Monthly Archives: February 2010

how to make your own coffee creamer.

I love coffee creamer. Maybe more than I love coffee itself. During my sentence employment as a Starbucks barista I started to appreciate coffee in and of itself a little more but in my soul I am a girly, frou-frou coffee drinker.

I’m down with that.

I don’t really have a complicated, picky typical order at the ‘Bux though, like many partners and ex-partners do. I’m a fan of a short Pike Place with 2 pumps Toffee Nut and lots of room for cream. My poison when I’d arrive for a 4:30am opening shift would be 4 shots of espresso — yes, four shots of espresso — with x pumps of caramel syrup (the number escapes me now) and whipped cream stirred in — a drink known to partners as “bunny juice.” (I quit the hard stuff though when I discovered I had become a host organism to a tiny human being).

Currently, my drink of choice is a grande soy caramel latte.

So, yeah. Not overly complicated, but definitely girly and frou-frou.

I figure I make up whatever indie cred I lost right there with my beer snobbery.

Anyway, so now that I don’t work for Starbucks and don’t get free partner bevs or a discount, and we’re down to one income, I make due with plain jane coffee at home. But where I get fancy is the coffee creamers.

They are delicious. But they are soooo bad for you. There’s not a stitch of “real food” in them. It’s all partially hydrogenated soybean oils and corn syrup and gross gross icky gross.

Every time I drink it I think, I am shortening my life by a few hours or days. Mmmmm. *slurp*

I posted on Facebook the other day extolling my love for terrible, terrible, delicious coffee creamer, and my friend Krista commented that she had figured out how to make her own coffee creamer to avoid the bad stuff. I was intrigued, so I did some research and discovered a few recipes.

This website has quite a few different flavors to make, but I opted for the almond orange cappucino flavor, because my friend J. is kind of obsessed with almond-flavored anything, and I wanted to see what the hub-bub was all about. And, the end result was so easy and so yummy and so not full of trans fats that I may never buy coffee creamer ever again.

First, you take a can of sweetened condensed milk and pour it in a clean Ball jar. Then, add 1 1/2 cups of nonfat milk. Then, remember you wanted to write a blog post about making coffee creamer and go and find your camera and take a picture.

Then go get your kids and teach them about density, because the condensed milk is more dense than the nonfat milk so you’ll need to stir it up really well to get it all mixed up.

Add some flavor extracts — I’m pretty sure you could do whatever your heart desired, but like I said, I wanted to do something almond-y so I added 1 tsp of almond extract and 1/2 tsp of orange extract. Then I put the lid on the jar and shook it really well, so it was all creamy and frothy and yum, like so:

Then I poured some to my steaming cup of Cafe Verona:

Why yes, that is a box of Huggies in the background.

And yes, my ISO is set too high and that’s why the picture is grainy.

But the coffee creamer was yummy. I wasn’t crazy about the orange flavor, so I think I might just do almond extract next time.

Oh, and that website I linked to earlier says it’ll keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. As if it’ll last that long. But remember your lesson in density and shake it up each time you use it to keep the condensed milk from settling on the bottom.

Enjoy!

on writing and rustiness and a mother’s voice.

I really want to post more frequently on here, but I hate posting for the sake of posting, too. I know readers want fresh content, but I highly doubt they want random junk.

I’m not that interesting. The Pioneer Woman can post random junk and it’s fascinating. I cannot.

If you could look in my drafts folder, you’d see a bunch of posts I’ve started that ended up being crap. It’s extremely frustrating. I knew I was rusty, but I didn’t know exactly how rusty I was.

For those of you who don’t know my history, you should know that at one time, not too long ago actually, I had aspirations to get my MFA in Creative Non-Fiction. I took a CNF class in college and absolutely fell in love with the craft. I was so surprised and pleased to discover that what I wrote in my many journals and on my xanga and livejournal (back in the day, folks) was actually a thing. It was not only a way I could figure out the world and my messed up brain and heart but also a craft I could work on and make pretty. It could be art.

