Monday, November 8, 2010

iheartfaces Photo Challenge-Orange

This is a picture I took a couple weeks ago of my little man.  I love the color in this photo and I feel it captured him and the season so well.  I am entering it in this week's photo contest on iheartfaces.  The theme this week is "orange."  Click the link below to head over to iheartfaces and see more!

Saturday 11/13/10: I wanted to amend this post today to include the original, unedited version of the above photo.  My husband likes the unedited picture better and I like them both.  I like the dramatic effect of the edit, but I also like the softer features and colors of the original.  The photo below is SOOC.  :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grilled To Perfection

 Hail storm last week aside, it is still in the mid-70's and mid-80's here, which means it's still grilling weather.  This weekend my husband and I have plans to co-create some gourmet burgers, but until then I thought I'd go ahead and share some of the recipes off the grill that I promised back in August!

To the left is a succulent rib-eye steak with accompanying skewered shrimp and grilled asparagus.  Below, tasty lamb riblets with Panko-breaded Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes.  The key to both of the meat portions of these meals (aside from my husband's grill-master skills) is my mom's famous Teriyaki Marinade.  I honestly pondered whether I should even share this amazing family secret or just horde it all to myself.  Heck, maybe I could bottle the stuff and become a millionaire someday (I'd give you a cut mom :))  But here goes:

Mom's Teriyaki Marinade:

Olive Oil
Soy Sauce
Worchestershire Sauce
Fresh Rosemary (optional)

I do not know the measurements for these ingredients, so you'll have to figure that one out on your own!  I use approximately equal parts olive oil and soy sauce, a nice amount of fresh chopped or minced garlic, or garlic powder in a pinch.  Enough ketchup to get the right consistency and maybe a couple tablespoons of Worchestershire Sauce.  I just keep adding things until it smells right to me. :)

This marinade is excellent on steaks, ribs, lamb, shrimp, pork...pretty much anything.

For the sides:

Asparagus was simply oiled, salted, peppered and grilled.   

Brussels sprouts I shake up in a bag with olive oil, salt, pepper, and Panko bread crumbs.  Then I throw them on a baking sheet and toss them with chopped bacon.  I roast these in the over at 425 until they are starting to brown and the bacon is crispy.

When I make mashed potatoes I always leave the skins on-I know this is freaky for some people but all the nutrients are in the skin!  Plus I think it adds that homemade charm, so do a few lumps so I never go to as much trouble as to put potatoes through a ricer or anything like that.  I do add a lot of not-so-healthy fatty goodness to my taters, but everyone needs a little fat in their diet!

Halve 6-8 red potatoes. Add to pot of salted water and bring to a boil.  Boil approximately 20 minutes or until soft.  Add 2 tbsp. cream cheese, 2 tbsp. butter, 1/4 cup sour cream, salt and pepper to taste, and a couple tablespoons of milk (enough to get the right consistency).  Whip together in your stand mixer, done!

With garlic:  If I have time I will roast a bulb of garlic in the oven and squeeze the roasted cloves into the mixer with the potatoes.  If I'm in a pinch for time a little garlic powder will do the trick as well (though not as yummy or fancy as the roasted garlic)!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Smoky Chipotle Cheeseburgers with Avacado and Tomatillo

Another Gourmet Magazine recipe winner: Smoky Chipotle Pork Cheeseburgers with Avacado and Tomatillo....yum.  I have to admit, I'm a newbie to ground pork.  A few weeks ago a friend's husband shared a delicious ground pork/turkey combination burger with me and I said "Ground pork?  Really?  Where did you find that?"  Honestly, I'd never even looked for it before.  Then I came across this recipe in Gourmet and I found that ground pork is surprisingly easy to find, wouldn't ya' know, tastes amazing, and has plenty of nutritional value (although ground pork is admittedly fattier than a lot of other lean cuts, but what the hay).

