Wednesday, November 28, 2012

(using your) noodle tutorial

Well I left my camera up at mom and dad's.

That should be reason enough to turn around and go back up for two weekends in a row, right?

In the meantime my phone has to suffice for the hundred snapshots a week that I have the sudden burning need to take.

Like today.

I was making noodles and I suddenly thought, this is so crazily easy and cheap, I need to put this on the blog because I bet there are people out there who have never experienced homemade noodles.  Some of my earliest noodle memories are sneakily tip-toeing across some great '79 era linoleum and reaching my little paw into the cool oven racks to break off  little pieces of the noodles as they dried.  I loved that salty forbidden fruit. Mom is definitely off the hook.  I'd been warned about raw eggs. 

So with my phone to the rescue and a few poor quality shots (you know you aren't here for the photography) here are the noodles. . .

Best part.  There are 21 cents worth of eggs in here and about 20 cents worth of flour.  You do the math. 

So I combine two recipes from Fannie Farmer Cooking Book:  The Italian Version and The American Version.

The American Version is (typically) complicated, wasteful and salty.

The Italian Version is (typically) easy, resourceful and bland.

So I feel that I have combined the best of both worlds by adding salt to the Italian version.

2 cups flour
3 eggs
1 T. salt
2 T. water

Make a well in the flour, crack the eggs into the well, pour in water and salt. 

Froth the water and eggs with a fork. 

As the eggs mix up, start adding flour from the sides.  Mix the dough around until the flour disappears.

Let the noodle dough set for about ten minutes.  This allows the flour to absorb the water and it will be less sticky.

Divide into three sections. 

Using lots of flour, roll each section into a long rectangle.

It's just like rolling pie crust, only lots thinner. The dough should not stick to your rolling surface. 

Use lots of flour.  (Did I already say that?)

Then gently fold up the noodle rectangle  just exactly like a business letter. 
Using a very sharp knife, cut your noodles into strips.  They magically unfold from their "business letter" into long, beautiful noodles.  (IF you used enough flour.)
My kids love unfolding the noodles out onto my cookie-doubling-as-noodle-drying racks.

You don't HAVE to dry them, but I always do.

If you turn a ceiling fan on, they dry to a lovely brittle in about two hours. Then you can pop them in a zip-lock bag and freeze indefinitely OR

pop them in some chicken broth brought to rolling boil + chicken + carrots + potatoes for some pretty good eating.  (It will take 10-15 minutes to make sure the noodles are cooked.)

Oh yum!  Comfort food at it's best! :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

inescapable firefighting facts

It's been a very long time since I've written about firefighter anything.  I know it's on my title and everything, but we're probably one of those oddities who don't choose to be defined by the fire service.

For example, if you walk into our house, there are not going to be shelves upon shelves of red engines and ceramic reproductions of cute animals in turnouts. I can't resist some stuff. . . I have an antique fire extinguisher that is silver and turquoise in our dining room. That's cool; although I'd probably like it even if my husband were a . . . rancher or something. I have this photo of Daniel blown up and framed in our kitchen. But that is about it.

And then there is the fact that Daniel hadn't wanted to be a firefighter since he was a little boy. . . it was actually a career change idea for him as he was going into college. He was already running a successful lawn care business and enjoying the freedom of self employment; then some sort of accident happened at a camp he was working at. He told me (yes, I was hanging on his every word) that he watched everybody run away from the accident to get help and he was struck with his helplessness and that he didn't want to run away from tragedy. So he started researching the fire service and loved it.  But it wasn't what he'd always planned to do. 

However, even if you don't put f/f plates on your vehicle and have a maltese cross on your return address labels, there are some parts about being with a firefighter that are just inescapable.

If you're married to one, you know what they are.

It's the ability to talk about the hilarious unbelievable stuff they see and the inability to talk about how they're doing when they've heard last words said and made tough decisions and been up all night with paperwork.

It's the days off when no one else has days off (love hearing Daniel slip up every once in awhile and ask a nine-to-fiver to do lunch on a Monday afternoon).  It's the days on when it seems everyone else is off. 

It's watching ridiculously juvenile bickering between co-workers and then seeing the crazy loyalty and care they give each other.

It's thinking I understand what my husband faces and then realizing I don't.

Last week in the grocery store this crazy psycho lady kept following me around and wanting to chat.  I know the love of Jesus should have been flowing through me, but all I could think was

you are gross


 get away from me and my kids. 