It was something I just did naturally, writing, and it took me a long time to realize that not everyone can just sit down and write. The ability to put thoughts on paper, string sentences together, was not something everyone could do. It really was a gift I had, and it deserved to be honed.

Well, when it came down to it we discovered that we couldn’t afford to go to graduate school, even if they did pay for me to go, so I got a job and eventually got knocked up and started a family. And those dreams of the writing life sort of died.

But recently — recently — that desire to write, and be good at it, has been re-ignited. I think it has something to do with the sleep-deprivation being so much less severe.

So, anyway, you’ll forgive me for not posting as much as I’d like. I’m writing — I’m just rusty. I have moments where that effortlessness that writing was for me in college comes back, just for a second. I think athletes would describe it as being “in the zone.” I think writers call it “finding their voice.” I’m finding mine again. It’s a different voice — a mother’s voice. But it’s there. And soon I will share it with you.

curried split pea soup: a tutorial of sorts

You all may have noticed the prevalence of curried split pea soup on my menu plans recently. I’m telling you, this soup is so yummy. I mean, it’s an Alton Brown recipe. I’m not sure how you could go wrong with that. But what makes this soup so amazing is it’s simplicity. I used to think of split pea soup as being a sort of fussy meal — multiple pots, frying up bacon, or having leftover ham on the premises, which we never do, because we don’t eat very much pork. I was also under the impression that split pea soup took a long time to make, and with a 1-year old, time is of the essence. So I kind of wrote off split pea soup.

I don’t exactly remember how I came across this soup recipe, but immediately I liked that it didn’t take forever to make, and it didn’t seem overly complicated. So, without further ado, I will show you how you, too, can produce a delicious, hearty soup for your family.

First, the ingredients:

That’s a bag of split peas, chicken broth, an onion, butter, curry powder (not shown…but important), minced garlic, and kosher salt. The original recipe only calls for 12 oz of split peas, but I had a 16 oz bag, and what would I do with a random 4 oz of split peas? So I use the whole bag.

I was out of chicken broth at the moment, so I used water and chicken bouillon. That’s what’s in the ziploc bag. I would have much preferred real chicken broth, but I had to make do.

Because I used the bouillon and it’s already super salty, I left out the kosher salt, but I wanted to include it in my picture because it made the picture look better.

And, finally, the most important part:

My crock pot.  The original recipe isn’t a crock pot recipe, but it was really easy to convert. And less time in the kitchen = more time doing something else, which is a good thing.

OK. So, get out all your ingredients. Then pour the split peas in a colander and rinse ’em and sort ’em, like so:

Make a note to remove the watermarks all over your sink later.

OK, that’s not actually part of the recipe.

But this is: take 2 tablespoons of butter and throw it in the crock pot. Then chop up an onion and throw that in, too:

Then learn how to keep your camera strap out of your frame.

Oh wait, that’s not part of the recipe either.

Anyway.

Add some minced garlic. And by “some” I mean, “as much as your family likes”. The Birkels like garlic a great deal, so I added more. I couldn’t tell you how much though.

Why yes, I am using one of Sam’s baby spoons to “measure” out garlic.

And then….this:

Curry powder. If you’re not a fan of curry, I’d say to just use the amount the recipe specifies, which is 1 tablespoon. If you like curry, pour it on.

Then, add 4 cups of broth. The original recipe calls for 5 cups, but I reduced it by one cup since it’s a crock pot recipe so there won’t be any evaporation. Plus, we like a thicker soup.

Here comes the hard part. Turn your crock pot on the highest setting if you’re making this at noon or later like I do; if you are on the ball and throw stuff in your crock pot early in the day, use a different, lower setting. But be forewarned that I have never made it that way, so I don’t know how it would turn out.

