31 July, 2008

Whip it Up Challenge: Week 4

We've tried three new recipes this week - one of our own invention, one that we haven't actually tasted yet (it's a salad that's chilling overnight in the fridge) and the one I'll post here today, the Absolute Best Pork Loin Chops We've Ever Eaten.( Or some sort of pork cut with no bone.) Boo for me, I don't even have a picture to show you because I didn't decide I was going to post this recipe until all the meat was down the hatch. (And also, yes, I realize the theme for this week is vegetarian. Sorry about that. The original recipe I was going to post was in fact, quite vegetarian, but this one was too good not to share this week - and the rules do say the theme is but a guideline/suggestion!)

Essentially we were trying one new 'recipe' and one new 'technique.' The new technique was brining. Here's what Allrecipes.com says about Brining. We made one mistake in that we didn't rinse the meat, but it didn't occur to either of us to do that anyway.

We used three pork loin chops that were about 3 inches wide and 6 inches long. I microwaved two teaspoons of salt with 3/4 cup water until the salt was dissolved. I poured that over the pork (which was sitting in a pie plate) and then covered it with cold water and plastic wrap and let it refrigerate for about four hours. We read somewhere that you can refrigerate it for three hours or overnight.

Once we were ready to cook the pork, we put it on a plate and used a spice rub on it. We are huge fans of spice rubs because they add flavour without all the extra calories and preservatives of store-bought sauce.

Our favourite and most-used spice rub recipes come from the July/August 2004 issue of Everyday Food (if you can swing the subscription price, it's quite a nifty little mag that usually contains some very excellent recipes). We've used the Chile Rub (which I couldn't find a link for) and the Curry Rub which you can find here.*/** Anyway, there are two rub recipes we hadn't tried yet and one was recommended for pork so we gave it a go.

Behold, the recipe for Whip it Up Challenge, Week Four:

Spicy Paprika Rub (as found in Everyday Food, July/August 2004, p. 52)
(Makes 9 teaspoons - but we mixed up a 1/2 recipe and still had some leftover)

4 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container (an empty spice jar works great!)

Now, The Q & A:

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Um, yeah. Look at it! The brining needs a little tweaking and we need to remember to rinse the meat next time. It was a bit salty, but...

...Did it taste good? Oh my goodness - yes! It was amazing. Kind of a sweet/spicy taste with a hint of something....foreign, and the meat was perfectly tender.

Would we make it again? A resounding yes! I went through a phase in life where I refused to eat any pork except ham and the tastiest meat in the world, Pioneer Farmers Sausage. (You may have heard of other farmers sausages, but unless it's Pioneer, you're wasting your time and I mean that from the bottom of my gullet.) I only recently started eating pork again because we came across a) some cheap meat and b) some tasty recipes for preparing it. Using a rub made this a relatively 'light' meat and making it on the barbecue meant it was really easy to prepare. Again, the only thing we would do differently is rinse the meat before we use the rub - oh and we might try letting it sit in the brine for even longer. So go! Eat! Enjoy!

* The Curry Rub is amazing on barbecued chicken; chop up leftovers and mix with Miracle Whip (we use MW light), chopped celery, and a smidgen of S&P for one super chicken salad!

** I always get so distracted when I visit the MS website but this time in a very good way. I think I found a recipe which may be the culmination of the WIU Challenge for us this summer. Check this out!

28 July, 2008

"You Should Go Join a Circus!" (Bloggy Giveaway Post)

This Bloggy Giveaway is now closed.
Thanks for stopping by,
I'll be announcing the winner shortly!

That there
is verbatim what Mr. J. said to me last night after I showed him this:

Yes, I can walk like that too.

You may not realize this, but I have lived all 29 years of my life thinking that EVERYBODY could do that with their toes? My response to him was "Hey, at least you'll still be walking on your own feet when you're 70 instead of needing to be pushed in a wheel chair because your feet are so crippled from rheumatoid arthritis!"

I am rather double-jointed, it's true. I'm no contortionist, but I can do a couple of neat party tricks, I guess.

