Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bad, Bad Mommy

I think back to the day when I decided that I should be a SAHM and raise my kids myself even though it would mean sacrificing my career (snort) and lots more. I would engage my darlings in educational games in between teaching them foreign languages and fixing them healthy meals. We would go play outside and indulge in the wonders of nature, then come inside for some hands-on science projects.

That fantasy did not involve me laying around in my PJ's, sick to my stomach, putting on one TV show after another (on separate TVs, no less) to keep these guys entertained while I try to ignore the strange sounds emanating from my poor tummy.

Reality sucks.

Not feeling guilty or anything around here.

Now if the diaper fairy would show up to change The Stinky One, my day would be complete.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Crazy Talk

It's a sad day when you realize that your fantasies involving romantic weekends away, massages and George Clooney have been replaced with dreams of one perfect day: going from Target, to Kohl's, to Trader Joe's, to the mall, to Costco all alone and then coming home to a grocery delivery, clean laundry, and a clean house.

Now that I think about it, a romantic weekend away with George is probably more likely.

Post Script...

to the crock pot post: I have recently found a great Crock pot blog, written by someone who is resolving to cook something different in her crock pot every day in 2008. As if her crazy ambition wasn't enough, she's also a funny and charming writer. Check out A Year of CrockPotting and tell Steph I sent you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One Gift, Many Occasions

Remember way back when I totally blew off blogging in December, then promised I'd do some holiday posts in January? Lame, I know, but here's one of those posts. If it makes you feel any better, I've been feeling guilty about it since, like, November. So now I have less guilt and you have something yummy to read about. Win, win.

Much to my husband's annoyance, I insist on making a home made food gift for a select few friends and neighbors each holiday season. He, being of the "Why Bother?" school of thought thinks this just causes unnecessary stress and effort. I, being of the "If Anything is Worth Doing It's Worth Doing To Excess" school of thought, ignore him. But this year, with sanity, time and money all being at a premium, I had to rethink the process. God forbid I would skip the gifts altogether. This was not an option. However, I needed something that was easy to make and relatively inexpensive, since I had a lot of people I planned to give to.

It's no secret that I have an enigmatic relationship with my crockpot. Although I hear raves about it, I've yet to produce anything in mine that doesn't come out tasting and looking like, well, slop. Not ready to give up yet, I was browsing yet another slow cooker cookbookin hopes of finding something that didn't involve a can of cream-of-sodium soup. Towards the back of the book, I happened upon a recipe for apple butter. Hmmmm...interesting. My husband and I had always loved it when we lived in Washington and hadn't had any for a long time. It sounded good, easy, and inexpensive. After consulting the brain trust (who, by the way, devotes many posts to gifts-in-a-jar) and finding a cute little apple spreader from Crate & Barrel to go with the goods, I decided to give it a try.

The basic recipe is to chop granny smith apples and stick them in a crock pot with sugar. Let the apples sit all day until they release a lot of their juice and collapse slightly, then add some spices and cook overnight. The next day, take off the lid and cook some more to thicken. Puree with an immersion blender (OMG I LOVE MINE) and that's it.

I made my first batch for Thanksgiving, planning to take a jar to my cousin's as a hostess gift. The good thing about this recipe is that it lasts up to two months in the refrigerator, making it a perfect for those who like to do things ahead of time. So I knew I could test run a jar at Thanksgiving and be able to use the leftovers at Hannukah. Of course, the presentation was also important. Julia and I stamped some plain brown gift bags with leaf stamps from Close To My Heart, then used the same stamps on grocery bags to make a topper for the jar. I used the stamps again to make a gift tag. I attached the spreader with some ribbon to match and voila! By this time I was so overwhelmed with the cuteness of the stamped stuff and the whole home made-ness of the whole thing that it wouldn't have mattered if the stuff tasted awful.

Fortunately, it didn't. I never heard from my cousin the unknowing guinea pig, but the rest of us who tasted the apple butter all loved it. I immediately began massive apple butter production and spent a lot of time chopping, stirring, and pureeing. The rest of the time I spent talking about apple butter. Conversation is pretty lively around these parts.