Then walk away. Come back in 4-5 hours, and stir the soup a few times with a wooden spoon. The original recipe asks you to use a stick blender and blah blah blah. I’ve found that just stirring with a spoon makes it the right consistency, like so:

Dish out into bowls and eat! I’ve found this recipe feeds Tim, Sam and myself adequately, but we like eating. That said, I still don’t think it makes a ton of soup, but it’s easy to double.

(And that’s iced tea, not wine, btw).

Curried Split Pea Soup

serves 3-4

based on this recipe from the Food Network

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

minced garlic to taste

1 (16 oz) bag split peas, picked over and rinsed

4 cups chicken broth, or water with bouillon

1-2 tablesoons curry powder, or to taste

Add ingredients to crock pot. Set crock pot on desired setting. Come back at dinner. Eat.

Particularly yummy with fresh bread.

menu plan monday: the week of february 15, 2010

The internet is being dumb so I’m having a hard time posting my menu plan. Argh.

Technology:  it’s a love-hate relationship.

Monday: Moroccan Lentil Soup

Tuesday (LOST! LOST! LOST!): hamburgers with homemade hamburger buns, frozen veggies, orange ginger sweet potatoes (we’re addicted to sweet potatoes apparently).

Wednesday (Bible study night for Alissa): curried split pea soup in the crockpot, homemade bread. You guys. This soup is amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I’m going to show you how to make it. Tutorial coming soon. Like sometime after Wednesday.

Thursday (worship practice night for Tim): spicy slow cooker black bean soup, cornbread, salad. I pink puffy heart my slow cooker. Especially on nights where one of us has to dash out the door.

Friday: pork vindaloo goa-style (Tim’s specialty!), naan

Saturday: the dang roast turkey that I have forgotten two weeks in a row! I’m getting it out right now and putting it in the fridge to start thawing.

Sunday: leftovers

Also, I have been craving liver. I know that’s kind of weird, but I like liver and onions. A lot. I just don’t know where to buy it around here. It’s probably something I have to ask for at the meat counter. But you guys? If I can find liver I am eating it. And giving it to Sam. And Tim can find something else to eat since he doesn’t like liver. His loss. Ever since I read Real Food (an amazing, amazing book, by the way) a couple weeks ago I have had the worst craving for liver and also roe. Like in sushi. Mmmm.

I’m a freak. This isn’t news to me.

Want to plan your menu, too? Participate in Menu Plan Monday…you’ll be glad you did!

what would you do? thoughts on weaning a toddler, etc.

Gentle readers, I have a dilemma.

My wonderful husband and I will be celebrating 5 years of marriage in May, and we’ve thrown around the idea of leaving Sam with my mom and dad and going away for a long weekend, just the two of us.

Sam will be a few days shy of 16 months.

As of right now, he’s still nursing. Quite a bit. He sleeps all night now (YAY!!!) but during the day he nurses fairly frequently, in the typical toddler fashion of 2 minutes per session about a million times a day.

That is, unless we’re busy. If we’re running errands or playing with friends, he hardly ever asks to nurse. With real food and just being busy playing, he will sometimes go 6 or 7 hours without nursing.  So, on days where we are particularly busy, he nurses maybe 3 or 4 times all day. Once at 6am when he wakes up, once at 7:30 or 8 when he wakes up for the day, before naptime, and before bedtime. Sometimes he wants to nurse when he wakes up from his nap, too, but I can usually distract him with his sippy and a snack.

So, if we go on this little trip in May, I’d assume we’d need him to be weaned by then, yes? I’ve considered not weaning him completely and still going (and pumping or hand expressing for my own comfort while we were gone) but I don’t really know how he’d handle that. I’m sure my mom, loving grandma that she is, would prefer to not have an inconsolable toddler for a few days. But then I wonder…he doesn’t seem to even miss or think about nursing when I am not around, or if we’re busy, so would it really bother him if he wasn’t weaned but we took the trip anyway?

