Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday's Tip

i love meatloaf.

i never realized til i was an adult how odd this was, as i've learned that most people don't use "love" and "meatloaf" in the same sentence.  but my experience has only been positive, so i love to make meatloaf... especially for people who say they don't like it.

as a bonus, i'm including my recipe for meatloaf (the tip will follow towards the end).
the reason i think most people are not meatloaf fans is because they've only ever had dry, flavorless meatloaf.  the reason i love it is because i grew up with a mom who knew how to make it... and now my kids will tell anyone that meatloaf is one of their favorite meals.

here is how i make it:

2 - 2 1/2 lbs of ground meat.  i suggest using half lean ground beef, half ground turkey.  do not use all ground turkey as it does not "set up" well; and all ground beef tends to come out too dry.
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 beaten egg
2 TBSP ketchup
onion powder

Meatloaf Topping
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground mustard (although, in a pinch, i've used dijon mustard)

- combine milk and bread crumbs and set aside until the bread crumbs have absorbed all of the milk
- combine meat, egg, ketchup, and bread crumb mixture.  use your hands!  they are truly the best tool, although the pampered chef mix n chop works well, too.
- add about 2 tsp of onion powder (or more if you like).
- salt and pepper like you mean it
- shape in the form of a loaf and place in shallow greased dish (13x9 works well) or follow my tip below
- add topping (which has been mixed well)

bake at 350 for 45 minutes - 1 hour (depending on how large your meatloaf is)

i promise this meatloaf will be moist and flavorful... no need for gravy!

however,... here is something to make it a bit different.
every now and again (or if i'm short on time and don't want to wait an hour for dinner to cook), i cook my meatloaf in muffin tins!

here are the meatloaf muffins before they went in the oven.

i only show them pre-baked, so you can see that they come out of the oven much the same size (another reason lean meat is the way to go).

not only does cooking meatloaf this way speed up the whole dinner process (they are out of the oven in about 20 - 25 minutes), it adds a fun presentation to the table.  for kids, they are the perfect serving size.  it also ensures just the right amount of topping for everyone's portion (something we don't take lightly in our house).

try it!  maybe you love meatloaf, too.

ps) next week's tip is this week's side dish - amazing mashed potatoes you'll want to try.

they do grow up fast

yes, the kids do.  but today i'm talking about the dog.

on september 11, parsley had her first birthday.  you may be disappointed (or relieved, depending on your perspective) to hear that we did nothing to celebrate.  i love pets and, specifically, love my dog - but certain lines are most definitely drawn.  

still, we are very happy to enjoy the addition she is to our family.

and we like to think that she is happy with us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

i didn't forget... i just didn't mention it

i've been dealt a hefty dose of mom guilt over the last month.  don't get me wrong, i'm the one dishing it out... to myself.  but still.  ugh.

case in point,  - i did not mention my oldest's birthday!  no, no, no,... we celebrated it.  but i never got around to documenting it.  here goes...

patrick joseph turned 9 on september 6th.  it's still hard for me to consider that.  have i really been a mom for nine years?  has he really gotten that tall and mature and smart?

patrick is in 3rd grade this year and has come face to face with personal responsibility.  there are days that this is not so pretty.  but i'm proud of his attitude - "i can do this mom.  this is so different from last year, but i can do this."  i can remember him making similar statements when he was learning to finish his dinner, learning to read, learning to tie his shoes...

as a nine year old, patrick is a man of few interests - but those interests are intense and run deep.  he is always reading, always building, always drawing, and always writing - something.  currently, he's in the process of developing characters and plot for another story - maybe this time he'll push past a story and turn it into a book.  

one thing that patrick has never been is athletic.  he was always too busy with books.  but, in the past year, he noticed that all of his friends were always playing something, and he finally announced to us, "i don't really care about soccer, but if i'm gonna play with my friends, i'm gonna need to learn how to play soccer."  so, he asked us to put him in soccer camp and on a soccer team.  i was a little apprehensive - i mean, he was ready to go up against kids who have been playing since they were 4 - but he was sure that he wanted to do this.  he is currently halfway through his first soccer season and loving it.  i'm so proud of him for pushing himself to do something that was not comfortable or easy - simply for the purpose of challenging himself.  he's really growing up.

but most days, he's still just this little face.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday's Tip

don't bother planting a vegetable garden unless you're gonna do something about the deer.

it will end up looking like this...

the scraggly things on the left used to be tomatoes.  the scraggly things on the right used to be bell peppers. the leafy, yet fruitless, things in the middle are eggplant.  apparently, deer are not big fans of eggplant.  they'll eat the blooms but not the fruit.  i had one little ripening eggplant and this is how i found it...

teeth marks! little baby deer teeth marks on my little baby eggplant.  ridiculous.  
this is just one of the culprits...

