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Monday, March 29, 2010

Choose-a-bean hummus and my last meatless monday?

I have this recipe for black bean hummus that I just adore because not only does it taste good, but I have this everlasting crush on black beans. I just love them. Cold, hot, refried, ground up, you name it.
A recent kick of this recipe has me scrounging for cans in the back of my pantry, trying to dig up a can of the black variety. One day my daughter, age 8, asks what I'm looking for and says "yuk. I don't like black bean hummus. Can't you just make regular hummus?"
Hmm, ok.
I didn't find any black beans anyway. I did, however, find a can of great northern beans, which I simply used in place of my ol' favorite.
And the kid ate an entire bowl of it.
"This is the best hummus ever, mommy!"
eat eat eat eat eat eat eat
"Hey mom, what is hummus made out of?"
I began to list the ingredients and she about fell out of her chair at the mention of beans.
"You mean there are BEANS in here? Like the kind I don't normally like?"
"Yup. And you love them now."

Today for the first time ever, I packed hummus in my children's lunches. The pungent smell of garlic may just have a shot overtaking the smell of the cafeteria food and I'll bet at least of their friends asks what in the world that stuff is.

I hope my daughter answers: BEANS.

Choose-a-bean Hummus
Easy to remember, easy to change up, easy to keep on hand. Better than the stuff in the little plastic containers for sure.

1 can beans (black, garbanzo, great northern all work great), rinsed and drained
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl tahini
2 Tbl lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt

Dump it all into a food processor and grind it up. I even use my immersion blender in a pinch, and that works well. Add more lemon juice to taste and water to thin to desired thickness.

And finally, this is the last Monday of Lent, which was my trial run for being a once-a-week vegetarian, and practially vegan because I eat dairy-free with my allergic daughter. The verdict: it's not so hard, and it's really forced me to make wiser choices and eat healthier foods. All good stuff.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hair: A primer for men

Women, you might want to just clip this column out of the paper right now and immediately duct tape it onto your man’s Sports Illustrated/Wall Street Journal/remote control/tool box.
When it comes to women and their hair, men need to realize a few things. And I admit that I’m stereotyping here, but for all intents and purposes, I’m talking about myself and I’m going on the hopes that I’m not the only one out there in the world that feels this way.
First of all, women like change and we like things to coordinate. There are few of us who are not this way, and it can easily be determined by taking two rudimentary measurements. Simply take the number of shoes the woman has and multiply it by the times she has rearranged the furniture in the house. From this, subtract the number of times she has gone to the grocery store without looking first in a mirror and changing out of her sweats and then add 15 points if she changes her purses seasonally. If this number is surprisingly high, the woman likes change.
And any woman that likes change likes to get her hair worked on by a professional hair dresser. We are constantly force fed before and after photos in magazines and television ads, where we see some homely women with no make-up, bedhead, and a grumpy frown miraculously transformed into an air-brushed supermodel in a matter of millimeters. While we know that these photos are designed to make us feel like that homely woman, we still long to be that beautiful “after” photograph and somehow believe it’s even possible.
I mention all of the above to demonstrate that going to the salon can really be a big deal. Huge, even. Some women even page through hundreds of magazines pages, looking for the perfect style. They clip photos of celebrities and models and keep them in their wallets until they finally get into the salon chair and proudly hand it to the beautician.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
There is also a matter of pre-primping before we even go to the salon. Men, if you’ve only frequented barber shops operated by gray-haired men with well-trimmed mustaches, let me tell you something. Beauticians always look good. Great, even. They are fashionable, cute, and their hair is always PERFECT. So for me, at least, walking into a salon in my normal everyday momwear with my flat hair that I didn’t have time to comb with gray bits sticking out here and there is unthinkable. I have to un-before-picture myself a little, and strangely enough, that means fixing my hair before I walk in and they wet the whole mess down.
Sounds crazy, I know. But it’s how the world works.
The style and cut and color if you’ve got those sorts of resources and needs then become the focus. Beauticians stare at your face and assign it a shape. (They’re not all round, you know.) They size up your neck, your ears, your eyes, and examine each feature you pray isn’t a major flaw to get the style of your dreams.
Scissors fly, razors buzz, and blow dryers hum. And when it’s all said and done, every woman longs to have changed into that after picture. They whip us around and show us the back and sides and convince us we need to spend big bucks on products, which we do because we know they’re probably right. They did just perform a miracle and made us look a thousand times better than we did when we walked in.
So when we come home, notice. Tell us how great it looks, how nice the lines are, and how great the new products smell. Never ask us the cost. We will thank you for it and we will be exceptionally happy.
We will be even happier, however, if you help us move the couch against the opposite wall, and rewire the TV so that it can go in the other corner.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy Spring! Eggs, eggs, and more eggs