I can also do this:

and this (which I think is less unusual):
Anyway, you know it's time for the summer edition of the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival and my fingers are ready for typing copious amounts of entries. Last time, I won two giveaways and let's face it, to quell the tedium of hot summer days, there are few things more exciting than winning a contest! So in honour of it being summer and it being - for most of us - hot outside, I present you with The Prize:

And I say: Nevermind snowcones - break out the margarita glasses, my friends!

Now you know there's no way I'm going to just give away a prize without making you work for it. After all, the most satisfying rewards are the ones you have to work for - or something like that, so, if you'd like to enter for a chance to win this drool-inducing machine, tell me something unique or unusual about yourself. Have you got a 'party trick'? If so, what is it?

"Official Rules":
1. This giveaway is open to anybody with a US or Canadian mailing address. You don't have to be a blogger, but you must leave me a way to contact you if you win.

2. The contest closes at noon on Saturday, 2 August. The winner will be notified on Saturday evening and you only have until Tuesday night to get back to me. We are going on holidays at the end of next week and I'd like to have the prize in the mail before we go.

3. Only one entry per person please, UNLESS you are one of my regular readers.*

For more contests, click the picture.

*This means you - Beck, Beth, Brenda, EG, Erin K., Jenn, Jess, Jodie, Kellan, MinnesotaMom, NoMotherEarth and RA. (Just leave three separate comments, okay?)

24 July, 2008

Whip it Up Challenge: Week 3

This weeks recipe is nearly beyond the epitome of easy but it's been a busy week for some weird reason and - alas - my Great Amazing Meal Plan of the Century failed me. *gasp* I know! It's craziness, isn't it? It turned out that we didn't have all the ingredients we needed for one recipe and it also turned out that on Tuesday, not even a feat as incredible as a month-long meal plan could entice me to the kitchen to prepare something.

You might remember from the last post, that we spent some time exploring the various booths at the Local Festival last weekend. You may also remember that I exclaimed over the (virgin) Lime Rickey we consumed with lunch. We watched the pastor (it was a fundraiser for a local church) mix our drink so we had a pretty good idea what all was in it so we decided to try to replicate it at home. Now, beyond the usual assortment of snobby beer, we don't have any alcohol to speak of in the house at the moment, so our version of the Lime Rickey remains non-alcoholic. According to Drinksmixer.com, the appropriate alcohol to use is Angostura bitters, so if you're inclined then go ahead and add "3 dashes."

Otherwise, here is the recipe for the WIU Challenge, Week 3:

Lime Rickey:

4 ice cubes or more if you're inclined
juice from 1/2 of one lime

2 ounces simple syrup - more or less to taste*

soda water

In a large glass, deposit the ice cubes, lime juice and simple syrup. Add enough soda water to fill the glass. Stir with your straw and enjoy. Makes: one.

The Q & A:

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Well we made it up, so yeah, it wasn't too bad - just guessing until we got it right.

Did it taste good? It was brilliant! Just perfect for a humid summer day such as last Saturday, or Sunday, or Tuesday, or today. It's kind of like making lemonade, only with soda water which makes me think we should try making lemonade with soda water. Hm.

Would we make it again? I think you'll notice from the answer to the last question that it's already been made several times.

*To make simple syrup, which I'd never made before, measure equal parts water and sugar in a measuring cup and microwave 1-2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.

The Lime Rickey: Sweet, sweet summer satisfaction.

23 July, 2008

What's Going On Around Here.

As it turns out, something got messed up, numbers-wise, and that picture post wasn't my 200th post. Oh well. So much for that.

Firstly I should mention that ever since that one cry-it-out night last week, bedtime has not been a problem at all. One or two nights the Little Goat was probably just too exhausted to fight sleep. Anyway, that's been great so thanks for all your input/opinions about that. She's still getting up at night, but at least she's okay with going back to sleep. Naptime on the other hand.....