yeah, yeah, he's cute and all.  but he's not the only one.  he is only one in a larger party of deer - all varying in size (to which all the poop in my yard can attest).  apparently, they thought it would be a good idea to eat all of our produce and then leave the remains of said meal scattered throughout our yard.  graciously, i've not saved you a picture of that.  

now that there are no veggies to eat (and since they've eaten all the promising buds off all of grandma's mums - she was not a happy camper), they've since moved on to eat all the fallen acorns and hickory nuts -giving the squirrels some much needed competition.  don't even get me started on the squirrels.

chuck and i are working on a strategy for better protecting next year's garden.  but, to those of you who are eagerly awaiting the first day of deer season, i say "happy hunting."  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

in search of

that's all i've got.  i know i'm looking for something.  i have no idea what it is.

life is good here.  i could complain, but i won't.  there's always stuff, but stuff isn't always bad.  it just is.

i've been caring for my 18 month old nephew while his parents are away for their anniversary.  he is happy and beautiful and fun.  but he needs me in ways that my four surprisingly independent children do not.  although it is a change of pace, i do not mind this.  it reminds me that people have needs.  that even my children, who can wipe their own noses and get themselves dressed and take their own showers, still have needs.  and it's made me stop to consider what those needs might be.  as a mother, have i allowed my role to be defined by a list of physical needs that must be met?  am i meeting their emotional, mental, and spiritual needs?  am i even aware of what those needs might be?

my awareness of my children's needs only leads me to question my proficiency at meeting my husband's needs.  like any other person, those needs change from week to week, month to month, year to year.  it's not hard to slip into auto-pilot when it comes to him either - to meet those needs that i'm aware of - but to overlook the more subtle, changing needs that i haven't bothered to notice.

of course, assuming i am aware of and striving towards being a need-meeter at home, i am led to ask, "what about others?"  most of my friends are busy need-meeters in their own homes... but that doesn't change the fact that they, themselves, have needs.

and, then, there is extended family.

and church.


i can't have this conversation with myself without coming face to face with my tragic flaw of always seeing stuff instead of people.  i see the people... but i see them in terms of what they need from me... what i need to do for them,... what need they have that i have not yet met.  and, so i feel stuck.

but it's all good.  these things remind me that life is about more than just me.
seeing the needs of others keeps things in perspective.
and still there is a nose to wipe, lunches to make, a bathroom to clean, an email to send.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday's Tip

this breezy 70 degree weather makes me ready for fall (i won't even pretend like it is fall, because i know that there's a sultry 90 degree day out there waiting to bite me in the butt sometime in october)  still, fall feelings make me think of fall food - and nothing says fall food like sweet potatoes.

i love to eat sweet potatoes, but i'll admit that there was a time when i avoided them simply because i hated the thought of preparing them.  for some reason, peeling sweet potatoes is incredibly challenging.  but then i learned a little trick that changed all of that.

scrub your sweet potatoes and cut them into big chunks (seriously, bigger is better).  then boil them (leave the skins on) until they are cooked - about 20 minutes.  once they are done, strain them in a colander and allow them to cool for a bit.  once you can handle them, simply pull the skins off - they will basically fall right off in your hand.  simple! 

now that you have a pot of cooked sweet potatoes, might as well whip up a batch of Sarah Short's sweet potato casserole.  you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday's Tip

we can only get so far into "back-to-school" before someone starts sniffling or aching and needs to stay home.  with four kids, it's the way it goes.  i've been blessed with very healthy children, but we still have our occasional sick days.  when patrick started kindergarten (4 years ago...) the parents had to attend a meeting where we learned the ins and outs of the school.  at that meeting, the school nurse shared an interesting piece of advice - one that has served us well - and i thought i'd pass it along.

because some children tend to interepret sick days as a day off, it is important that children who stay home sick don't have too much fun.

ok, that doesn't sound quite right.  but it's true.  i'm not talking about a child who has a raging fever or violent stomach bug - clearly, that child needs to be home and as comfortable as possible.  but you know how your kid wakes up one morning and they are a little sniffly and a little achy and a little moody - but not out and out sick and you just aren't sure what to do?  unless i know my little darling is attempting to pull a fast one, i tend to give them the benefit of the doubt - with the condition that staying home sick means staying home.  sick.  in bed.  resting.  all day.
yes, i feed them.
yes, they have a toy or two.
yes, they can read.

but - no tv, movies, running around with their little brother.
if you're too sick to be in school, you need to be in bed and get better!
and... if you're too sick to go to school, you're too sick for that evening's activity (soccer practice, birthday party, etc).

sometimes, that reminder is enough for that same little darling to make an impressive recovery and grab her book bag.  and sometimes they agree to my terms.  usually, i'm glad i've kept them home - as a fever sneaks in or the child dozes off and on all day proving that they really did need the rest.  but there have been times when the sick child spends the greater part of the day begging to get up and play... or, better yet, begging to be taken to school (that always makes me laugh).

either way, making a sick day truly a day for resting and recovering will usually prevent a child from feigning illness in an attempt to stay home.