Monday, August 31, 2009

August 2009: The Smell of Success Smells Good, Really Good

Ok, so I started writing this post, well it seems like a lifetime ago, so bear with me on recalling the details:-)

I have really enjoyed the smells that have been coming out of our kitchen lately, the smell of success. Of course success doesn't constitute perfection, but that's okay. So to continue my "Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Me" post, lets move on to...

Success #2
Fruit Slices for Freezing

We have been enjoying making smoothies for breakfast so I thought freezing some peaches and plum slices would be a fun idea. Having found that great article on that I shared in my first posting about my Millions of Peaches, removing the skins for freezing was quick and easy. I had heard that this was the hardest part about doing anything with peaches, so I was grateful for the shortcut.
This article on "How to Freeze Fruit" also tells you what type of storage is best for each type of fruit. For both peaches and plums I choose "sugar pack". Here is the instructions I followed per TipNut:

Sugar Pack: Dry sugar is added. Sprinkle sugar over the fruit, mix gently then allow fruit to stand for approximately 15 minutes (this draws out the juice and dissolves the sugar). It’s also fine to freeze immediately after sugar is added to fruit. Generally, 1/2 to 2/3 cups of sugar per quart of fruit is sufficient. Fruit pieces can also be frozen on trays first before packaging (sprinkle with sugar before freezing). (Thought the fruit trays were a great idea.)

I think it worked pretty well, they sure look pretty. I didn't use as much sugar as they suggested, but I did sprinkle some lemon juice onto the peaches as they suggested to prevent discoloration. I found these freezer containers at Wal-Mart on my initial canning supply search. Can't wait for the smoothies.

Successes #3 and #4
Mango-Peach Smoothie
found on

1 peach sliced
1 mango peeled and sliced
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk (we used almond milk or fat-free milk)
1/2 cup orange juice
4 ice cubes

Yummy! The boys had this breakfast two days in a row.
The next day we ran out of mango and orange juice, but we had blueberries so I created:

Blueberry Peach Smoothie

1 peach sliced
About 1/2 cup blueberries (would have added more but that was all we had)
1 small container blueberry yogurt
1/2 cup fat-free milk
4 ice cubes

This was my favorite. I like my smoothies a little thicker and this was yummy!
Would love some of your favorite smoothie recipes!

Success #5
Plum and Peach Jam

Thanks to my friend Daneen who knows everything there is to know about canning, jam, food storage, etc. and thanks to the directions on the Sure-Jell package I learned how to make jam. Daneen let me come over to her house to make peach jam with her. It is definitely a production. I brought my camera but there was no way I could have taken photos with pureed peach on my hands or watching the jam that had to boil for exactly 1 min or ruin! You can look at some of the recipes on the Sure-Jell link to get an idea of the extensive process. I'm sure for some of you, its a breeze. I was amazed as to how much sugar goes into making jam. Wow! If I would have known, I would have bought all "Low Sugar" packages. They look so beautiful in their jars. They are tasting yummy on the sandwiches too. I think I might need a little push next year to do it again, we'll see.

Peach Jam or Sploosh to the Wendy Fergie Fam

Plum Jam I made all on my own:-)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 2009: Millions of Peaches... Peaches for Me

The year was 1996 and I was a Senior in high school. I remember listening to this song at my friend Jarom's house in Temecula, jumping on the trampoline. It all seems so carefree now. "Millions of peaches, peaches for me. Millons of peaches, peaches for free." Such deep lyrics and very catchy. I have been living this song this week. Having these plums and peaches in the house has thrust me into a world I have never known. This week alone I've been baking, slicing, freezing, jamming, puree-ing, yes all technical terms. I don't know how people do this all the time.

So what to do with my peaches...

Thank you all for your encouragement. I initially had all sorts of things I wanted to try. The first was to can some peaches. Some of my friends gave me a basic list of things to buy and told me to try Wal-Mart. I went there thinking, "this should be easy, it will just take me a second and I'll be on my way". Naive. That's pretty much sums me up, and I'm ok with that. I stood there in front of the "canning" section at Wal-Mart just staring. I tried to call a friend desperately on the phone with no luck. The 2 types of jars I was supposed to get were out of stock and I didn't know which other types were just as good. There was all brands and kinds of the "pectin" (thats what its called, right?) and I didn't know how many boxes to buy. Well I bought a random sampling and left feeling dumb already. Lets just say that canning didn't happen and I have a counter full of things to return and I just LOVE returning things at Wal-Mart.