I realized that one batch only gave me a little more than two jars of apple butter. So I stuffed my crock pot with even more apples the next time to make the minimal effort worth it. It totally worked. I also unwittingly messed up the second batch by forgetting to add the spices before I turned the crock pot on and let the stuff cook overnight. So I added them the next morning, along with some water because the stuff looked a little thick and guess what? It was even better!! By not letting the spices cook and get concentrated as long, their flavors remained a little more bright and distinguishable while allowing the fresh flavor of the apples to burst through.

As I moved into full production mode, I loved the smell of it simmering and I loved having a refrigerator shelf filled with jars of the dark, rich, apply goodness waiting to be gifted to friends and family. Starting with Hannukah (it was early this year, remember?) I must have given 10-11 jars out. It made a lovely thank you gift for a friend who helped us play Santa and when we accepted a New Year's Eve invitation at 4 p.m. on New Year's Eve, it was a no-brainer grab and go hostess gift. The only thing that had to be changed was the ribbon and the stamp I used to decorate the jar, bag and tag.

With all this apple butter flowing, you may be wondering just what it's good for. The obvious choice is on toast or bagels with butter or cream cheese (or all by itself), although we think it tastes awesome with peanut butter. Julia now takes peanut butter and apple butter sandwiches to school for lunch. At Hannukah it was a more sophisticated topping for latkes and it was delicious. I also like it on simple grilled or roasted chicken. Lately, I've been putting it on the muffins Ethan and I have been baking together.

Things I love about this recipe:

  • Not too sweet but plenty of flavor
  • Can definitely stand in for fatty spreads and actually started out as fruit
  • Tastes great!
  • Easy to make and to make ahead
  • Makes a generous amount
  • Stores for a while in the fridge or freezer
  • A monkey could make it
  • Everyone seems to love it
I'm sure I'll be making more for my own family as we're down to our last jar. But the best compliment I got was from a friend whose son has severe food allergies. Not only was he able to enjoy the apple butter on his rice cake with no problems, but her daughter apparently said it was the "best sauce" she's ever had.

If you'd like to make the original recipe, consult the cookbook. Here's my adaptation:

5+ lbs. of Granny Smith apples, washed, cored and cut into large pieces
(I overstuffed my crock pot and couldn't get the lid on, but as the released their juices and collapsed it was no problem)
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
pinch of salt
big splash of vanilla extract (I use the good stuff from Trader Joe's and splash quite enthusiastically)

Layer the apples and sugar in your crock pot. Place lid on (it may not close all the way, this is OK) and let sit all day without turning on the crock pot. By the end of the day you will have a ton of apple juice in your crock pot and the apples will have collapsed to the point that the lid will close. Turn crock pot on LOW and cook overnight. In the morning, toss the apples with the spices and vanilla. At this point I like to add a cup or so of water. Eyeball it and add as much or as little as you like. Continue to cook for several hours until you reach your preferred thickness, removing the lid if it's too thin. Cool in crock and use immersion blender (or regular blender or food processor) to puree. Store in refrigerator for 2 months or freeze for up to 3.

I'd love to hear from you if you try this recipe. Let me know how you like it and how you use your yummy apple butter.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Crap, tagged again...

As a rule, I'm not a fan of tags. But I'm a lazy blogger and I can't ignore my sweet little Meghan, so here goes:


Q: What is your salad dressing of choice?
A: Poppy seed
Q: What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
A: Ew
Q: What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
A: The Cheesecake Factory
Q: On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant?
A: 20%
Q: What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
A: Potatoes
Q: What are your pizza toppings of choice?
A: Pepperoni
Q: What do you like to put on your toast?
A: Butter, or peanut butter and my home made apple butter.

Q: What is your wallpaper on your computer?
A: The tropical island in the middle of the ocean.
Q: How many televisions are in your house?
A: Three

Q: Are you right-handed or left-handed?
A: Right
Q: Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
A: 3 babies, one who didn't make it, and a pyogenic granuloma.
Q: When was the last time you had a cavity?
A: I refuse to answer on the grounds that I will not jinx this.
Q: What is the last heavy item you lifted?
A: Ethan.
Q: Have you ever been knocked unconscious?
A: Other than by the smell of Brady's diapers, no, but I've fainted a couple of times.

