Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Good Day

I had a good day today which is a change from the last few weeks!
Not only did we get a lot of laundry and cleaning done around the house, but I had my first Pampered Chef party since December 12. I've been excited because my friend Judy Tran from church agreed to hold one. It was her first Pampered Chef party. I am happy. She had 6 friends and family members come. I like the more intimate settings so I can get to know the guests and they can really check out the products.
It's funny because I am SO not a sales person. My decision to sell Pampered Chef came as a result of my signing off with childcare. I had to stop in order to preserve my mental health. I needed to get out of the house. I DESPERATELY missed visiting with other people. I couldn't take all my charges out and about without significant stress. And, I had to do something I enjoyed.
When my friend Roberta approached me with the idea, I said, "Why not?" What can it hurt. There was an initial investment of $155 for the kit but then I have done pretty well. And, if it doesn't work out, I get to keep all my cool kitchen tools.
When I received my kit, it was rather humorous. You see, I had some repeats. I have a lot of Pampered Chef products I have accumulated over the years. I love their products. They have great quality products, and they do save time. The key to Pampered Chef and increasing your Pampered Chef tools is to hold parties. By holding a party, you earn free and reduced price products. That is the best way to stock your kitchen with their products. Pampered Chef products do cost more than if you were to purchase the same item at Target or Walmart. But, that is always the way of things. Quality products require an investment, but over time you will appreciate the investment.
So today at the party I demonstrated the Pampered Chef recipe for Warm Nutty Caramel Brownies. They turned out great. What can be better than brownies, melted chocolate and melted caramels. It's a win all the way around. It was the first time I had tried that recipe. But, I have found that all their recipes for demonstrations are pretty much fool proof, easy, and delicious.
I also had an inspiration right before I left my house. The whole theme of the show was Valentine's Day Tricks and Treats. Before hand I had made Mother Goose Popcorn and Oreo Truffles. Both of these recipes can be found over at Your Home Based Mom's website. She has such great recipes.  So, in additon to those other 3 ideas, I wanted to throw something else out there. I brought my Deep Covered Baker. You see in the Deep Covered Baker, you can make a cake in 8 minutes. Yes, believe it, it is not a typo. In 8 minutes, anyone can make a cake. It cooks in the microwave.
I wanted to deviate from our chocolate theme, so I brought a lemon cake mix. Then we got to talking about different products and then I pulled out my Ultimate Mandoline and demonstrated it on a lemon and a tomato. The results are impressive.
I had some lemon juice so I decided to throw the cake mix together and I added probably 2-3 Tbs. of lemon juice and then I demonstrated the Microplane Adjustable Grater. It is great for zesting an orange or lemon or finely shredding hard cheeses like Parmesan which taste absolutely AMAZING fresh. I haven't ever added those items to a cake mix before. It turned out delicious- and I ended up impressing myself at my little spark of inspiration; the lemon juice and zest really enhanced the lemon cake mix's flavor.
With the Deep Covered Baker, you prepare your cake mix according to the package directions and pour it into the baker. You don't have to grease the pan. Then on top of the batter,  you scoop frosting onto the top of the cake batter using the Pampered Chef Stainless Steel Scoop (I used vanilla frosting).  Most of time, when I start doing this, everyone gives me perplexed and confused looks until I explain that after the 8 minutes are up, the frosting magically appears at the bottom and acts as a yummy sauce. I'm not just tooting my own horn, that is not me. But it was so good served alone or with vanilla ice cream. The brownies were a big hit as well. My favorite by far was the lemon cake.
I was really happy with the party. I am starting to get some of the tips and tricks down. With each party, I am feeling more confident in my ability to present and sell Pampered Chef. I do love it. I like their products.  I LOVE cooking and sharing my knowledge of cooking with other people. And, if I can get paid to do this, I feel like I  come out the winner. I mean, I am loving the opportunity to get out and meet new people and visit with people.
