Friday, February 27, 2009

Lent 2009-- Doing More

Wednesday marked the beginning of the Lenten Season-- the 40 days that helps us prepare for Easter, our Salvation. It is a time for prayer, self-reflection, sacrifice and giving. Now, I'm not the most religious person in the world by far, and I'm not even a very good Catholic. This year, however, I'm trying to make more of an effort this Lenten Season to grow as a Catholic and as a person. I didn't grow up Catholic so "giving something up" for lent feels awkward for me. I don't really see how giving up chocolate is going to make me a better person, in fact, it's only going to make life worse for those around me and it will make me miserable. Yeah, yeah I understand that it's all about sacrifice, but wouldn't doing more during Lent help me grow more as a person? I think so. That's why this Lent I'm attempting to do three things that will hopefully help me grow as a human-being, help others and help the world.

1) Each week during Lent I will volunteer my services to an organization. Our church provides sign-up lists for opportunities to serve. Usually these are for working at the local shelter providing meals, building a Habitat for Humanity home, working at the St. Vincent De Paul, and the like. This week, I'm volunteering to help with the blood drive that is being held at my church.

2) Participating in Catholic Relief Services' Operation Rice Bowl that helps raise money to help fight global-poverty. CRS provides a calendar of events for each day of lent that helps raise awareness of poverty around the world. The calendar provides prayers, Bible study, opportunities to give, and introduces you to people from all over the globe who have benefited from Operation Rice Bowl along with fasting recipes from those countries.

3) The church bulletin is giving ideas for a "Low-Carbon Lent" in which they provide one "green" idea a day to help reduce our carbon footprint. This weeks ideas are:
• Ash Wednesday – Remove one light bulb (without inviting danger) and live without it for the next 40 days.
• Thursday – Check your door for drafts with a ribbon or feathers. If it flutters, buy (or make!) a draft stopper.
• Friday – Tread lightly – whether that’s by foot, by bike, on to a bus or the gas as you drive. Find a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when you travel today.
• Saturday – Are you recycling everything possible? Really –everything? Look into it today. Visit to get started.

I'll keep you posted on my progress. Hopefully, this Lenten season will be a time for change for me.

Oh, and because Catholics are asked to abstain from eating meat and fasting on Fridays during lent, I thought I'd add some links to some of our favorite vegetarian meals:
  • Curried Potato and Vegetable Soup: Seriously, this is an awesome soup. I serve it with rice. The first time I made this soup Dennis said, "I love this soup. It reminds me of Nepal." Hey, if my cooking can help bring back memories, then it must be good!
  • Red Kidney Bean Curry: Seriously easy, seriously tasty!
  • Lentil-Tomato Soup: An old stand-by at our house. Great for cold, wet days!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sadie's New Threads

I've had my eye on some super-cute applique shirts over at Mini Boden for Sadie. But, for the price, I decided to make them on the cheap at home. After searching for plain colored shirts in department stores (why can't I find bold non-girly colored pocketless shirts anywhere?) I ended up buying some American Apparel shirts for a sort-of reasonable price and appliqued the designs on. I have three more shirts that I'm still deciding what to do with. I think I'm going to stencil-paint dandelions on one, but the "pattern" I have in mind looks a little too intricate.These skirts are from a simple, free pattern from Oliver + S. The blue skirt turned out cute and Sadie loves to wear it. The fabric is from Amy Butlers Daisy Chain Collection. Even with the baubles on this skirt, the brown and green is not princessy enough for Sadie, but she was happy to wear it for a lollipop! Should have known better...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