Here's the recipe:

  • 1 lb ground pork (not lean)
  • 2 teaspoons minced chipotle in adobo plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce (Oops! Forgot this at the store!  used ground chipotle chili pepper instead)
  • 2 garlic cloves, forced through a garlic press
  • 4 slices Muenster cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns, toasted
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 large tomatillo (1/4 lb), husked and rinsed, then sliced
  • 1/2 small avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro sprigs (we omitted because hubby doesn't like but kinda wished I'd bought some just for myself!) 

We grilled these babies over charcoal on our Weber Performer, melted the Muenster on top and served on a whole wheat bun spread with mayo and topped with avocado slices and tomatillo.  This was also our first experience with tomatillos and we gave them the thumbs up all around (including the kids).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wild North Carolina Shrimp with Capellini & Creamy Tomato Sauce

I have a confession...I have never peeled or de-veined shrimp...until now.  I know, it's crazy, but I always buy shrimp that has already been prepped for me.  However, this week on a trip to the Fresh Market in Wilmington, some wild North Carolina shrimp caught my eye and I decided it was time to learn the art of preparing shrimp myself.  No, they didn't have their heads still attached so I don't feel like I really got my hands dirty enough, but here's what I learned:

Place to shrimp in an ice bath to keep them fresh while you peel them.  Grab the legs and detach the shell, it comes off quite easily.  Use a paring knife to make a small slit in the top of the shrimp, locate the larger vein (which is actually the intestinal tract of the shrimp) and gently pull, it should come right out.  There is a smaller, more visible vein on the underside, which also pops out pretty easy with a little help from your knife.

The recipe that I purchased these shrimp for was from this month's Gourmet Magazine.  I made a few adjustments of my own....

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb peeled large shrimp
  • 3 large garlic cloves, forced through a garlic press
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup sweet (red) vermouth (I substituted Sherry for Vermouth)
  • 1 (14- to 15-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained (I used crushed San Marzano tomatoes, see my footnotes for why you should try to find jarred tomatoes instead of tinned tomatoes!)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I forgot to buy a lemon, but it was still good without!!)
  • 1/2 lb capellini (angel-hair pasta)

  • Heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Saute, turning once, for about 2 minutes.  Stir in sherry and crushed tomatoes.  Add cream and simmer 1 minute.  This is where you are supposed to add the lemon juice that I didn't have, so add it if you do!  Remove from heat so you don't overcook your shrimp.
  • Add Capellini to boiling water and cook 6 minutes until "al dente."
  • Serve pasta topped with shrimp and sauce 
  •  For our salad we grilled cremini mushrooms and tossed them with arugula and shaved pecorino romano, the dressing and marinade for the mushrooms was: red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar, and chopped shallots. 
  • Wow, those wild shrimpies were delicious and fresh!  Shrimp are very high in nutrients and a mere 4 ounces can provide almost 50% of your daily protein needs for only 112 calories.  They are rich in selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.  You'll also get iron, those all important Omega 3's, and a few other vitamins and minerals.  Of course you'll also reap the health benefits of the tomatoes in this sauce, although there is a lot of controversy cropping up about tinned tomatoes containing bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen, which comes from the linings of the tin cans and is linked to numerous ailments including reproductive problems, heart disease, and diabetes.  So, try to look for crushed tomatoes in glass jars instead of tins, or even better, preserve your own this fall!  I have my fingers crossed we can get some tomatoes going here and try our hand at canning (in jars) before winter.  This recipe is definitely one of my new favorite ways to eat shrimp (and pasta), it was tastier than any shrimp and pasta dish I've ordered at a restaurant.  The salad was really an afterthought, but turned out really well.  I was inspired by another Gourmet Mag recipe for the salad, but had to make do with what I had in my fridge, still very tasty! 
    Posted on: 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Yes, that was over a 2 month hiatus from blog posting!  I guess that is what happens when your hubby returns (finally) from a 7 month long deployment! Yay!  For those who don't know, my husband flies the CH-53E for the USMC and has been deployed this past year with the 24th MEU.  We are so happy to have him back and have really been enjoying being a family again.  On the food front, I have been cooking up a storm, it is so exciting to have someone to cook for that is over the age of 4!  I have many new recipes to post in the coming weeks, so here's a little preview of what is to come:

Rotini with Bacon, Zucchini, Corn, and Pesto
Lamb Riblets with Panko Breaded Brussels Sprouts & Mashed Potatoes

Charcoal-grilled Ribeye & Shrimp with 'Mom's Teriyaki Marinade' and Asparagus
Grilled Fish Tacos in Warm Homemade Tortillas
Phyllo Wrapped Tilapia Fillets with Lemon Shallot Sauce
Slow-cooker Pulled Pork BBQ with Homemade Burger Buns and Broccoli Slaw

Can you tell we've been grilling A LOT?  Summer ain't over yet! 

Posted on:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lentil Curry (Dal)

First let me begin by saying that my mom makes an excellent chicken curry, which my husband requests all the time and I will get around to posting one of these days!  Today, however, I am going to share my recipe for lentil curry or Dal.  It was a college roommate of mine that first introduced me to lentil curry.  Lentils are a great non-meat protein source and they also contain fiber, folate, and vitamin B1, yum!  In college I shared a house with five of my friends and I seem to remember everyone in the house loving this dish.  Of course I lost the original recipe at some point, but it's a fairly simple dish so here is my re-creation:

Enough for Two (main dishes)-multiply as needed:

1 Cup Dry Lentils (+3 cups water)
1 Small Vidalia Onion-finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Ghee or Olive Oil
1/4 tsp. Ground Cardamom
1/4 tsp. Turmeric
1/4 tsp. Ground Coriander Seed
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1.5-2 tbsp. Curry Powder
1 tsp. Tamarind Paste
2 tbsp. Whole Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

(Serve with Basmati Rice)

Sort and rinse lentils.  Boil 3 cups salted water, add lentils and simmer 20 minutes or until desired tenderness is reached.   This would also be a good time to put on the rice!

While rice and lentils boil melt ghee or olive oil in a small saucepan, add chopped onion and saute over med-low heat for 5 minutes or until onions are softening.  Add cardamom, turmeric, cumin, coriander and curry powder.  Cook until onions are soft and spices are fragrant.  Add tamarind paste.

Drain any excess liquid from lentils.  Stir onions and spices into lentils and add whole cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over rice with a dollop of sour cream.

The fun part about this recipe is that you can play around with it, adjusting the spices to your taste, trying different kinds of lentils, or maybe adding a dash of tomato sauce?  If you don't have access to things like Ghee or Tamarind paste, don't fret!  I wouldn't have them either save for my mother-in-law and the new Indian market down the road from her!  You can try substituting olive oil, sesame oil, or regular butter for the ghee or a teaspoon or two of brown sugar and a squeeze of lime juice instead of tamarind paste (although tamarind is a very unique flavor and I do suggest trying it if you can get your hands on it.  A side note: it can also be used to make homemade Worchestershire sauce!)

**Also, thought I'd add that research points to numerous health benefits of curry powder and turmeric (which is also in curry powder), including anti-inflammatory properties, reducing arthritis symptoms, improving brain function and potentially guarding against Alzheimer's, and preventing the onset of, and fighting, several cancers including breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and skin cancer.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Neapolitan Pizza Dough & White Pizza Recipe

One of the things I miss most about living in Italy is pizza.  They make the best pizza dough there, thin but chewy.  I know there are pizzerias in the States that make this kind of dough but I don't seem to ever live near any of them.  The mainstream delivery places make "thin crust" pizzas now but they are crispy and all wrong!  This recipe is the nearest thing I have found to traditional Neapolitan pizza dough.  Thin, but still soft and flexible.  And an added bonus, no waiting for the dough to rise!