This past week/end was the Local Festival. On Thursday we went and participated in this scavenger hunt sponsored by a local hospital (Mr. J.'s competition). We walked around to all these different booths and picked up information about various things related (sometimes remotely) to healthier living and at the end got to enter our names in a draw for various prizes including a Wii Fit. *sigh* *sigh* *sigh* We did not win. Woe is us and alas, there is no new addition we'll call Wii. We did, however, finally discover the hours for the new community pool which is actually a very nice pool. They offer Red Cross affiliated swimming lessons for all ages but unfortunately, we'll be away for the two weeks they offer the parent/child class which costs a whopping FIVE DOLLARS. Oh well, Mr. J. (the Designated Swimming Lesson Parent) wouldn't have been able to participate anyway because the lessons were right over the lunch hour which is also the LG's naptime, incidentally.

Moving along. On Saturday we were hoping to go strawberry-picking in the morning but it had rained all night and we weren't interested in trying to wrestle the LG out of the mud for two hours, let alone keeping ourselves clean. We did a grocery run to pick up some things for a barbecue later that afternoon, came home and did some prep for said barbecue, then went back downtown to see a few exhibits. Mr. J. met two ladies who were busy spinning their own wool and now he thinks he knows what he wants for Christmas. We stopped for a sausage on a bun and a lime rickey (it was a church fundraiser so no, we weren't wandering the streets of ______ even remotely inebriated). Chris and Holly made it over just in time for the parade at one o'clock.

It was an okay parade except that there was only one pipe band and one marching band and WAY too many politically-inspired floats. Well, hm. Okay. Scratch that. It wasn't really that great of a parade at all but it was everything we've come to expect from a parade around here. You get the good floats that give out food (chips and vitamin water this year) and handily enough the parade route runs right by the end of our street.....but then there are way too many redundant floats. How many Miss ___ or Little Miss ___ or Junior Miss ___ or Little Miss Petite ___ floats do we really need? And for real?What, if any, is the logic behind a contest for little girls younger than 2?! And the political floats? GACK! Make them stop!

Our barbecue dinner on the other hand, was excellent thanks to the mad barbecuing skillz of none other than Mr. J. himself. After we ate, we went back downtown to look at more booths, but most of them were already cleaning up and it looked like we were in for some crazy downpour, so C&H went home and so did we. We spent pretty much all of that evening trying to watch a movie with the radio on in the background because there were either severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings practically every five minutes - most of them were for areas miles away from us, but I was still Freaking. Out. Fortunately, the worst we got was a heavy downpour. Phew!

In unrelated news, I'm considering entering some goodies in the county fair this weekend but I'm just not sure what to enter and how much I should try to do since I just got the premium book and all entries are due on Friday and Mr. J. is working a double on Friday so he will have to escape during his lunch minutes to go drop off our entries. Yes, I said "our" entries though I'm still trying to convince Mr. J. to enter his recently completed scarf in the "Knitting: Scarf" category. And also, at the fair, there will be tigers. From Germany. Last year, they had camels so tigers are a bit of a regression as far as I'm concerned, but still, they're tigers and they're going to leap through flaming hoops! Flaming hoops! If I can, I will post pictures. Also, THANKFULLY, the LG is not old enough for the pig scramble. This year, if you win the scramble, you actually get to KEEP the pig. KEEP. THE. PIG.

This has turned random and updatey and if I had some main point it's forgotten already. These next couple weeks are going to be busy ones for us. The fair and (still) painting (still!) and trying to get packed and ready to go on holidays.....I'm horribly far behind on reading/commenting on blogs, responding to emails, and returning messages on Facebook but I'm trying so stay with me people. Otherwise, have a great week and come back in the next couple days to see the recipe for Week Three of the WIU Challenge.

22 July, 2008

Our Little Wiseacre

Ahh, my 200th post.*

*Yes it is maybe just a little bit ironic that my 200th
blog post would be a picture.

18 July, 2008

Whip it Up Challenge: Week 2

Well this week we actually ended up trying three new recipes because that's what was on our July Menu, and I'm in the process of prepping for another new one for tomorrow because the local festival is going on this week and the parade and fireworks are tomorrow and we're having company for a chicken barbecue. Yippee! I'll include all three recipes here because I did mention them a few posts ago and I don't want to disappoint anyone who may (or may not) have been waiting for pictures of the results.

