Cooking

So, like I mentioned previously, I’ve been trying to cook more. The first thing I made was the Cheesy Potato Soup. Then I made Chicken-Fried Burgers, and Butter Garlic Pasta.  The chicken-fried burgers were delicious, and I thought pasta was alright. It called for either black or green olives with pimentos on top, and I used the green since I had them on hand. Next time I will definitely try it with black because the green was just a little too strong for me.

Now, please remember this is the same girl who 6 months ago was (1) not allowed in a kitchen without supervision (no, seriously!), (2) couldn’t hard boil eggs, and (3) until a week ago couldn’t do anything BUT hard boil eggs; and is now cooking full meals (dishes)!
After that, I made black beans. That didn’t turn out the best. I didn’t season them when I was cooking them, so they were a little bit sad. I will season them when I warm them up to eat them though (I made a bunch in preparation for some burritos we’re having tomorrow night, and froze the rest for later).

So, when I was trying to create a basic recipe book, since I am very picky, and prefer vegetarian meals, I stumbled across this recipe for Quinoa Patties.

I made sure to buy the stuff needed at the grocery store this week, and I’m so glad I decided to give this one a shot. SO GOOD! I added a handful of mushrooms to mine, and at the end slathered it with avocado like the recipe recommends.

Two notes: 1. Don’t use as much garlic as the recipe calls for. It overpowers everything, which is fine if you REALLY like garlic, and don’t mind garlic breath. I wasn’t impressed. 2. Try it plain with the avocado first. And don’t be shy with the avocado (particularly if there’s too much garlic). Delicious!!

I managed to get 10 patties out of it, and they are FILLING. I ate 3 last night for dinner and was stuffed. Put the rest in tupperware in the fridge. Had 2 for lunch today, and they are just as good cold as they are warm. I will DEFINITELY be making this recipe again.

I did try some of the quinoa before I cooked the patties. Just poured a little soy sauce on, and it tasted a lot like the rice from Japanese restaurants. Delish.

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Backyard Harvest

So I decided that since today was so lovely (70 and breezy here in lovely Southern California), I would go take a look at what’s ready for harvest in our yard.

I started with the little lemon bush we have. It’s a sad little thing in the front yard. It would probably be much bigger and healthier if it had more space (it’s growing in the small dirt patch between the walkway and the driveway. Only a few of the lemons were ripe, but that’s ok. I couldn’t eat a whole ton all at once anyway.

Next I went out back and checked on the avocado tree. Nothing ready, but they’re starting to grow bigger and plump up (can’t wait til they’re ready!!).

Then I went over to our monster cherry tomato bush. Sean’s step-dad used to plant cherry tomatoes between all the rose bushes when he lived here. He would have to tear them out and replant every year, because they never made it longer than a season. He hasn’t lived here in a year and a half, and I haven’t replanted anything. There are only two cherry tomato bushes left, and one of them is kind of sad-looking (probably needs a trellis to climb up). The other one, however, decided to take over on of the rose bushes it was planted next to. Now this plant is a monster rose/tomato hybrid, and a monster to try to harvest. You have to wear thick gloves because the rose bush is all tangled with the tomatoes, and it’s just not nice. However, the tomatoes go CRAZY. They love it! I got a huge bunch of them – awesome considering most people aren’t even planting their tomatoes yet!

Also, a random orange that fell over the wall from the neighbor’s yard. Score!Image

A while back, we noticed this weird “weed” growing in the middle of the yard. He was cleaning up, and decided to pull it. “WAIT!” I said, “It looks like it’s going to bloom or something! Let’s just give it a week or two and see what it does. There aren’t any other plants nearby, so it isn’t hurting anything to leave it.” So we waited. Sure enough a week or so later, it turned into a sunflower! We have no idea where it came from, or how the seed came to be planted in our backyard. We don’t really water any of the plants (they all seem to be doing just fine without our help!), so it’s just one big mystery how it got there and survived.

Today I decided to harvest it. I looked up online how long to wait and when to harvest and what not (the flower has long-since died, and all the petals fell off – I was afraid I had waited too long, and would lose all the seeds). Turns out, I waited just the right amount of time! Awesome!!

Image

I’m amazed at just how many seeds came out of this one sunflower! I’m not quite sure what to do with them all.

Also, I was looking at our rose bushes. Most of them aren’t blooming right now – it hasn’t been warm enough. But one of them has these big giant rose hips. Does anyone know how/when to harvest those? I tried looking it up, but I don’t know which type of roses they are (all of them are different, and they aren’t labelled or anything). Here’s a picture of some of the rose hips now.Image

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I DIDN’T BURN THE HOUSE DOWN!!