While the kids and I chose frozen pizza for our Friday night movie, she told me why she was a  much better mom than me and I consoled myself that if the problem continued I would make her the store manager's problem. 

As I escaped her with my little chickies I was suddenly struck that not only has my husband probably seen this woman, his job is to kneel down next to her and assess her real or imagined injury, to treat her with dignity and respect, to be kind and compassionate and firm and tough. 

Yep, I couldn't do that, not outspoken me.  I'd be like okay, let's everybody that's not in uniform here go take a bath in the bathroom and then come out in clean clothes and we'll see what the problem is.

Chalk it up to one more thing I don't get.

I remember telling Daniel once that one of kids threw up on me in the middle of a flu-weary night.  His response:  "Well,somebody threw up on me too.  But at least your incident was your own kid."  That definitely shut me up!

I thought about all of this tonight as I sat in the van at MFD and saw all the cool "boy stuff" our boys get to grow up with- the command SUVs in the parking lot and a dad who runs in when others run out.  I watched JD march his plate of cookies up the sidewalk, into the lobby, navigate the automatic doors and use my cell to call his dad.  I saw one of the doors fly open and both of their faces light up to see each other.  It's normal, just a normal job and then he comes out and says he hasn't sat down all day and I know that a 24 hour shift can seem a lot longer than that. 

intended for volunteers, i see a lot of humor in it for paid f/f personnel too

However there's nothing that defines you as a firefighter's wife like planning how to navigate a twenty-four hour shift worked over Thanksgiving.  (hashtag: couldn't be a military wife.)

I have a strict rule about special holidays without Daniel.  The rule is:  "DON'T REPLICATE THE REAL THING."  Trying is a joke.  I tried our very first Christmas.  I tried to pretend that it was the very same and I would just sneak down and have Christmas dinner with him at work.  It was snowy and cold and the minute they'd prayed for the food, alarms went off everywhere and they all went running for their engines and someone's emergency.

I went to Wal-Mart (bless them for being open) and bought a mystery and went home and tried to read it and cried in my little love nest. 

Late that night I blessed our decision to buy a house close to MFD and went down again (it's Christmas, people!).  We sat out in the bay and the life that my husband had chosen kinda sank in as I nibbled cold ham with paper towel napkins.  The scent of exhaust didn't smell too Christmasy.

After that miserable day, I vowed that

1) even though heaven knows I contribute plenty to the fd food pools, I wouldn't count on them for holiday dinner.  That was a hungry afternoon where I consumed a lot of chocolate (thanks Wal-Mart) and thought alot about Mom's mashed potatoes

2) I wasn't going to try and do a 'mini Christmas' at home by myself with whatever future kids we'd dream up  cook up have (who wants to cook turkey for three?)

3) I wouldn't go running home to my Mom without him either.  I'd picked him and his life and I'd stay in town if just to be able to see him on that holiday

(yes this is alot of planning from a non planning person. I had a lot of time that day, what can I say?)

4) We'd do something *fun*  and creative and *different.*  Something out of the ordinary, crazy and wild and a bit indulgent and then go see him at night and be happy to see him  and not weepy.  In the recesses of my memory I had heard of a [really nice] family who always went to McDonald's on Christmas because it was their own crazy fun tradition.  While I found that idea scandalous for a normal family holiday, it definitely fit the bill for Christmas/Thanksgiving-sans-husband.

Well this plan has worked fabulously for several Christmases.  We have had sledding parties, we have eaten ten different kinds of Christmas cookies for a meal, we have gone to a 24 hour 365 store and bought whatever we jolly well pleased to eat, we have stayed in pajamas until 2 pm, we have watched Christmas movies together in bed and it has been fun. 

This year working Thanksgiving is unavoidable and so we miss  the holiday spent with my family.  If I think about it I get teary so we're in planning mode. 

Apparently I'm making pies for the guys (it even rhymes) and then the kids and I are taking stuff up to the Children's Hospital for a reality check (guess who really wishes Thanksgiving were different) and to think outside our selfish boxes. Our to be determined super fun indulgent activity is still being discussed.  I have some good ideas. 

It will be thankful and fun and the best part will be Daniel getting off at 7am on Friday and sneaking in on the tail end of the annual family black Friday breakfast and going on out to Mom and Dad's farm for the rest of the holiday.

But even with all that balancing and stress, I gotta say there is one thing I really enjoy about being married to a career firefighter.  And that is evenings alone.  After the kids are in bed, I can read as late as I want, clean, catch up on life with my sisters, watch Parenthood (love that show) and even make coffee (again). 