I am worried though that if we took the trip and he didn’t nurse for 3-4 days, he’d just be done nursing.

You might be saying, but isn’t that what you want? To be done? Well…yes and no.

I do want to get away with my hubby for a few days. That sounds fun and relaxing. We could sleep as much as we wanted! Go shopping! Have meals where no food is thrown on the floor!

I do kind of want my body back, just for a little bit, before I get knocked up again.

I do want to wear dresses and things again without having to think about how I’d nurse in it.

I am looking forward to wearing a normal bra again.

However…

Sam and I worked so hard to be able to nurse at all in the beginning, and I am not sure I am ready to give that up yet.

I know he’d still be getting immunological benefits from my milk, and it is such a comfort to know that when he is sick, he’s still getting fluids and nourishment from me, even if he doesn’t want anything else or can’t keep anything else down.

He’s still sensitive to dairy (I think — although I will confess that I have been cheating and eating dairy since he started sleeping through the night, but he has not been reintroduced yet), so he couldn’t have cow’s milk to drink, and I’m not giving him soy milk ever because it’s bad for boys, and rice milk is mostly sugar. Coconut milk is my preferred option, as it’s high in medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid, which is found in breast milk, but coconut milk is expensive. (You can read about how awesome coconut oil and milk is here).  So, I am not sure what I would wean him to, and I feel a little guilty about giving him something that’s second best (and more money) when I have the best thing to offer him, and it’s free, too!

I know that studies show that the longer a kid is breastfed, the smarter he or she is. With me as his mom, he’s going to need all the help he can get (although his daddy is very smart).

But aside from the many benefits of nursing a toddler, I would  miss nursing him. I know I would. I love having that chance to connect with him even if he does latch on and off to “talk” to me 457x a session or tries to put his feet in my face or stick his fingers up my nose or in my mouth or pinch me or rub his hands in my cleavage. One time when we was like, 8 months old, he farted while nursing, and I said to him, “Uh oh! I heard a little toot, toot, toooot!” and he came off and laughed. So now when he’s nursing I can say to him, “Toot toot tooot?” and he’ll giggle with my nipple in his mouth. It’s like an inside joke. I will miss that, you know? Even now as I type this out it makes my heart hurt to think about him not nursing anymore.

Ultimately, I want to wean him gently, over a period of time, so we can both adjust. Sometimes he can be distracted with a toy or a snack or his sippy, but other times only mama and her milk will do.

I’m just really torn about what to do. Do I go on the getaway with my hubby? Do I try to wean Sam before we leave? Do I go on the getaway but not wean him first and hope for the best? Or do we just put the plans to go on a trip on hold until after Sam self-weans (providing I am not, then, also nursing a newborn)?

What would you do? Have any tips on gently weaning a toddler? Is 16 months too young?

toddlers scare me.

Toddlers terrify me.

I have never been much of a kid person. I babysat as a teenager and worked in the church nursery and at VBS growing up, and I have always liked babies. They are cute. They are fun to hold. They cry sometimes, but it’s nothing a boob or pacifier or bottle or change of diaper or scenery or a nap can’t fix.

Toddlers, however, absolutely scare me to death. They have strong emotions and limited communication skills; they are like babies, except they can walk and exert their wills and opinions and throw fits and still need their diapers changed and oh my word, do I miss exclusively breastfed diapers.

And here’s the thing: Sam is a toddler. He walks sometimes, he says words, and he throws a fit when I brush his teeth.

I love him to death. He’s an amazing, funny, cute kid. I’m not crazy about other children, but I love mine.

But can I just say that I am entering the next phase of motherhood with much trepidation? I just got the baby stage somewhat figured out, you know?

I don’t know how to handle tantrums, and I know his tantrums now as a 1-year-old are nothing compared to the full-blown meltdowns of 2, and 3, and 4 (and 5, and 6…etc). I don’t know how to train him in obedience.