So, that was my day today. It was wonderful. After the party, I came home and did dishes and more laundry and made Kraft mac and cheese while Peter took Bekkah, Steven, and Jonathon to Avatar. He wanted to reward the kids for their hard work at helping out around the house. They did a good job with laundry, dishes, sweeping and mopping the floor, vacuuming, and the cleaning of bathrooms. And, they needed a break from Ethan's crazy, manic behavior lately.
Yesterday, I took him in for his med check with our medication doctor, Dr. Gordon. It was UGLY- and that's an UNDERSTATEMENT! I had to partially sit on him to restrain him from running around the doctor's office. He spit on me, blew his nose on me, fought with me, and screamed the WHOLE time. I'm not kidding or exaggerating!
It's been so bad lately, that he's not functioning at church, home, or school. At home, it's been HELL. I've had to resort to using some extra drugs (legal, prescription drugs prescribed to him, just in case you are wondering or concerned) to help sedate him a bit. For a while it was working. It was helping to lessen his irrational, angry destructiveness. The past few weeks, I have lived like an alcoholic, one day at at time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time just to get through the day. The housework hasn't been much of a priority. I've fallen behind in a few things. But, I haven't killed him which is a HUGE accomplishment. And, we have survived in one piece. The last few weeks have pushed me to my limits, but I guess that is a part of the growth and development we learn here on earth in our process to one day become like our Savior. And, the 4 hours he's been gone at school I've either relaxed and decompressed which is a mental necessity or taken Aeron to do some errands. I HATE taking Ethan places. He makes doing errands an unbearable experience. He grabs everything and demands that I buy it. That's not going to happen, so we then suffer through an angry tantrum while people gawk and stare and judge.
Back to the main accomplishment, the doctor visit. The doctor's appointment was productive. I was very honest with the doctor. I always am, but he was shocked at Ethan's behavior. I didn't pull any punches. I told him sometimes I feel like beating the crap out of him, but I realize that would be for my benefit- of expressing my anger and frustration- not his. He agreed with me about that temptation with an oppositional and volatile child like him. I told the doctor we can't continue to live this way.
Right now Dr. Gordon is working under the premise that he has outgrown his medication. He turns 5 in 4 months and he's almost the size of a 6 year old. He's wearing clothes and shoes right now that Jonathon wore in Kindergarten. He's had a growth spurt, which can throw off the effectiveness of the medication. So, right now we are working on that assumption.
He is taking more pills everyday but, what else can we do? Otherwise with the old amount of medication, he acts like a monster (yelling, screaming, fighting). He's belligerent and so volatile. Everything sets him off. I'm afraid to tell him no. Believe me, I do say no. But every time, I am inwardly cringing to see what screaming fit or tantrum my "NO" will bring on. I live in fear, he might accidentally push his little brother Aeron who is 2, down the stairs in a fit of rage. He wouldn't do it on purpose, but he would do it without thinking about the consequences. That is just his brain. He's so impulsive and impetuous.
We should see results in a week on one of the medications and 2-3 weeks on the other medication. I am praying and crossing my fingers that this will work and help him resume his daily activities with the former zest and enthusiasm. I hope and pray his rage will wane.
So, I guess that is why I had such a great day. I got a lengthy break from my son. I got to get out, socialize,  make money and cook delicious food for other people who appreciate it. It's a nice break from the daily purgatory I've been suffering through.
If you are interested in finding more about Pampered Chef I have a website. Click the link and it'll take you right there: I would be ecstatic if you would be willing to have a party or place an order. I want to make this work to help support my family. Either way, just let me know, I would appreciate your support.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Homemade Italian Bread and Lasagna - recipes