As some of you may know, we have standard traditions that we do on the first day of each season. For the first day of summer, it's a campfire. Fall is a small pot of applesauce. Winter is hot chocolate in the dark. And spring, lovely spring, is planting seeds.
Only this year's first day of spring was so lovely, that we packed our lunch, put on our boots and spent a big chunk of the day at The Wilderness Center, one of our most favorite places.
We fed the geese and the fish, and for once I wasn't attacked by a large bird. It was already a good day.
We picnicked on the tower, to the sound of spring peepers, blue jays, crows, and more.
Even better, the babe slept for the last 2 miles, so we didn't have to drag her away from stopping to pick up every pine cone and rock.
It was a very good, nearly perfect day.
But the next day, we had to carry on our tradition. This year: egg heads.

We've done these in the past, and the dog has eaten them before we truly got to enjoy them. This year I'm keeping them on my kitchen window, safe from doggie harm. Making these are very simple-- just crack the egg on the point and pour out the innards. Gently snip the hole until it's about the right size with a pair of scissors. Rinse the egg out well and let dry completely. Decorate with permanent markers and fill with potting soil. Sprinkle generously with grass seed (rye will work best because it comes up quickly) and cover with a small layer of more soil. Water, set in a sunny place, and let the hair grow wildly!

And now, what to do with all of those eggs... How about a Meatless Monday recipe?

This is one of my favorite recipes because I normally keep all of the ingredients on hand, and it is so easily dressed up with whatever you want to throw in.

Spinach Parmesan Pie

1 large onion, chopped
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and pressed dry
4 eggs (hmm, where ya' gonna get those?)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
8" frozen deep dish pie crust

Heat your oven to 375. Saute onion in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add spinach and mix.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs. Add spinach mixture, cheese, and salt and pepper. Dump it in the crust.
Bake for 45 minutes or until edges are brown and center is set.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The market price of tooth

I lost my first tooth while eating pizza and watching The Dark Crystal, banished to the family room while my parents played pinochle with my aunt and uncle in the kitchen. The memory is so vivid, running up the steps, blood dripping down my chin and shaking with fear and excitement while someone called trump and my uncle said, “well finally. I was about ready to yank that thing out.”
I was not particularly fond of losing teeth, mostly because the taste of blood grossed me out. I wasn’t one of those people who would flip a dangling tooth around with my tongue, pushing it in and out across my lips. Instead, I was one of those who let it hang on by literally a thread until the skin finally gave way. Then I’d put the tiny thing inside a yellow pocket that was sewed onto a giant stuffed tooth, leave it under my pillow, and wait until morning.
The Tooth Fairy was not something I remember thinking too much about. She brought me half dollars or two-dollar bills, always something special, and took my tooth away for some unknown purpose. Was it to build her giant castle made of teeth? Maybe. It was a mystery but not one that I remember over-thinking.
Things changed though, when my children started losing teeth. I began to wonder what inflation had done to the price of pearly whites. Two-dollar bills and half dollar coins don’t seem as prevalent as they were so many years ago. I figured the reward had gone to straight street cash. So after my daughter’s first tooth fell out at the grocery store and we had to crawl around on the floor to find it, I thought the thing should be worth millions.
Before the shopping spree to spend the reward money, I asked my friends whose children had lost teeth what was the going price was for a baby tooth. Surprisingly, the Tooth Fairy has no financial formula for what she gives out. Some kids, even those with very nice teeth, get a quarter. Others, and I’ve heard this specifically from a friend in Boston, actually get twenty bucks for a tooth. (Upon hearing this I wondered if it would be financially viable to knock my own out and just eat soup.) Some chlidren get books or crayons, others just a note. Sometimes, I hear, she doesn’t even take the tooth—just leaves it there for the kid to keep and save. Although to be honest, I’m not sure what a kid would do with a tooth except try to stick it under their pillow again and get more loot.
Turns out the Tooth Fairy that visits our house gives a tad more for special teeth, such as the first one lost and any that have undergone any sort of extraordinary circumstances, like the one my daughter lost in a wrestling match with her brother. So it comes to no surprise to me that my clever champion wrestler of a son, who is now at the age of entering the tooth market, is dead set on banking some serious bucks for his chompers.
Yes, he’s a wiggler and a flipper and a yanker. (My uncle would be proud.) If he lived in Boston, he’d probably just punch his own teeth out for the cash value alone. So far, he’s pulled out two loose ones, both a bit before their time and both in strange places. If you’ve ever had to ding a stewardess on a plane somewhere over Nebraska and ask for more napkins because you’re contending with a bloody tooth, it won’t be the first time it’s ever happened.
I told him he should have just tossed the tooth right out of the window of the airplane so that the Tooth Fairy might compensate him for transportation fees. Being up so high, she wouldn’t have to lug that tooth all the way from the safety of his pillow to her tooth castle in the sky.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dance Dance Revolution-- NE Ohio Polka style