  • 3 tsp. dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 3/4 cup of lukewarm water
  • 1 3/4 cups of unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Place lukewarm water in stand mixer bowl and add sugar.  Sprinkle over yeast and let sit for 5-10 minutes until frothy.   Add salt and flour.  Knead on speed 2 for about 3 minutes.  Turn dough out onto floured pizza stone and stretch by hand into a 12" circle.  Top with your favorite toppings (white pizza recipe below) and bake in a preheated oven at 450-500 F for 8-12 minutes.  Put toppings on THINLY, if you put a lot of toppings or sauce on then cook longer at the lower temp or the dough won't cook all the way through.  If you are lucky enough to have a wood fired oven in your backyard this would be even more amazing and authentic (husband are you reading?).

We love pizza with all kinds of toppings but the one pictures above is a white pizza and here's how you make it:

In lieu of a red tomato-based pizza sauce make a garlic butter sauce as follows:

Melt half a stick of butter in the microwave or on your stovetop. Add 2 cloves crushed, chopped fresh garlic.  Do not cook the garlic just allow it to flavor the butter.

Spread garlic butter on pizza crust.

Top with:

*Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
*Dollops of ricotta cheese
*Shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
*Chopped fresh basil
*Fresh ground black pepper

(Also great with goat cheese!...and pine nuts...and roasted garlic cloves...the possibilities are endless)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Things that Inspire and Make Me Happy

My dear friend over at Lovely Bud gave me a Happy 101 Award a couple weeks ago, how fun!  Here's my list:

10 Things that Make me Happy
*Being married to my best friend 
*My two darling blond-haired little monsters
*My vegetable garden
*Creating things from scratch, whether it be with pen and paper, fabric, my laptop, words, or food
*A good bottle of wine ('nuff said)
*My four-legged furries and two-legged featheries
*Traveling to new places and old
*Girl's nights
*Getting stuck in a really good book that I can't put down
*Cheese (what would the world be without it?)

I am passing this award on to a few other bloggers who inspire me:

For those who have received the award, if you would like to participate you can:

Copy and paste the award on your blog.  Link to the blogger who gave you the award. List 10 things that make you happy. Pass the award on to other bloggers and visit their blog to let them know about the award!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Homegrown Party Fare

Time to finish up blogging about my little guy's birthday menu. :)  So, for his party on the weekend I was sticking to a pretty strict budget and I thought, why fill everyone up on chips and processed food (the usual party fare) if I can use of my baking skills and the eggs provided by my chickens!  I still had to hit up the grocery store because we aren't harvesting nearly enough strawberries for the fruit salad I made or any other fruits or vegetables in a decent quantity just yet.

Old-fashioned Lemonade
Homemade whole wheat toast with:
Egg Salad & Chicken Salad
Summer fruit and berry salad with Vanilla Yogurt
Soft Pretzel Bites with Whipped Cream Cheese


Old-fashioned Lemonade

10 organic lemons
2.5 cups sugar
2.5 quarts water

Peel lemons and set aside.  Place lemon peels in large bowl and toss with sugar.  Cover and let stand one hour so the sugar absorbs the oils from the peels.

Bring 2.5 quarts water to a boil.  Pour over lemon peels and sugar.  Let stand 20 minutes.

Squeeze juice from lemons and put in pitcher.  Strain out lemon peels while pouring sugar water into pitcher with lemon juice.  Stir to combine and refrigerate.  Serve over ice.

Honey Wheat Toast

Here's the post with the honey wheat bread recipe.  I made this one freestyle instead of in a loaf pan and sliced it into oval slices.  I toasted it under the broiler for a few minutes and served with egg salad and chicken salad.

Egg Salad

12 eggs
2:1 ratio horseradish mustard to mayonaise
paprika (for color)
Flat leaf parsley (snipped/chopped)
sea salt and fresh grated black pepper

Place eggs in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Boil one minute then remove from burner, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.  Place eggs in an ice water bath and then peel when cool.  Mash eggs with two forks and stir in 2 parts mustard to 1 part mayo.  Season with salt and pepper and garnish with paprika and snipped flat-leaf parsley.

