Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas A to Z: ZION

And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.                                         1 Nephi 13:37

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas A to Z: VIRGIN

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.                                    Luke 2:26-28

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas A to Z: UNITY

For there is no respect of persons with God. Romans 2:11

. . . he inviteth all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.  2 Nephi 26:33

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas A to Z: STOCKINGS

Knitted works of art made by my mother. She knit stocking for my dad and herself, their six children and five spouses, and twenty-seven grandchildren. Then she was done!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas A to Z: REDEEMER

He began as we all do, a tiny baby.
Through His Atoning Sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane,
and on the Cross at Golgotha He redeems us from sin and death.
 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.                                       2 Nephi 25:26

He will come again as Lord of Lord and King of Kings, Our Redeemer!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas A to Z: QUILT

Quilted tablecloth my mother made for us Christmas 2011.
She died 1 May 2012

Detail of quilt
Detail of stitching

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas A to Z: NATIVITY

A few of my sets; if I had more horizontal surfaces I'd have them all out.

L to R: Porcelain, Angel Moroni (not strictly Christmas, but hey, he's an angel!), solid glass, glass, print in frame.

Solid glass back-lit with tea light candle
Porcelain set

Glass figurines in front, framed print behind

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas A to Z: LIGHTS

Salt Lake City, Utah Temple and lights

Life size Nativity in front of Salt Lake City Tabernacle (Home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas A to Z: KINGS

Variously called Kings, Wise Men, Magi, it is my personal belief that the men who came from the east to see the newborn King, were prophets of God, journeying to see for themselves the promised Messiah.

"Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? 
". . . And because that I have spoken one word, ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever."     2 Nephi 29:7, 9

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas A to Z: JOSEPH

"Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
"But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
"Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:"                                             Matthew 1:19-21, 24 KJV

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas A to Z: FRUITCAKE

Fruitcake has a bad reputation, but the recipe I use is an old family favorite and once someone tastes it their mind is changed forever.

The candied fruit are the colors of Christmas. And true to my frugal nature I bought some of the ingredients last year on clearance.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas A to Z: DONKEY

I know a donkey is not scriptural, but I can't imagine that Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem on foot. This sweet story is one of our family favorites.

Anna, over at Pleasant View Schoolhouse, has a real live donkey.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas A to Z: ADVENT

Years ago when we had just three children I made this Advent Calendar in an effort to keep the focus on Christ during December. It worked very well as we watched Joseph and Mary progress from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

We haven't used it in recent years (can you tell from the wrinkles?) but I got it out this year to count down because all of our children will be home for Christmas this year and I'm looking forward to that day!

Miser Mom has a great idea for a simple advent calendar made from printer paper and sticky notes that is wonderful for older children and teens.

I'm sure Pinterest has tons of ideas too. I made this one for a "Super Saturday" Relief Society activity; it was really fun to see how others interpreted it as they put theirs together, the creativity was super!

Do you have a favorite Advent Calendar?


Plenty of blogs and websites extol the virtues of the simple life on a homestead, providing your own food and being self-sufficient in many ways. While I applaud their efforts I beg to differ that their life is anything approaching simple.

I've read enough domestic history, journals and memoirs of pioneers and nineteenth century homesteaders (even some early twentieth century) to know that life on the farm is anything but simple. It is hard work and long hours each day and everyday, all year long. The work is complex and interrelated and ongoing. I like to think I could have been a good pioneer or homesteader but I'm sure glad I don't have to be one now.

I thoroughly understand the hunger for a simpler life. Time seems to rush; days go by quickly, years flash by, and we still haven't accomplished what we wanted to. There is too much to do and seemingly too little time to do it.

I believe the simplicity we hunger for is that of a life free from the multiplicity of possessions, activities and distractions (also known as the internet) that we burden ourselves with.

When asked for my occupation I respond with "stay-at-home" mom, homemaker. At times, though, I wish I could be more like Caroline Ingalls, the Ma of the Little House books. She was a true stay at home mom, she rarely ever left her home, even to shop for groceries and fabric. And I envy the Amish for the tight-knit community and frequent personal visits.

I don't know the full answer to the problem of claiming, making, and finding more simplicity in our lives. I do know that concentrating on things of eternal importance feels more satisfying than anything else.

As we enter the Christmas season may you have peace in the simplicity of the eternal message "A Savior is Born".

Monday, November 30, 2015

End of Month

Many bloggers are sharing their Christmas gift creations and I wish I could join the crowd. However, those I'm making gifts for read my blog and I want some things to be a surprise on Christmas day. How about I share all my creations after Christmas? Perhaps it will give you some ideas to work on for next year. Or for birthdays, or weddings, or something.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with three of our children home. We had invited a family from church but weather prevented them from coming to our house so after we ate dinner, TopDad and I packed up food and took it to them. We had a nice visit in their home.  (No photos, I'm so lame!)

