Thursday, April 28, 2011

Books and Writing Confessions

Confession #1 - I am a total bookworm. I always have been. As a kid, one of my favorite treats was to go to the bookstore. There was this little bookstore in a nearby town and I loved it. It was just a little hole-in-the-wall place, worn and comfy and just books, long before the days of Barnes and Noble (which I love by the way). I read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Judy Blume. Beverly Cleary. Nancy Drew mysteries. Sweet Valley Twins, and later, Sweet Valley High. The Babysitters Club. And of course Louisa May Alcott's books. I can still picture myself in the area where they had all the books I loved to read, picking them up, reading the back cover, so indecisive about what to get. Wishing I could take them all home.

Fast forward 15 years, and I'm doing the same thing in Barnes and Noble, with a mocha and a slightly larger book allowance to spend, but still nearly breaking the bank on books and books and more books, which then cluttered my bookshelves, piled up under our guest bed and in the guest room closet and in every other tiny space I could cram them in our little starter home. Then I discovered my love for the library and the reading possibilities became endless. Aaah, it makes me smile just thinking about it.

Go forward another 10 years and here we are, in the age of amazing technology. I'm in two book clubs, both of which I found online. I don't have to go to a bookstore anymore. I just wake up my Kindle, browse for something, hit a button, and it's there for me to read within seconds. With two little ones, it is so much easier to get books this way. I still love to take them to the bookstore and to the library. I still check out books from the library for myself to save money and to enjoy the feel and smell of a paper book once in a while. But it is so wonderful to have the ability to get new books to read without ever getting up from my chair. Maybe I'm a big geek. Maybe I'm lazy. Probably I'm a little bit of both. I love reading books, I love talking about books. I love reading about other people talking about books. Hmmm. What?

Check this out. I found a new blog recently called 101 Books (thanks to Cathy, who writes the blog Stay in the Car Mom for this post that put me on to this blog). The blogger's name is Robert Bruce. He's a writer and lives in Nashville. He decided to read through Time Magazine's list of the top 100 books since 1923, plus Ulysses (published in 1922, so not on Time's list, but important to include in Bruce's opinion). This is such a fun idea, it has inspired me to get back into reading the classics myself. I say "get back into" as if I've done a lot of it. Sadly, I have not read much classic literature. I have only read two (yes, two!) of the books on Time's list (see the list here if you want to check your number), Animal Farm and Gone With the Wind (one of my all time favorites). Several years ago I decided to try to read more classic literature, but made the unfortunate mistake of choosing Anna Karenina as my first classic read, and the plan died right there. I forced myself to read the entire book, though I hated every minute of it. So, while I am thoroughly enjoying reading about Robert Bruce's thoughts on reading through this entire list of 101 books, and am planning to try to read through the list myself, I have decided to only check these books out from the library and if I can't get into them by about 50 pages in, I'm going to ditch them. Checking them out from the library will allow me to give up on reading a book without feeling guilty because I spent money on it. So, I highly recommend Bruce's blog. It's a good read.

I'm going to start with The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird, both of which I have put on hold at my library and will go pick up tomorrow.

In addition to writing about the books on the list and his reviews of them, Bruce writes about lots of other book-related stuff, including writing. He is a writer after all.

Confession #2 - I'm a mom and a psychologist, but I really want to be a writer. I have published one professional book, but I really want to write fiction. Or something else that lots of people would enjoy, not just the ten psychologists who bought my book. I think about writing all the time. I know that's why I love blogging. What better way for a wannabe writer to write than to have my own space to do so without having to worry about editors or publishers or deadlines or book reviews? I just write about what I know and I love it. But I secretly want to write about stuff I make up. If I could just make up something good. . .

Confession #3 - After I left the federal prison where I used to work, I tried to write a novel about a prison psychologist. It started out wonderfully! I wrote about some of the crazy experiences I had while working in various prisons, while changing names and identifying information and changing the situations enough that they couldn't be linked to any actual inmates or staff members. It was when I got the the real fiction part that I got "writer's block." I got stuck and never managed to get unstuck. I left prison work in late 2006. I wrote like mad for a few months and then stopped. Even as late as mid-2008 I was still reading and editing my book fairly frequently, doing research for it, and trying to get it going again. It never got going again. At this point I have abandoned it. I realized that it was therapeutic to purge some of my horrendous/hilarious experiences right after "getting out of prison," but once the initial outpouring of words dried up, I didn't feel the need to continue that particular story. But I'd still like to write someday, about something.