Lets go with my successes instead:-)

Success #1
I wanted to make peach cobbler and I found a recipe by Paula Dean (I said her name in my mind with a southern accent because you can't read or say her name any other way). I knew it had to be good and it was!!!

Disclaimer: Taking photos at night, is not my strength. Sorry these don't look as good as the Plumble but I promise its yummy!

Peach Cobbler
I promise its yummier than it looks
4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
[I learned a great way to take the skin off the peaches lickity-split from this article "How to Freeze Fruit" on "Bring water to a boil then submerge the fruit in the water for about 45 seconds. Remove fruit and plunge into a sink full of ice cold water. Skins will come right off! Its true.]

A beautiful boiled peach

Happy peaches with the skins removed

2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
8 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Ground cinnamon, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.

Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using.
Pre-baked, Doesn't this look appetizing
Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.
To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Okay so I guess I was getting a little cocky because I thought, hey I doubled the last recipe and it turned out, so I'll just double this one too. Probably not the best idea. It said to use a 3 qt dish and Mike's Le Creuset dutch oven is 5 1/2 qts so I figured I'd be fine. I ended up having to keep the oven light on and watch the thing bake because the "Batter will rise to the top during baking" part of the directions was definitely true. It kept rising and rising and rising. I was sweating and it wasn't just because I was leaning next to a hot oven. Thankfully it just missed the overflowing point. It did however not quite bake completely. My family didn't seem to mind too much with ice cream oozing all over the hot cobbler, but I ended up having to put it back in the oven. Oh well, I'm still counting it as a success:-)

Once again, it tasted better than it looks, Maybe no pictures would have been better:-)
Well I'm not even close to being done with posting about all the things I did with peaches this week, but my time limit is up that I gave myself. So you'll just have to be in suspense...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August 2009: Plumble and Ice Cream for Breakfast

Well I am so excited to say that my first attempt at doing something with my peaches and plums was a success. To quote my sister, "This is the best thing you have ever made." Well Vanessa, thanks so much, but that's pretty easy to accomplish when I really haven't made anything:-) People, I think I've maybe made cookies once, never a cake, cupcakes a disaster. So you know this must be easy.

Since I hate when things go to waste, a box of plums sitting on my counter was definitely motivation to make something with them (which is strange since food in my cupboard or in my fridge hasn't motivated me to cook anything before).

Cute little E peering around our huge box of plums

Introducing PLUMBLE, Mike's clever name for Plum Crumble.
Here is the scrumptuous recipe I found on a blog entitled "Occasional Katherine".

Plum Crumble

Looks yummy, doesn't it!

1.25 cups rolled oats
.75 cups brown sugar (packed)
.5 cups all purpose flour
1 stick o’ butter
2 lbs. plums
scant 2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Mix the flour and oats in a bowl with half of the brown sugar. Add the butter, and rub it in with your fingers [note: was not going to use my fingers since my nails are long and that would have been a nightmare - some sort of utensil worked just fine] until the mixture becomes clumpy. Set it aside.
2. Cut up the plums. Eight longitudinal slices per plum is good. Mix them in a bowl with the lemon juice, cinnamon, and the other half of the brown sugar.

Each plum cut into 8, then measured out 4 lbs. (I doubled the reciple) on Mike's nifty scale

3. Put the fruit mixture in a greased baking dish. Crumble the topping over it. Bake at 375 degrees until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is crisp and brown and the whole house smells irresistible, about 55 minutes.

Eat it warm and serve it with good, thick vanilla ice cream (Haagen-Dazs style).

Since I had sooo many plums, I decided to double the recipe. I ended up using 14 plums which sounds like a lot until you look at my box and see that I haven't really made a dent.

Still lots more plums to go

4 lbs of cut up plums waiting to be drowned in lemon juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon

Well 1 minor hiccup in the plan, Mike needed to use the oven at the same time as I did and since he has this strange philosophy that feeding our children dinner should take precedence over feeding them dessert, I lost out. So I had everything assembled in his fancy schmancy Le Creuset dutch oven, and of course we actually had a babysitter coming with no time left on the clock to bake this long awaited dessert, so into the fridge it went.