Today is a "snow day", hence no school. I am attempting to clear off my desk. Why is paperwork my bugaboo? I have mail, lists, notes, letters, quotes, catalogs, books, charts, and who knows what else, cluttering my desk. I've read many, MANY books on decluttering, handling paperwork, home offices, etc. But I still haven't found a system to accommodate my needs and wants. I will persevere though and keep trying. We fail only when we give up and quit.

May I say that I really appreciate the many bloggers who open up their hearts and homes online. I feel like I have some very special friends. I'd love to get together with all of you. I also appreciate my readers and would love for you to leave a comment or two, even if it's just Hello! I hope my efforts, however lame and pathetic, brighten your day.

God bless all of you!!

The prettiest pear!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Wise Advice From a Farmer's Wife

From the Facebook page of a modern homesteader:

Whenever you return a borrowed pie pan, make sure it's got a warm pie in it.
Invite lots of folks to supper. You can always add more water to the soup.
There's no such thing as woman's work on a farm. There's just work.
Make home a happy place for the children. Everybody returns to their happy place.
Always keep a small light on in the kitchen window at night.
If your man gets his truck stuck in the field, don't go in after him. Throw him a rope and pull him out with the tractor.
Keep the kerosene lamp away from the the milk cow's leg.
It's a whole lot easier to get breakfast from a chicken than a pig.
Always pat the chickens when you take their eggs.
It's easy to clean an empty house, but hard to live in one.
All children spill milk. Learn to smile and wipe it up.
Homemade's always better'n store bought.
A tongue's like a knife. The sharper it is the deeper it cuts.
A good neighbor always knows when to visit and when to leave.
A city dog wants to run out the door, but a country dog stays on the porch 'cause he's not fenced-in.
Always light birthday candles from the middle outward.
Nothin' gets the frustrations out better'n splittn' wood.
The longer dress hem, the more trusting the husband.
Enjoy doing your children's laundry. Some day they'll be gone.
You'll never catch a runnin' chicken but if you throw seed around the back door you'll have a skillet full by supper.
Biscuits brown better with a little butter brushed on 'em.
Check your shoelaces before runnin' to help somebody.
Visit old people who can't get out. Some day you'll be one.
The softer you talk, the closer folks'll listen.
The colder the outhouse, the warmer the bed.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Practice Makes . . .

Perfect? Yes, but Larry Gelwix, coach of the winning Rugby team portrayed in the film Forever Strong says "Practice make permanent." I agree with that too. But today I'm thinking about how practice make tasks easy.

I mentioned to my husband that I can count on one hand the number of thanksgiving dinners we've eaten away from home, and they were all in the first years of our marriage. I've made a full thanksgiving dinner so many times that it is easy for me. I can see why some women, especially those who work outside the home feel overwhelmed by it.

Wednesday is baking and make ahead day. I bake pies and rolls, and make the cranberry jello salad. Yesterday I make two apple pies, using Pink Lady apples; tasting the pie today I can say that those apples are wonderful, sweet with just the right amount of tart, perfect texture, not too crunchy or too mushy, they are just right. I also made two pumpkin pies which turned out very nice. The recipe for the rolls is an old family favorite found in a cookbook put together by the ladies of my mom's ward (congregation) in the 1960's.  The cranberry jello salad recipe came from The Friend magazine when our children were very young. I thought it would be a good way to introduce cranberries to them and they loved it and have requested it ever after.

With all of that made ahead Thursday is a matter of putting the turkey in the oven in a roasting bag; peel and cut the potatoes, cover them with salted water and sit them on the stove until time to turn them one to cook. Peel and slice the sweet potatoes, microwave until just tender, then prepare them with butter and brown sugar, set aside until time to put them in the oven. Finely chop onion and celery and saute them until tender, set aside for the dressing. Then go and rest for a while.

Next is make the Waldorf salad and put it in the fridge to chill. Prepare the stove top dressing, add the premade onion and celery, put into casserole dish.

About an hour before the turkey is done, start cooking the potatoes until tender. When they're done, drain, add butter and milk (however much you want) and whip into mashed potatoes. When the turkey comes out of the oven the sweet potatoes and dressing go in to heat thoroughly. While Dad slices the turkey, Mom makes the gravy.

The table was set earlier, the juice was made by a child (frozen concentrate) and the rolls, butter and jam are all set out.