A few weeks ago I wrote a column in the paper (you can find it here on my blog) about the lack of dancing these days. There's nothing better as a writer than striking a chord with your readers. I was so excited to receive a number of emails -- and even a phone call -- from fellow believers that dancing (ballroom and polka styles, not hip-grinding, strobe-light, x-rated styles) is a good thing. More than that, they also sent me information on local places to dance! Even more? One offered me her dance partner.
There is not much sweeter than that.
So it is with great pleasure that I share the information that was sent to me.
Dance away, all!!

This Saturday, March 20th. KofC in Wooster is hosting a dance. Information here: www.woosterkofc.com

But wait, there's more:
There are two wonderful places to dance; Saturday night in Copley at Sherwood Ballroom and Rolando's on Sunday in Canton. Rolando's dance goes from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and features polka bands from northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. I am sure it will remind you of home. Sometimes there are dances on Friday and Sunday in Copley, too. Copley is all ballroom although occasionally they play a polka (usually for me and my partner). The address for Rolando's is 2433 Whipple Avenue, NW, Canton, Ohio. Phone number is 330-477-5934.

You can find Sherwood on the Internet for details about times and directions. I live in Wooster and my dance partner lives in Massillon and these are two of the places we go regularly when I am not taking chemo. I guarantee you a good time at both places. You will love the people. You can take your children to Sherwood and teach them to dance. It is always a small crowd and the dance floor is the size of a gymnasium. The man who plays the cd's is a dance instructor himself so he has terrific music.

More yet!
We are currently dancing at the Kickin Kountry in Bolivar, Oh on Monday nights. Dance barn is located behind the Giant Eagles store just east of the Bolivar exit #93 off of I77. Lesson starts at 7:15 Pm with Rumba being the lesson of the month. Lesson are followed by open dancing. Cost is $7 per person and worth every penny. The instructor is excellent. Line dancing is offered on Wed. and Thurs nights and Fri and Sat open dancing is offered many times with a live band. On the last Sunday of the month is a ballroom dance from 7-10. so there is a lot of dancing and dancers going on if you know where to look.We also ballroom dance in Canton at the Meadowlake Golf Course on 39th street east of Market. It is called Rafters and is the social area for the golfers. Lessons there are also on Monday nights and the instructors are excellent there too. Dances are held once a month on a Saturday night.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Meatless Monday - McAllister Mac and Cheese

Let's face it. There are a million mac and cheese recipes out there, and still, our kids like the stuff from the box better. It drives me crazy, that they would prefer neon orange powdered product and little Spongebob shapes, but I can't complain about the convenience.
Our Meatless Monday pledge, though, has forced me to make dinners that are good and hearty enough for the whole family, all the while being healthy. And we know that as good as that neon orange stuff is, it probably isn't the most wholesome thing we can put in our mouths.

This has been my go-to mac and cheese recipe for a long time. We haven't eaten it in a while because of the baby being allergic to dairy, but for the rest of the gang, I'll be whipping this up soon. It's pretty easy, I must admit, and you can even prepare it in the morning and stick it in the refrigerator and bake it off just before dinner. It may not be open-box-add-mix convenient, but it's pretty close.

McAllister Mac and Cheese

8 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
12 oz. cottage cheese
8 oz. sour cream
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Assemble: Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into a 9x13 greased baking dish. Refrigerate until ready to bake.

Bake: Preheat oven to 350. Bake uncovered 30-35 minutes until heated through.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I could be in trouble.


Anyone who really knows me will know that the amount of coffee I consume is pretty darn unhealthy. I don't measure by the cup-- I go by the pot. And truthfully, my stomach lining (or lack thereof) is starting to catch up with my habit.
My dad shared this link with me.
My birthday's in July, just in case anyone was wondering...