So what could be better than a yummy dessert... ice cream for breakfast of course. In the morning I put it in and Katherine was not lying when she said that the whole house would smell irresistable. Eventhough I doubled the recipe, it was ready in about 50 min. The color was phenomenal, the smell ...well we've already established that, and the taste was so rich and yummy. I'm not sure if the recipe creates a taste originally this decadent or if the overnight soak helped, but we all loved it. Yeah, I did it. Who am I? I do have to say that cooking does make for a lot more dishes to clean. Anyway, I'm going to try something with my peaches next. Would love to hear any dessert ideas you have!

Love the color!

One happy breakfast eater:-)

August 2009: O starts Flag Football and Launches Me into Taxi Mom Mode

Well I've put it off long enough, the year of the Mom Taxi has officially begun. O started flag football this past week, practice 2 days a week plus a game. Wow. E starts preschool this week, so its lots of time in the car for me. Owen really wanted to play football, so I decided it was time to give in. Since he is 7, I had to get permission for him to play flag football instead of tackle. I'm not necessarily opposed to tackle, I am however, strongly opposed to 7 year olds having practice 5 nights a week plus a game on Saturday. The lady on the phone assured me that all her 3 boys did it, thanks lady, but I'll pass. So he's the oldest in the group but not the tallest by far. I swear one of these kids is 8 or 9.

Anyway, it was so much fun to watch him. The first thing the coaches had them do was some stretching. The coach- a very patient, Samoan man- said "put up your right hand". The parents chuckled when most of them raised their left to mirror him:-) On one drill, they lay on the ground and jump up & run when they hear the whistle. I have NEVER seen Owen move that fast. It would be nice to see some of that speed applied to getting ready for school or church. This is definitely going to be an exercise of patience on my part. I think football coaches are definitely what Owen needs, patient but firm and as no nonsense as they can be with 5-7 year olds.

He is having fun and that what I love to see. He sure is cute! I hope he keeps up his positive attitude or its going to be a long season:-) For their last game, they get to play on a high school field at night under the lights! Sounds fun.

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 2009: What to do with peaches and plums

Ok, so I signed up to buy a box of peaches and a box of plums through someone at our church for $7.50 each. That seemed like a good deal and my kids love both peaches and plums. So I went to pick them up yesterday, WOW, I had no idea what a box meant. I thought it was just going to be a little flat like you get at the neighborhood strawberry stand, no this is more like a crate -- of each!!!

We had mango-peach smoothies this morning. That was a hit. Another friend is going to try to can some of them, but I would love to be able to make some freezer jam with them. Someone tell me that it is an easy process. Would love any insights on how to make freezer jam or any other fabulous idea of what to do with a ton of peaches and plums, and quick!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 2009: Recipe 1 in my MisAdventures of Cooking: Mexi-Pizza

Here it is ... Recipe #1:

Mexi-Pizza as submitted by Kelli Dix

Yes, I actually made this!

Whole wheat Pizza dough from Trader Joe's
1 can of Black beans undrained (use as sauce) [I actually used TJs refried black beans with jalapeno peppers]
Corn (sprinkle on fairly evenly)
Green onion (optional) [used it]
Mexican blend of cheese [used lite cheese]
Chicken sautéed in lime juice and salt and pepper (optional) [used grilled chicken strips heated with the lime juice and seasonings, yumm-o]
Fresh Salsa (mild)
Sour cream [used light]
Tortilla Chips

My actual ingredients

Directions per Kelli:
Dough…make it easy go and buy the dough from trader is very inexpensive and we like to buy all 3 kinds and play with different pizzas. Do as directed on package….get the dough to be as flat as possible by using a rolling pin or Luke just throws it up in the air ….
Black beans…You will probably only use 3/4 of the can
Corn..frozen or canned..I prefer frozen because it is healthier
Lime Chicken… I think it would make it even tastier, and it would be great with lime juice…if you do not add lime chicken then maybe consider dashing on a few sprinkles of lime juice
Fresh salsa tastes good cooked into the pizza so sprinkle it on sparingly throughout pizza before you put the cheese on or after if you forget…won’t really matter.

After it is cooked as directed on the dough package (I think it was 450' for 8-10 min. - I threw out the package before recording the info)
Put Sour cream
Sliced Lettuce
Sliced tortilla chips or just sprinkle them on in some way….

Ok, so I'm sure you all read through it and said, "Easy, Peasy, Lemon Squeezy". I chose this recipe to start simply because my Mom was at Trader Joe's and asked me if I needed anything:-) For those of you unlucky enough not be next to a Trader Joe's I am sure any other pizza dough (or handmade for that matter) would work just great!

