Friday, July 17, 2015

This is reality, not a recipe


Peach season may be nearly my most favorite season of the year.  
Fresh Peach Salsa is my most absolute favorite way to savor the summer season of peaches.  

In a perfect world, I love mixing up all those fresh ingredients--spicy peppers, juicy peaches, fresh-snipped cilantro, red ripe tomatoes.   Typing that seriously just made my own mouth water.

But reality is that those ingredients are not always all perfectly poised in my pantry/garden waiting to become the next delectable appetizer when the craving strikes.

Today it was more like..."Oh dear, I have fresh, absolutely perfectly ripe peaches, my cilantro is getting ready to bolt, and I didn't even plant a tomato this year.  And those torrential flooding rains have kept my poor pepper plants stunted at 3 inches tall for the past 3 weeks."  Peach salsa fail?

Half eaten jars of salsa in the fridge to the rescue.

This is reality, people.

A splash of lime juice over the finely diced peaches, a minced garlic clove, a flavoring of finely diced red onion, and yep, the leftover salsa.

It probably can't be classified as a genuine recipe.
But this is reality, and yes, it is delicious.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Its what you do with what you got...



Leftover sweet potato from dinner?  No problem.  Breakfast is ready in a jiffy with that warm sweet potato topped with a drizzle of sweet honey/maple syrup, coconut flakes, raisins, and almonds.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Just don't drink the Kool-Aid...

I picked up a whole handful of Kool-Aid packets at the supermarket one day.  My kids were all giddy.  Ooh, I like this color!  What's this one called?  I like purple!  What flavor do you have?  What does this taste like?  Is it good?

Ha.  Did they really just ask me that?  

Something about a packet of chemical dye this-and-that, mixed with some overly processed white sugar just doesn't seem like my first choice to nourish my Pickles.  It just doesn't seem to make sense to me.  No, not so much.

Some like it, I said.  Actually, Daddy likes it, I think.  They all kinda chuckled about that.  I may have used a word kinda like "poison" to describe it at one point to one Pickle.  Kool-Aid lovers of the world, before you think I got all negative on the stuff, let me show you how I decided to show the Pickles what "dye" is really best used for:  DYEing things!  

We loved our Kool-Aid,

...we just didn't drink it.

This:  This is what Kool-Aid was made for!  A kid safe dye to create stunning, fun, colorful hanks of yarn!

  Dye-ing wool yarn with Kool-Aid is a wonderfully kid-friendly project that reaps such lovely rewards!
Here's what we did:
1.  100% wool yarn.  We purchased Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool which smells strongly of lanolin later during the microwaving stage, and Paton's Classic Wool Roving Yarn which did not have such a smell.  In order to help the dye reach all the fibers of the yarn, unwound the ball of wool yarn and created a loop of yarn.  We loosely wound our yarn around the top of a chair, and then loosely tied the yarn together at four points, to keep it manageable.

2.  Like so.  These are ready to go.  We used a heathery gray and a cream wool.  The heathery gray creates darker more subtle colors in the end.

3.  In very warm, yes even almost hot, water, submerge your wool yarn.  The Pickle's wanted to help with this part, so I first made sure the water was not too hot for their hands.  Agitating or stirring the yarn around would create a felted ball. so we were very careful to simply press the yarn into the water.  Placing wool in warm water relaxes the fibers which makes them easier to "felt", or bind to each other and create a solid mass.  We simply made sure the yarn was fully submerged.

4.  We wanted all the air out of the yarn.

5.  To ensure the yarn was fully soaked, we allowed it to sit in the warm water for about 20 minutes. We wanted the yarn completely and totally drenched--soaked through and through.

6.  In the meantime, we prepped our work table.  We found it easiest to mix our Kool-Aid dye in pint sized canning jars.  We used 1 cup water, 2 tsp vinegar, and 2 packets of Kool-Aid per jar.  We had a few "squeeze" bottles, which we transferred our dye into because it was easier for little hands to control the dye on the yarn.  We only had two bottles for this round, but I'm saving dish detergent bottles for future dye-ing!  For the rest of the colors, we used soup spoons to ladle the dye onto the yarn.  All that matters is getting the dye on the yarn, one way or another!