I've done this so many times it is fairly easy for me. Practice makes it so. And for that I'm grateful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NaNoWriMo - Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen
Dinner or Supper, Whatever You Call It, Watch Out For the Dangers

Dinner used to a large meal in the middle of the day. Supper was a light meal after evening chores were completed. I think. At least that is what I have read in my books about domestic history. Dinner for my family growing up was the evening meal; and the largest meal on Sundays between church meetings. Now I use the two words interchangeably. Whichever name you use, let’s talk about the largest meal of the day, which for most people these days is in the evening.

My father had stomach problems and liked to eat at 5:00 in the evening. I grew accustomed to that time and have raised my family with approximately the same schedule, sometimes eating as late as 6:00 in the summertime, but not any later than that, unless we are out.

We eat breakfast at 6:30 together so we can eat and read scriptures together before Dad leaves for work. Lunch is any time between 11:30 and 12:30, so that by 5:00 we are generally hungry and ready for a meal. Eating earlier in the evening has two advantages, one, of ensuring that we will be hungry for breakfast in the morning, and two, that we will have time to digest the food and use the calories before going to bed.

I grew up eating simple suppers. We had a hamburger patty, mashed potatoes, green peas, and a gelatin salad, usually orange with grated carrots and crushed pineapple. Or Mom would serve a tuna noodle casserole, homemade pizza, soup, or her specialty, homemade tacos and enchiladas. We would have pot roast with potatoes and gravy on Sunday. My mom had a small repertoire of casseroles or one dish meals. I do not remember eating a lot of chicken, but we ate fish fairly regularly. My frugal parents would buy half a beef and stock our freezer for a year. We ate lots of hamburger dishes, roasts and steaks were for special occasions or holidays. We also ate a lot of rice, which my mom would buy in twenty-five pound bags. Except for the pizza and Mexican food, our meals were mild, almost bland, and simple to suit my Dad’s tastes and tender tummy needs at the time.

While there were usually cookies or cinnamon rolls in the house at all times, dessert was not an every night affair. Dessert was for Sunday and holidays. At least that is what I remember; perhaps my siblings’ memories would differ.

I have ventured a little further away from plain and simple with my own family, but when I read on blogs what others eat, perhaps it is only in my imagination that I have been more adventurous.

My Midwestern husband is a meat and potato kind of guy. I am a casserole, soup, and stew kind of gal. This makes for interesting supper times.

Whatever kind of food you like to eat, the most important thing to remember is that portion size matters. When we are out to eat and I see a sixteen ounce steak on the menu my immediate reaction is, “Goodness, that would feed my whole family! Who can eat that much alone?” Long distance runners I guess, and obese Midwesterners.

A good friend of mine who writes a blog called Heart to Heart wrote a post about meal planning which I think is great advice.

5 PM and What’s for Dinner?

What’s for dinner? I wish I knew. I wish someone would tell me! I don’t mind doing the work, but the brain power needed to think it up can be the very hardest part.

A chart to the rescue! Just glancing at it spurs the menu ideas, and can also help kids learn how to balance a dinner meal and include all those nutritious vegetables that might get left out otherwise.

[She includes a picture of a round plate labeled A Balanced Meal with various food items on the plate. Protein: meat, egg, nuts, dairy; Carbohydrates: potato, rice, bread, noodles; Vegetables: 1 cooked, 1 or more raw.]

Here’s how to do easy dinner planning:

1. Pick a carbohydrate: potato, whole grain bread or noodles, brown rice, wild rice, tortillas, barley, oats, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), etc.
2. Pick a protein: meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs, nuts, cheese, yogurt, etc.
3. Pick a cooked vegetable: broccoli, green beans, onions, bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, peas, yellow squash, zucchini, beets, winter squash, mushrooms, yams, artichoke hearts, etc.
4. Pick 2 or more raw veggies for a salad or raw veggie tray (also called Crudités, pronounced crew-di-tay): avocado, carrots, green onions, radishes, jicama, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, sprouts, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, bell peppers, snap peas, etc.

If you are making a soup or casserole, foods #1-3 (carbs, protein, cooked veggies) are included making things simple! All you have to add is the raw veggies and you are done! We eat lots of fresh fruit too in its raw form—at breakfast, lunch, snacks or as a dessert. For an extra-hungry teenage boy, you can set bread and butter at the table for extra carbs to fill him up.

Don’t forget to look at color combinations. What would your plate look like if you planned this dinner: mashed potatoes, white fish, cauliflower and celery sticks. Very white looking, and maybe not so appetizing. [Remember to eat a rainbow!]

