Saturday, December 26, 2009

My New Popcorn Popper

My Dad got me something for Christmas that I have wanted for a while.  A real popcorn popper. I have never owned one of these myself. My dad had a big metal pan with a lid that he used when I was a kid.  He made popcorn by shaking the pan over the flame. He would get so mad when we ate all his popcorn.  He even added things like excessive pepper to try and keep us out of it.  We just learned to like peppered popcorn.

I first started thinking about getting my own awhile back when I read a Prevention Article about foods that food experts wouldn't eat.  I was surprised to see that microwave popcorn was on the list.  Evidently, the lining of the bag contains a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which can possibly cause infertility, plus liver, testicular, or pancreatic cancer.  When you heat up the bag to pop the popcorn, the chemicals vaporize, but some of them go into your food.  These chemicals can accumulate in your body over time to levels that can cause these health problems.  Scary!

There is also danger in the fake butter flavoring.  A chemical called diacetyl causes a respiratory disease, known as bronchiolitis obliterans, or popcorn workers' lung.  The people that work in the microwave popcorn factory are getting sick from BREATHING this chemical, and we are EATING it.  It seriously makes you rethink that bag of popcorn you have while watching a movie. 

However, there is a way to avoid these chemicals. You can use an airpopper or use a cool oil popper like the one my Dad got me.  You turn a crank while the oil heats up (think shaking the foil wrapped popcorn over the burner).  You can add seasoning or have it plain, depending on your taste. 

I am psyched to try out some of the recipes in the book that came with it.  I just did plain buttered popcorn the first time.  I learned that a full batch is TOO much for me eating by myself.  Even I cannot eat that much in one sitting.  Popcorn can be a very healthful snack when made with a little oil or airpopped.  It makes for excellent fiber and aids in digestion.  Kids love it and it is much better than most chips.  Do you know of any great flavored recipes for popcorn?  I would love to hear about them...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Okay, this is really annoying, but I couldn't help myself.  And yes, that is a meowing guinea pig.

Note, because I don't want the singing kitties and guinea pig on my blog for the next month, I took off the widget.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Visited by Old Man Winter

We went home from school early on Tuesday to beat the storm, and we knew we were in for it, but I don't know if we really expected this... Every door we opened had snow blown up to it like a wall...The winds started blowing up to 50 mph gusts Tuesday night.  In addition to the snow that was still falling, all the snow nearby was blown against our house.  This happened to everyone, in greater and lesser degrees.  Huge 3, 4, and 5 foot drifts were created...several of them in our driveway.  We do NOT own a snow blower.

I had school canceled not only for Wednesday, but for Thursday as well, because of the blizzard like conditions.  Out on the interstate, that I would have to take 35 miles to get to work, visibility was almost nothing.  As the weather guy said, travel was near 'impossible'.  So, we had time to dig out, but we had another problem...The extreme cold.  Here, you can see how I attempted to compensate for that.  I have two pairs of pants, boots, two shirts, my cabela's down-filled coat, a wrap on my head, and the hood pulled down so only my eyes and the top of my nose is visible.  Attractive, eh?

So, we went out and started digging.  The temperature was below zero when we went out. We waited until Thursday, when the winds were done, but the cold was there with a vengeance.  You can see, it is sunny and clear, but the wind chill was -17.  This picture is when we finished shoveling.  Three hours later with two people working fairly steadily. 

The front of the house ended up being rather dramatic.  I have never seen that much snow piled up around the front steps. There is a retaining wall under there, and many plants I tucked against it and the steps as well.  At least I know they are insulated.  All I could see of my Santa decoration was the top couple of inches.  I reached in, dragged him out, and placed him on top of the mountain!

My son begged me to go out and play...I didn't want to let him because it was so cold outside.  Finally, on Thursday, we had been inside for 2 days straight.  I relented, and bundled him up to go out for just a little bit.  In addition to the stuff he has on now, I also wrapped a scarf around most of his face.

Right after he went out, the wind started to whip up he didn't get to stay out too long.  Only about half an hour.  At one point, I had to straighten his snow pants, snow was getting down into his boots.  I told him to go back the way he came so I could fix his boots.  He told me that there was 'really bad snow' that way.  I told him, no, it was the same on the other side of the house and to get going.  He scooted along, and I followed him.  Unfortunately, he was correct.  I walked after him, and plunged hip deep into snow!  