Q: If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
A: No, but a general range would help me obsess even more.
Q: If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
A: OK Mommy.
Q: What color do you think looks best on you?
A: Pink or red.
Q: Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake?
A: Probably but I'd rather not think about it.
Q: Have you ever saved someones life?
A: You mean not counting the three I carried around in my body and gave birth to?

Q: Has someone ever saved yours?
A: No

Q: Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100?
A: Quick kiss on the lips...sure
Q: Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000?
A: No
Q: Would you never blog again for $50,000?
A: Where's my check?
Q: Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000?
A: No. And anyone who'd pay to see me naked would be one sick puppy.
Q: Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1,000?
A. How hot?
Q: Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000?
A: Do I get to pick which human?

Q: What is in your left pocket?
A: Lint.
Q: Is Napoleon Dynamite actually a good movie?
A: There are worse.
Q: Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house?
A: Hardwood downstairs, carpet upstairs. Thanks, flood.
Q: Do you sit or stand in the shower?
A: stand
Q: Would you live with roommates?
A: Only if his name was George Clooney.
Q: How many pairs of flip flops do you own?
A: Several. But I wouldn't mind some new ones.
Q: Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
A: When the helicopter was circling overhead as my crazy-as-a-fucking-loon neighbor was taking a leak in my bathroom and hiding from her husband. Still wondering why I couldn't wait to move?

Q: Last Friend you talked to?
A: Julie
Q: Last person who called you?
A: Kim
Q: Last person you hugged?
A: Julia
Q: Last person to stick their foot in your face?
A: Brady

Q: Missing someone?
A: Yes
Q: Mood?
A: Sleepy and annoyed at today's UCLA basketball game.
Q: Listening to?
A: Steve Tyrell.
Q: Watching?
A: Nothing
Q: Worrying about?
A: Nothing much. It's a miracle.

Q: First place you went this morning?
A: To my mom's to drop off the kids.
Q: What can you not wait to do?
A: Go to bed
Q: What's the last movie you saw in theater?
A: Can't remember. Pathetic.
Q: Do you smile often?
A: Absolutely
Q: Are you a friendly person?
A: Yes

And now, I must spread the love by tagging:


Have fun ladies!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

What I Learned Spending A Day in Santa Barbara

On the second to last day of 2007, we took a little excursion to Santa Barbara along with my parents and my sister. After a lovely lunch we headed to the zoo. The day was not only fun but also educational. Being the giver that I am, I thought I'd share with you some of the things I learned:

  • Santa Barbara is too close and too cute for us not to go more often;
  • When I grow up, I'd love a little cottage near the beach there for weekends away from the hustle and bustle of the suburbs;
  • Just when I think I have the three most hellacious kids in the world and question my own sanity by taking them to a restaurant where innocent people are trying to enjoy a meal, they can completely surprise me by acting like human beings;
  • My family and I are just not animal people.
  • Some giraffes seem quite enthralled by drinking the urine of other giraffes;
  • Being 2 feet away from a lion is creepy regardless of the 6 inch thick glass separating us;
  • Regardless of the fact that the Santa Barbara Zoo is cute and small and perfect for an outing with kids, it still smells like animal poop;
  • Those animals there are residing on some prime ocean side real estate;
  • The crappy gift shop at the little zoo train has quite a selection of train-themed (even Thomas!) items.
  • It's never too early to start shopping for Brady's birthday;
  • Just because you can legally fit 8 people in an SUV doesn't make it the best idea;
  • Souplantation has a great concept but they can sure work out the logistics better;
  • There is no day that can't be improved by a train ride (if you're 4) or a trip to Starbucks (if you're me);
  • There is nothing cuter than grandparents interacting with their grandchildren;
  • Time spent enjoying family is always time well-spent, even when you have to miss a football game.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

You Know You're Old When.... (Part 2)

you mention to the cute little 9th grader who's babysitting your kids that you went to the same high school she currently attends and she says, "Yeah, there are a lot of grown-ups around here who went there." Oy.

Happy New Year.