YAYYYYYYY!!!

For those of you that don’t know me, I am absolutely handicapped in the kitchen. I can make cereal. And sandwiches. Provided they aren’t grilled or use a panini press or any of that nonsense. Oh! And I make a damn good glass of milk. By “make,” I mean “pour.”

Up until my nanny job, I couldn’t (and wasn’t allowed to) hard boil eggs. I attempted on two other occasions, and failed miserably both times, and was henceforth banned from the kitchen in my house growing up (please note the 2nd time I attempted hard boiled eggs, I left the room, and promptly forgot about them. Hence the “hurray, I didn’t burn the house down” comment. By the way, burnt egg chunks floating in an inch of water on a pan that is probably burned past future usability smells AWFUL!).

So tonight I decided once and for all: SCREW THIS! If I want to be a stay-at-home mom some day, I need to get past this “I DON’T cook” thing.

After much research (about an hour and a half browsing the internet) looking for the perfect recipe (one that we already had the ingredients for, and one that seemed absolutely fool-proof), I decided on Cheesy Potato Soup.

I /did/ mess with the recipe a smidge, because I HATE onions, and because when I was done making it, Sean complained that the chunks of potato looked too big, and could I just mash them a little…

So here is the recipe that I made (sorry, I don’t have any pictures of it, I’ll try to take pictures next time of things I make).

Cheesy Potato Soup: (Not the best picture, but SOOO tasty!)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups chopped red potato (about 1 pound)

1 ¼ cups milk

¾ cup chicken broth

½ cup water

1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Melt butter in medium saucepan over high heat. Sprinkle and mix in flour. Add potato, milk, broth, and water to pan; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 min. Add cheese and pepper; cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts. As cheese melts, stir and mash potatoes.

See? This recipe is completely me-proof! Our only other changes, were that we both added a little salt to our bowls of it, and Sean added a sprinkle of chili flakes. It made enough for 2 large bowls for dinner, and there is still some more left over for him to take for lunch tomorrow.

Oh! Bonus!! I make cookies too. Albeit they were pre-packaged (once I finish the pre-packaged ones we bought a while back, I’m definitely going back to made from scratch). His dad got some for Christmas, though, and calls them “crack cookies.” They’re just chocolate chip cookies, but there’s something about them that makes you want to eat the ENTIRE batch RIGHT NOW.

Lemme know if anyone else tries the soup and how it turns out for you!!

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The Hayden Law

So, a friend of mine posted this link on facebook – http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=8143

Normally, I don’t bother with political crap. No, really, I don’t. When Sean starts talking about political agendas and who said what and who’s not doing what they said, I tune out.

But this? This has me MAD.

As a small animal rescue volunteer, I see first hand the terrible conditions in shelters. I see shelter workers who don’t know how to tell a boy guinea pig from a girl, and so they put them all together in a wire-bottomed cage and hope for the best.

I see pregnant guinea pigs, with no hair, and huge scratches down their backs because the people at the shelters don’t know how to treat a guinea pig for mites – and wouldn’t do it even if they did. I see pigs suffering from scurvy (TOTALLY PREVENTABLE!), mites, pregnancy, hair loss, etc.

I see how hard our organization works to rescue each and every guinea pig that comes into a shelter. I see how even if we don’t have room for them, we send shelter scouts to bring the guinea pigs food, fresh veggies, and to take pictures of them. We post these pictures, hoping that someone will adopt straight from the shelter.

In September of last year, our rescue, in collaboration with 2 others (one in San Diego, the other in Arizona), took in over 175 guinea pigs in one week – all at the same shelter, which was unequipped to handle 2 guinea pigs, let alone almost 200! We all stretched ourselves far too thin, taking more guinea pigs into our homes than normal. And then, all of the females gave birth. 22 of them had no ears. Several had massive hair loss from mites and back-breeding (back-to-back pregnancies throughout their lives). Several had severe cuts across their backs from scratching at the mites. A couple of them didn’t make it. After taking them in, we were unable to take in ANY shelter guinea pigs for months. We had no room for them. I, myself, had 20 guinea pigs living in my house – 2 of my own, 4 mothers, and 14 newborn babies.

Finally, in the new year, we have been able to start pulling pigs out of shelters again. But all of those pigs from September to December that we couldn’t save? Euthanized. All because someone’s kid got tired of taking care of an animal that lives 6-10 years when well taken care of.

So what does this have to do with the ‘political crap’ I hate so much?

Governor Jerry Brown (along with the Humane Society of the United States!!) wants to repeal provisions from the Hayden Law.

What is the Hayden Law?