Thank you Diane Hopkins! I hope this helps you, dear reader, get out of a little (or big) dinner making rut.

Diane further advises to play around with this idea. Put your favorite proteins, carbs and veggies on strips of paper and then put them together exploring new combinations. Brainstorm a little or a lot. Try something new each week. I have heard of homemakers trying something new every day, but that is too much for me. Besides, it is wise to leave room for eating leftovers or cleaning out the fridge somewhere in the week. Let’s not waste good food.

You know those cooking shows where the aspiring chefs are given an ingredient and an assignment to come up with a meal? I have an idea for a format that I would absolutely love to see. You know, those TV chefs have a pantry full of every imaginable ingredient and a kitchen with all the tools a person could desire. Most of us do not have anything like that in our homes. So my idea is for a crew to go to a neighborhood, any neighborhood, big city, small town, does not matter; knock on doors until someone lets you in to cook them dinner with what they have in their kitchen. Wow, now that would be a challenge for the chef. Cooking with limited ingredients and tools takes a whole lot more imagination and creativity than with an unlimited pantry and a fabulous professional kitchen even if there is a time limit.

Pretend you are a chef and there is camera crew filming you making your wonderful dinner. See if that doesn’t spur you on to greater heights of creativity and effort to put a delicious, nutritious meal on the table. Make the food look good. Set a pretty table. You and your family are special, use your good dishes; get out those cloth napkins. Make it an occasion.

Now, I know we are working on losing weight and gaining health so the same things we talked about with breakfast, lunch and snacks apply to dinner. Look for ways to decrease calories (mostly fats and sugars) and increase servings of vegetables. And always, until you can accurately eyeball it, measure portion sizes.

If you go out to eat, ask your “date” if the two of you can share a meal. Unless you are eating in a fancy, expensive restaurant where the portions are naturally small, there is usually plenty for two on one platter of food. Your waist will thank you and so will your wallet. An alternative to sharing a meal, if your date does not want to, is to order a smaller appetizer.

And that, dear readers, is as far as I got before my chest pains  got to me and I knew it was time to quit NaNoWriMo for this year. I'll get back to writing the rest of the story after Christmas. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NaNoWriMo - Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen
Snacks and Other Finger Foods

My husband and I were at a burger joint waiting for our order to be called. Across the room at another table was a man and woman eating their burgers and fries and signing between bites. The thought occurred to me, do deaf parents teach their deaf children to not talk with the hands full?

With breakfast and lunch out of the way, let’s talk about snacks. If we are going to eat them we need to know that they will be contributing to our weight loss goals, not sabotaging them.

I have the abominable habit of eating while watching television. Not that I watch broadcast or cable or dish or whatever. I use our television to watch movies, or old shows on DVD. Never mind what I watch, the fact that I can’t seem to watch without eating something is the problem. Even when I am reading I mindlessly munch on stuff, edible stuff. Very bad habit.

The first thing to do is replace a bad habit with a better one. Instead of using my hands to transport food from a bowl or plate to my mouth, I can use my hands to create gifts or other useful articles for myself and others. Knitting, crocheting, needlework of any kind keeps our hands busy and out of the food bowl. Folding clothes, ironing, and mending are other useful activities while watching a movie.

If we must eat, let’s plan ahead and make is something that won’t add to our unwanted pounds. Fruit is nice, grapes, berries, apple or pear slices, melons in the summer, citrus in the winter, there is always some kind of fruit available. Cut into slices or pieces it gives us the feeling of hand to mouth snacking. Air popped popcorn replaces chips or crackers if you want something crunchy. One batch of popcorn drizzled with a scant tablespoon of butter (the only spread I use) is plenty to share and won’t break the calorie bank. Sometimes I make veggie nibbles, by cutting up carrots, celery, broccoli, peppers, etc. into small pieces and it satisfies the same hand to mouth action habit as the fruit. Adding a few canned beans such as garbanzo or kidney adds enough protein to be very satisfying.

If we choose to have crackers, chips, cookies or candy of any kind, then label reading is essential and taking out of a package only one serving will save us heartbreak in the morning. Make the presentation (the dish the food is on) pretty and eat slowly, letting the food dissolve in your mouth so that the small amount goes a long way.

Practice doing without. I know, not fun. But if those slim French women can do it we certainly can. Amy Dacyczyn, aka The Frugal Zealot, of Tightwad Gazette Fame, says “I was hungry during the first week while my stomach adjusted but chanted my mantra: ‘Hunger is good.’ After that, I seldom felt very hungry.” (The Tightwad Gazette: 68:4)

Many times we are not really hungry, we are thirsty. Drink another full glass of water and see if your “hunger” is still there. Often we just have a bad habit. I know I do. Another coping device is a short burst of exercise. A brisk walk around the block. Ten minutes on the treadmill. A few jumping jacks, or jumping rope. Something to get our blood moving and our minds off of eating. We are changing habits. Oh so difficult, but oh so worth it when accomplished.

