Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Easy Stuffed Peppers

I compared my method of making stuffed peppers with other recipes online to see if anyone had any better ideas on the subject. So you could say I'm an expert now. Or I could say it for you. I can't declare my recipe the most delicious, but I can tell you that it's simple and requires the least amount of work and dirty dishes at the end of the day. You probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already:

6 medium peppers, rinsed and cored
46 ounces tomato juice
1/2 cup dry rice, prepared according to directions
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 pound ground turkey
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic
worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper

Prepare your rice according to the directions. I throw a chicken bouillon cube in with the water and rice for a little more fla-vah. While that is cooking, rinse and core your peppers. You know, speaking of researching other recipes online beforehand, one particular recipe instructed me to cut the top inch of the pepper off and discard. Holy waste of pepper! Instead, I used a tiny pairing knife and cut a circle around the stem until it pulled up. Then I used my fingers to get all the seeds and gave the inside a quick rinse. Perhaps a little more work, but much less wasteful.

Once your rice is finished cooking, throw it in with the raw ground turkey, bread crumbs, onion, garlic, worcestershire sauce, cumin and seasoning. Combine it---use your hands, they're the best cooking tool you have. Stuff the peppers with the meat mixture and set them in a large pot. I also stuffed a yellow squash and a tomato, for fun. Weeeeee! Pour tomato juice over the peppers. Maybe fill the spaces between the peppers, with the squash entrails, chopped tomatoes and or some cut up potatoes for a one pot meal. Like the way I used a pot lid for a plate? Classy right? You should come to my house where I make guests eat directly out of the pot so as not to dirty any dishes.

I cooked these on the stove top, covered on medium low heat for about an hour. Top with cheese and eat.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Behold our consignment sale booty

There is a huge local consignment sale twice a year that is held in a warehouse on the Raleigh fairgrounds. This is the second sale we've attended, the first one being back in January. Although we didn't pick up nearly the amount of stuff we did last time, we still ended up with $80 worth of stuff. Loot breakdown: $1-$2 shirts and pants, $12 doorway jumper, $10 Floppy Seat grocery cart/high chair cover, $2 bottle rack, $2 bath toys, $2 life vest, $2 green monster mirror.

Dave has been a super dad both times and gone alone in the morning as soon as the doors open to get the best selection. But such selection comes with a price, especially as people are looking to save money more desperately recently. Between the throngs of people and the sheer amount of stuff piled high on tables as far as the eye can see, it can consume a huge chunk of your day. I mean, they give you a map when you enter the building for heaven's sake.

I met him when I got out of work at 12:00. I quickly picked up a few things we needed but had forgotten to add to his list and we sorted through all the clothes daddy had picked out. Yes, daddy picks out most of the clothes for Northy. He has fantastic taste that guy.

I continued shopping for about 15 minutes while Dave and North took a place at the end of the line. Then I met up with them and we waited at least another hour or so. I think the vastness of this consignment sale would be a pain if you were alone. But Dave, North and I had an enjoyable afternoon.

Most pleasant of all, the ladies shopping at the sale help each other out (there are many men there, but it is a predominately female crowd). Two kind ladies gave me unsolicited input on some purchases that were really helpful. I must have looked very confused that they came to my aid just by looking at the dumb expression on my face. And I paid their kindness forward by helping a lady that was trying to figure out all the breast pump accessories. I guess we've all been there, and no matter where you're at on this journey, you've got wisdom to share at some point along the way.

I swear, the day I joined this club called parenthood, walls came tumbling down around me.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Creamed Cukey Tom Salad

This salad couldn't be any easier. My sister in law served it to me a few weeks ago and I was all, "please sir, may I have some more" because I like to quote Oliver!  (I've never understood the exclamation point in this musical title.  Does that make it sound more exciting?) She took pity on me and told me it was just cucumbers, seasoned salt and sour cream. I've adapted the recipe a little today because I need to get rid of more vegetables than that:

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 dollop of sour cream
1 tsp white vinegar
seasoned salt to taste
pepper to taste
1/4 cup onion (optional)
1/3 cup chopped tomatoes (optional)

Directions: combine, let it hang out for a bit and eat.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mr. Hopping Chatterbox

I found out I was pregnant exactly one year ago today.  What a difference a year makes eh?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cold veggie pasta salad

1/4 box mini fusilli
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup pepper, diced
1/3 cup green creme peas (black-eyed peas would be a great sub)
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons italian dressing

I'm really blowing your mind by posting a pasta salad recipe today huh? What next Sonya, a recipe for toast? I know this sounds kind of plain jane, but it had been awhile since I made a fresh pasta salad without using a box as a crutch. I don't know why; making a fresh salad is about the same amount of work as a box. Remember that cute baby I had recently? Let's blame him.