Wikipedia states, “This legislation made animal shelters in California more accountable and gave the public longer to find their lost animals before they were euthanized. It mandated more “work friendly” hours to the public for going to the shelters, and after a few years of the law being in place (July 1, 2001), began offering owner-surrendered animals the same amount of time (four to six business days, not including the day of impoundment) to remain alive before being eligible for euthanasia.”

Before the introduction of the Hayden Law, many animal shelters didn’t keep accurate records of the animals in their facilities. Even still, many animals get ‘lost in the system,’ and don’t get adopted because ‘we have no record of the animal being there.’ I saw this first-hand myself while helping rescue some of the September guinea pigs. They only had record of 21 of the 22 guinea pigs I was there to pick up, and almost refused to hand over ANY of them because of this.

Also, many shelters were only open Monday through Friday, 9AM-5PM. If you had a lost pet and a 9-5 job, you had absolutely no hope of getting your family member back. Now, shelters are required to be open at least one evening per week, or one weekend day.

Another common practice before Hayden Law: if an animal was surrendered to the shelter by its’ owner, it was euthanized upon arrival. It never even had a chance to find a new home!

This law also required shelters to hold animals for at least 4 days before they were eligible for euthanasia. Before, most only held them for 72. This allows more time for families to claim lost pets, and also allows animals a better chance of finding a new home.

One other IMPORTANT thing this law does is require shelters to work with rescues. If there is a rescue in the area that is willing and able to take an animal in, the shelter MUST release the animal to the rescue as opposed to euthanizing it. Previously, many shelters did not work with rescues. They would rather euthanize an animal rather than do the paperwork that would send it to the safety of a foster home until it could be adopted.

What’s happening now?

With the economy in the dumps, the government hasn’t been able to fund the backing for this legislation any longer. For the past couple of years, no one has been checking up on these shelters. Well now, Governor Jerry Brown (AND the Humane Society of the United States!!) want to repeal provisions in this law altogether. They say that because there has been a ‘paradigm shift,’ there is no longer any need for us to support this law. They think that if they take the law away, the shelters will continue to uphold the new standards anyway. THIS IS BULLSHIT. These places want to make money. They will cut hours, cut spending on these animals, and euthanize more of them so that they don’t have to deal with them.

This is especially true for small animals. While cats and dogs are currently held for at minimum 4 days before being eligible for euthanasia, small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, and reptiles often don’t get the same treatment. Sure, the “cells” the dogs and cats are kept in are not adequate for long-term care. However, many small animals are not even put in cages that are SAFE for the time that they are there (which is often only for 2 days, or less. We have heard many stories of guinea pigs being euthanized upon entry). Many times these animals are on cages that have wire flooring – which can cause bumblefoot in guinea pigs, and rabbits can get their little feet stuck. Often these animals are not given proper nutrition; rabbit and hamster pellets are NOT adequate sustenance for guinea pigs. They also need an unlimited amount of timothy or orchard hay, and fresh veggies daily. When a dog or cat gets adopted, the shelter will tell them that they should use an anti-flea medicine. But what about guinea pigs? They get mites. Mites don’t live on dogs or cats, but they bite guinea pigs just like fleas. This is incredibly painful, and a guinea pig with too many mites can have seizures, and cut themselves attempting to scratch the parasites off. But treatment is simple. Yet no one knows these things, or bothers to pass the information on.

If Governor Brown repeals this important piece of legislation, not only will dogs and cats across California suffer, but it will mean so much more for the small animals. Many of the small animals in Southern California do not get their pictures taken. They do not get posted on shelter websites. Most people I’ve talked to about the work I do don’t even KNOW that you CAN find small animals at shelters. They just walk into their nearest pet store and buy. With over 100 guinea pigs in our rescue’s foster home system currently, I know firsthand how many little lives our rescue saves annually – and know that all of these creatures would be dead if it weren’t for us.

Please read the article at the top, and contact Governor Jerry Brown. Tell him you don’t want him repealing any part of the Hayden Law. Cutting the budget shouldn’t mean death for shelter animals.

CALL Governor Brown at (916) 445-2841 (9 am to 5 pm)

FAX your letter of opposition (916) 558-3177

EMAIL the governor’s office at http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php (choose BUDGET as subject).

POST to his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/jerrybrown

CONTACT him through his Twitter page at @JerryBrownGov

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New Year, New Me

I’ve joined a “Healthy Eat-Along” on craftster (awesome craft website, also has a recipe board – cuz cooking can be crafty), and I’ve been reading other peoples’ blogs about healthy-eating in general, and vegetarian-eating specifically. Here are some of my tips for shopping, eating, and living healthier and more frugally.