Chicken Salad

2 large cans shredded chicken breast in water
1 cup halved red grapes
1 cup chopped gala apples
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
salt and pepper

Combine shredded chicken, grapes, apples, and walnuts in a bowl.  Add mayo to desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Summer Fruit Salad with Vanilla Yogurt

1 Gala Apple
1 Granny Smith Apple
1 cup red grapes
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries
1 cup Organic Vanilla Yogurt

(double for a crowd)

Combine all ingredients except yogurt.  Serve yogurt as a dressing/dipping sauce on the side.

This is also great with sugared walnuts (also good with brown sugar).

Soft Pretzel Bites with Whipped Cream Cheese

Simple!  Just make up this soft pretzel recipe detailed in a past post of mine.  Chop into bit size pieces and serve with whipped cream cheese!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Apple Banana "Cupcakes" with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

What a crazy week!  My son turned four and we had three separate celebrations.  One on his actual birthday, one at his school, and then a big party with family friends on the weekend (followed the next day by MY birthday)!  It's been exhausting!  I have several food-related posts and recipes I want to share from his birthday celebrations and I'm going to kick this off with these delicious Apple Banana Cupcakes.  I found this recipe on (here's the link), I seem to be finding a lot of good recipes there lately! These are kind of like a cupcake/muffin hybrid.  I think it's really the frosting that makes them cupcakes, and the frosting is to die for!  My inspiration for the frosting came from this recipe and you can find my version below.

Apple Banana Cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup shortening (I used butter)
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I omitted this because I didn't have it on hand)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (I used powdered buttermilk during the mixing of the dry ingredients and an extra 1/4 cup milk later on)
  • 1 cup ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 apples - peeled, cored and shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour 24 muffin cups, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and buttermilk. Beat in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Fold in the mashed bananas and shredded apples. Fill each muffin cup half full.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.


    Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting


    • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
    • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar (to desired sweetness)
    • Dash milk if needed for desired consistency


    1. Melt butter and allow to cool.
    2. In your stand mixer bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, and brown sugar. Beat at speed 4-6. When mixture starts to stiffen, stop mixer and add honey.
    3. Continue to beat and add powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time until light and fluffy. 
    4. Spoon into ziploc bag with your spatula and cut the corner off bag.  Pipe onto cupcakes.  If you have pastry bags available of course that would work too!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

My new go-to recipe for sandwich bread.  My little guy has been taking P&J's to preschool made with this delicious bread and he loves it!  We've also enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches on this bread and eggs on toast, yum.  Adapted from this recipe on


  • 3 tsp. dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
Pour warm water over brown sugar in mixing bowl of your stand mixer.  Sprinkle yeast over the top and allow to sit 10 minutes until frothy.  Turn mixer to stir speed and pour in evaporated milk, water, melted butter, and honey.   DO NOT ADD SALT YET!! (Details in a minute).  Add whole wheat flour and all purpose flour 1/2 cup at a time on stir speed.  Once combined turn to speed 2 and knead 8 minutes.  Cover mixing bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rise for 15 minutes.

Here's the part about the salt:  My latest bread trick!  I recently read this post on the Farmgirl Fare blog and the best thing I took away from it was the bit about adding salt after the autolyse.  The autolyse is a resting period given to dough during the kneading stage.  As explained on Farmgirl Fare, salt inhibits gluten development and causes it to tighten.  For this reason the bread should be allowed 15-20 minutes to rest and allow the gluten to develop before the salt is added.

After the 15 minute resting period add kosher salt and knead another 2 minutes on speed 2.  Grease the mixing bowl with butter and turn dough to coat.  Cover mixing bowl with tea towel again and allow the dough to rise for 45 minutes.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and divide into two loaves.  Place in buttered, floured bread pans, sprinkle with flour and allow to rise under tea towels for 30 minutes more.