For now I guess I'll just keep reading and writing my blog. And talking about reading. And reading about other people reading and writing. And thinking about writing. And writing about reading. . .

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Things I Love This Spring

Whenever I find something I love, I want to tell everyone about it. Not to brag, but just to spread the joy. Or maybe to say, "Hey look, I found this fun/cool/nifty/handy thing. You should try it." As a mom, you find out about all the good mom stuff through hearing about it from other moms. So, today I'm just doing my part. Of course writing a blog post is the perfect way to spread the word. It's like sharing, but without having to let anyone touch my stuff.

I've found some fun new things that I am really enjoying this spring. Here's to sharing!

My new diaper bag:
It was a birthday present from my hubby. It's not really a diaper bag. It's a Big Buddha Rose Tote, but it's big enough to be a diaper bag. I can fit a cloth diaper or two for Lass plus accessories (spray bottle, cloth wipes, wet bag), Miss's potty bag (including folding potty seat, stickers, hand and rear end wipes, and Sesame Street toilet seat covers), a bib, nursing cover, cup of bunny crackers, cup of milk, wallet, and phone in there, with some room left over. Plus I can take out a few of the bigger things and still carry it as a fun purse on the occasions I go out somewhere without kids. I get comments on this bag almost every time I take it somewhere. You can check out Big Buddha's website here, but this bag is only sold from places like Ebay now because it's from last year's collection. Maybe I'm a little behind the times, but I love this bag so I don't care. I mean really, doesn't it just scream "Spring!"?

These matching bonnets:

You know I love me some baby bonnets. Heck, I did a whole post about them (see A Bonnet) and barely captured a photo of Miss outside without hers last summer. Miss still wears her Bella Sol Bebe bonnets, and I will be getting more for this summer for Lass. Bella Sol Bebe are really my favorite bonnets (check them out here, and see Miss as a bonnet model!). But I had to get these from Urban Baby Bonnets because they have cozy fleece lining the inside!

What a great idea!

For many people, fleece wouldn't conjure up thoughts of spring, but I ordered these thinking they would be perfect for our spring and fall here, which can be quite chilly. Little did I know just how cold this "spring" would turn out to be. In fact for much of the spring my girls have still been in knit caps. But in the past week or so I've been able to bring these bonnets out. And one thing I didn't think of, but that has been great, is that these bonnets are perfect for putting on the girls on the cold rainy days we've had recently because I can just flip the visor forward and keep the rain off their sweet little faces.

And we've had a lot of rain.

Yes, those are ducks swimming in our front yard.

The bonnets are perfect with rain boots too.

My final spring love item? My new ride. The Baby Jogger City Mini Double Stroller. This thing is like the Lincoln Town Car (you might think "Cadillac," but we're a Ford family, people!) of strollers. And the girls seem to love it.
Now if it can just get a little warmer and stay dry long enough for us to get out and enjoy some more walks in this thing! Happy Spring everyone.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Grits with a Twist

Yes. Today's ingredient for our home version of "Chopped" was grits. I hate grits. In trying to figure out what the heck to do with them, I remembered that there was actually one time when I had grits and liked them. It was in Charleston when my husband ordered Shrimp and Grits. For once they weren't, well, gritty. So, I set out to do something similar, but different, so it would be my own creation, rather than just trying to copy another dish.

With this in mind, I thought about the jambalaya recipe I sometimes make, and decided to make a southwestern version of jambalaya, with grits. Weird? Yep. Stay with me.