So I boiled the pasta according to the directions on the box and threw in the green creme peas I had shelled at the same time. If you substitute garbanzo beans or black eyed peas, this step is not necessary. Also, I would use more beans if I were you. But I was me and got tired of shelling the creme peas, so I used a smaller amount. I could taste the laziness in my final salad let me tell you, yet it was still quite delicious.

Anyway, while the pasta cooked, I diced my veggies up nice and pretty until the timer went off. Then I drained the pasta and peas and ran cold water over them to stop the cooking process. I dumped everything into a pretty bowl and doused it with some poppy seed dressing (basic Italian would work too.) If I had some Cha Cha dressing, I would have poured the entire bottle all over my salad. I picked some up when I visited my dear friend in San Francisco and we finished it in no time sadly. If you ever see this stuff in a store, pick up a bottle, you will not regret it!

I promise more dishes that do not contain almost exact ingredients next time. I confess I made this salad at the same time that I made the garden pasta with bacon. My multitasking is astounding no? No?

Summer garden pasta with bacon!

Remember last week when I first prepared pink eye purple hull peas? Well, I believe there was talk of bacon! Then Dave's Tia Vicky in the Dominican Republic sent an email recommending we mix the peas with short cooked pasta and parmesan cheese. Yum! Who am I to resist?

So I boiled up some peas in lighty salted water just as before. I let them boil for about 7 minutes while I fried up 5 strips of center cut bacon. I also had a pot of water coming to a boil so it was ready for pasta.

The pan I used for bacon was big enough that I could eventually throw everything into it and use up the grease and yummy bits already in the pan. One thing that bugs me about cooking shows is the sheer number of pans and bowls used during the cooking process. Obviously Alton Brown is not washing his own dishes man. That guy could make some oatmeal and somehow dirty every dish, pan and possibly brick (he loves to use bricks in his oven) in his kitchen. So anytime I can get a pot or pan to do double duty, I do it as a slap in the face to Mr. Good Eats.

But back to the serious matter that is at hand. With the bacon fried and resting on paper towels, I threw the boiled and drained peas into the big ol' pan with all the bacon 'juice'. That makes it sound healthier right?

In the same pan, I tossed some garlic, onion, squash, orange and red cherry tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper. Most any vegetable would work in this dish for sure, so whatever you've got would probably be tasty. I topped everything with a bit of the green tube parmesan....because that is all I had on hand ok? Remember my assignment to use only what I had? Well, sorry I don't keep fancy pants parmesan reggiano stocked at the ready at all times mister fancy boy! Confession: I like Easy Cheese too.

Summer garden pasta with bacon!

1/2 lb pink eyed purple hull peas,
5 strips of bacon
1/4 box mini fusilli pasta, cooked according to package
1-2 cloves of garlic, diced
1/3 cup onion, diced
1 squash cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 basil leaves, chiffonade (shredded if you don't speak fancy)
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

I would have gladly paid hundreds of dollars for this dish in a restaurant. OK, well I would have paid like $15 for such local fresh ingredients for sure. But how nice to enjoy a healthy and delicious meal from the comfort of my couch with a crying baby nearby? You cannot put a price on such ambiance. I could have lied and said we sipped wine and slowly savoured each bite while enjoying the view of the ridgeline off our back deck. But somehow the truth makes me smile more.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Farmer North

And with one little picture, Grandmas all over the world just burst into a zillion pieces from cuteness overload. Just so you know, I had to pry that creme pea out of his tiny farmer hand, otherwise he may have clutched it all night.

As you can see from the bounty above, we have a ton of fresh produce this week. My lovely sister-in-law is also a member of our CSA and they are traveling this week to New York state, so she offered us her share. I'm going to challenge myself to cook only with ingredients that I already have on hand and pair them with as much of this local produce as possible. I enjoy cooking with basic staples available almost anywhere because you don't always need expensive ingredients to make delicious food. Plus, I love the frugality of it all.

I will take pictures and post the rough recipe for each dish created. Maybe it will inspire other households to take on the same challenge and use up stuff they've already got on hand or stop by a local farmer's market. Or maybe these recipes will spark a new idea for how to use up veggies from your garden. Lord knows I need some tips myself because currently I have tomatoes coming out of my wazoo. (Please note, wazoo is in the dictionary.)