7.  At each child's work space, we placed a piece of plastic saran wrap large enough to reach at least 3 inches beyond the length of the yarn loop.  

8.  Removing yarn from the warm water, we gently squeezed out all excess water.  Once again we were careful not to agitate the yarn and accidentally felt it!  We placed a yarn loop on each piece of plastic wrap.

9.  ...and colored away!  


10.  When each child has satisfactorally colored their yarn to their heart's content, we next prepped it for the microwave.  Yes, that is how we heat set the colors into the yarn!  We first wrapped the edges of the plastic wrap in around the yarn, the ends first and then the long sides.  We created a "bag" of sorts to seal the dye and yarn in together for the heating process.


11.  We rolled both long sides of the yarn in towards the middle until they touched, and placed our yarn-dye-ing-package in a microwave safe glass dish, not overlapping any parts of the plastic-wrapped yarn.


12.  Microwave it!  This was a part the Pickles did not do, as the yarn can become rather hot in the microwave.  If microwaved each yarn loop individually for two minutes, then rotated the yarn to prevent "hot spots"(being so careful as it is hot!) and then microwaved it two minutes more.  When I held the plastic wrapped yarn up (with tongs or a hot pad!) and the water ran out is perfectly clear, the yarn was done!  The color had set!  If the water was cloudy, I microwaved that yarn a bit longer.  The water was 100% clear when all the dye was absorbed into the yarn.

13.  We rinsed the yarn in a bath of fresh warmish water with a drip of dish detergent.  This is simply to wash any excess Kool-Aid residue from the yarn, being still careful not to agitate the yarn and create felt.  We gave it a gentle rinse and maybe a repeat.

14. We hung ours yarn over the bathtub to catch the drips while it continued to dry completely.

15.  When completely dry, we rolled our yarn  into balls and hanks or some instantly started in on the projects that were compiled while the yarn dried!



Friday, April 17, 2015

The Vehicle

What is the most common vehicle for flavors in the standard American diet?

I suppose the answers could be nearly as varied as the number of people answering them, for we are a melting pot society.  But if I were to take a quick look at foods that are most definitely common American items (check out the kids' menu at any local restaurant if you want a good gauge), I see an awful lot of wheat and dairy.  Most favorite American dishes hinge off of these two major components.

--Think of Pizza.  What brings you the rich flavors of oregano herbed tomatoes and seasoned meats?  The wheat dough is the vehicle, and cheese comes along for the ride.

--Think of Mac n' Cheese.  The glutinous noodles are the vehicle to the ooey-gooey cheese.

--Hamburgers aren't what we all think of if we don't see them flipped off the grill and plopped onto a bun, with high chances that a slice of cheese is melting into the cracks.

--Sausage Gravy just doesn't do much if it can't be with its biscuit...or its gravy, for that matter.

These are all things that I actually stopped to think about when food intolerances became a factor over here.  
Pull wheat and dairy out of those foods and you are left with:
Pizza = marinara sauce with meat, veggies if that's how you roll...
Mac n' Cheese = ummm, air?...
Hamburgers = hello, meat patty...
Sausage Gravy = ground cooked sausage and probably just a good seasoning of black pepper.

Those of us who were used to these foods and learned first how to cook with wheat and dairy were a little befuddled at meal planning when we pulled those two out of our diets.  Because well, that second list just didn't have the same appeal as the first one.

So what to do?  
I always suggest to not look for a replacement for your favorite food, like say, pizza, when initially starting a new elimination diet.  Why?  Because nothing will ever taste the same as your memory recalls a pizza should taste.  So, just don't set yourself up for disappointments.  Not yet.  Not right at the beginning.  Give yourself some time to explore some other foods.  Probably some simpler foods.  Look for all the veggies you can try.  We realize that protein is a much broader category than just cheese and burgers when we start looking.  And fruits really are like dessert.  Options are still broad.  They are simply different.

Sometimes, just a simple tweak will still bring you some pretty familiar flavors.  All you need to do is change the vehicle on which you serve a favorite flavor.  Do you like fajitas?  How about topping a salad or a bowl of beans and rice with your favorite fajita meat, peppers, and onions?  Maybe you'll discover how fun it is to take that hamburger patty and top it with some thing new, say guacamole and pico de gallo?  Change up the foundation from the predictable, and see what kind of new things you can create.