I planned to brown some sliced chorizo sausage, then saute some onions in the drippings from the sausage, add some garlic, coat the grits with the fat, then add the liquid to cook the grits and some other stuff to make it flavorful, and voila! Super yummy and ingenious dinner, hopefully not too gritty. Didn't quite work out that way, but close. Here's what I did:

Southwestern Grits

Canola Oil (about 2 tsp)
8 oz chorizo sausage, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup quick grits (I couldn't find regular grits up here in Yankee land)
1/2 roasted poblano pepper, chopped
1 tsp minced chipotle pepper from a can of "chipotle peppers in adobo sauce" (I squeeze the excess sauce off the pepper before mincing it and make sure I don't include any seeds to minimize the heat)
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream

Things started out the way I had planned. I got my pan hot over medium high heat, added about a teaspoon of the canola oil, threw in the chorizo, browned it up, then removed the sausage to a paper-towel-lined plate. Added about another teaspoon of oil, threw in onions and bell peppers with about a half teaspoon of salt to get them softened and browned up a little bit (I hadn't initially planned on using bell pepper, but decided to throw it in when I grabbed one while grocery shopping).

Everything was going according to plan up until this point. Then I became indecisive. I had planned to use a little bit of wine to deglaze the pan. But I also had planned to put the grits in with the onions and fat to get them coated with fat before adding in their cooking liquid. I couldn't really do both of these things properly, so I made a quick decision to go ahead with the wine and deglaze the pan, then reduce it quite a bit and add in the grits at that point. In the confusion about this step, I forgot to add in my garlic before the wine, which isn't a huge problem, but I usually like to add it before I put the liquid in. Anyway, I put the wine in, deglazed the pan, remembered to throw in my garlic, and reduced the wine about half. Then, like a dummy, I forgot that I wanted to put in the grits first, and I poured in the can of tomatoes and the chicken broth before stirring in the grits. Oh well. I stirred, brought it to a boil, lowered the heat to medium, and put the cover on the pot to cook the grits for about 5 minutes (as indicated on the package). I'll add here that the package also said to use 3 cups of water (though I wanted to use chicken broth instead) with 3/4 cups grits, and I'm not sure why I just used 2. Maybe because I thought the little bit of wine left and the sauce from the tomatoes would make up for that last cup?? Whatever, I probably should have added a bit more broth.

Anyway, after the grits cooked for about 5 minutes and started to thicken, I took the pan off the heat, added the lime juice and cilantro and tasted it. The grits were still a bit gritty. I didn't love the consistency of the dish, and it needed more salt. So, I added salt and threw in a half cup of sour cream to improve the consistency. What I ended up with was a good, though not great, dish for dinner. It was kind of spicy, but not too much. It had good flavor, if not wonderful texture. It still needed more salt, but I tend towards under-salting everything since Miss eats what we eat and we can always add more salt at the table.

What I would do differently:

I would probably skip the wine altogether and put the grits straight in with the onions and peppers and fat. I am so curious if that would have helped get rid of some of the grittiness.

I would also skip the bell pepper. It added a little bit of sweetness and some interesting texture, but it seemed out of place and just didn't really work.

I would remember to put my garlic in before adding the grits. Oil, sausage, oil, onion, garlic, grits, then liquid.

I would use more chicken broth. I think too little liquid is the other contributing factor to the grits still being a little gritty. I think I'd use 2.5 cups. I'd also make it regular rather than low-sodium broth, to help with the need for more salt.

I'd wait longer before serving to let the grits absorb the liquid better. Though this wasn't an ideal dish, my husband and I both had seconds, and I think they were less gritty after sitting a little longer.

Overall, the dish was a success I'd say. It was edible. It was even tasty. Like I said, my husband and I both had seconds, though Miss took one bite and said, "I want a beenah (banana) pweese." It could have been better, but I'm pleased with my first attempt at cooking something that I don't even like. I initially told my husband that I would not make the dish again, just because I don't like grits. But I have a nearly full container of quick grits in my pantry, so I might as well try it at least one more time. I'm curious if it will be better if I do it with the changes I mentioned.

I don't know my next ingredient yet. My husband mentioned maybe flank steak. But we're traveling next week to the Farm and I told him I was not ready to take this show on the road yet, so he has some time to decide.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Wub You Eesta Bunny

Fun weekend here with Easter Egg dyeing, an Easter egg and Easter basket hunt this morning, good times playing with the booty from the Easter baskets, and finally brunch with the Easter Bunny.