I made this recipe for company the other night. I have no idea if it is authentic or not, but it certainly is delicious and the leftovers are even better. It's super easy too. There are a lot of ingredients and it takes a little planning ahead and all day (but only because you're soaking beans), but hands-on time is about 10 minutes so in my mind this is a "simple supper". Serve it with a salad and dinner is served.
This recipe calls for epazote, which I had never heard of before. It is an herb traditionally used in Mexican cooking. I borrowed some from my Mexican neighbor who said that it can be hard to find (especially fresh), but you can get epazote at Penzeys and Mexican markets. She also said that with such a small amount it would be ok to omit without making too much of a difference in the taste.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice from Penzey's One Volume 3, Issue 5, 2009
1 pound dried black beans (about 2 cups)
12 cups water, divided
2/3 cup olive oil
1 cup red wine
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (I used 1/2 green and 1/2 red)
4 cloves garlic, minded
1 whole bay leaf
1 T. dried Mexican Oregano
1 T. epazote
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 T. salt
2 T. sugar
2 T. red wine vinegar
3-4 cups cooked rice
lime (optional)
cilantro (optional)
avocado (optional)
corn tortillas (optional)

1. Rinse the beans well, discarding any debris or floaters. Put the beans and half of the water (6 cups) in a large stockpot and soak for at least 5 hours or overnight. Just before cooking, drain and rinse the beans. Place in a pot with the remaining water (6 cups).

2. Add the olive oil, wine, onion, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, epazote, cumin, pepper, salt and sugar to the pot. Place the pot on the stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered, for 45 minutes or until the beans are soft. Add the red wine vinegar and simmer, uncovered , to thicken the beans until ready to serve, about 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Optional: mash some of the beans against the side of the pot with a spoon.

3. Serve with rice, lime, cilantro and corn tortillas.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentine's Day Stuff

We've been busy doing Valentine's stuff from around blogland. Here are some links of what we've been up too.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

MIA, Hotdishes and Orange Cranberry Muffins

It seems that posts are slowing down a lot around here. I've discovered that the less I post the better I'm feeling about life. Not that posting makes me feel bad about life, but just the opposite. It seems that the less satisfied I'm feeling about life, being a stay-at-home-mom and thinking I should get a paying job, feeling bored, feeling down about all the things I should be doing and aren't, I tend to post more to help me feel better about myself, like I'm trying to prove to myself that I'm doing a good job at being a mom, a wife, a person who cares about the Earth and humanity. So I post more so I can see what I accomplish during the day in black and white. When I'm feeling great about life, I still do the exact same things that I always do, I just don't feel the need to post them. So, the bottom line is when you don't hear from me for a while, know that life is grand and that I feel at peace with my situation. Maybe this is also very selfish as it seems by what I've just written that this blog is more for me than you!

I think I'm going to be posting more recipes this year, which means less pictures, because I am not a food stylist and all of the pictures I take of food just make the food look unappetizing, which it isn't because if it was I wouldn't be posting about it here. Anyways, I have dubbed this year "the Year of the Casserole" as I am trying to find really easy, make ahead meals. So, not everything will be a casserole but it will be fast, or make ahead or a one-pot meal. I have checked out lots of books on the subject of casseroles--"hotdishes" as those who grew up in the north land call them, and I plan to make a lot of them, though I don't plan on using a single can of soup. I'll be posting lots of recipes or sending out to favorite food blogs for super-fast suppers.
Here's a couple to get you started:
Chicken and Rice Casserole This is a delicious, relatively quick recipe to put together. You can make it ahead of time, it doesn't call for any "exotic ingredients" and my kids ate it. Bonus!

Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew This recipe is absolutely delicious. It was way better than I anticipated. Though the ingredient list is long, this came together fast in ONE pot (plus the couscous pot, which doesn't count). It's a vegetarian meal, which we're trying to eat more of. The kids would not touch this. Rats!

And now the Orange Cranberry Muffins, as promised... I love these muffins and would eat them everyday if I wasn't so lazy to make them. Not that they're hard, I'm just lazy.

Orange Cranberry Muffins

2 cups flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
zest from one orange
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups and edges.

2) Stir together: flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baling soda and salt. In another bowl mix together: buttermilk, oil, egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Add wet to dry. Stir until just combined. Add cranberries and nuts.

3) Spoon batter into cups. Bake 15-20 minutes.

4) Cool 5 minutes in pan before removing from pan.