Save your most decadent snacking for one day a week. I give in on Sundays. For me Sunday is a day of rest from all the worries of the rest of the week. It is generally a rest from ‘dieting’ too.

Do you know what happens after you have not had daily treats for a long time? It actually takes less to satisfy your mouth. That is a good thing. The longer you go between treats, the less it takes to feel like a treat. And if you make it a high quality treat, it takes even less of it to feel like something special, because it is.

One final caution; never, never eat snacks mindlessly from the container. Take out a serving size and put the rest away, far away! Remember those diet chips from Chapter Eight, by sharing a portion we eat less and keep our commitment to letting go of bad habits and excess weight.

Monday, November 23, 2015

NaNoWriMo - Chapter Fifteen

Sorry for the skip in the days. It is embarrassing to have to say that I'm like the proverbial character with a heart problem and have to balance things so I don't get overwhelmed and stressed or my heart acts up!

Chapter Fifteen
Lunch is Easier Than You Think

With a good breakfast under your belt you should be able to last until lunch time. If not, that is okay. We will look at snacks in the next chapter. But try really hard to not eat between meals.

Remember in Chapter Eleven I talked about how in Korea and other Asian countries there are not specific foods associated with specific meals? Lunch can be like that for us. We can eat anything we want to eat. Let’s look at some of the options.

We can eat leftovers from the night before (or breakfast for that matter). We can have a sandwich, a salad, soup, or “lunchables”. The sandwich can be on sliced bread, a roll, a pita pocket, or leftover pancakes (don’t laugh until you try peanut butter and jam on whole wheat pancakes, it’s yummy!). The sandwich can be hot or cold. A salad is defined as “a dish, usually served cold, consisting of vegetables, as lettuce, tomatoes, etc., or of fruit, meat, seafood, or eggs, mixed with a dressing.” Salads are versatile and can be made up of whatever you have on hand in all sorts of unique and yes, weird combinations (remember Breakfast Salad?). Soup is similar, usually served hot, and like salads, it can be made to a recipe or can be a unique combination, or even an experiment. Lunchables at our house are similar to the store bought things of the same name except we have fruit or veggies in place of cookies or candy, but it is still simply crackers, cheese and/or meat.

See there are lots of options. If you are like me and have different tastes than your spouse, and you are at home for lunch you can make precisely what you want to eat with no one around to complain. When our children are home with me they often ask for macaroni and cheese, or as we used to call it Pasta y Queso, because Dad hates the stuff and we rarely serve it when he is around.

Here is my famous (in my family at least) Macaroni and Cheese Recipe.
One Pan Macaroni and Cheese

Gather all necessary ingredients.
Get out the square electric frying pan.  Turn on to 250°.

Ingredients Needed:

1 -2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground oregano

2 to 3 cups pasta (elbows or tiny shells)
1 tablespoon flour
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 – 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1.  Put into pan 1 – 2 tablespoons of butter
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon dry mustard
    ½  teaspoon black pepper
    ⅛ teaspoon ground oregano

2.  Add 2 - 3 cups elbow macaroni, or 2 ½ cups mini shell macaroni.
3.  Stir to cover all the pasta with the butter and spices.
4.  Add three cups water (if you use 3 cups pasta add four cups water), stir to wet everything.  Smooth it out and cover tightly
5.  Cook until the water is almost all absorbed.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
6.  When the water is almost all absorbed sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the pasta and stir it in.
7.  Add one 12 ounce can of evaporated milk, stir thoroughly, then top with 1 – 2 cups grated cheddar cheese.  As the cheese begins to melt, stir mixture continuously until it thickens.  When it is thickened turn off the fry pan and cover again until ready to serve.

The instructions are detailed because I wrote it up for children. Our son attempted to make it once by dumping all the ingredients in together. It didn’t work exactly right, but I managed to salvage it. Hence the explicit instructions.

Sandwiches can be any combination you desire. For a meat/cheese combo try to add three or four vegetables too. Lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, carrot curls (use a veggie peeler to shave off nice slices of carrot, the big kind, not those silly baby things), radishes, fresh spinach leaves, sprouts, whatever you have in your crisper. Go for more veggies than meat and cheese. Your hips will thank you. And if you do use carrot curls, cut up the rest of the carrot into sticks and eat those instead of chips (potato or corn).