Happy Easter, Bawk Bawk!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Double Bubbles

Tonight Miss had a looong bath, complete with bubbles in the bath water and bubbles for blowing. I think she was in heaven. She stayed in until she was all pruny and had a blast.

Her bubble-blowing technique has greatly improved since last summer, but she still tends to put the bubble wand right up to her mouth to blow. She can get it to make bubbles,

but naturally ends up with lots of bubble solution in her mouth. At one point she was talking to me and foaming and blowing bubbles out of her mouth. I'm totally serious. It cracked me up.

What better way to get rid of yucky-bubble taste in your mouth than to wipe it on the shower curtain??

And what bath-time photo session would be complete without some photos of the hair standing straight up? I was surprised to realize that I don't think we have any of these photos of Miss. Of course, nearly every picture of Lass has her hair standing straight up, though we don't have the soapy bath-time hair standing up photo of her yet either. I guess I need to get on it. This 'do Miss did herself when she pushed her hair up out of her face after I dumped a cup of water over her head.

And of course I shaped this lovely after I shampooed her, while she was still all shampoo-ey.
BTW, it doesn't work very well to try to rinse out shampoo while there is still bubbly water in the tub. Who knew?? Usually when we do a bubble bath, I wash Miss first and then add the bubbles and let her play for a while. But when you do it that way the bubbles don't foam up as nicely. So tonight I put the bubbles in from the jump, but then she kept rubbing her bubbly hands in her hair and face as I was trying to rinse her hair. Not too effective, though we obviously got around that by draining the tub and rinsing a few more times. It didn't matter. The hugely bubbly water was totally worth it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"Chopped" at Home

My very favorite TV show is "Chopped" on The Food Network. If you haven't seen it, it's a show with 4 chefs as "contestants." They have to cook three courses for the judges: appetizer, entree, and dessert, and they have to use each of the 4 ingredients provided in the "mystery basket" for each course. They mystery ingredients are usually pretty kooky and they don't know what they'll be until they open the basket, right before they have a limited time to cook their dish (20 minutes for an appetizer and 30 minutes each for the entree and dessert rounds). Fruit Loops in an entree. Miso paste in a dessert. Gummi bears, rice cakes, powdered strawberry milk, and on and on. It's not uncommon for there to be ingredients I've never heard of in the baskets. After the chefs cook their dishes, they are tasted by the judges and the chef with the worst dish gets "chopped." You get the picture. If you've never watched it, I highly recommend it for great entertainment without all the trash that is so often found in prime time TV shows (it's on Tuesday nights at 10 EST).

Anyway, my husband and I love the show. It's so fun to see what the chefs will come up with at the spur of the moment using the most insane ingredients. So, we decided to do our own little Chopped adventure at home. Except it isn't a competition. I'm the only contestant. And no one gets chopped. I hope.

We are currently working on a list of ingredients. Mostly I'm leaving this task up to my husband, and he's having some fun with it. Fortunately for me (and for him I guess since he has to eat what I cook), our Chopped Challenge is a lot easier. I have only one "mystery ingredient" each week. And it's not really a "mystery" in that I get to know about it in advance and plan what I want to do with it. This is obvious since I do all the grocery shopping. The tricky part of it is that I am not allowed to look up someone else's recipe that uses the ingredient. I have to come up with the recipe for whatever I make on my own. I do lots of cooking and have made some delicious dishes, but I have done very little recipe creation to this point in my culinary maturation. So I'm a little nervous, but also very excited.

Last week, my husband gave me my first assigned ingredient. We have already had some confusion in this process, as he told me "grits" but I heard "Ritz" (as in crackers), so I was planning a recipe using the latter and when I started talking to him about it he looked at me like I was nuts. We managed to figure out the disconnect, and decided that I could use Ritz this week and next week will be grits. Yikes. I don't even like grits. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it I suppose. For today it was Ritz crackers.