Preheat over to 375 degrees.  Place risen loaves in oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gingerbread Pancakes

Yesterday morning my kids requested pancakes for breakfast.  I was mixing together ingredients and decided I wanted to do something a little special with our pancake batter.  So I threw in some ginger and cinnamon and...yum!  Gingerbread pancakes!  The kids loved them.


4 tbsp. powdered buttermilk
1 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. bakind soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 egg slightly beaten
2 tbsp. melted butter

Mix dry ingredients, add wet ingredients.  Mix until combined.  Pour by the 1/4 cup onto 350 degree griddle.  Flip and serve.

These got Izzy's seal of approval!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini with Cremini and Pancetta

Here's an easy weeknight meal you can make with roast chicken leftovers.  Also wonderful with petite sweet peas, I didn't have any the day I photographed this but it is very good with them.

1 lb Linguine
4 oz. Pancetta or Bacon
1 cup leftover roast chicken or rotisserie chicken chopped/shredded
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1/3 cup whole cream
1 cup shredded pecorino romano cheese (also good with parmesan, mild cheddar, monterey jack, etc., I like a lot of cheese as you can tell, you can adjust to your taste)
2/3 cup peas

Bring a pot of salted water with 1 tbsp. olive oil to a boil over high heat.  Add linguine, reduce heat and boil as directed on package.

Meanwhile saute pancetta or bacon over medium heat.  Add shredded chicken and continue to cook until bacon is crisping.  Add cremini and saute 2 minutes until mushrooms start to lose their water.  Add white wine and stir to scrape any browned bits off bottom of pan.  Sprinkle over flour and stir for 1 minute.  Reduce heat to low and add milk and cream slowly, stirring constantly until there is a thickened, creamy sauce.  Add peas and cheese.  Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.  Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cloth Diapers-Save More than One Kind of Green

In honor of Earth Day I'm posting today about something near and dear to my heart. :)  Cloth diapering.   When I was pregnant with my first baby, my husband and I knew right from the start that we would cloth diaper.  It just made sense to us.  Our mothers had used cloth diapers on us and we were convinced they would be more comfortable and healthier for our baby.  That was number one.  High on my list was the fact that we would be sparing landfills a whopping 1 ton of trash by the time our son potty trained.  High on my (very frugal) husband's list was that we would be saving ourselves over $3000 in those 3 short years.  How can you ignore something like that?

By the time we were bringing our son home from the hospital we knew all about the world of "modern diapering."  Everyone we knew was envisioning old fashioned pre-fold diapers (which I still think are pretty cool and we even used them on our daughter for her first few weeks), pins, and plastic pants.  Well if that is what you're thinking too, you are in for a surprise!  Modern cloth diapers are nothing like the ones our mothers and grandmothers used.  In fact they are really as easy to use as disposable diapers, often having an All-In-One or All-In-Two design.  You can find them in loads of colors, styles, fabrics and even designer prints!

I was so inspired by cloth diapering that I began designing and sewing diapers for my son.  This turned into a small business, now known as Urban Fluff.  We're not so "urban" anymore, but I think my city roots are still there!  That's the really wonderful thing about cloth diapering though.  It doesn't matter where you live, or what you do, cloth diapering truly has a benefit for everyone.  Modern diapers make it easy enough that even people who live in cities or moms who work outside the home can comfortably use cloth.  It's just a matter of throwing in an extra load of laundry every day or two.  It continues to astound me how people become more and more aware of cloth diapering every year.  When we first started using cloth I would say to my husband, "If people just knew how easy it was, disposable diapers would rarely be used.  If people just knew the cloth diapering options that are out there..."  When I started using cloth I was the only person (in my social circle) who had seemingly ever heard of it.  Now, almost everyone I know uses cloth.  I worried that my husband might think it was fussy, but the times we have used disposables he absolutely detests disposable diapers!  Once you use cloth there's no going back!  I've posted some pictures of my daughter in the iCandy Diapering System by Urban Fluff.  You can purchase enough diapers to go from birth to potty for only $300.