Anyway, be forewarned that I don't really follow recipes when I cook, I just start looking around to see what I've got and throw it in. So the measurements that I include in these recipes are approximate. A lot depends on personal taste and yours may be different than mine.

This brings to mind something I've heard people say that steams my buns a bit. They claim that they are overweight because of the cheaper processed foods their meager budget forces them to buy. I'm here to yell from my soapbox, that is a load of manure. Dave and I have spent $2 on a pot of lentil soup and eaten a low calorie and nutritious dinner for days! You can cook healthy and thrifty meals for pennies if you plan right. I hope the recipes that follow in the coming days help to drive that point home.

Whew, sorry to get so preachy.  I feel pretty strongly about processed food and the link to obesity apparently.  As always, I'd love to hear any other ideas anyone has for using up these veggies too!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

One-eyed purple people eater

Membership with our CSA is wonderful so far. This spring, we enjoyed fresh lettuce, onions, potatoes, fennel, all kinds of lettuce and did I mention lettuce? The two heads of lettuce a week really was a godsend though and helped me burn through a lot of baby weight very quickly. Now that summer is here, this second leg of the CSA is providing the bounty I was hoping for. From tomatoes to okra, squash to cantaloupe, we're eating very well in the Killer household.

This week's experiment was pink eye purple hull peas. They're a beautiful southern pea similar to a black-eyed pea. Once I received these and properly staged them for a pretty picture, I shelled each pod while I wore North facing outward. He's a big boy now. He didn't like hulling peas. At all. But boy where they pretty when I was done.

I threw them into a pot of lightly salted water I had on the stove and let them boil for about 5 minutes. Then I grabbed a carrot, peeled it and diced it up and threw it in the pot too. Crazy I know, but I let them cook for 5 more minutes.

After about 10 minutes of boiling, I drained them and threw them in a little frying pan. I threw in some garlic, onion, jalapeno, butter, salt and pepper. My kitchen became very dirty after throwing so much food around but that is the only verb I know. Anyway, I let everything hang out on medium heat until the onions cooked up. You see how casual I am about this cooking thing? It's like Rachel Ray, except I'm not as annoying and I accidentally leave the burners on all the time.

This alone was fantastic and I may have complimented myself aloud throughout the dinner eating process. But I meant to cook some bacon before I even threw the veggies in the pan. Then I would have cooked the peas in the grease, omitted the butter and crumbled bacon over the cooked veggies. It might be for the best that I forgot because I hear people can spontaneously explode if they eat too much bacon-infused deliciousness. There's always next week's produce to see if our mouths can handle that much awesome.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back in the saddle

My maternity leave is over and I've been back to work for two weeks now. It's going much smoother than I thought it would. But there are some adjustments that have had to be made in our lives. Going to bed earlier to accommodate getting up at 5:00 AM is probably the biggest change for me. I'm not exactly a chipper morning person. Surprisingly, I actually show up to work on time now though because I know I have to get those six hours in by noon to relieve Dave so he can go to his office downtown.

Being separated from North was also a big adjustment. Thankfully, leaving him is made so much easier by the fact that I am leaving him with Dave and not a daycare. I would be a weepy mess if I had to drop him off somewhere. Mothers that successfully adjust to daycare early on, I applaud you, and I will join your ranks when he's a bit older. But for now, we are so fortunate to be able to take turns caring for him during the day. Although I raised a bit of a stink about it at the time, I couldn't be happier about my reduced schedule at work. So here I am now eating a bit of delicious crow.

*If you're not comfortable reading about breastfeeding, I would encourage you to read no further. Also, I hate to break it to you, but we're mammals. Did I just blow your mind or what?

Being North's only food source (that sounds weird), I have to pump twice during my six hour shift away from him. I'm not sure that I will ever get used to sitting at my desk with my shirt up, pressing the edge of my desk into the breastshields in an attempt to precariously balance them and not spill the milk accumulating in the bottles. My breast pump is not of the hands free variety, hence my little balancing act. One false move and I'm wearing that liquid gold. I have thought about cutting two holes in an old bra to fit the breastshield through, thereby making it ghetto hands free. But then I'd be the cool girl walking around all day long with two big holes in my bra. I suppose I could take a lesson from Mr. Rogers constant sweater changing and alternate bras every time I need to pump. Yeah, that's seems like way more effort than I want to put into this. But back to the subject of pumping on the clock. The boobs-on-display thing is kind of strange, made more comical by the fact that my desk sits in front of a wall of windows. We're talking floor to ceiling here folks. Sure, I could pump in the kitchen or the bathroom like so many other women, but it takes time and I prefer trying to do work at the same time. If someone actually can see me pumping away at my desk from outside, I pity that poor bastard.

