Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Italian Dressing Mix

It's no secret that I love salads.

My favorite salad consists of a mixture of baby lettuces, hard-boiled eggs, crispy bacon, sliced green olives, sunflower seeds, and feta cheese.

And while ranch dressing is a favorite topping, I sometimes want Italian.

I'm talking dressing, not a real Italian.

I haven't bought bottled dressings in a couple of years. Not only are they gross, but the ingredients are unpronounceable.

And my rule is: If I can't pronounce it, I can't eat it.

Simple enough.

Except making Italian dressing from scratch is not as easy as I originally thought. After a few failed attempts, I surfed the web (because I'm so tech-savvy) and found one that kind of worked.

So I tweaked it. Now it completely works.

And if you can find an Italian to serve it to you, even better.

~The Players~

1 Tb. garlic powder
1 Tb. onion powder
1 Tb. sugar
2 Tb. dried oregano
1 t. ground pepper
1/2 t. dried basil
1 Tb. dried parsley
1/4 t. celery salt
1-1/2 t. sea salt

Mix ingredients in a small bowl.

Store mix in airtight container until ready to use.

Are you ready yet?

To make Italian dressing, mix 2 Tb. dried mix with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil and 2 Tb. water. Shake it up or whisk it.

Store any unused dressing in the refrigerator for up to a week.

For kicks, I decided to try this using fresh herbs. I mixed the garlic and onion powders, sugar, pepper, celery and sea salts together. When it was time to make the dressing, I chopped up some oregano, basil and parsley. Mix 1 Tb. mixed fresh herbs with 1-1/2 Tb. mix.

See how pretty it turned out?

What are you waiting for?

Go enjoy a little Italian!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Graduation #5


Brings back memories of hot, sticky gowns, tassels hanging in the eyes and caps covering perfectly coiffed hair. It brings back the smells of hundreds of sweaty bodies crammed into the gymnasium, and the sounds of restless feet in the bleachers that would rather be anywhere else but there. I remember a speech given by someone that was supposed to have played an important role in our high school education, but cannot remember a single word of it. And I remember being disappointed that the diploma I received did not have a diploma in it.

It was in the mail.
(Really, we should've been told that before the rioting began.)

I also remember the feeling of freedom.

Because I was pretty naive in thinking that life was only about completing 4 years of high school.

About 2 months later, reality sunk in. There were work hours to be kept, bills to pay, gas to buy and never enough time to sleep in or lay on the beach with my friends.

Of course, they weren't working on their tans either.

We were officially grown-ups. With that came adult responsibilities.

Welcome to adult-hood Dakota.

And remember, you asked for it.

For each of my graduating children, they get my version of a yearbook. It is their own scrapbook, documenting the momentous moments in their lives.


And then there are the reminders that my little boy has grown into a handsome young man.

Not to mention proof that he didn't spend the majority of his education on a boat or in the woods.

Climb high sweet son.

We are so proud of you.

Even if you don't realize that that ladder goes nowhere.

If it's alright with you, I'd like to linger on the memories of my little boy just a tad longer.

My Mister gave a very nice graduation commencement speech.

Then asked if I had anything to add.

All I could do was pick my lip.

It keeps my eyes from leaking.

Look out world.

He's free.

Too bad he's too busy working 2 jobs to notice.

Monday, June 28, 2010



I'm having a little bit of a panic attack at the moment. It is Monday, and I don't officially have a meal plan for the week.

Actually, I don't 'unofficially' have a meal plan either.


I wish I could say that this was planned and my way of rebelling against the system, but the reality is...


...I forgot.


What!?! I'm still breathing? The sun didn't crash into the earth? My children aren't standing in filthy rags begging for supper?

Oh, scratch that last part...they are.

I guess this week I'll be flying by the seat of my pants.

Unless of course, I'm wearing a skirt.

In that case, please don't look.

I did manage to get to farmer's market on Saturday and scored some beautiful, organic heads of cabbage from the sweetest little Asian lady. It was very important to her that I knew they were unsprayed. She has no idea how much I appreciate that.