Officially, however, I presen
t to you - for the WIU Challenge, Week 3 - Citrus-Pineapple Salsa. Here's the recipe which was adapted from one my Mom found somewhere several years ago:

1 red grapefruit, peeled & chopped

1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 orange, peeled & chopped
8 ounces crushed pineapple with juice

2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
3-4 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
Juice from one lime (or about ¼ cup)

Directions: 1) Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl. Serve immediately or chill first.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or over grilled chicken or fish.

The Q & A:

Was the recipe easy to follow?
This recipe coul
d NOT have been easier to prepare. I didn't use a whole jalapeno, just the parts from one serano pepper that hadn't yet gone bad.

Did it taste good? It was great! Mr. J. would've liked a LOT more spiciness, but that's just like his Non-Taster self. I found it just about perfect. It was so light and fresh - and hello! - NO FAT and lots of citrusy nutrients. What could be better? We sampled it with Ritz crackers and some multi-grain saltines because we didn't have have tortilla chips, but we officially served it with chunks of barbecued chicken (coated with a spice rub something like this) and rice.

Would we make it again?
Yup. In fact the ingredients are on this weeks grocery list. Only this time we'll get some tortilla chips to have with it.

(Sorry for the poor lighting in the pics.)

Now, the other two recipes:
Easy Peasy Orzo Salad:
After I cooked all the pasta I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like this salad. There was just so much PASTA! But it turned out pretty well and Mr. J. loved it and said he would definitely eat/make it a
gain. It's better the day after when the flavours have had time to mingle and it makes enough to be a good (and reasonably cheap/easy) potluck contribution.


1/3 cup Italian dress
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
½ cup orange or
yellow bell pepper, diced
½ cup frozen green peas, thawed
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup black olives, chopped (Optional) <-we omitted these, because
- ugh - olives! *shudder*
2-3 Tablespoon fresh mint leaves, minced

¼ teaspoon black pepper

For dressing: Whisk together all dressing ingredients in a small bowl; set aside. For salad: Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. Mix together orzo and all remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Cover and chill overnight for best flavour.Here's a newer, better picture. That last picture was just ugly.

The last recipe we tried was Bacon, Cheese & Tomato Crescents which were SO GOOD! Ours didn't look much like the picture and we didn't have any red pepper but we will totally be making these again. They didn't require much effort at all and would be a great appetizer. We did bake them in the oven, but it wasn't too hot out that day. In the interest of keeping most of our summer cooking outdoors we may try them on the barbecue next time.

16 July, 2008

Dear Universe,

Please conspire to make my child sleep at night. Please.




For real, bloggy friends, God must be trying to teach us just heinous amounts of patience because we haven't had a decent nights sleep in a week and it's a good thing our house is so clean which requires me to actually DO very little around here during the day because my ability to produce anything more constructive than a run-on sentence right now is nil. Nil!

Also, feel free to judge the depths of my exhaustion by that previous, grammatical terror of a paragraph.

We can't even figure out when this started....maybe it's because Mr. J. has been working a lot of doubles lately and hasn't been home at bedtime. Our Little Goat will go down to sleep reasonably well at her regular bedtime which is anywhere from 7:30-8, right after bathtime, but will wake up 2-3 hours later and will NOT go back to sleep. I nurse her, then try to put her down when she seems really sleepy, but she wakes up pretty much right away and just starts screaming. (Clean diaper, not teething....) Argh! So I lay her back down and rub her back and she seems pretty relaxed. As long as I'm rubbing her back or at the very least, standing where she can see me, she's fine, but the second I step out the door - WAHHHHHHHHHHH! WAHHHHHH! MAHHHHHHHHHHH! Etc.

The other night we thought we'd let her cry herself to sleep, but (beware: possible bad parenting moment ahead!) after 25 minutes of crying, we couldn't take it anymore and Mr. J. went in there. I want to do the whole 'cry it out' thing because I don't see what else will work right now, but I don't know if I'm really 'ready' for it. But then, will I ever be? Do I really just need to bite the bullet and get over it?

We're just so tired. Help!