I will tell you about my first "MisAdventure in Cooking", but I don't want to reveal too much about the results to keep you all in suspense :-)

**Warning: accurate technical cooking terms will probably not be used in the following recipe review**

Since Mike loves to cook, he has all sorts of kitchen thing-a-ma-bobs, luckily a rolling pin and a silicone roller-outer sheet thing. I was so excited about lightly flouring the surface and getting the dough flat that I really failed to read the directions on the package, which tells you to first take dough out and let it rest for 20 min. I didn't realize that was my problem until I couldn't get the dough to stretch to the required 12" diameter. I later learned that you need to let the dough come to room temp before it will cooperate.

My impressive setup, aren't you impressed?

Once I rolled it out, I put on the black beans. I actually used one of my new favorite ingredients (originally purchased on accident), TJ's refried black beans with jalapeno peppers. Compared to regular black beans, it only bumps the per serving calorie count by 10 and the total fat by .5 and actually raises the protein and fiber. It seemed much easier to spread on then regular black beans. Next was the sprinkled on corn. I was so pleased that things were headed in the right direction until... can you guess it?

Captivating comparison between whole and refried black beans

I realized that I failed to move the dough onto a stone or pizza pan. I couldn't believe it, after pain-stakingly rolling out my dough to as close to a circle as I could and spreading my beans and corn out evenly, I had to figure out how to lift this up to put it on another surface. Lets just say it wasn't pretty. My first attempt was to put it on the stone, but sure enough after juggling it almost on, the stone wasn't large enough. Move #2 (by this time I'm laughing an "I'm so pathetic" laugh) was successful to the pizza pan/sheet, but forgot to oil it. Oh well!

Post traumatic pizza ready for the oven

Thankfully the rest went on uneventfully. Owen was able to help sprinkle on the cheese and salsa. I cooked it for 10 min., but I think I should have done it a little longer. We added the toppings and voile, I made it without the fire dept showing up:-) These are actually photos from the Mexi-Pizza I made. I think it turned out as yummy as it did pretty! :-) The kids sure thought so.

Love Eyan licking his fingers:-)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 2009: Gotta go back to school

"I gotta go back, back, back to school again." Sing along if you know it, little reference to the not so famous "Grease 2" with Michelle Pfeiffer. The male actor was way better looking in this one than John Travolta.
Anyway, time for Owen to get back to school. He was not very excited that his summer felt so short. This summer has been eventful for our family for mostly not-so-fun reasons. Poor Owen, but hopefully he won't feel deprived.
Owen started 2nd grade on Wednesday and despite not being excited about it, he felt the need to really think his 1st day of school outfit through. It was fun for me to see him try on everything the night before in front of our living room mirror to make sure it looked right... button down shirt, shorts, low socks, Converse, jacket (which he insisted on wearing to school even though its still in the 90s), and hat.
The morning of, he was awake early (around 6 am, right alongside Tate!) and ready to start his day. I welcomed his enthusiasm. He was a little anxious going into class, not recognizing anyone, but has come home from school each day so far very happy. He loves his teacher, whom he describes as cool and silly.
After dropping off O, we headed to the park, something we did regularly last year. Eyan and Tate had a great time together. I was happy to get a kickstart on resuming some poorly abandoned routines. Here's to a productive and fun year!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 2009: WOW 24 Contestants!

This is going to be great, I can just taste it. You guys are going to help turn me into this Domestic Goddess:-) (or maybe just a few rungs down the cast system). This is the boost that I needed. Like I mentioned before, I do so much better at things when I make them into a game, and lots of you know that I LOVE to play games. Any excuse to create a game and I'm on it! I was so happy to have your participation and really you don't realize what a difference this has already made.

First off, 24 Contestants in my "Girls Got No Skills" Contest and Giveaway, WOW! I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss anyone's submission. Somehow I lost my sister-in-law's amidst all my e-mails, comments, and front door dropoffs- so I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss anyone else's. If you wanted to enter the contest and don't see your name here, please send me your recipe:

Melanie L., Sharyn K., Kim M., Jennifer B., Jennifer A., Courtney B., Cherie M., Brenda N., Linette S., Toria R., Michelle R., Aimee C., Anne H., Vanessa F., Amy H., Kelli D., Michelle M., Lindsey A., Angie S., Kandice W., Heidi B., Aileen V., Jennifer S. and Janae R.