I started out thinking I would use the Ritz with some ground venison to make meatballs, and then just went from there. I scrounged in the pantry and refrigerator and used what I had on hand for this entire recipe. I was pleased with the outcome, though there are some things I would do differently next time. I will give you the recipe as I prepared it, and then tell you what I didn't like about it and what I would do differently at the bottom. So without further ado, here's my new recipe for the dish I made today.

Not So Swedish Meatballs

1 lb ground venison or beef (probably could use pork or turkey too)
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
1/4 cup soy sauce
25-30 Ritz crackers, crushed (Miss had a blast crushing these for me in a Ziploc bag)
8 oz Egg noodles
Canola oil (or olive oil, or vegetable oil)
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced or pressed through garlic press
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 cup low sodium chicken broth

Prepare egg noodles as indicated on package.

Combine first 7 ingredients (through Ritz crackers) thoroughly. Roll into about 1.5-inch meatballs. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add about a teaspoon of the canola oil. Once the oil is hot, put 5-6 meatballs into the oil. Sear the meatballs, but don't worry about getting them cooked all the way through (about a minute or two on each side). Remove to a plate, add another tsp of oil, and repeat with 5-6 more meatballs. Repeat these steps until all your meatballs are nicely seared. Add about another teaspoon to the pan and add the onion and half-teaspoon salt. Stir until the onion softens and starts to brown. Add garlic and stir until fragrant (30-60 seconds). Pour in the wine and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by about half, then add in the soy and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then add the meatballs back into the pan. You may need to add a bit more chicken broth, as you want the liquid to cover the meatballs at least halfway. Cover the pan to let the meatballs finish cooking, 7-8 minutes. Put some egg noodles on a plate and top with some meatballs and sauce. Serves about 4.

The outcome of this recipe was very good. It had a very rich and full flavor. Browning the meatballs and onions and then deglazing the pan to make the sauce and putting the meatballs back into the sauce to finish really gave a nice flavor to both the sauce and the meatballs. But, it was just a bit too salty and a little bit heavy for me. I was a little afraid of this, since the crackers have salt on them, and obviously soy sauce is super salty. And the trick with meatballs is that you can't taste them before cooking them, so I just had to hope I didn't have too much soy. Unfortunately I think it did have just a bit too much. My husband raved over it, but he tends to like things more salty than me. Also the sauce was too thin. I knew this when I served it, but it had taken me so long to make the dish, I just said, "screw it" and served it as it was instead of thickening the sauce. Otherwise, I think the dish was great.

What I would do differently:
Less soy sauce in the meatballs. I would reduce the amount of soy sauce to about 1/8 cup and increase the lemon juice to 2 Tbsp. That would really brighten the flavors and decrease the saltiness a bit, while keeping the richness of flavor. I might also add more thyme. Honestly the reason there was so little was that I just got sick of picking the leaves off and was trying to hurry.

I would add some sort of thickening agent (a rue, cornstarch slurry, or even just a little butter or cream added off the heat) to the sauce, and also probably add more of the low sodium chicken broth to make just a bit more sauce than what I ended up with.

Next week (deep breath) grits!! I actually already have a plan forming in my head, so here's hoping it will come together!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Good News and Bad News

Good news: We had a fun weekend. Lots of playing chase and snuggling. We travel so much that I really cherish these weekends when we are able to just be home. All four of us. Spending time together. The best.

Bad news: My computer is really not well. I took it to a repair place, and they will have it until at least Tuesday. Probably much longer as it is the only place within 100 miles or so that can repair a Mac and they are super busy and thus, super slow.

Good news: My husband is kind enough to let me use his computer. So, though I probably won't post as often as I'd like, I can at least get my blogging fix here and there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Best Cookbook Ever.

I am having serious technical difficulties. I still can't get my iPhoto to work properly. In fact, right now I can't even access any of my photos in iPhoto. I was going to do a post with lots of pics from our visit to my parent's house, but now I can't even pull photos from iPhoto to upload them here. So, Plan B.