Want to know how to stretch a can of tuna to make eight sandwiches? Chop up vegetables, carrot, celery, peppers, onion, broccoli, and such, as fine as you can. Add the veggies to the tuna and plop in a little bit of mayonnaise (or whatever your favorite white dressing is). The more veggies you add, the further the tuna stretches. This is wonderful in pita pockets.

Avoid chips, potato, tortilla, corn, or veggie, especially if you are eating alone. Trust me on this one. Chips are way fattening with little nutritional value. And it is so easy to overeat on these. Just ask my hips. We can get our crunch from crisp vegetables or a little bit of air-popped popcorn. Or we can wean ourselves off cold turkey, which is hard to do, but who said losing weight and getting healthy was easy?

Fruits are higher in calories, generally, than vegetables so they are a good, sweet ending to the meal. Think of them as a little dessert, perhaps.

Now just a word about vegetables from a non-botanist. For the purpose of losing weight, corn is not a vegetable. Neither are green peas. Corn is a grain, what used to be called a starch, sort of like potatoes; and peas are a legume, like beans, a vegetable protein. The veggies I am talking about adding to your meals are the ones like romaine lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers (red, orange, yellow and green), cucumbers, radishes, and such. The ones we listed in the rainbow. Yes, corn and peas are in there, let’s not be picky. There is a place for all the wonderful veggies in our meal plan, just remember balance. Potatoes and corn are both starchy so we need some green stuff to balance it.

When I think or say lettuce I am talking about Romaine or other dark green leafy lettuce, not the pale green tasteless iceberg junk. Yuck! No offense intended if that is your favorite, but just be aware that iceberg lettuce is water and fiber, nothing else. No vitamins, minerals or taste. Try some hearty Romaine or fresh spinach, or a package of baby spring greens. Yummy!

On to soups. The sky is the limit, sort of. Cream soups are not recommended except on special occasions and in small quantities. Stock soups heavy on the vegetables are going to be our best friends.

Here is my own recipe:

Basic Soup

2 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery diced
1/3 – ½ of a large onion chopped
Meat – leftover roasted beef, chicken or turkey
2 bouillon cubes or teaspoons of granules or paste (flavor to match or complement meat)
½ cup pearled barley or 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni

2 - 2½ quarts water

Put all the ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about an hour.  Taste and add seasoning, about 1 tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper.

This recipe is a good way to use up last night’s dinner meat.

Get in the habit of looking at what you are making and determining if you can cut some of the calories down without sacrificing flavor or texture. For example: do you butter your sandwich bread for a peanut butter sandwich? Why? One kind of butter is enough and you will decrease the calories in your sandwich. Do you always use mayonnaise on meat and cheese sandwiches? Try using less, or switch to mustard which is flavorful and tons less calories. Read the labels of your lunch meat and see what an actual serving size is, then reduce it by a third or half. Having protein for lunch is important to enable you to last through to supper. Another strategy is to make just half a sandwich using one slice of bread. Fill up on vegetables and other low calorie high nutrition foods.

Friday, November 20, 2015

NaNoWriMo - Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen
Where the Rubber Meets the Road

At one of the last meetings of TOPS that I attended one of the other ladies was totally discouraged. Each week she either lost or gained one quarter of a pound. TOPS counts in quarter pound increments. Well, a quarter pound can be a trip to the bathroom or a big drink, depending on which way the scale goes. No wonder she was discouraged. She really was not losing weight, just a little water back and forth.

Let’s look at a day in the life of a loser. No, not that kind of loser, the kind that puts knowledge to use through action and loses excess fat, builds muscle and ends up with a trim, fit body. We will begin with breakfast.

Your alarm goes off, and you roll out of bed. The first thing (after prayer if that’s your first, first thing) is to visit the bathroom and pee. Then walk to the kitchen and drink a full glass (at least eight ounces) or water. Next, if you take any pills or supplements take them with another glass of water. All of this water is to rehydrate you after a night of exhaling. Water gets your digestive system up and running, provides lubrication for your brain and joints and just generally helps you feel good all over.

Now, you can either fix and eat breakfast at this point, or you can shower, get dressed and then fix breakfast. It is up to you the order of things, but breakfast is a must. The reason some people do not eat breakfast is they claim they are not hungry. What time did you eat before sleep? If it was after seven o’clock in the evening, you are eating too late and yes, you probably won’t be hungry in the morning. But if you stop eating at seven, by the time you get up ten to twelve hours later, you probably will be hungry.

