Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Two years ago today...

Two years ago today I took my last birth control pill. Sometimes it feels like forever ago. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. It's funny how much can change in just two short years.

When we started on this journey, I was full of trepidation and hope. I knew in my heart that it wouldn't be easy for us to get pregnant, but still I thought it would happen. It hasn't been easy, and it hasn't happened. There have been good times, bad times, and times of genuine apathy. I've had surgery, taken more drugs than I care to think about, and completely screwed with my hormones.

Babies have appeared all around me, in every facet of my life, except at our house. We've had two nephews and a niece join our family. One of my best friends is expecting. I've ridden the emotional roller coaster, praying that someday I would be able to step off.

And here I sit, two years later, no closer than I was then. Perhaps even farther away, because I know more now than I did then, and, well, sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

And yet, I'm ok. I'm not crying anymore. I'm not a religious person, I don't go to church, but I was raised with a belief in God and the knowledge that everything happens for a reason. If we're meant to have kids, then something is going to happen that will make that possible.

I don't know what it is, and I don't know when it will happen. So I'm waiting and seeing. Putting our financial house in order, so that if it does happen, we'll be ready. Loving on our seven nieces and nephews, enjoying them for the joy they bring to all our lives. Not giving up on the dream, and not giving up on encouraging hubby from time to time to take care of what he needs to take care of, but I'm not pushing it and I'm not nagging anymore.

The feelings haven't left completely, of course. I still listen to people complain about their kids and wonder if they know how lucky they are to have kids to complain about. Listen to pregnant women complain about morning sickness and hemorrhoids and wish I was right there with them. Yeah, I still want to slap people sometimes. But not nearly as often as I used to.

It's been two years. Who knows how many more it will be. Life is an adventure, just remember that.

My friends, love your kids. You're so lucky to have them. And when they're hard to love, send them my way and I'll love them for a while. I've got plenty of love to go around.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicken and Dumplings

This is the perfect meal for a day or two after you've eaten a roasted chicken. Save the carcass and keep it in the fridge till you're ready for it (no more than four days or so though!).

If you don't have a chicken carcass, just skip the stock-making step and use six or so cups of chicken broth.

To make the Stock:
1 leftover chicken carcass
8 cups water
1 carrot, cut in 1-inch chunks (peeling not necessary, just scrub it well)
2 ribs celery, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 small onion, cut in 1-inch chunks
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons salt
5 - 7 whole black peppercorns

Pick as much meat off the carcass as you can, and set it aside (you'll add it back in later). Break the carcass up into chunks (you'll want it fairly flat in the pan), and put it in a large pot. Add the remaining ingredients, and pour the water over the top (if it's not enough to cover, just keep adding more water till it is). Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for two hours.

After two hours, strain it into a bowl using a fine-mesh strainer to catch all the little herb bits (don't worry if some remain, it doesn't have to be completely clean, just make sure you at least get all the peppercorns out!). If there is a lot of fat, skim it off the top (you can use the fat in place of the butter in the dumplings). Pour it back into the pan and return it to the heat.

To make the soup:

2 carrots, sliced (peeled if desired)
2 celery ribs, sliced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2 cups chopped cooked chicken (use what you pulled off the carcass)
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 can evaporated milk, divided (I use evaporated skim milk)
salt and pepper to taste

Add the vegetables and poultry seasoning to the stock. Cover and let simmer 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, make a roux: in a small skillet, melt the butter. Add the flour, stirring constantly. Cook for two minutes. Open the evaporated milk and measure out one cup. Set this aside (you'll need it for the dumplings). Add the remaining milk to the butter and flour mixture, stirring until the mixture thickens.

When the vegetables are done, stir in the chicken, peas, and roux. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is dissolved. The mixture will thicken slightly, but will remain fairly soupy (if you like a thicker base, just make more roux). Cover and let simmer while you make the...


2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons butter

In a medium-size bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and parsley. Melt the butter and stir in the milk (this is the milk you reserved earlier). You can do this in the microwave or on the stovetop, doesn't matter. You just want the mixture to be warm, not hot. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture all at once, stir just to combine.

Drop by spoonfuls onto the soup. Cover and cook over low heat for 17 minutes, or until dumplings feel firm when you press on them. Don't take off the lid while they cook! They rely on the steam to cook the tops.

Twice-baked potatoes

Twice-baked potatoes are one of hubby's favorite side dishes. He likes them almost as much as honey-dill carrots. My recipe isn't really a recipe, I just gather a bunch of ingredients and then wing it.

Baked potatoes
sour cream
parmesan cheese
bacon bits (hint - buy the kind in the can - they're cheaper and they freeze easily)
minced chives
garlic powder
onion powder
paprika (I prefer the Hungarian sweet paprika)

Cut the potatoes in half, lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1/4 inch all the way around. Mash in a bowl with enough sour cream to make them the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients (to taste) except paprika; mix well.

Mound the mashed potato mixture back into the potato shells, evenly distributing it until it is all used up. Sprinkle liberally with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until lightly brown on top.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What's for breakfast?