Friday, March 12, 2010

From fuzzy to curly to welcoming spring

There’s no pretty way to say it.
I’ve been keeping a potential corpse on the back porch. Since last fall.
It was a beautiful fall day and there, crawling by the woodpile was a the surest sign that winter was approaching: the wooly bear caterpillar.
Brown and/or black, it is supposed to foretell the harshness of the winter that lies ahead. The more black, the more cold and snow we’d have to deal with. The more brown, the more mud that would accumulate on all of our doormats.
We decided to name her Isabella, for reasons you’ll soon understand, and sacrificed a plastic jar we usually use for shaking cream into butter on Thanksgiving. I plugged in the drill and make a dozen small holes in the top for our new friend. We added a few sticks for it to climb on and a few freshly picked blades of grass.
“Welcome to your new home, Isabella.”
I’d never done it before, attempt to keep a wooly bear over the winter so that it would “hibernate” through the cold and then wake up to spin a beautiful cocoon when the weather was right. Some of my books said it was entirely possible, and I with the possibility of teaching my children a beautiful lesson in science and nature, I couldn’t resist.
“Keep the jar outside in a shaded place, out of direct wind and weather. Change the food out every day or so and keep the jar clean of waste until it looks like the caterpillar has curled up and died.”
And so we did.
We took turns feeding Isabella, took her out for little play sessions, let her crawl around our fingers. Of course I was the only one brave enough to dump out the droppings. (And if you have never seen them, they are bigger and more abundant than you’d think.) The jar sat on the back table, and we’d check on her every so often to see if it had curled up and died yet.
Sometimes we thought it was just sleeping or faking, so I’d gently poke it with a stick and it’d wiggle its little legs as if to say, “stop it lady. Can’t a caterpillar get a little rest around here?”
But eventually, one day the stick poking resulted in nothing, and I finally declared that Isabella was either dead or sufficiently sleeping for the winter.
We cheered and danced and I was pretty happy I’d have to stop dumping caterpillar poo out of my butter shaking jar, which incidentally we will never use for butter again, so don’t worry. The jar got pushed to the back corner of the table on our back porch, and there it has sat. All winter long. Without any attention given to it whatsoever.
Last week I happened to walk out the door where I’ve walked many times and for kicks I turned to the possibly dead caterpillar and gave it a closer look.
It was mostly brown, with a no larger than normal black stripe. I informed my deadish friend that while it made one great science experiment, it was no grand weather forecaster, and I walked on, leaving it curled up and motionless, for another day.
If the activity in the book worked, at some point when the caterpillar decided the weather was just right, it would wake up. We would need to notice this and again start taking care of it, giving it food and making sure the sticks were just so, so it could climb up to the top of one and start spinning its lovely cocoon.
After a certain amount of time, an Isabella Tiger Moth should emerge, a very plain and rather boring standard moth. It does not have nearly the traits or the lore of its crawling counterpart, but that won’t stop us from keeping watch, daily, for the magic of nature to start happening.
Not only would it be absolutely amazing, it would also mean that spring, sweet, spring, had finally arrived.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Meatless "Monday" - Baked rice and beans

OK, OK, I know it's not Monday. I'm late this week, due to travels around the country and around the county. (There's a post here, on the Mamazina Blog, that sums it up.)
But don't let that distract you from what is probably my favorite vegetarian (VEGAN, no less!) recipe. This one is so easy and so delicious, even my son will lick the bowl.

In honor of him...

Bowl-licking baked rice and beans

1/2 onion, chopped
1 Tbl olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 - 1 can beans (I love Great Northern for this one)
1/2 cup black olives (optional-- i put it on 1/2 the casserole for myself)
1 Tbl soy sauce
a little peppa'
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 cup white rice
2 cups water

Saute onion in oil until translucent. Add garlic, cook one minute more.
Mix all ingredients (including sauteed onion mix) in a large bowl, the dump into a greased casserole dish. Or be lazy like me and just mix it all in the casserole dish-- still works.
Bake at 350 for around 40-45 minutes-- watch to see when the rice is cooked.

Another great benefit of this dish? Assemble the whole thing in the morning and stick it in the fridge. Bake it off just before dinner.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Where have all the dancers gone?