What do you normally eat for breakfast? (When you eat it, of course.) Cold cereal? Hot cereal? Bacon and eggs? Pancakes, waffles, muffins, bagels? Whatever your normal breakfast is you can most likely keep eating it. We will just tweak it a little and use proper portions to make the most of the first meal of the day.

Read the label on your cold cereal, if one of the first ingredients is sugar, put that cereal aside and use it as a treat. Cereal should be made with whole grains, little to no sugar (and we won’t be adding any) and have lots of good fiber. Next read the portion size. Get out your measuring cups and only eat one serving size with the usually recommended one half cup of milk. Add a piece of fruit, either with the cereal, or on the side, and a nice boiled egg for protein and you will have a great breakfast.

Hot cereal is similar. Use the old fashioned cooking kind; it really takes just a few minutes to prepare and cook and it is easy to control the ingredients. Measure the portion, add a tablespoon of dried fruit, or chopped fresh apple, a teaspoon of brown sugar or honey and you have a nutritious, filling breakfast. I eat oats, cracked wheat, creamy brown rice, and regular brown rice for breakfast. All yummy. And for goodness sakes, do not call it “mush.” How unappealing can you get. This is hot cereal. Mush is what is in the gutters at the end of winter.

If your normal breakfast (or one that you eat at restaurants) consists of bacon, eggs, and toast simply cut your portions in half, unless you already eat only one of each thing. Many people don’t, so I just wanted to remind you. One egg, one strip of bacon (or sausage patty, link or small piece of ham) and one piece of toast, without butter or whatever spread you use, but with a little bit (measure a tablespoonful) of jam or jelly or honey. Again, add a piece of fruit and you’ve got a great breakfast. Remember, there is nothing we are totally cutting out, just cutting down to begin with. It is a starting place. We have to eat fewer calories than we use during the day, so unless we are a long distance runners we must cut in half the amount of calorie dense foods we eat.

Most restaurants are amenable to adjusting their servings. I was at a diner in Utah where the smallest plate was two of each thing, bacon, eggs, and toast. I asked if I could have a plate with just one of each. Of course, the waitress said. She served our breakfasts and it was just the right amount, no waste, and easier for my waist. You won’t know until you ask. The alternatives are eating more and expanding your waistline; leaving half on the plate to be thrown away, wasting food and money; or taking home a “doggy-bag” for later, which never tastes as good heated the second time. So just ask and go with the smaller portions.

Perhaps you think you do not have time for pancakes, especially homemade ones. Well, the other morning I got up and was in the kitchen at about 18 minutes after the hour and had homemade, from scratch, pancakes and syrup on the table at 32 minutes after the hour. Beat that! Practice makes it easy to do. Having a jug of homemade syrup already in the fridge helps too. I just put some in a pan, on low to heat while I am whipping up the pancakes. Everything is ready at once.

Here are the recipes I use for the syrup and pancakes.

Homemade Syrup
Ratio = 2 parts sugar to 1 part water

To make a large quantity:
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 – 2 tablespoons molasses (more or less depending on how dark you like it)

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  When just beginning to boil, turn off heat and remove pan, stir well, then serve. Store the remainder in a container (glass or plastic) in the fridge and just heat what you need each time. (I tried storing it in a squeeze bottle in the cupboard, but eventually it got moldy, so the next batch went back in the fridge. We like our syrup hot anyway.)

Whole Wheat Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix dry ingredients then add:
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup milk (you can use dry milk here, add the powdered milk, the amount to make one cup, to the dry ingredients, and then add one cup of water with the wet ingredients.)

Mix all together and pour or ladle onto hot griddle (325° - 350°), turning when the bubbles closed and the edges are done.
Recipe can be doubled, tripled or “fourpled” (a family term)

I mix it all up in an eight cup measuring pitcher and simply pour the batter onto the griddle from the pitcher.

If you want to save time in the morning prepare the ingredients the night before. Mix up the dry stuff and cover; mix up the wet stuff and put it in an air tight container in the fridge. In the morning, start the syrup heating, turn on the griddle and mix the batter. Instant pancakes for breakfast. Add some fruit and you have a wonderful breakfast. Just remember to limit your portions, three or four 2 ½ inch pancakes with 1 tablespoon of syrup and you will be good to go.

Waffles take longer to cook so we do not have those on work/school mornings, but they make a good choice on weekends or holidays. I use the same pancake recipe for the waffles.

 If whole wheat is too much for you, try half and half. Half whole wheat flour and half white flour. Whole wheat, especially if you have ground it fresh yourself, (ask a Mormon friend about it) is the best nutritionally. But the kind you buy at the store works too. My husband did not like pancakes until he tasted my whole wheat ones. Our children too have become partial to the whole wheat pancakes and consider the doughy store bought mix ones often served at fund raiser breakfasts or church events, to be totally nasty. It is all a matter of what you are used to.