Breakfast is an odd meal for me. I'm not a morning person, so in the past I haven't been awake enough to think about eating a REAL meal before work.

Growing up, mom would make us hot cereal, or french toast, or pancakes before school. Never cold cereal - we couldn't afford it. Until I was in high school (when Mom went back to work), cold cereal was a treat we looked forward to having at Grandma's house. Of course, Grandma would let us pick out whatever kind we wanted, sugar content be damned! Pass the Cookie Crisp, please!

I didn't eat breakfast on weekdays during most of high school, and part of college. Once I started working, though, I found I really needed it. Most mornings I just ate cold cereal. Sometimes the healthy stuff - I love shredded wheat and the occasional box of, yes, bran flakes. Sometimes the stuff masquerading as healthy - just because Cracklin' Oat Bran has the word "bran" in the title, it's not a health food, believe me! And, of course, sometimes it just has to be Cookie Crisp (or Lucky Charms for hubby).

Since I'm now up at 5 am with hubby, and don't leave the house till 7:30, I find I have some time on my hands in the mornings. And I've discovered the wonders of the quick hot breakfast. It's like having weekend breakfast on a plain old Monday morning! Excellent!

I've developed a fondness for oatmeal, a food I loathed and detested as a child. Of course, I prepare it completely differently than my mom did! I have several variations - pumpkin, apple (either with bits of dried apple cooked in it, or with fried apples dumped on top if I have extra ambition), plain sweetened with maple syrup, or plain sweetened with molasses. Of course, it has to be made with MILK. This is critical. Part fat-free half and half if I have it. I can put a pot of it on the stove on low heat, go take my shower, and when I come back, rich, creamy, yummy oatmeal. And if I don't have time even for that, I mix all the ingredients together the night before, let it soak in the fridge overnight, and then nuke it for two minutes in the morning and it's just as good!

Sometimes, I'll make up a whole loaf of French toast on the weekends. Then I freeze the slices on a cookie sheet, pop them in a freezer bag, and, voila! Toaster french toast. Just heat and eat.

This morning, I had two fried eggs, toast (on homemade bread with homemade jelly, yum!), and canned pears. Plus coffee and orange juice. On these mornings, I just hop in the shower five minutes early (my mornings are pretty well routinized, so I pay close attention to time). Then I use those five extra minutes to cook my eggs. While the eggs and toast are cooking I putter around the kitchen a little - I either get a head start on pulling my lunch together, or work on dishes, or, like this morning, I swap out the laundry left in the washer and dryer last night.

Of course, some mornings I'm just a zombie and I NEED that box of cold cereal. I have shredded wheat for that. Or sometimes I sneak a bowl of hubby's granola. But I find the hot breakfasts stick with me better and I don't need to snack as much at work.

So what's YOUR breakfast routine?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A weekend at home

Since I was gone three days last weekend, I thought a weekend at home would be swell. So I turned down a couple of invitations and told hubby we were staying in. And it's been a GREAT weekend!

We didn't stay in entirely - we went on several shopping expeditions, actually. First, to Bi-Mart to stock up on Coleman fuel and lamp oil.

Then to the fireplace shop to pick up our hearth pad. Just 12 more days till our woodstove is installed! Got home to discover that the hearth pad is too small, so we made a quick call back to the fireplace shop to negotiate a free heat shield that will mean we only have to make it a smidge bigger, which we will do with a row of bricks in the back, painted black to match the rim of the hearth pad.

Then, we rearranged the living room, and realized that our entertainment center was too big for where it needed to be with the new arrangement. Off to Target. We found one that matches the coffee table and end tables we bought there last year, and also found a nifty new padded bench in the same style that will provide more living room seating for us (yay, almost all our living room furniture now matches - I'd better be careful or people will think I've become a grown-up!).

Today was grocery shopping and now I'm spending the afternoon in the kitchen. First, I made buttermilk yeast bread (which smells HEAVENLY). There's also a pot of pinto beans simmering on the stove. Dinner will be roast chicken, twice-baked potatoes, garlic toast (on the freshly-made bread, of course!) and some sort of vegetable. When the chicken comes out, two loaves of banana bread will go in. We had a plethora of black bananas in the pantry. Those not immediately becoming bread were mashed and frozen in one cup portions for future loaves of banana bread.

So that's about it for our weekend. How was yours?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Chicken Paprikash

I don't have a whole lot to say lately (life is pretty much same-old, same-old)...but Linda asked for my Chicken Paprikash recipe so I figured I could at least post that!

Chicken Paprikash-Topped Potatoes

12 ounces skinless boneless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
2 T. flour
2 t. Paprika (I like to use the sweet Hungarian paprika)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground red pepper (optional, though it doesn't give it too much of a kick)
1 T. butter
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced, or two small cans of sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. sour cream

1. Combine chicken with flour, paprika, salt, and red pepper until coated.

2. Melt butter over medium-high heat. Add chicken, onion, mushrooms, and garlic and saute five minutes (if you are not using a non-stick skillet, you may need to add additional butter or some oil). Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook six minutes or so until chicken is done and the sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.

3. Serve over hot baked potatoes.