1. Acquaint yourself with your fridge, freezer, and pantry. 

Before you go to the store, clean them out. Anything past it’s date? Throw it out! Anything on it’s last day? Can you make that for dinner tonight? If not, throw it out.

Living in a house with 6 college-age people means there are always 4 half-gallons of milk, 4 loaves of bread, 3 cartons of eggs, and god knows how much leftover takeout. And that’s just the first two shelves of the fridge.

If you clean the areas out before you go to the store, you see what foods your family ISN’T eating. You’ll know what not to buy – or what to buy in smaller portions. Yes, sometimes buying the smaller block of cheese is more expensive per slice, but if you’re throwing half the block away at the end of the week anyway, you’re losing money.

Also, by cleaning out the fridge, you get a good look at what you have. If you check the dates of everything in the fridge, maybe you notice there’s a jar of spaghetti sauce you’d forgotten about in the back that’s about to expire in a week. Dinner some time this week? Sounds good! Then you can check the cupboard for noodles and spices in case you need some.

2. Make a list.

If you make a list before going to the grocery store (especially if you just looked through your fridge first), you are more likely to JUST get the things you need, and not stick random things in the cart.

What helps even more: Plan your meals in advance. Based on what’s in your fridge or about to expire, make a dinner plan for the week. Stick the plan on the fridge or the corkboard or wherever, and the whole family won’t have to ask you “what’s for dinner” every day.

Then, go through the list meal by meal and decide what you already have, and what you need to get from the grocery store to make each thing.

3. Eat before you go.

I can not stress this enough. Don’t go into a grocery store to buy food for the week on an empty stomach!! Sure, you’ll get the stuff on your list, but you’ll also end up with 2 bags of chips, a box of cupcakes, and some cookie mix. Oh, and that candy bar at checkout.

However, if you are full (particularly if you’ve JUST eaten), you won’t be tempted by all of those delicious sugar-packed treats. You’ll be able to focus better, and get out of the store with just the necessities.

4. Make meals in advance.

One of the things I have tried in the past (and it was working well for a while) was to make all of my lunches on Sundays. I bought enough Tupperware (super cheap at Target) for all of it in advance. Sundays I would cook a batch of chicken breasts, make salads, and had little Tupperwares for the dressing on the side. Then in the mornings, I would put the lunch in a bag along with an apple and a pre-made baggie of baby carrots. Sometimes I would want a sandwich too, but just making a sandwich in the morning is a lot less intimidating than trying to put together a whole lunch, and still have time for breakfast before work.

5. Apple slicer.

Growing up, I never had an apple slicer. As stupid as it sounds, I don’t like eating apples right off the core. I’m much more likely to eat (and finish) an apple if it’s in slices. However, I never wanted to go to the trouble of slicing the stupid thing, so I just didn’t eat them. Once I moved in with Sean, he showed me this nifty little thing called an apple slicer. Shaped like a spoked wheel with handles, you shove the thing down, and voila! 8 perfect slices, with the core separated. Now I eat apples all the time, because it takes me 2 seconds to slice it!

6. Pomegranates or cross stitching.

If you like to snack when you’re bored (particularly when you’re watching TV), like me, I’ve realized three things. 1. I can eat an entire bag of chips in a one hour episode of something (or god forbid half a quart of ice cream!). 2. I don’t taste it. 3. I don’t feel full after!!

However, there are two solutions. One is to eat things that require work. Pomegranates are fantastic for this! It takes me 45 minutes to eat half of one because I’m picking out the seeds one by one. Yes, they stain your fingers yellow, but whatever. It was better for me than a bag of chips! Other good foods for this are oranges, clementines, etc.

The other solution is to find something else to do when you’re sitting there. For me, cross stitching works really well. Particularly if it’s a show with mostly dialogue that I don’t even really need to look up that much. Other good things for me are crocheting, knitting, and even just doing the bills! Plus, it makes bill paying go by faster, and seem less painful if you are distracted watching your favorite celeb hottie doing his thing on TV. Just saying.

What tips do you have for eating healthy, vegetarian, or just saving money??

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Holiday Love

The holidays have been good this year. We had a “pheasant cook” on the 17th. Now, my brother (who is in the NAVY, and currently lives on the East Coast for schooling) wasn’t supposed to come into town until the 23rd. My dad secretly flew him out here on the 16th, he spent the night at a friend’s house, and we surprised my mom with him at the pheasant cook with all my extended family. It was really a sweet, special moment – she was the only one who didn’t know he was coming early.

The night before Christmas Eve I went to a cookie exchange party with my mom and brought home a huge plate of cookies that I’m still working on. I really need Christmas to not have so many cookies and sweets… it’s just not fair.

