Mom, Wife, Chef, Gardener, Dog Wrangler, Mom, Writer, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Mom, Creative Problem Solver, DIY Chick...figuring out life one day at a time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mom/Chef: Pineapple love

This is a pineapple.
According to Wikipedia (which everyone knows is totally true all the time) it is an herbaceous perennial originally from South America named for its resemblance to a pine cone. If you put it next to a baby in the shopping cart they will stare at it as if the pineapple were from outer space, tentatively reach out to touch it then pull back just before they do, several times, then they will try to knock it out of the cart.
I know this because my local grocery store had piles of these herbaceous perennials on sale for 99 cents each just this weekend. Not being one to turn up my nose at such a deal I naturally bought one. Once home, there are many things you can do with a pineapple, other than chasing the baby around the house with it. For instance, you could cut it down into quarters, trimming it up and getting it into a much more usable state, then say, slice up half of it and use it to make a pineapple upside down cake.
Like this.
Though you may want to remember to take a picture of it before you and your family eat most of it, a picture of a half eaten cake like this doesn't really inspire your audience, now does it?
Anyway, I used this recipe here which I borrowed from America's Test Kitchen. Only I didn't cook the pineapple first, just layered it in the bottom of cake pan and then cooked the butter and brown sugar for a few minutes until it was all melted together then poured it over the pineapple, then I went on with the cake part of the recipe as written.
You could also take on of those pineapple quarters and use it to make Sweet and Sour Chicken. Just chunk up the pineapple and set it aside. Cut up a few chicken breasts or thighs into bite sized chunks and place in a bowl. Put some salt, pepper, cornstarch and Chinese 5 spice into the bowl and toss it all together, then place the coated chicken pieces into a hot wok, after of course, you've put in about half an inch of oil in the wok. Cook the chicken until cooked through and crispy, then scoop it out of the wok and place it on a plate to the side. Pour most of the oil out of the wok, and dump some diced onion and diced red or orange or yellow bell pepper into the wok and cook until it all starts to soften. While the vegetables cook, get out a bowl or measuring cup and throw in some ketchup, sweet chili sauce, white vinegar, pineapple juice (or orange juice if you don't have pineapple juice) salt and cornstarch. Mix it all together and taste it to make sure it is properly sweet and sour. Now pour the sauce into the wok with the vegetables, add the pineapple chunks, and the chicken pieces and let it simmer until the sauce thickens and everything looks awesome. Serve it over rice. It might look a little something like this:
You know what would also be good in there? Cashews, but maybe that's just me.
What, you still have one quarter of that pineapple left, you say? Well, it's breakfast time, how about a smoothie? In a blender, place a handful or two of ice, the diced up pineapple quarter, one banana, and 1/3 of a can of coconut milk. Also a little more pineapple juice, or just water. Blend blend blend, and ta-daa, pina colada breakfast smoothie!

Or, you know, if it isn't breakfast, dump some rum in there and call it tiki time! It's all good with pineapples.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mom/Chicken Farmer: teenage mutant ninja chickens

Okay, not really. But at four weeks old, our chickens are officially teenagers, and like teenagers everywhere they are noisy, eat a lot, and they stink. We have to go down three times a day to give them new food, which may have to do with the fact that half of them are Cornish Crosses, meaning they are genetically engineered to eat and gain weight fast, but still, they eat a lot.
They are big now, and starting to lose their down and grow in their big chicken feathers, which makes them look weird and patchy.
What do you think you're looking at?
Also, something I was not prepared for since I didn't grow up around chickens or anyone who had them, was how strongly they smell. Their first day with us we had them in a large side closet in our house, this lasted exactly 24 hours. By that time we were all sneezing, had itchy, watery eyes, and were begining to second guess this whole chicken thing.
So down to the basement they went. This has worked out better, though after two weeks they started  smelling strongly enough that you could smell it in the house. Now it is bad enough that I am keeping windows open as much as possible during the day to air out the house. This is after we already change out the litter and clean their cage every other day. Needless to say we are getting tired of this. On my husbands next days off we are going to run electricity out the the shed cum chicken coop and get those smelly birds out of the house. Sadly it is still getting down into the 20's and 30's at night here so they have to have heat lamps out there. Also, another reason they have to get out to thier coop is that they are getting too big for their cage. Our large breed dog kennel was once plenty big for 15 chickens, but no more.
crowded chicken jail
So, chicken raising has its downsides, but I am still optimistically looking forward to our very first freshly laid egg and our first home grown chicken dinner.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mom/Pensive: 2 am reflections

So I can’t sleep. This is not new but is worse this week than normal. We had a very successful 1st birthday party for my son; here he is eating his birthday cupcake.