New Station 2.
P.S. Nothing like 7 year old photographers to make you wanna diet! 

Open House with Daddy. . .

Jacob is shooting down the flames- hinged windows actually.  Very cool simulation. 
Cuz if I weren't married to a firefighter there would definitely not be a blog- the only times I write are when he's on duty.  :)  Allrightyyyy. . . the zzzzs are calling me. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

grocery bill combat + guest blog from Lara

"So my grocery bill is reeeediculous. is it because I like to cook? do we eat too much? I am about out of creative cost effective meal ideas. mmmmkay care to share? (more money needs to be directed to my coffee/chicago/boots/forever21 accounts)."

This was my facebook status last Friday and it was hilarious to listen to my phone buzz all afternoon with some pretty interesting tips but mostly a lot of commiserating- apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way. 

Definitely the best thing that came out of that thread was Lara agreeing to share some recipes over here on my blog.  :) The other great thing that came out of the thread is Lara's own blog: Yummy Easy Affordable. Definitely check it out because Lara is a great cook, super organized and really fun. 

Lara and I go way back, kind of an accidental friendship because I was friends with her sister Lisa.. (Lisa blogs at Eclectic- super fun.  She's a great writer.)

{Lisa's wedding was where we learned how to do the Virginia Reel. (Now that was fun.) (Oh my goodness, look at all of Daniel's hair!!)}

(at Lisa's wedding- Lara is on Lisa's left, I'm on Lisa's right.  Wow- we look like we weren't worried about meal planning!  Oh to be young again! )
Anyway.  This is really about Lara, who is graciously guest posting.  I will totally be trying the Maple Chicken (I have everything for it in my cupboards.  Well, not the chicken, but you know.)
*   *   *   *   *

from Lara

I love to cook, but I don’t have much patience.  Have you ever spent two hours in the kitchen working on a meal that your family devoured in 20 minutes?  Me too – and unless it’s a holiday or special occasion, I find that pretty frustrating.   My idea of meal preparation is that I don’t want to spend any more time cooking than it takes to eat it!  I also don’t have a huge grocery budget.  (Am I the only one who’s noticed that food prices are quite a bit higher than they were a year or two ago?)  I get excited by recipes that are easy, yummy, AND affordable.   Oh, and I’d like them to be fairly healthy, too. 
Here are five of my recent favorites:
Easy Chicken StirFry(this can be a complete dinner all by itself)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast or 2 thighs (fresh or frozen/thawed)
~½ lb baby carrots
1 green bell pepper
Brown rice, cooked
2 tsp corn starch
Soy sauce
            Drizzle a little olive oil in two medium/large frying pans.  Slice baby carrots lengthwise (~3 slices per carrot) and place in largest frying pan over medium-high heat.  Slice bell pepper into thin strips and then cut in half (so the pieces are about the same size as the carrots); add to carrots in frying pan.  Stir occasionally.  Meanwhile slice the chicken into thin strips and cook in the other frying pan over medium heat.  After a couple of minutes, turn the chicken pieces to brown the other side.  When you have a quick break between stirring, get the rice started cooking (enough for 4 servings).  When the chicken is lightly browned on both sides, dispose of the liquid and transfer chicken pieces to the other frying pan with the veggies.  Cook (stirring occasionally) until veggies are desired tenderness.  Meanwhile whisk the cornstarch with a little bit of water in a small saucepan until smooth; add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce and cook over medium low heat just until mixture starts to thicken.  Pour over stirfry and stir to coat.  Serves 4
Avocado Chicken Salad
This was my absolute favorite all summer long!  It’s great for either lunch or dinner. I like to make it in a big pasta bowl and then eat the whole thing myself! J
Layer on individual plates in this order:
Romaine lettuce (or other salad greens)
~ 2 tablespoons finely shredded Mexican blend cheese (or colby-jack or just cheddar)
Drizzle generously with Wishbone brand “Guacamole Ranch” salad dressing (or regular Ranch)
Chicken strips, cut into bite-size pieces (you can buy the convenient packaged kind, or make your own using the same directions as the StirFry recipe above)
Chopped tomato
Half of a ripe avocado, sliced into strips
            Sprinkle very lightly with salt, and serve immediately.  So refreshing!
Chili-Cheese Burritos
Almost embarrassingly easy, these burritos are fork-food (almost like an enchilada).  This is a great go-to recipe for a hectic day when you just don’t have time to cook.
4 large or 6 medium tortillas
1 can chili with beans
½ cup queso/nacho cheese dip
1 handful shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream & salsa (optional)
            Set oven to 350.  Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.  Stir together chili and queso in a bowl.  Spoon evenly into tortillas, roll them up, and place in baking dish.  Throw some shredded cheddar over the top.  Bake until heated through (about 15 minutes).  Top with sour cream and/or salsa if desired.  Serves 3-4.
Chicken & Veggie Quesadillas
Large tortillas (1 per person)
Mexican blend shredded cheese (or colby/jack or cheddar)
Grilled/rotisserie chicken strips (buy the convenient pre-made or make your own as in the stirfry recipe)
Green bell pepper
Sour cream
Avocado or guacamole (optional)
            Drizzle olive oil in a frying pan.  Chop green pepper and onion and sauté over medium-high heat.  While that’s cooking, chop up the tomato and add to the veggie mix, cooking and stirring occasionally until tender.  Cut chicken strips down to desired size; set aside.  Spray a large frying pan with nonstick spray and turn heat to medium high.  Place a tortilla in the pan for a minute or so, then flip and layer cheese, chicken and veggies on half the tortilla.  Fold over and cook for a minute or so; then flip to other side until tortilla is lightly browned and cheese is melted. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 4 wedges. Repeat with more tortillas. Garnish as desired with sour cream, salsa, and avocado/guacamole.
Maple Dijon Chicken (adapted from a friend who adapted from Pinterest)
This recipe looks a little weird but it is SO GOOD!  (Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it...)
1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (fresh or frozen/thawed)
½ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup pancake syrup
1 ½ tablespoons white vinegar
            Line a baking pan with foil and put chicken in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Stir mustard, syrup, and vinegar together to make sauce; spoon HALF of it over the top (reserve the rest). Bake at 450 for 20 minutes; turn chicken, spoon on the rest of the sauce, and bake 15-20 minutes more.