I have been meaning to write about this cookbook. I know I have written about it's larger predecessor, "The New Best Recipe" from the editors of Cook's Illustrated. I'll call that the Mother Book. It really is the Mother of all cookbooks. I still love the Mother Book. However, though the recipes in it are some of the most delicious I have ever tasted, they take forever to cook. You can read about my adventure in making Coq au Vin (and find the reference for the Mother Book) in my post "The Next Iron Chef?" (I guess I thought I was hot stuff after that particular cooking feat!). It was awesome, but recall it took me about 3 hours. I made it when Miss was barely mobile, and it was doable then, but now that she is all over the place and Lass is on the verge of motating (is that a word? My spell check tells me it is not, but I like it and am going to use it anyway. . . Okay, I had to check. It is in the Urban Dictionary - "To move from one location to another with slickness and style." I'm going with it). Where was I? Oh yes, I no longer have time to take 3-hours to make dinner, no matter how delicious it is. Enter "The Best 30-Minute Recipe" by the same authors.

Oh, how I love this book. It is the first, and often the only, cookbook I reach for when I'm planning meals for the week. The recipes are fast, and most of them can be made in only one skillet. And they are tasty. Seriously, just as good as the longer recipes I've made from the Mother Book. The authors don't use what they call "second-rate convenience products" (and I call over-processed crap) in the recipes to make them quicker either. They use high quality, whole-food ingredients, sometimes in very clever ways that make them work fast. The book includes tips to make the recipes come together more quickly as well as some options for some additional things to make the recipes even more flavorful if you have a little more time (I've never tried these and the recipes are amazingly flavorful without them). I will say that, though the book swears they timed every recipe and included prep time in their 30 minutes, many of the recipes are just not doable for me in 30 minutes with the prep time. Perhaps if I were a professional chef who could wield a chef's knife with super speed, I could do it in 30 minutes. But alas, I am merely a housewife. And though my knife skills are improving, they aren't really all that great yet. So, some of the recipes, especially the ones with lots of fresh veggies needing to be chopped or otherwise prepped, take longer than 30 minutes, but still never more than 45 or so.

Some of the things I have made from this cookbook include Curry in a Hurry, Skillet Paella (yes, paella in about 30 minutes!!), Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Artichokes and Cherry Tomatoes, Skillet Vermicelli with Chorizo Sausage and Black Beans, and Stir-Fried Shrimp and Snow Peas with Coconut-Curry Sauce. All of these dishes are fabulous. On the menu for this week are Pan-Roasted Chicken Parts with Lemon-Thyme Jus, Un-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto, Sage, and Porcini, and Pan-Seared Shrimp with Parsley-Lemon Butter. Yum. The book has recipes for calzones, meatloaf (I know!!), baked ziti, and on and on. Some that I am particularly intrigued by include Saltimbocca, Lamb Patties with Yogurt Sauce, Risotto with Seared Scallops and Tomatoes (they use orzo), and lots of Asian-style dishes like Lo Mein and Pad Thai.

Here is one of our favorites. Miss loves Mac and Cheese. Okay. My husband and I love Mac and Cheese. This is the most delish Mac and Cheese ever. No need for draining pasta. Real cheese. Super flavor. All done in one skillet. And this one has almost no prep work, so it really does cook in 30 minutes. Give it a try.

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese (From The Best 30-Minute Cookbook*)

3 1/2 cups water (plus more as needed)
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
12 ounces elbow macaroni (3 cups)
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (this is the key ingredient, I think!)
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Simmer macaroni: Bring 3 1/2 cups water, 1 cup of evaporated milk, macaroni, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat, stirring often, until macaroni is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Thicken and flavor sauce: Whisk remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk, cornstarch, mustard, and Tabasco together, then stir into skillet. Continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

3. Add cheese: Off heat, stir in cheeses, one handful at a time, adding additional water as needed to adjust sauce consistency. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

I love cooking. It brings me great satisfaction to put something healthy and home cooked on my table for my family. And it's even better when that something tastes awesome. The end.

*Editors of Cooks Illustrated. (2006). The best 30-minute recipe. America's Test Kitchen, Brookline, MA.

And now, since I did manage to upload a few photos for the post I originally planned to do, here are some pics of the girls having fun with their Grandma and Grandpa. Hopefully there will be more to come when I can get my photo situation figured out.

This chair was my Dad's when he was little.