As fun as it was, it was also overwhelming and exhausting. 25 people crammed into our house, a baby not used to so much action and attention, we all came out the other side of the weekend sick. I started out last week up and down all night with a feverish baby, and ended the week with me up two nights in a row with a baby who had a cough and a nose too stuffed up to breathe out of. Thank goodness for baby Vick’s Vapor Rub, it got us through the worst of it. Now, tonight the baby is sleeping quite peacefully but I am here at 2 am because I have been up all night coughing. Not just an occasional cough, but huge, body wracking, have to run into the bathroom and cough a lung up cough. I haven’t been able to do more than doze fitfully because I am up once or twice an hour coughing. If my town had a 24 hour anything I would be there right now buying cough syrup. I know that there are one or two plain cough syrups without decongestants or anything that are fine for nursing moms, though one more night of this and I might say, ‘sorry kid, no breast milk for you’ and down some Nyquil. Ahhh, Nyquil, such fond memories… For now I am trying out peppermint herbal tea with LOTS of honey and lemon: honey to soothe a very sore throat and peppermint and lemon to (hopefully) strip the mucus out so the coughing eases up enough for me to sleep.
 Anyway, color me miserable. Now, it is not as dire as you might think, I actually got two solid, blissful hours of baby free sleep this morning when my mom, who was visiting for the weekend, and my husband took the baby and let me go back to bed. But two hours doesn’t make up for two weeks of too little sleep, because the baby was sick the week before the party too. I have found that I have reached a point where I have gone past stressfully tired, cranky tired, tearfully tired, and have come out the other side into a sort of Zen exhaustion. I am just accepting it and moving on. What I am not so accepting of is the unfairness of how the baby and the husband are both over the worst of this cold and I am still in the thick of it because my body literally cannot get the sleep it needs to heal. Between being up and down all night with a sick baby and up all day alone with him I am finding it impossible to get any rest. This is not just indicative of this last week; it is becoming kind of a theme. Is this parenthood? Do I get to be literally sick and exhausted for the next several years? Is this why 90% of the victims on “What Not to Wear” are moms? Is it because we aren’t allowed to sleep and become mom-zombies who are too tired to dress themselves in anything other than yesterday’s sweats or ripped jeans?
Now don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom. I wouldn’t give my son up for anything; you can pry him from my cold, dead, mom-zombie hands because you are not taking him from me while I am alive. But is there any room for any kind of balance? I’m beginning to fear that the urban stereotype of the suburban mom who doesn’t have a single hobby, interest or thought in her head other than the kids is not so much a stereotype as much as a truth. That scares me a bit. Not enough to never have another kid, mind you. I still think the baby needs a sibling, probably within the next two years. But still, if I don’t find the balance before then, I may very well end up a mom-zombie, constantly sick from lack of sleep, so tired that when I do get a night of blissfully sleeping baby I still can’t shut down and take advantage of it. Worrisome stuff.
Well, on a happier note, this tea thing seems to be helping a little, I haven’t had a coughing fit in half an hour, so I’m going to go make another mug and head back to bed. Maybe I can still catch a few zzzz’s.
mom-zombie and the birthday boy

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mom/Chicken Farmer: Chicken Day!!!

Today is the day! This morning, bright and early, we took the half hour drive into the nearby 'big' town to pick up our chickens. We are now the proud parents of 10 Cornish Cross and 7 Rhode Island Reds. I am naming the Cornish Crosses 'Dinner #1, Dinner #2, etc. to remind myself not to get too attached. The Rhode Island Reds I will name as they grow and become distinct personalities, since they are sticking around. We have a shed all picked out to be converted into a coop, and a nice warm brooder for them tucked into the closet. We were going to put them out into the shed, but we haven't run electricity out there yet and it started to snow again today! Apparently the 50 degree sunny weather yesterday was nature's April's Fools joke on us, because suddenly there is a fluffy white blanket covering what only yesterday was my muddy, early spring yard.
Chicks explore their brooder.
Everyone loves the chicks. I'm sure the dogs just want to eat them, but they are being pretty good about not hovering over the brooder, they only check on the chicks once or twice an hour, when they've forgotten what that cheeping noise is and have to find out. The baby, okay not baby, almost-one-year-old, finds them fascinating. He likes to stand at the cage, hang onto the bars and squeal at the chicks, which thankfully doesn't seem to bother them.
Speaking of the almost-one-year-old, he is going through a super clingy, only wants to be in mom's arms or playing with mom, scared of almost everyone else phase. This does not bode well for his birthday party next week. Also it means I have been writing this post in two minute incriments over the course of several hours.

more of the cute chickens.
Anyway, it has taken me so long to write this post that I have forgotten where I was going with it. To sum up: yay chickens! Here is a cute picture to wrap it all up.

Look Mom, Chickens!!!