Thank you Lara!!  {Go follow her blog and leave her some comment love!} :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

where my chubby is

Cambria, poking her pencil on her thigh:  "It hurts when I do this right where my chubby is."

Mourning Daniel's green shift day:  "I wish Daddy was home.  He could look at the feed-birder with me."

After watching me vote:  "Is it okay to re-voter?"

[TMI] Me to Cambria after an entire day of well, ah, lots of tooting:  "What have you been eating?!"  Cambria:  "Mom, I am not eating, I am tooting and I'm sorry.

Cambria picked out these nerd glasses from the Target Dollar bin;  she chose Target over ice cream for a post-immunization reward.  (true woman)

She is hysterical to me!

So I wish I could get my nerd glasses out; would that make me one of the cool organized girls?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

so i painted a fireplace on my wall

I really really did.

And there are about 100,000 other things I should have been doing in place of tootling with chalkboard paint AGAIN.

But I saw this idea last summer and stored it away in my mind.  I remembered the other night when we were out to dinner celebrating my youngest sister's birthday.  We were laughing about the positive spin realtors put on bad houses and my brother said, "yeah. . . a realtor can just wave his hand at a wall and say, you could put in a fireplace there!"

That comment reminded me of the faux fireplace.


I penciled the lines for the mantle and . . . mmm. . . firebox?  is that what you call it?  I don't know, I've never had a fireplace.

(best paint cleanup tool ever)

so the outlet stumped me for a while.  I came to the conclusion that I would either put a basket in front of it or somehow incorporate white lights into my fireplace using the outlet.  I briefly considered painting it black as well, but only for a moment, after I remembered that Daniel replaced every single cream/70's yellow outlet with updated bright white- just for me.

So then tonight after Eli was in bed I saw that my phone said I hadn't talked Deeann since October 16. That was definitely something that needed to be taken care of so while I was talking to her THIS beautiful art happened on my fireplace.  Not what I had in mind. You can see the remnants of a big orange chalk fire that my artist drew first. Sigh. 

Later tonight after EVERYBODY was in bed I repainted the firebox. 

I kind of like it.  I'm not done yet, it needs some tweaking.  I will add grey lines in the white to make faux crown moulding and I will either draw fire or add some logs.  (Somehow. )

A fireplace my firefighter can approve of.  Except that he didn't really approve. . . he saw it and said. . .
*long pause*

"WELL!  I can see somebody is totally ready to paint things!" 

Of course he is referring to that entire rental house that needs to be painted from top to bottom.  I will be getting started on that very, very soon.  After I finish my coffee by the fire.