. It produced a couple dozen cherries this year, enough to give the birds a tasty little snack. We planted it 3 years ago and it should be much more than just a little twig by now. We suspect that the clay soil is the culprit. It was nearly impossible to dig the hole, and our baby apple tree died the first winter.

Rhubarb and raspberries: I just planted the rhubarb this year, but the raspberries have been going for 3 years. This summer was AWESOME for raspberries! Baby and I went outside every other day or so and she sat on the ground, arms outstretched as I tried to pick berries fast enough for her. I didn't keep track of how many we ate this year, but every time we went out back for a month or so I picked 20-40 berries. Baby LOVED them!

Chives and Cilantro: FAILURE. Do chives ever get white flowers? I thought they were supposed to be purple. I sunk a plastic pot underground to contain the cilantro, but there were only a few small plants and I missed harvest time.

How are your gardens this year? Do you have any tips for my tomatoes?