It's also strawberry season here, so I'll be on the hunt for some berries that haven't been decimated by our rain. A little birdie also whispered that the raspberries are coming on, so I'm sensing a trip to the berry farms in my immediate future.

I'll be starting a crock of kraut, re-starting my sourdough starter (it died...again.), and canning jam. The barbecue and crockpot are going to get a workout this week and I'm just going to continue doing what I sometimes forget to do.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Ya Gotta Have a Little Faith

This is what happens when meal plans are NOT kept.

Simple trips to town to pick up more cold cereal, *gasp*, become missions of mercy when I see cuteness for sale on the side of the road.

Especially cuteness that got herself into a little "trouble".

This is the newest member of the family.

And in a couple of months, she will become they.

Meet Faith.

Sometimes a little is all it takes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wake Up...It's Summertime!!!

Well, it was bound to happen eventually.

After months of very little Vitamin D exposure, the sunshine has returned.

Now, I know that I've said it before, but this time it has lasted for longer than a day.

And lest you think I jest, have a looksy for yourself.

Not only sunshine, but blue sky too!

That is a very good sign that summer has arrived.

Could somebody please let the bees know?

I'm not sure if the weather is responsible for the bees lack of motivation, or if my bees are just lazy.

I fear my bees may be broken.

Wakey, wakey!

Apparently, the bees haven't just been sleeping. The hive is full of young bees who are not mature enough to go out and search for pollen.

We left them a nice nutrient dense treat to help them build their strength.

We didn't even need the smoker today. But once my Mister bumped the edge of the hive, the bees decided that sleepy time was over.

And finally, that's good news for the tomato plants.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Break in the Rain

Yesterday, the weatherman informed me, along with a lot of other Pacific Northwesters, that it was the first day of summer.

I suppose if he were originally from, let's say, Antarctica, it may feel like summer.

Especially if he is part penguin.

But we P.W.'s know better.

Summer does not start here until July 5.

I demand a retraction.

Or some sunshine.

Not everything is disappointed with the weather though.

I decided to take a long distance picture of the garden. Trust me, it looks much better from here.

There are 8 people eye-balling these 6 berries.

Wonder who will win....?

My money is on the family of robins, camped out on the fence.

And this little guy? getting ready for this on Sunday!

But more on that later...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Menu Monday 6/21/10

Happy Father's Day!

I discovered a difference between the way mother's celebrate their special day, and the way father's want to celebrate theirs.

Mother's want breakfast in bed, kids to behave and somebody else to wash the dishes for a change.

Father's want power tools, a favorite meal, and a reminder of how they became a father.

Personally, I can't wait for Independence Day.

Here's what's on the menu this week...

Soaked oatmeal w/ blueberries
Maple Walnut Scones, fruit smoothies
Zucchini Frittata, spinach salad

Soaked oatmeal w/ blueberries
Egg, elk sausage muffins, carrot sticks, ranch
Risotto, pork loin roast w/ apple butter glaze, Raw Cranberry Relish

Peach/Strawberry Slushies, popovers w/ leftover pork roast & cranberries
Toe-warmin' Chili, blue cornbread

Scrambled eggs, elk sausage
Cranberry muffins, fruit smoothies
Black Bean Couscous Salad, grilled burgers

Egg salad sandwiches, fruit
Elk roast, macaroni salad, dilly beans

Pumpkin waffles, applesauce

Graduation celebration! (To be determined)

Have a great week!

For more menu ideas, visit The Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Herbed Quinoa

As a homeschool mom, I pride myself on my ability to not only spell words correctly, but also pronounce them fluently.

Quinoa is pronounced, KEEN-WA, not QUINN-OOH-AA.

I didn't learn of that until I asked where it was in the health food store.

And had to repeat it a half a dozen times for clarification.

Because she was looking at me with a confused expression on her face, I knew that the store employee was either hard of hearing, or I was not pronouncing QUIN-OH-AA correctly.