So here's the plan.
1. Create scorecard based on my criteria- ease of production, healthy, kid-approved taste
2. Group like recipes together for ingredients purchase
3. Calender it out
4. START COOKING and hope I don't have to call the fire dept.
5. Blog as I go -somewhat like in the movie "Julie and Julia" which I was surprised to have loved-thought was a refreshing portrayal of marriage

I'm sure those experienced cooks will see holes in my plan, so any advice would be appreciated. Thanks again and I was very encouraged by your remarks and my poll results that show that I'm not alone in this struggle!

"How much planning do you do for your meals?" Poll Results:
Monthly meal calender 0 (0%)
Weekly calender 5 (27%)
Every couple of days 5 (27%)
Fly by day 7 (38%)
Mostly out to eat 1 (5%)

Wish me luck!

August 2009: Recipes IN and I'm OFF

I'm off to the a great start ladies! Thank you to everyone who entered my little contest. I am so excited to get started, and that is really strange for me to write. I am going through and organizing all my submissions that I received via e-mail, my blog comments, and my front door:-). I can't wait to tally how many I received and share them with you all. You are going to be a huge help to my family. Check back soon for some great time saving, kid pleasing stuff!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 2009: Miracles and Disappointments

Well just an update of this past week and a half- I was sick in bed for 4 days with a nasty something...cold, flu, whatever, it was miserable. And those who cautiously (understandably so) came to my front door this past week can attest that I looked like death. Thankfully it passed and didn't cause too much damage with anyone else in the fam. The house's health, sad to say, did not fare as well.

I was well enough to take Mike to his spinal tap/lumbar puncture last Thursday. Gratefully it was a success on the first try this time. Thinking about it makes my head spin. This was his final test to complete his MS diagnosis. I believe this will be able to tell us more details about the progression of MS in his body.

Miracles do occur and Mike is living proof. I know that it is a result of his faith and the faith and prayers of all of you. That same week I was sick, Mike began to feel a difference in his tongue. He said that it didn't feel as swollen. He began to try to eat things periodically and was amazed to find that he could swallow things like a peach slice, a crab cake, cheese. From there he became more daring and begin to try some of the foods he has been missing out on since April. You can read more about it in his post "Let me eat cake". How miraculous this is!

Things seem to be going so well for him now with good reactions from his first doses of medicine and now being able to eat. We knew it would come, the next dose increase of his Rebif. We were both nervous. We had originally thought that it was just double the first dose, but looking more carefully we could see that it was actually 3x the initial dose. We are very sad to say that things have not been going well for Mike since the increase of his medication. So much that we are looking into alternatives to it. This has really shaken me up even more. I feel the need to know even more about MS so that I can help Mike make a decision about what his next step in treatment should be. I ask for your prayers as we will have to make some very crucial decisions within the next few days.

Monday, August 03, 2009

August 2009: 9 More Days to Enter!

Hi everyone! Just 9 more days to enter my "Girls Got No Skills" Contest and Giveaway. I know there are more of you out there that could help me out by sharing a recipe. Follow the link above and you could win a fun prize! A few of you are making me feel better by my poll results, still time to cast your vote in answering "How much planning do you do for your meals?". See sidebar.

August 2009: The Greatest Show on Earth!

This past Saturday I took the boys to Ringling Bros/Barnum & Bailey Circus with some of my family and friends. (I have learned that the circus is a delicate subject for some, so I apologize to anyone that is offended that I would take my family.) We were able to get some good seats at a discounted price-yeah! I made the boys and myself some fun clown bowties and ties just to help us get in the right mood. The circus folk loved them and I think the boys did too.

It was fun to watch the boys' faces when all the mayhem began-clowns, zebras, acrobats, dancers, etc. The show really held their attention with their favorite being the elephants. Several times during the show they sang the song "Do Not Try This at Home" sung to the cheerleading anthem "Bang Bang Choo Choo Train" to deter the kids from trying to do a couple of disturbing things like saw someone in half or skewer them with a flaming rod. Eyan asked me later that day how they sawed that man in half. That one I could answer but they actually did a few tricks I have no idea how they pulled off.

As I watched all the different performers I wondered what their lives must be like, that would be an interesting reality show. Are all the girlie dancers vying for the one main singing/dancing girl's job? Is it prestigious to be able to be a dancer and ride on an elephant? How did these people end up with these jobs, particularly the male clowns? Does the woman who does a handstand while dogs jump between her legs feel fulfilled in her career or does she aspire to something else? I think the answers would be very interesting to hear.

We had a great time and I would like to take them again another time.


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