10 July, 2008

Whip it Up Challenge: Week 1

As I mentioned, uh, I think it was yesterday, summer is the perfect time for trying out recipes that require little to no effort. Not only because we have this hungry little mouth around now - who hasn't quite mastered the art of self-feeding - but also because we have to hurry to eat so we can go back to parking our roasting sticky selves on the couch after bathtime and bedtime. (Less movement, less sweat, as you know.)

It's not unusual for us to try more than one new recipe in a week around here and this week was no different. I made quite a stellar variation of this key lime pie a few nights ago but decided not to submit that as my recipe this week because I never managed to get one 'perfect' piece of pie out of the plate without one of us inhaling it five seconds later.

So for Week One, I submit to you:
Pizza Pasta Salad.

Was the recipe easy to follow? Quite, but we made ours with the following 'alterations': We didn't u
se penne because we didn't have enough, so you'll notice from the pictures that we used fiori; we used one and a half big tomatoes, seeded; we only used three relatively thick slices of some sort of pepperoni or salami that Mr. J. picked out and it was perfectly spicy; and finally, we didn't use the mozzarella crumbles, we used about 1/3 cup of fresh mozzarella cut into cubes.

Did it taste good? Yup. Really good. So good that I'm not sending the rest of th
e leftovers to work with Mr. J. tomorrow. It didn't taste exactly like pizza, but that's okay. It was a hearty pasta salad, definitely good enough for a meal with a side of fresh veggies.

Would we make it again? It's very, very likely. Yum!
Here's a couple pictures because I couldn't decide which one I liked better.

09 July, 2008

Because We Have to Eat...and Have a Wee Contest

This week is the beginning of the Whip it Up Challenge and if you aren't participating, well, my sympathies to you. It's going to be great and we're excited.

First I will tell you of my major accomplishment for the month of July - and no it's not that I actually finished all my painting. *sigh* We sat down on Sunday, June 29th and made a menu/meal plan. And not just for the week, but for the ENTIRE month of July plus the first two days of August! (There are only two repeat meals.) I have wanted to do that for a long time because it means I don't have to devote useless time in my day to determining what we will be eating for dinner. I can look ahead the day before, see what we're having, thaw the requisite meat or chop the veggies or otherwise prepare ingredients all ahead of time. It is also saving us money because this way we are buying groceries for a very specific purpose and we will use exactly what we buy and will hopefully waste next to nothing. Of course, this major menu feat has become a bit of an obsession now. I might actually spend MORE time thinking about what we're going to eat because we have so many exciting things on the menu and new recipes I can't wait to try.

Now getting back to the WIU challenge. The idea is to try one new recipe each week for the next eight weeks. (We will be away for two weeks in August, but will probably be eating new things while we're away and will probably also have our computer along so I will attempt to post during those weeks too. ) I thought I would give you a sneak preview of the recipes we're planning to try. These aren't set in stone and we tried to choose a variety, but it's summer and summer is for light easy foods that don't require much effort so that's primarily what we will be attempting. In no specific order, the recipe experiments will be:

1. Pizza Pasta Salad.
2. Easy Peasy Orzo Salad. (This is from an old issue of Reader's Digest and I will write out the recipe when I post about it.)
3. Apple Dumplings - maybe
or Key Lime Pie.
4. Southwestern Bean Salad.
5. Cottage Cheese (yes, from scratch).
6. Lemon Pudding Souffle.
7. Bacon, Cheese, & Tomato Crescents.
8. Citrus-Pineapple Salsa.

The only problem is that six of the eight recipes are all on the menu plan in the next three weeks which means we need more recipe ideas. So, give me some suggestions - if I try your recipe (and love it!) your prize will be my gratitude....or maybe something a little more tangible. Okay, for real something a little more tangible because I just made one of what I think the prize can be and it was easy enough to do again. So yes, there will be a PRIZE. And no, this contest will be in no way related to the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival which is a mere three weeks away. THREE WEEKS!