For instance check out this new vehicle we used for chicken:

Sweet potatoes, roasted with olive oil and chipotle peppers, became the broad shoulders to carry chipotle spiced chicken and spinach in a way more delicious than you were expecting.  Way more.  It was phenomenal.  Adding cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime, and a fresh avocado slice and it was taste-bud heaven.   It was worth the risk to test drive a new vehicle.


**Notes from the Pickle's Chef:  I obviously left off the cheese, but I also reduced the chipotle pepper usage to about one.  I would have rather enjoyed the extra kick of all three, but little Pickles are more sensitive.  Delicious, just the same!**






Monday, April 13, 2015

While Waiting for the Blossoms to Arrive...

I have a little tiny glass jar that I keep above my kitchen sink.  It is always ready for the little blooms that little Pickles bring to me:  a pungent dandelion, a delicate violet, a sturdy lily of the valley.  

But spring blossoms are scarce as of late, and we needed a little color in our jar.



 Little flowers cut from plastic containers, colored with permanent markers, baked to curl, and arranged atop wire with beads...Spring bloomed before our eyes and now sits in its rightful home in the place of honor above the kitchen sink.

Here's what you need:


1.  Cut shapes from plastic salad containers (berry containers, bulk food containers).  Flowers, leaves, birds, sunshine...you can go all here!  Be sure to punch a hole in the center so you can attach it to the wire later.

2.  Color the plastic shapes with colored permanent markers.  Yes, once again, go all out!

3.  Heat oven to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Working with just a few plastic pieces at a time, lay them on a piece of wrinkled aluminum foil on a baking sheet.  (The wrinkles make it easier to pick up the plastic pieces without getting burnt on the hot tray later.)

4.  Place tray with plastic pieces in the oven.  In a matter of a few SECONDS they will begin to soften and warp.  Watch carefully and remove from oven immediately.  Different thicknesses of plastic will soften at different rates.  For some pieces, we simply warmed them 'til we could bend them in our hands...which had to be done in approximately 2.5 seconds from the time they were removed from the oven.  If you like the more free_spirited approach, let the heat of the oven curl them as it will!

5.   Cut lengths of wire for the stems.  Using beads and bending the wire, secure the flower to the wire.  For this one, I coiled the end, added a bead, added the flower, added a bead, and did a ziggy zaggy thing.  Every flower was different.  Some had little jingle bells that make such a happy sound.  MMhhhmmmm, go all out.  

6.  I poured some tiny colored glass beads in the bottom of our jar, and then to prevent the inevitable spilling that would occur, I sealed our flower arrangement in place with hot glue in the opening of the bottle.

 Waiting for the real blossoms never looked so pretty.

Friday, April 10, 2015

"That Day" has arrived

Normally I'm the one to find a recipe to make for the Pickles: 

I whip out the ingredients. I mix it up, the Pickles watch and take turns helping. I bake it and the Pickles watch the oven patiently.  I serve it and the Pickles eat it.

It's been a fine process with no complaints.  
And then I overheard myself say this the other day:  "Hey, Pickle!  I found a recipe I want you to try!"

I stopped.  Did I really just voice those very words?  In that moment, I realized that an era had passed; the tables had been turned.  The watching, the practicing have paid off.  I knew that day would come, but it felt so far in the distance.  The process of training is so slow and steady with only teensy daily investments that sometimes you forget how long you've been doing it.  You know those investments will come to fruition, but you don't know when

.  And suddenly, that day arrives.

That day we experienced a new kind of normal:

The Pickle whipped out the ingredients.  The Pickle mixed it up and I assumed the role-reversal of watching and helping only as needed.  The Pickle baked it, and we all watched the oven impatiently.  The Pickle served it and we all ate it.

That day tasted pretty good.

Want to know what the recipe was?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Teach a man to fish...

I taught a little Pickle to crochet last month.  At that particular moment I chose to teach him to help him learn the art of being able to sit still.
And he did sit still.  
And he made a great long green chain out of tarn (t-shirt yarn). 
Mastering this simple stitch gave him such satisfaction.  
For today.



But it holds potential for tomorrow as well.



 A simple chain stitch in my life long ago led to this, these rugs that I have recently made for sale.  I look forward to seeing where his little green chain stitch takes him.