I had to thrash my way out.  He was so was 'really bad snow'!  And look at him, he is so light he just scooted along on top of the drift.  He doesn't even sink into the crust!  Anyways, we know for sure we will have a white Christmas this year.  My son got to spend a lot of time playing outside this weekend, the temperatures got up to around 34 degrees.  Much safer for outdoor play. 
What a way to start the winter!  And winter doesn't technically start for another week and a half... How are you coping with the winter weather so far?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Getting ready for Christmas

Putting up the Christmas tree is a magical experience for me.  At least it's supposed to be.  I have fantasies about getting out the ornaments and oohing and aahing over each sentimental piece with the kids, and we watch old Christmas movies and have warm, fuzzy feelings.  In reality, we spend an hour sorting out all the branches by size, then putting them on layer by layer while spreading them out. I am usually exhausted after this.  All the while, I am trying to keep my son from knocking the entire thing over.  Then, I put the lights on, with my son hovering just under my elbows the entire time, asking, "Now can we put the ornaments on?  What about now?  Now?  Ornaments, now?" until I scream. 

By the time I get out the ornaments, my patience is shot, and my son is hyper as heck.  Of course, he wants to put on all the breakable ornaments, and he moves at the speed of light. By the time my fiance gets home, he hears, "Stop that!  Put that down!  Don't put that over there!" Be careful!"  He takes one look at me and says, "Well, aren't you festive?"  Then I feel bad.  I don't mean to snap, but I think the pressure of having this 'perfect' moment gets to me.  But the tree did turn out pretty good, and I think my son still had fun. It must be something about the tree, because I don't think I get so snippy duirng other Christmas activites. 

My fiance has some really cool antique decorations he got from his Grandma.  One is a ceramic Christmas tree with little colored bulbs you put into the holes yourself.  My son loves to help out with this job.  It is very pretty when it is lit up.

We also have a neat old light-up Santa face.  My fiance is absolutely fascinated with these things, and was
delighted to find this one a few years ago.  He leaves it on all night, because that is one of the only decorations his family had when he was growing up, and that is what they did with it.

I am living in a split-foyer home right now, and there is a wall by the steps leading to the upper level that just begs to be decorated.  I hang lights and plants from this wall whatever the season.   I love to walk inside and come up next to the twinkling icicle lights and the beautiful wreath. 

Now, I am mostly done with the decorating, and we are on to baking and shopping this week.  I am going to have to start exercising or I am going to gain weight with all this holiday eating.  Today I noshed on homemade chex mix.  I hope all the outside work I did today will help burn that off.  I love Christmas though, in spite of the extra stress, and I look forward to spending the holidays with my friends and family. 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Curry Turkey Soup

Tonight, in an effort to use up turkey in the fridge, we prepared curry turkey soup.  My son loves to help peel potatoes, though he is very slow.  I can do 10 for every 1 he does, but the point is, he is helping.  I found this interesting recipe in a magazine and made a few modifications to accommodate what was in my fridge.

Curry Turkey Soup

3 large peeled and baked sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp curry powder, or more to taste
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
1/2 cup sliced scallions (green part, or use whole and omit chopped onion)
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cup milk (I used skim, but fuller fat milk would have a creamier taste)
1 1/2 cup finely chopped roasted turkey
Shredded cheese (to taste)
Hot sauce or wing sauce (to taste)

1) Mash up or process the soft potatoes with the flour, add in 2 cups of the milk, blending.  Set aside.
2) Heat oil, curry powder, ginger, and salt to taste in a pot over medium high heat until it sizzles.  Add broccoli, onions, and scallions and allow to sizzle again.  Toss often while heating it up, about 3 minutes.

Add the potato mixture and the extra milk, stir until smooth.

3) Turn down the heat and simmer for about 3 minutes, until the broccoli is tender, but still a little crisp.
4) Add the turkey in and simmer until heated through.  After dishing it up, add hot sauce or wing sauce (I prefer buffalo wing sauce) along with any desired shredded cheese.  Enjoy!

You could add more or less milk depending on how thick you like your soup. The really bright orange color comes from a combination of sweet potatoes, curry, and the hot sauce.  It is a delicious blend of sweet and hot tastes, plus an excellent way to use up your leftover turkey.

My son approved of the dinner, after he got past the fact that it contained broccoli.  Then he decided to dress up in some of my clothes.  Hmmm, don't think I will be wearing that outfit out anytime soon.

Soups are one of my favorite things to cook during the colder months.  What kind of soups do you like to make?  I would love to hear about your favorite recipes. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wordless Wednesday


(The so-enthused helper, removing the turkey from the bones, did not want his picture taken)
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