07 July, 2008

Picnics and Cake

Yesterday was almost fabulous. We were actually on time (I know, I know....we can't figure out what went wrong) for church. The sermon was good, the hymns were nice (except for the patriotic ones - sorry, but I'm all anti-patriotic songs in church; without going into it further, I just find it irritating), and communion was meaningful. We stopped by the Wal*mart on the way home to pick up some pictures and a few other things we needed for a present we're working on (and one we are super-excited about), stopped by K-mart to check out front-facing (!) car seats because we can't seem to decide on one but I am REALLY ready to be able to recline my seat again, and then went to Lowe's to return a couple of boards.

Sidebar: We now have 'everything' needed to
create the platform for and install our new pellet stove which will hopefully be the source of some much-needed financial relief this winter, not to mention significant coziness. Mr. J. is going to build the platform and will learn the new skill of laying tile and such and then a friend from work is going to come over and help him install the actual stove and chimney thing. There will be pictures (and probably cuss-words) involved.

After we got home, we made lunch which consisted of some incredible barbecued pizza, some beverage, and an ice cream sandwich for Mr. J. We made one pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil and one with feta and bacon. We have since decided that for the duration of the season, we will no longer be baking pizza indoors. Barbecued pizza is genius! And it takes half the time of oven-baked. Plus, our 'no-fail' dough was even MORE perfect in its grilled form.

Our pizza was the perfect treat for our first backyard picnic of the year - ants be darned! The Little Goat had her walker wagon, some toys and many cheerios to keep her occupied while we ate and lazed around for almost three hours. It was blissful.

The only major hitch in our fabulous day began when the LG missed her afternoon nap since we got home late and she foiled our plot to nap outside on the picnic blanket and then by 5:30 s
he was falling asleep eating her yogurt and applesauce (not mixed - yuck!). So we gave her a bath and put her to bed just after 6. She ended up waking up at around 9 and didn't go back to sleep until - GACK! - just after 1 AM!!! I laid on the floor blocking the doorway in her room and dozed while she played, in the dark, with her books and shoes and whatever else she could find to amuse herself. Needless to say, I am more than a little tired today. I was going to have a nap while she napped this afternoon, but the Painting Project that Will Not End required attention and then there was lunch to eat and this post to write and blogs to read.....

Today it's hot outside but just cool enough in the house. My water glass has condensation on it because it's that time of year when we
actually keep cold water in the fridge (yes, Mom, for REAL) and I'm wearing lovely summery clothes. Also today I am thinking about cake. Mr. J.'s sister is getting married in exactly six Saturdays and my cake-baking expertise (har!) has been called into service. I've only made one other wedding cake and that was....I think three years ago for Mr. J.'s cousin. It tasted really good, and didn't look too bad. It made the bride yell at me and cry, but that is another story......and everyone said it tasted great.

This is the cake I made. I deliberately chose a picture that was NOT a close-up because I'm still unhappy with how rough the icing looked. I didn't make the sheet cakes. They were extras in case there wasn't enough (which there was - oh my goodness!) and came from Costco.

This time around, the cake will be better. I have a friend who has much more experience making wedding cakes than I and she has filled me in on the best kind of cake (from a mix - phew!) to make and some decorating techniques. I've also discovered a new icing recipe that I think will be perfect and some ideas for decorating tools that are making me really excited about this project.

When we got married, we made our own wedding cake. It was just two layered sheet cakes laid side by side and the icing did NOT go according to plan. The icing, in actual fact, when so awry - three of my best friends who were there will tell you - that it drove me to drink. Truly. Trish, my Flower Shop Manager friend who also did all the other wedding flowers, came to the rescue by decorating the top of the cake with leftover flowers. It was festooned with gerbs, white daisies, tulips, freesia and some greenery and it looked amazing. We loved it!

As for this upcoming cake, I don't know nearly enough of the details yet, but the cake will be round (I think) and have ribbon (I think) and two orchids on it. The cake itself will be white and will very likely have raspberry filling. In my head, it looks amazing.
Tell me about your wedding cake - or your dream wedding cake if yours also drove you to drink.

05 July, 2008

Gramas Makin' Babies

It's Saturday morning and while we were standing around feeding the Little Goat and making some tasty yogurty pancakes, we heard about this on the news.

Which also brought to mind this and this.

We think it's disgusting and irresponsible. What do you guys think?