 Last night, after dithering the day away with a nap and errands, I was feeling particularly domestic and wanted to make a special meal for our "date night." So I made Italian bread and lasagna.
   In theory, we would save money by NOT going out to eat and NOT seeing a movie, which would allow us to rationalize a book purchase at Barnes and Noble. Peter wanted to buy a Flash book (computer programming stuff), it was $50 and he could not justify it. I purchased 2 more books by Shannon Hale. The first book in her series is Goose Girl. It is located in Young Adult/Teen fiction. I listened to it over Christmas and enjoyed it. She is an LDS writer. The book is of the fantasy genre. It's a good read. She has 4 books in her Books of Bayern series. Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born. Check it out if you are interested.

I have digressed, as usual. Back to the main focus - FOOD!
Here are the recipes- enjoy!

Italian Bread
Yield: 2 loaves
3 c. warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 1/2 Tbs. (2 packets) active dry yeast
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. sugar, divided
1 Tbs. salt
1/4 c. butter, melted
7-9 c. bread flour ( I used 8 cups)
1 egg white
1. In a small bowl, combine the water, yeast, 1 tsp. sugar. Stir just until yeast is dissolved. Cover with a small plate and let stand until the mixture is bubbly or foamy (5-10 minutes).
2. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, mix the salt, the remaining sugar, butter, the yeast mixture,  and 3 1/2 c. of the flour. Start mixing.
*Note- Here is where I diverge from the recipe. I added dough conditioner (3 Tbs.) and Vital Wheat Gluten (3 Tbs.). I subtracted 1/2 c. flour from the recipe for these two additions. These two products are available from Honeyville Grain Co. in 3.5 lb. cans. That's where I purchase them. I love Honeyville! They have a store here in Rancho Cucamonga off Milliken Ave. off of 7th Street. If you live here locally, check them out!
Back to the recipe:
Keep adding flour, 1/2 c. at a time, up to 3 cups for a total of 7 cups. The dough should be firm and completely away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour 1/4 c. at a time, up to the remaining 2 cups. (I used a total of 8 cups).
3. Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface, or with the dough hook on low to medium speed, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl and turn it once to coat. Cover with a dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm place away from drafts until doubled in bulk, 20-40 minutes (I averaged 40 minutes in my convection oven set to the bread proofing setting. Check out your owners manual to see if your oven has this setting. I love it. A lot of the newer ovens have this setting. In case your owner's manual doesn't tell you, when you proof the bread at 100 degrees you the bread you want to rise on the middle rack and on the very bottom rack put a quart of BOILING water in a 9x13 pan on the very bottom shelf) Grease a baking sheet or sheet pan and set aside (I used my Pampered Chef stoneware large bar pan).
4. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, form each half into a thick baguette shape, about 10 inches long. Place the loaves on the prepared pan. With a sharp knife, make three angled 1/2 inch deep slashes on the top of each loaf. Bead the egg white with a whisk and brush it over the loaves. Let the loaves rise uncovered until doubled in bulk 20-40 minutes (40 minutes again in the oven on the bread proofing setting with the water from before).
5. Meanwhile, transfer one loaf onto another greased baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaf for 30 minutes. Leave the water in the oven if you desire, the extra water helps you have moist bread. For a crisper crust, spray water in the oven with a spray bottle just before baking and again a few times during the baking (and remove the pan of water).
6. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack. Serve the bread hot if desired or allow to cool. Put olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a shallow dish and dip as an alternative to butter.
Variation: To make rolls, pinch off about 1 1/2 inch balls of dough for each roll and place side by side on a greased sheet pan. Let rise until doubled in bulk, 30-45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees until the rolls are lightly browned, 10-13 minutes.
Recipe adapted from the Food Nanny Rescues Dinner. My friend's older sister wrote this AWESOME book. Every recipe is a keeper! Believe me, I tried to prove her wrong. :)

Aunt Laura's Lasagna
This recipe is from Laura Harmon, my husband's aunt. She is another fantastic cook. I've adapted the recipe a little.
1 lb. of ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced (using my Pampered Chef garlic press, I LOVE this tool!)
1 medium finely diced onion
1 1/2 Tbs. parsley flakes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbs. basil
3 Tbs. sugar
2 c. water
10 oz. lasagna noodles
3 c. cottage cheese
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbs. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated
Brown the hamburger with the garlic and onions in a skillet, drain the fat. Place hamburger back in the skillet. Add the parsley, salt, tomato paste. crushed tomatoes, basil and sugar and water. Simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes stirring constantly. Meanwhile, add noodles to boiling, salted water. Cook until tender and drain. Combine cottage cheese, with eggs, seasonings and parmesan cheese. Place a little meat sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Spread to cover the bottom of the pan. Place 1/2 noodles in the pan. Spread 1/2 cottage cheese mixture over the noodles, 1/2 the mozzarella sprinkled over that and then 1/2 the meat sauce. Repeat using the noodles, cottage cheese, a little mozzarella cheese, meat sauce and top with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Place on a cookie sheet, because this dish gets bubbly and I am lazy and don't want to clean my oven.
Serves 8-10 people, gracefully.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lacking in tact- yep, that's my boy!

I always hear the comment, "Kids say the darndest things." 

Sometimes it is just so funny what children say. In honor of Martin Luther King Day this last Monday, Jonathon was assigned to write a speech for his 3rd grade class. 

What did he write? I'll tell you.

"I have a dream that my brother would be nicer to me at the house. He always is being a butthead to me. My dream is important to my parents because they know he is a real pain in the butt to me. If my dream came true, I would be so glad I would say thank you to God. I would say to Steven you are a good brother since you have changed." 

Peter helped Jonathon clean up his speech. He felt that the words butt and butthead did not belong in a speech. It is funny that he would think of that word to use in his speech, but I'm sure his teacher would frown on that amongst all the laughter of the other children. After all, body humor is SO FUNNY at that age!

His speech now reads:
I have a dream that my brother will be nicer to me someday. My dream is important to me because I want to feel happy when I am with my brother. My dream is important to my parents because they want peace and harmony in our house. If my dream came true, I wold be so glad that I would say thank you to God. I would say to Steven, "You are a good brother since you have changed." If we all would be nicer to each other, it would make our house a happier place.