Every weekend when they were younger, my grandparents would go dancing. I know this because I hear stories about Foxtrot-ing at the ballroom or how wildly fun the polka bands at the local VFW were. The stories all end the same way, with everyone taking off their shoes and limping out to the cars, driving back to someone’s house where they would then put on more music, move all the furniture and dance even more.
I hear about so-and-so who was the best two-stepper, and you-know-who who could jitterbug his way right through the floor, not to mention the polka dancer that would really whip you around the room. Granted, growing up in the Cleveland area, all of these people had last names with 14 consonants and ended in either “czek” or “ski,” but still I think that this dance craze went well beyond the limits of our ethnicity.
But I’m afraid those limits don’t matter now, because no one dances anymore.
Just recently I asked my friend if she knew anyone who was getting married who might need an extra guest, because it seems that weddings are the only places these days to really get a good dance in. Sure there are bars and dance clubs, but for people like me who are genetically programmed to be a danceaholic, weddings are about the only place to go. Strobe lights aren’t really my thing.
I pled my case to her. “Really,” I said, “I don’t even need a seat because I don’t ever really sit at a reception. I’m the first one on the dance floor and the last one to leave. I will dance with anyone and everyone, I don’t mind if it’s the Electric Slide or the Cha Cha Slide or the Boot Scootin’ Boogie. I’ll even happily do the Chicken Dance. All I need is a dance floor and a safe place to store my shoes when the dogs start barking.”
Much to my chagrin, she knew of no upcoming weddings that I could crash, but she offered to come along if I found one. She, too, was a lover of the parquet floor.
So I asked more friends. And while none of them knew of any weddings that needed a guest that would happily lead the Locomotion train, they all agreed that there’s just no where to dance these days.
My grandparents had their polkas and their ballrooms. My parents had sock hops and canteens. What is my generation stuck with? The California Raisin hand twirl, the Macarena and the slow dance. It’s actually depressing. My children, sadly enough, are left with even less. Some children only know social dancing as R-rated movements and dance video games. There’s no feel of the floor under your feet, there’s no mystery of what song is coming next. There’s no someone shouting “ONE two three ONE two three” in your ears and letting out a “whooooop!” or an “aye aye!” during an exceptionally good accordion solo.
Ballroom-type dancing, I fear, is becoming a lost art. Yes, we see it on TV, where the stars are gliding and flipping across the stage. While that’s beautiful, it’s a little out of reach for those of us married to someone with two left feet (sorry, dear, not that I’m much better), not that it matters because dance halls are so very long gone. For generations, dancing has been the social glue that held our weeknights together until movies and technology came along and we as a society lost all sense of rhythm and gross motor skills.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I wish the Cha Cha and the Rumba would be graduation requirements. Waltz for extra credit. I know I could some lessons myself, and I think my kitchen floor is just barely big enough to practice and pass those lessons on to my kids while they are still young enough not to think I’m completely crazy.
Until then, anyone need a date for a wedding?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Meatless Monday-- The girl that served tofu

We had a very long discussion on Facebook, my friends and I, trying to figure out what I could call tofu so that my kids would eat it. It seems that the word "tofu" has gotten really bad press over the years (at least in my house), mostly because of my husband who thinks it is the world's worst culinary ingredient.
"You've never had it prepared well." I responded.
"I'm not eating it," he replied. And I imagine under his breath he was mumbling "where's the beef?"
But beyond his opinion, the word "tofu" is a terribly unappealing name. Toe and Foo. Together, it's nearly a one word euphemism for toe jam. (I reckon that's where the name probably originated.)
This being a Meatless Monday, I was going to make it anyway.
From a Cooking Light book, I prepared Fettuccine and Tofu with Finger-Licking Peanut Sauce, with a few adjustments, as these things go.
I was all prepared to tell the kids I was making "veggie noodles" with peanut sauce, when a friend of mine coined it "tofufunfetti" and so it was born.
My version ended up being a little too spicy for the kids, but I personally ate half of the bowl before it even made it to the kitchen table. Literally, half the bowl. That's like 1/4 pound of pasta plus all the other fun stuff. Even the tofu.

TOFUFUNFETTI with peanut sauce

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tbl brown sugar
2 Tbl rice vinegar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp Siracha sacue (*never had this? It's amazing. Substitute with a little hot sauce, or leave it out if you want to make it more kid-friendly.)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound fettuccine
1 pound firm tofu, drained and sliced into "noodles"
3/4 cup sliced green onions
1 cup shredded carrots

Combine broth through garlic in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat.
Cook pasta until al dente (and name this dish tofufunfetti al dente like Jane suggested). Drain. To the hot noodles add everything-- the sauce, the carrots, the onions, the tofu.

Garnish with a little chopped cilantro if you have it on hand, or chopped peanuts. Or don't garnish anything, just stand in front of the stove and shovel it in like I did.
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