Like, we have this lamp in our front room. He broke one lamp already, and he keeps going for this lamp like it’s magnetic and he’s iron. A firm “No! Hurt the baby!” is met with a giggle and that impish grin as he goes for it anyway. Redirection is met with a tantrum — short-lived, yes, but a tantrum none the less. We have started, in addition to the firm-nos and the redirection, giving him a little swat on his (well-padded, diapered) bottom. It’s mostly meant to be a “Hey! Listen to me when I tell you no.” That seems to be working a little better — he’ll start to go for the lamp and stop and at least think about it for a second before going to play with something else, or going for the lamp anyway.

I’m okay with this method. It seems to be working, like I said, but then some voice inside my brain, the voice of the brainwashed member of the attachment parenting cult I used to be, starts in. And I get scared again. Am I doing the right thing? How do I get him to listen to me and to stop when I tell him to stop, immediately? I’m wondering this for his own well-being — when he’s 3 and running pell-mell for the street or something, and I yell for him to STOP I don’t want him to giggle and run out in the street anyway. You know? It’s my job to protect him, even from himself.

I’m just trying to be consistent, and to outlast him in any battles of wills. Which right now isn’t too hard to do, but I’m thinking might become more difficult as he gets older.  I also just try to talk to him a lot — I think he picks up a great deal of what I am saying, even if he can’t always respond back, so I just make life a running commentary: You can’t touch the lamp because it could hurt you and I love you too much to let you get hurt like that; we have to brush our teeth because having good dental hygiene is important, isn’t it fun to brush our teeth like Mama and Daddy do? I know you don’t want to be in your car seat but it’s non-negotiable, sorry. We’ll get out as soon as we get to the grocery store, etc.

But toddlers scare me. For real. Some people are great with toddlers and little kids and yet the thought of having teenagers makes them stay awake at night worrying. The teenage years? Don’t scare me. Well, much. I think Sam will be a pretty cool teenager (and by “cool” I don’t mean “socially cool” because his parents were not at all, and I am going to try my darndest to make him polite, kind, empathetic, godly, etc, but not “cool” by the standards of today’s young people), even if he will eat us out of house and home.

How do I do this next stage? And how do I do it well, not just survive it? I don’t want to just survive mothering a toddler. I want to be intentional about how I discipline and teach him. I’m sure there will be days where I just hope to make it out alive but overall, I’d like to have a more optimistic outlook than that.

I guess I say all that to say this: if you have young children, and I don’t fawn over them immediately, don’t take it personally. I just have no idea what to say or do with kids. And now I have one. Fortunately, I think he likes me, and I like him, so hopefully it’ll turn out alright in the end.

And I’ll pray a lot, to fill in the gaps and the areas where I screw up.

Any tips for disciplining a toddler? Any tips for not just surviving but thriving in the toddler stage of parenthood? Tell me stories. I need stories.

menu plan monday: the week of february 8, 2010

I stayed up too late watching the stupid Colts lose the Superbowl. *yawn* So I am getting a late start on planning my menu for this week.

Monday: curried split pea soup in the crockpot that I was going to make last week before we ran out of curry. Whoops. And homemade bread, if I can get around to it. We have small group tonight but I am unsure if we will go because Sam is still coughing and has a runny nose and since we gave all the kids at playgroup roseola last week, I’d prefer not to give all the kids at small group his cold this week.

Tuesday: salmon patties, peas, orange ginger sweet potatoes

Wednesday: whole chicken in the crockpot, green beans, brown rice

Thursday:  turkey chili and cornbread

Friday: chicken stir fry, jasmine rice [get turkey out to thaw]

Saturday: the roast turkey I was supposed to make last Saturday, but didn’t because I forgot to get it out to thaw the night before

Sunday: leftovers

You can participate in Menu Plan Monday, too, if you want! Even though our menu plan has been um, flexible, so far, at least I have something written down so I am not totally baffled every day at 4pm.