Christmas Eve we always go to my aunt’s house for Mexican food (don’t ask me why, I don’t know), and a white elephant gift exchange. This year Sean’s dad and step-mom (along with his brother, his step-brother, and his step-brother’s girlfriend) came as well. It was the first time they had gotten to meet my parents, and the rest of my family as well. His mom was SUPPOSED to fly in for Christmas, but she ended up not able to make it. I made off with a cute little cutting board with 2 knives from the Sharper Image, and a flat-and-fold colander.

Christmas morning we spent with my family exchanging gifts and what not. I got Sean a make-your-own-beer kit, which he set up yesterday, and started his first batch. Sean got me a needle organizer (for my embroidery, so I don’t have to carry around a matchbook full of needles any more) and a woodburning kit. Yay! I get to burn stuff!

Now, what my brother’s present does need some back story… I mean, my mom got him a Kindle reader, but that’s not the important part. See, every year in the past, when one of his friend’s birthdays would come around, he would take the opportunity to torture them. Every year it got progressively worse. First it was a $20 bill in an envelope wrapped in duct tape. Then it was several layers of duct tape. Then he took it and suspended it in a gallon milk jug (filled with water, not milk), and froze it. One year, he even put gross dead SQUID in the water first, so when it all melted, his friend had to pick through the squid to get his duct tape wrapped $20 bill. Now, if this were me, I’d probably call it a wash and give the jug back.

So my mother, clever woman, took the opportunity to torture HIM this year. And my dad caught the whole thing on video. Over 130 layers of everything from wrapping paper to duct tape to cellophane to boxing tape, and 29 min and some odd seconds later, he finally managed to get to his present. One layer was even vacuum sealed! And her conditions at the beginning of the challenge? No scissors, no knives, no box cutters. Nothing but your teeth and nails. By the end, my brother could barely pull off layers of wrapping paper because his fingers were hurting so bad. Pretty sure he doesn’t have any fingerprints anymore, either, from all the layers and layers of boxing tape…

Oh, and did I mention she invited over a couple of his friends to watch? So it was Christmas for everyone!

Christmas dinner was at a different aunt’s house – traditional turkey and fixin’s. Quiet and uneventful.

As far as other Christmas presents go, Kiera got a 4 lb box of gingerbread flavored dog treats and two new toys for her to rip up. The guinea pigs are getting nice fleece-y cuddle cups (they supposedly got shipped today, so they should be here any day. Super excited!!). And all the roommates got a box of candy canes (I wanted everyone in the house to have SOMETHING under our little Christmas tree to unwrap). Oh! And an awesome, unexpected Christmas present to us – guinea pigs got adopted from our house, so now we’re back to a manageable number of them (-cough-8-cough-).

So that’s about it. A normal Christmas in our household.

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Inspired

The other day I was trying to think of little things to do in your life to give you even just a moment of pleasure. I started making a list. Then today I stumbled across this, and thought I would share it all with you, since it’s the same idea.

_____

“Life’s Little Instructions – by 95-year-old William Snell (1993).

Sing in the shower.

Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.

Watch a sunrise at least once a year.

Never refuse homemade brownies.

Strive for excellence, not perfection.

Plant a tree on your birthday.

Learn three clean jokes.

Return borrowed vehicles with the gas tank full.

Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them.

Leave everything a little better than you found it.

Keep it simple.

Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures.

Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.

Be forgiving of yourself and others.

Say “thank you” a lot.

Say “please” a lot.

Avoid negative people.

Wear polished shoes.

Remember other people’s birthdays.

Commit yourself to constant improvement.

Have a firm handshake.

Send lots of Valentine’s. Sign them.

Look people in the eye.

Be the first to say “hello.”

Return all things you borrow.

Make new friends but cherish old ones.

Keep secrets.

Plant flowers every spring.

Have a dog.

Always accept an outstretched hand.

Stop blaming others.

Take responsibility for every area of your life.

Wave at kids on school buses.

Be there when people need you.

Don’t expect life to be fair.

Never underestimate the power of love.

Drink champagne for no reason at all.

Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation.

Don’t be afraid to say, “I made a mistake.”

Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

Compliment even small improvements.

Keep your promises no matter what.

Marry only for love.

Rekindle old friendships.

Count your blessings.

Call your mother.

And your dad, too, if they happen to be alive.”

_____

Now, I know I said I made a little list of my own, but I can’t quite find it at the moment (as you know, I’ve been cleaning… and in my world, that means I’ll have a harder time finding things, ironically). But I’ll post some of mine when I do come across it. Because this makes me smile. ^-^

-Elliot

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