Breastfeeding has become extremely normal in our world and it almost doesn't occur to me how weirded out people can still be about it. It is intimate, natural and often hilarious in my experience. But pumping milk manually makes me overwhelmingly feel like a milk cow on a Sesame Street tour of a dairy farm. The main joy I get out of it is carrying my milk home each day in a little brown bag that says "Carolina Country Fresh." I'm my own little dairy farm!

I'm not complaining about the pumping though. I know I'm lucky to even have a supply. It's just a whole lot of work and organization. Between the accessory washing and drying, bag labeling, milk transporting and storing. Often, it feels like I should pursue a career in dairy to justify my preoccupation with milk. Not to mention the defrosting and bottle feeding that has become Dave's new hobby. Sometimes I wish men could induce lactation the way women can. Then again, Dave with boobs = not as cool as it sounds.

Feeding someone with your own body is still miraculous to me. It makes me wonder if other mammals are just as amazed by it all? Do mother dogs look at their litter of pups feeding off her teats and think, "so that's what those are for!" Probably not. But I'm a human with an ego alright? Damn it, there's a sense of accomplishment in knowing that your body just produced say ten ounces of milk. That's almost a can of Coke! I'm still in awe when I look at how much North has grown and think, "I did that."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Three Months

Dear North,

You have matured so much in the past month, I wonder if you are the same kid. At this exponential growth rate, by next week you may start to grow a moustache in an attempt to buy alcohol underage. But for now you are growing like a weed, discovering your hands, smiling at our hilarious jokes and talking back in your baby jibber jabber. It's amazing to watch your personality take shape, but sometimes I wish you would stay the same size you were at birth. I already find myself getting all misty when I look at pictures of you when you were born or happen upon any of your newborn-sized clothing that hung off you when we brought you home. I'm already working on an invention that will allow me to freeze time so you can't grow up anymore.

One of our favorite games to play with you is the "I love you" game. Sometimes after a feeding or a diaper change, you look up at one of us with your goofy grin and we say, "I love you." Then you answer, "I lllllllllllllllllleeeee." Then we repeat, "I love you." Then you declare, "I lllllllllllleeeeeuuu." This goes on ad nauseam until you become angry and don't want to play anymore. I'm guessing this is you mimicking noises and slowly learning to talk. And if someone wants to correct me and say that you are too young for that kind of development, that person is wrong and has never given birth to a genius. That person also has a stinky butt.

Speaking of stinking butts, you are a huge flirt little one. Today, we went grocery shopping with my mom and you spent the entire time perched on my shoulder making kissy faces at each other. I fear you are already looking for another woman to replace me. Sad face.

We took you on another mini vacation over the Fourth of July and again, you amazed us with your awesomeness. You're just so much easier than we ever dreamed you would be. We do almost all of the things we've always enjoyed doing, except now we push a stroller or carry a tiny person with us. Not to say that you don't still enjoy a good Screamfest '09----you do. But the crying is quickly forgotten as soon as that mischevious glint returns to your smiling eyes.

I was nervous about your reaction to fireworks after spending my last Fourth of July enveloping your dog brother and cupping my hands around his fluffy ears to calm him. When the first boom erupted in the sky, I scooped you up in an embrace of comfort. You seemed very alarmed by this. Then I realized you weren't screaming (unlike all the other wimpy babies I could hear screaming into the night). You were transfixed. In fact, I think you like fireworks almost as much as you like ceiling fans. Almost. You made not a peep the whole show and just stared up at the sky. We were so proud of you and repeated over and over to each other how awesome you are. That's kind of our job now.

Your father and I are much changed now on vacations. Whereas we used to enjoy a good adventure, now we are content to stroll around looking for nice backdrops so we can take countless pictures of you in front of them. Of course, we can't wait to take you camping, biking, kayaking and explore the world alongside of you in years to come. But for now, we are tickled to park ourselves under the shade of an oak tree on the North Carolina coast, while drinking blueberry beer and watch our naked little boy squirm on his towel. That is a memory I will carry with me forever. Regardless of the fact that you peed on me. Twice.