I thought about referring her to the hearing specialist.

After my pathetic attempt of trying to get her to understand, she finally said, "Oh, do you mean KEEN-WA?"

I told her that that would work too, but the generic version was fine if they had it.

I now travel 45 minutes south to a different health food store.

With my dignity intact.

Quinoa is a tiny seed that is protein-rich, gluten-free and easy to prepare. Before using quinoa though, you must rinse it to remove the saponin from it. It is the bitter tasting coating on the quinoa seed. It won't hurt you, but it does affect the taste without rinsing.

Our new favorite quinoa recipe is courtesy of Giada from The Food Network.

Herbed Quinoa

(recipe by Giada De Laurentiis)

2-3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed

1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tb. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 t. lemon zest
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, add the chicken broth, 1/4 cup lemon juice and quinoa. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover with lid; let simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 12-15 minutes.

For the dressing, mix EVOO and lemon juice together with a whisk. Add fresh herbs and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the quinoa and serve.

The quinoa may be Giada's recipe, but the biscuits are all mine! Actually, this was my Mister's plate, so technically, they were all his.


P.S. There were vegetables with this; I grilled asparagus, but took the picture before I put them on the plate!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Madness

In less than 2 weeks, we will be having a graduation open house for our son Dakota.

This means that I have at least a hundred things to start/finish before then.
I even have a list.

I abhor lists.

My goal is to be able to cross off at least 5 things per day from that list.

Today the list looks just like it did yesterday.

Here's a couple of reasons why.

My Houdini chicks have figured out a way to leap through the netting to perch themselves on the edge of their brood box.

When their bravery wanes, they attempt re-entry.

It doesn't work that way unless you are a time traveler.

We actually had to cut one of the chicks out of the netting. She had managed to get her entire head through one of the holes and made sure that her call of distress could be heard all the way upstairs.

Through closed doors.

3 times.

I'm afraid that I may have rolled the eggs 1 too many times while in the incubator, if you know what I mean. *wink*wink*

If chicken rescuing didn't take up enough of my time, I had this to deal with.

This was on my kitchen counter.

It was NOT created by these.

It seems my son Matthew decided to use his powers for evil to create a doggy "poo" from mud.

And he recruited my normally normal niece and nephew, Gracie and Levi.
This piece of "artwork" included dog hair on it.

Words cannot begin to describe how I feel about this new talent.


If that wasn't enough, here is my bread.

I got so caught up with the "doggie doo", that I forgot about the bread rising on the counter.

For 4 hours.

So, at 9:30 p.m. on a Monday night, I am waiting for the bread to rise again.

Because that's what any good mom/auntie/chicken farmer would do.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

MPM 6/14

This week, things are going to be a little different.

Starting with the sunshine.

It's back!

That means open windows, dirt between the toes and the smell of fresh mowed grass perfuming the air.

It will also mean daily doses of allergy medicine, the carpet cleaner on stand-by and the mop bucket moved to the kitchen.

I'm an optimist with life experience.

This week, at the farmer's market, I found beautiful salad mixes, spinach, bright orange carrots, thinned Walla Walla sweet onions and the last of the asparagus. We also ran into our old insurance agent, who "retired" from the insurance business and opened a coffee roasting shop. Right in our downtown area! If you are in the Longview/Kelso area, check them out at
ZOJO Coffee, 1335 14th Avenue, Longview. (Try the 14th Avenue Blend...fantastic!)

Here's what's on the menu this week....

leftover bean enchiladas (from Sunday)
Asparagus Risotto, baked Tilapia, farmer's market salad

Oatmeal w/ blueberries
Egg Salad Sandwiches on Amish White Bread (new)
Zucchini Frittata, Blueberry Muffins

Fried eggs, toast
Moving day for our daughter...out to lunch
Take out pizza (on the way home)

Oatmeal w/ blueberries

Maple/Walnut Scones
grilled or roasted hot dogs and all the fixin's
Crockpot Baked Beans (new), farmer's market salad

Tuna sandwiches

~Simple Sunday~

For more meal plans, visit Menu Plan Mondays at The Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Orange Vinaigrette

Before I share this rather delicious recipe for Orange Vinaigrette, I need to dispel a couple of myths.