Store bought muffins have too much sugar in them and taste more like cake, plus they are usually huge, enough for four servings. Try these homemade ones for a better option.

Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

Mix together in bowl:
2 cups flour (half whole wheat and half white)
¾ cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves

2/3 cup raisins (stir in to coat with flour)

1 slightly beaten egg
1 cup milk (same thing as the pancakes, you can use dry milk and water)
¼ cup oil

Mix gently until it’s all moistened, then spoon into greased muffin tins.  Makes 12.
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Just like the pancakes these can be mixed (dry and wet separate) the night before, prepare the pan and then fix in the morning. Turn on the oven to preheat while you mix them up and spoon them into the pan. Voila. Fresh, hot muffins. These with some scrambled eggs and some fruit make a great breakfast.

I have been serving bagels to my family for years. They are filling and that is good for growing boys with hollow legs. However, recently I read that bagels are nutritionally empty calories and therefore should have a limited place in our meals. Okay then. Instead of a whole bagel, let’s just eat a half, share the other half with another family member, with just a skim of cream cheese on it (instead of a quarter inch thick spread) and we will be okay. It is all about portion size, remember?

English muffins are a good alternative to toast with a meal, or use them for breakfast sandwiches. Toast the muffin, add a thin slice of cheese, half a slice of bacon, and part of an egg; the egg is beaten and cooked thin in an omelet pan. I can get three or four portions out of one egg this way.

Speaking of eggs, when fixing scrambled eggs I plan on one egg per person, with an extra one thrown in for good measure. So if I am feeding my whole family of seven, I use just eight eggs. One blogger I read says she rarely serves scrambled eggs to her family of nine because it takes eighteen eggs to feed them. What? All of the children are under 12. That’s way too many eggs. She could get by with under a dozen. Or rather I could.

Another egg saving breakfast is French Toast.

Mom’s Café Recipe for French Toast

Beat together:
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
Dip slices of white bread in mixture and cook on a medium-hot (325) griddle greased with butter.  Turn slices and brown other side.

Makes about 14-16 slices depending on the size and kind of bread.

For making larger or smaller batches the ratio is ¼ cup milk to 1 egg.

If you want to make it special, add ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.

For warm weather breakfasts I like homemade granola with either milk or yogurt. Here is my simple recipe.

6 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned oatmeal)
½ cup honey (or maple syrup, but who has that?)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons orange juice (the kind from concentrate, unless you have an orange tree and want to squeeze some fresh)
1 cup chopped walnuts or other favorite such as almond, pecan, sunflower, etc.

Preheat oven to 325° F.
Combine the honey, oil and juice in a saucepan; heat until just warm.
In a large bowl combine the oats and nuts, then pour wet mixture over the oats and stir until well combined. Spread the mixture evenly in a shallow roasting or baking pan. Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes, stirring and re-spreading every 10 minutes until a pretty golden brown. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Dried fruits such as raisins, craisins, or berries can be added (one cup) after it is cooled. Portion size is one third cup. (Or a half cup, if you are a teenage boy with hollow legs.) At one third cup this has 235 calories per serving. I can almost guarantee that it is filling and you won’t get hungry soon after eating.

Have you ever heard of Breakfast Salad? No? It is quite popular at our house. I think our son Joseph put the first one together. Take some leftover boiled potatoes from dinner the night before, peel and cut them into bite sized pieces, and set aside. Chop up a little bit of onion, and some bell pepper (any color, the more the merrier) and set them aside with the potatoes. Take some bulk sausage, not more than half a pound for six people and cook it until it is no longer pink, add the potatoes, onions and peppers to fry. In another skillet (or small omelet pan) scramble a couple of eggs. When they are done, the other should be done and you can add it all together. Voila! Breakfast salad. Hearty, and filling for teenage boys. For yourself, go ahead and eat some, just limit your portion to about  one cup worth. See, you can have everything as long as you measure the portion.

Whew. I think we are done with breakfast. Oh, one more thing. How about a humorous anecdote? This summer our youngest son went on a little trip with some other youth and leaders from our church. In the morning the leaders quickly figured out that the hotel no longer served breakfast, so one of them went out to buy some food. When our son was presented with donuts and Sunny D he said, as politely as he could, “I don’t eat fake food.” When questioned about his preferences for breakfast he said, “My mom fixes me a hot breakfast every morning.” The women leaders were in awe. I promise, with practice it takes just a few minutes to serve a hot, nutritious breakfast to yourself and others.