I love the brutal, simple honesty of kids, especially Jonathon. He always says it like it is. There is no guile in him. Everything he does is straight up. We just need to help him refine his skills and to use tact.

Another illustration of this trait is an event that occurred a couple weeks ago. His teacher, Barbara Chase, caught him cheating. She was giving the class a spelling test. Jonathon for whatever reason decided he was going to cheat, he was copying the words down from the spelling test inside his desk. She caught him red handed; he was on #18 while the class was still on #7. He got a 0 on the test. And she talked to him about cheating. Then later that same day they were doing a math drill exercise in which they had to complete as many problems as they could in 1 minute. Well, after the minute was up, Jonathon kept working. He got another 0 on that test. And, she wrote an email to me. I checked my email after dinner and read the bad news. He was sent to bed after dinner that night while Peter, Steven, Ethan, Aeron and I went to a drive in to see Sherlock Holmes and The Blind Side. He was very unhappy about that. There were tears. Also, the next day, when Peter had to go in to do some work at the high school, Jonathon had to go with him. While there, Jon had to write a letter of apology both to his teacher and to himself. We talked with Jon about how cheating really cheats him of the opportunity to gain important knowledge. Obviously we don't agree with this type of behavior, but what child hasn't tried this? I hope that he won't try this little stunt again. Otherwise, we'll have to think up a more serious punishment.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oatmeal... breakfast of the champions and those who want to lower their cholesterol!

  • Here's my mini lesson on oatmeal. I love oatmeal. It's so good for you! It's a great way to start out your day. What could be better than a warm, filling, and nutritious meal that will do your mind and body good?
Now, I'm not a fan of just any oatmeal, but freshly ground oatmeal. It's a must! Freshly ground oatmeal contains essential oils and vitamins that you don't get in the packages off the shelf. To mill oats, you need a flaker. Don't have a flaker? I'll mill it for you and bring it to you. Just let me know. It's is worth your while!

  • Oatmeal in it's whole form is called oat groats. It looks like this:

    But in processing, the oatmeal is flaked or run through a mill which squishes it flat. Now it looks like this:

  • Once any type of grain is processed, whether it is flaked or ground into a flour, it oxidizes. The process of oxidation (exposure to oxygen) causes those magical nutrients, vitamins and oils that do our bodies the most good to deteriorate. With in 24-36 hours the grain loses most of it's nutritional value. Thus, by the time it reaches the store, it's value is negligible. Yes, it does provide you with a good source of fiber, but that is about it! One way to combat the process of oxidation is to store fresh ground oatmeal in the freezer or refrigerator. I prefer the freezer because it has a longer storage time. But, I have my handy dandy grain mill as a permanent fixture on my counter top. I choose to grind it as I use it, and most of the minimal leftovers are fed to my chickens who are very grateful to gobble it up!

I promised to post these recipes long ago, and didn't follow through on my promise before Christmas. I'm sorry Carolyn. I owe you a bag of oatmeal. :)

Here are my oatmeal recipes.

The choc-oat-chip recipe are the only chocolate chip cookies I make. That way, I can sneak some whole-grain goodness into my kids' bodies. :)
Also, I love the oatmeal muffins. I like the fact that instead of throwing away the leftover oatmeal, you can use it to make these muffins. My kids don't know that leftover oatmeal is the main ingredient. Instead of using raisins, you can leave it out altogether or use dried cherries or cranberries or even chocolate chips instead.

Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies:
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat brown sugar, butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, morsels and nuts; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies or 12 to 13 minutes for crispy cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Oatmeal Muffins


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup leftover oatmeal
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon


  • In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, combine oil, eggs, oatmeal, raisins and vanilla and cinnamon; add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened (the batter will be thin). Spoon into 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until the muffins test done. Yield: 1 dozen.
  • Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 each) equals 248 calories, 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 35 mg cholesterol, 158 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein.
  • Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chippers
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 c. butter 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. granulated sugar 3 c. old fashioned oats
  • 1 c. firmly packed brown sugar 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs 1/2 c. coconut
  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour 1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat over to 350 and lightly grease a cookie sheet.
Beat the butter, sugars, and eggs in a large bowl of an electric mixer until blended. Beat for 1 minute.
Sifts the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Add to the butter mixture and blend well. Stir in the oats and vanilla. Stir in the coconut and chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet and bake until lightly browned and almost firm when lightly pressed on the top, about 10 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool! Yield: 3 dozen cookies