Myth #1. While our family eats a pretty healthy diet, we have, by no means, arrived at the perfect plan. I will still choose a cheese puff over a carrot, a hot cup of coffee over a glass of water, and I still believe that chocolate is the most important of the food groups.

Myth #2. Because we eat well 80% of the time, it is assumed that we have no health issues. Wrong. I'm still fat, my Mister still has bad knees, and the majority of children still in our house are on some type of medication for one thing or another. We are a work in progress with the hopes to be healthier, not perfect.

One of the improvements that we made to our diet was to incorporate more salads into our meals. While that was easy, finding salad dressing that wasn't toxic was not. Face it, the garbage in the grocery stores are filled with preservative-laden ingredients; the sole purpose of those is to keep the product looking nice in the bottle for a long period of time.

High fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean/vegetable oil, and MSG are in most.

MMMMM...genetically modified corn syrup, rancid fats and a preservative that makes most people sick...sounds good to me.

If it were up to me, I would rename the salad dressing companies to reflect their actual products. How about Hidden Death Valley, Wishin' For Something Better, and Krafty Killers?

Think they'll hire me for their ad campaign?

Orange Vinaigrette

The players: Champagne vinegar (citrus infused if you can find it), extra virgin olive oil (orange infused if you can find it), 2 organic oranges, raw honey

Using a zester, zest 1 orange into a small bowl. Cut the ends of the oranges off. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the peel and pith off of the oranges in a downward motion.

Using the knife, cut the orange segments out by cutting on the inside edges of each section. Leave the membrane.

Squeeze the juice from the remainder of the orange into the small bowl with the zest.

Add 3 Tb. EVOO, 2 Tb. champagne vinegar and 1/2 tsp. raw honey to the orange juice/zest. Whisk well. Cut the orange segments into smaller pieces and add to the vinaigrette.

Pour over salad greens and serve.

*I found the citrus champagne vinegar at our local Safeway store and the blood orange EVOO was found at Whole Foods.
Please visit Fight Back Fridays for more real food recipes.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Strawberry Pie

Heading into farmer's market this morning, I had only lettuce on my mind. If I was lucky, green onions, spinach and a couple of bundles of asparagus might enter in, but I wasn't counting on it.

Just lettuce.

What more does a girl need?

How about strawberries!!!!

While we are still a few days away from the official start, one of the local berry fields had a few half flats to sell. With all of the rain we've gotten, it's a wonder that they had any at all!

Who am I to question fate?

One of my Mister's favorite desserts is his Aunt Vicki's Strawberry Pie. One year, after my Mister had acted all pathetic and needy, Aunt Vicki delivered him his very own pie. And for me...the recipe. That was her message that the pie torch was being passed on. While my version doesn't hold a candle to Aunt Vicki's, it is good enough to stop the whining and pouting.

Which has become my life purpose.

Strawberry Pie

1 pie shell, baked & cooled or 1 graham cracker pie shell
1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
3 Tb. sour cream
1-1/2 quarts fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 Tb. cornstarch
whipped cream, optional

Beat cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Spread mixture into bottom of the pie shell.

In a food processor, puree 1 cup of strawberries. In medium saucepan, mix pureed berries with sugar and cornstarch. On medium heat, cook until mixture thickens.

Set pan in larger pan of ice water to cool.

Fill pie shell with remaining berries. I cut mine into bite-sized pieces, but you don't have to.

Pour cooled strawberry mixture on top. Chill 1 hour.

Top with whipped cream if desired.


I messed this up. Instead of using only 1 cup of pureed strawberries, I used 1 quart! I caught it too late and decided that it all tastes the same. So our pie will be served in a bowl, not on a plate.

I may need to pass the torch back to Aunt Vicki... be relit.
Visit "What's on the Menu Wednesday" for more fun recipes!