Here are some things I learned from The Real Diaper Association:

*Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste than cloth.

*Disposable diapers use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp.

*No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years under optimal circumstances, long after your children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren will be gone.

*Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposable make up 50% of household waste.

*Over 92% of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill.

*Throwaway diapers use twice as much water as cotton diapers, mostly in the manufacturing process.

*One ton of garbage is created for each baby who uses disposable diapers.

*In 1955, before modern disposable diapers were sold and consumed, it was estimated that 7% of babies and toddlers had diaper rash. In 1991, long after plastic disposable diapers dominated the market, the number jumped to 78%.

*Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paperbleaching process. It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. In small quantities, dioxin causes birth defects, immune system suppression, skin and liver diseases, and genetic damage in lab animals. It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S.

*Disposable diapers contain Tributyl-tin (TBT) a toxic pollutant know to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.

*Disposable diapers contain Sodium Polyacrylate, a type of super absorbant polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. This chemical can cause skin irritations and severe allergic reactions including vomiting, staph infections, and fever.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Peaches, Wine, and Art

I returned from my trip at the beginning of this month to find our little peach trees in full bloom with beautiful pink blossoms.  I regret not getting pictures when the trees looked that way, but the flowering seems to happen pretty quickly.  At least judging my apple trees, which bloomed the following week but had lost all their blooms within a few days (didn't get photos of those either!).  I have my suspicions that the apple blossoms dropped early due to an encounter with my 3 year old and our garden hose, but that is another story!

I can't see any apples forming on the apple trees but I was pleasantly surprised to find tiny, fuzzy, peach buds left behind when the petals fell off our peach trees.  Our trees are small but very sturdy and it looks like we'll be getting quite a few peaches from them this year!  I'm so excited to try homegrown peaches, and hopefully there will be enough surplus for some jam and pies.

The only things I regularly make with peaches in them are fruit salad and Peach Bellinis (yum!).

So here are the recipes for those:

Simple Summer Fruit Salad:

Fresh Sliced Peaches
Fresh Blueberries
Fresh Sliced Strawberries

Serve with Vanilla Yogurt on the side.  Optionally add sliced banana, apples, or whole seedless grapes.

Peach Bellini's:

The best Bellini I ever had was in Venice.  But that is probably because the drink was invented there, so if you are ever there be sure to try one!  It was invented by a bartender in the 1940's who named the drink for the color of a saint's robe in a Giovanni Bellini painting!  See the fun things you learn in art school?

There is nothing difficult about making a true peach bellini at all.  All you need is fresh peach puree and prosecco (sparkling Italian wine).  I think it is best just with those two ingredients, but it is certainly versatile so try different kinds of sparkling wine or add other fun fruits like strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.  In fact, I just had a great idea!  Just puree your fruit salad (above) and add the wine to that!!

Since I haven't done a lot of cooking with peaches, I've been hunting around and saving some recipes that I want to try once we harvest ours.  Here are some of the peach recipes I've saved in my "recipe box" on

Grilled Peaches & Cream

Peach-A-Berry Pie

Southern Peach Cobbler

Apricot & Peach Fried Pies

Spicy Peach Chutney

Georgia Spiced Peaches

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let the Transplanting Begin!

So, starting seedlings indoors turned out to be a smashing success.  I started 216 plants on my kitchen counter top and they pretty much did the work themselves!  I now have 4 varieties of tomatoes, sweet onions, red bell peppers, rosemary, thyme, and lavender ready to be transplanted to the garden.  My only problem now is space!  We may expand beyond the 25' x 25' confines of the vegetable garden this year.  My days have been so full and busy lately that I am having to take it slow.  I got one tray of tomato seedlings in the dirt this afternoon and the goal is to have the second one done tomorrow and the third tray the next day.  Then I start finding homes for all the seeds I bought in a moment of over enthusiasm...I got a little carried away when the first seed packets appeared in stores this winter but I'm determined not to let them go to waste!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Eggs

Last year we put quite a lot of money and time into building a chicken coop.  Knowing basically nothing about chickens we ventured out to a place we found on Craigslist and got ourselves some hens.  They were young but the guy who owned the place assured us they were all female and that they would be laying in a few weeks.

The summer waned and so did the daylight.  No eggs at all.  We figured they weren't getting enough light but didn't want to force them to lay by putting them on lights over the winter.  The fall was here and we were determined to get a few eggs for breakfast before winter.  I went to another place and bought 3 hens that I was told were already, currently, laying eggs.  Nothing.  One morning I woke up to a "Cock-a-doodle-do!"  Turns out one of our "hens" was a rooster.  In the end it turned out four of them were roosters.  A few succumbed to some strange changes in weather over the winter and what I thought must have been a respiratory ailment.

The lack of eggs was seriously upsetting to my omelet-loving husband, so he was tearing his hair out when a friend of our's chickens started laying in the dead of winter, no lights, nothing.  He made a half hearted attempt at putting a leftover bit of rope lighting in the hen house, but I don't think it was bright enough.  Kind of made the coop festive looking though!  One night we ordered in Chinese food and my husband, who had just been bemoaning the lack of eggs, opened his fortune cookie to read "A hen today is better than an egg tomorrow."  I hung his mis-fortune on the fridge.

Finally spring arrived.  Friday morning I was going about my outdoor chores.  I cleaned the rabbit cages, and fed, watered and exercised our three netherland dwarf rabbits.  I brought out some lettuce and green waste to scatter in the chicken run and let the chickens graze in the yard a bit while the dogs were kenneled.  I assessed the vegetable garden and what I needed to get started fixing up our soil so my seedlings can be transplanted.  Finally, I put the chickens back in the coop, turned and started towards the house.  But something stopped me and I thought, what the heck, I'll take a peek in the nest box and maybe today will be the day.  At the very least I can make sure they have fresh bedding.  I opened the lid and my heart stopped.  There was a huge, brown egg.  It was perfect.  I ran into the house for my camera and yelled to the kids that we had an egg!  We all marveled at the perfect egg laying on the straw and took about a hundred photos.  I immediately posted our announcement on Facebook and emailed my husband.  It was a monumental day for us, we were not failures at keeping chickens after all!

I was completely in love with my chickens again!  The next morning I practically ran to the coop, took a deep breath, lifted the lid of the nesting box, YES, another egg!  Now I was feeling more confident.

I sold the last rooster and went out to get a few more young, but laying, hens.  Having had this experience and being disappointed before I was crossing my fingers that firstly, these actually were hens and not roosters, and secondly, that they actually were laying.  Once they were all happily introduced into their new home I left them overnight.  This morning I fed and watered them and took the kids to a friend's house for Easter lunch.

Upon returning from lunch I discovered, not one, but FIVE beautiful eggs in the nest box.  WOW.  In three days we went from no eggs to seven eggs!  Now we're talking!  We now have the following chicken breeds in our coop: 1 black sex-link (so called because unlike most chicks these can be sexed at birth), 2 black Australorps, 2 Barred Rocks, and one Silver Laced Wyandotte (pictured).  The Wyandotte is one of the neatest looking hens I have ever seen, and will be real fun to take photos of in the yard!   The Wyandotte is an American heritage breed of chicken so I'm also feeling pretty dang patriotic as well!  Can you tell she's my favorite?  I still want to raise Ameracaunas someday (when we own our dream farm) and sell blue eggs, but I'm thinking we should also raise Silver Laced Wyandottes.  Both of those breeds are so interesting to look at and are good layers.  I think we could easily sell them and get people excited about having backyard chickens!

I don't know why more people don't own chickens actually, I mean I love my dogs but they don't make me breakfast!