Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I scream for ice cream!

Last weekend, my husband proved to me his devotion and love. In a blizzard he drove to Kentucky and picked up an object necessary to life…an ice cream maker.
Ice cream is, quite possibly, one of life’s greatest indulgences.
The creamy-cold frozen treat can charm the bleakest moment into joy.
It enhances celebrations and solidifies memories.
I had been eyeing the Cuisinart ice cream maker for over a year, but at $50 I couldn’t really justify the expense until I discovered the mind-numbingly delicious Graeter’s coconut chip. I’ve always turned my nose up at Ohio’s food “scene.” Buckeyes, Cincinnati “chili” (which, in my not so humble opinion looks like greasy dog food) and Larosa’s (which taste like the pizza I had in Ukraine) did absolutely nothing for me.

Try to understand.

I am from New York, where bagels are chewy and yeasty. Where pizza crust splits down the middle when you fold it (listen up, Cincinnatians. You are not supposed to eat pizza with a fork unless it is Sicilian style!) and where you can find a deli, Greek restaurant and zeppole on every corner. So, I wasn’t expecting much the first time I had Graeter’s.
Imagine my surprise when I tasted the creamy, custardy dessert chock-full of chocolate “chips” the size of my spoon.
The only problem with Graeter’s is that it is almost $5 a pint. After six months of “the girls are in bed. I’m going to run to Kroger and pick up some coconut chip” excursions, the Cuisinart became justified. Even more so when I found one on Craigslist for $10!
I eagerly contacted the seller- trying not to sound too excited in case he didn’t realize that a once used Cuisinart ice cream maker is worth way more than the cost of 2 ½ pints of Graeters.
That Saturday morning I woke Shane up and told him he needed to go pick up my ice cream maker. It was snowing (hmmm…maybe the value of an ice cream maker goes down mid-winter) and I hate driving in the snow...actually, had it been June I still would have made him go because I hate driving period.

He didn’t grumble.

He took a shower, got dressed, grabbed a banana and headed out the door.

"You can take my car,” I generously offered. “It might be warmer and more comfortable than yours.”
That was an understatement. Shane’s car is a twenty year old, neon-blue “junk drawer.” In case of an accident, the refurbished computers, Chipotle wrappers and three years worth of coffee cups could become deadly projectile weapons.
“That’s okay. I’d rather you have the car in case you need to go out.”
What a gem.
I smiled, kissed him and sent him on his way.
Two hours later he called and told me he was stuck in an accident on 275 and hadn’t moved in an hour.
An hour and half later he was home with my glowing gift from heaven.
I was up the entire first night (and half of the second) concocting recipes and dreaming of miles of rainbow-hued sherbets and shiny pillows of chocolate-studded treats.
Below is one of them.
Of course, I use raw cream but if you aren’t able or willing to secure raw dairy you can find gently pasteurized, non-homogonized cream milked from grass-fed cows at most Whole foods. The ice cream calls for raw egg yolks. Most ice cream recipes instruct you to bring the eggs and cream to a boil but I don’t do that because boiling $8 worth of raw cream would be pointless and expensive. If you choose to use the eggs raw, make sure you use local eggs made from pastured chickens.
Ice cream, when homemade and depending on your views on healthy eating, can be a fulfilling and healthy snack. Fulfilling, because ice cream made from cream and eggs satisfies in only one scoop rather than three bowls of the low-fat, conventional stuff that doesn’t even contain cream (creamless ice cream is up there with meatless meatballs.)
Healthy, because you can substitute unprocessed and natural sweeteners for sugar and use organic, fresh ingredients that are wholesome and created by God- not a lab in Iowa.
What are some of those ingredients? Let’s have a looksee…

(Keep in mind that manufacturers are not required by law to list the additives used in the manufacturing of their products so you won’t find these ingredients on the label of your chunky monkey.)

Diethylglycol: An inexpensive chemical used as an emulsifier instead of eggs. Also used in antifreeze and paint remover.
Piperonal: Used in place of vanilla. The chemical is used to kill lice.
Aldehyde C-17: Used as cherry flavoring. It is an inflammable liquid also used in aniline dyes, plastic and rubber.
Ethyl Acetate: Used as pineapple flavoring (SEE RECIPE BELOW!) It is also used as a leather and textile cleaner. Its vapors have been known to cause chronic lung, liver and heart damage.
Butraldehyde: Used in nut flavored ice creams. It is one of the ingredients in rubber cement.
Amyacetate: Used as banana flavoring. It is also used as an oil paint solvent.
Benzyl Acetate: Used as strawberry flavoring. It is a nitrate solvent.

These ingredients are in addition to the listed ones. Partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and dry milk solids. What ever happened to cream, eggs and sugar? (I would bet sugar, in all its evilness, is less threatening than those ingredients. It may be processed and stripped of its original goodness, but at least it’s real!)

The next time you have a yen for a scoop of ice cream skip the antifreeze, lice killer and leather cleaner and whip up a batch yourself…or at least pick up a container of organic ice cream with pronounceable words and edible ingredients.

Tropical ice cream cake

Layers of ginger cookie crust, coconut sorbet and pineapple-agave ice cream and lemon whipped cream.

Coconut sorbet

2 cans 14 oz whole coconut milk
1 ½ cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
¾ cup evaporated cane juice crystals

Combine ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and cool. Chill completely in fridge.
Pour into ice cream maker and process according to directions. Transfer to freezer container and freeze at least four hours before serving.

Pineapple-agave ice cream

3 egg yolks
½ cup raw agave nectar
1 Tb. pure vanilla extract
1 Tb. Arrowroot
3 cups heavy cream, preferably raw and NOT ultra pasteurized
1 15 oz. can pineapple, drained and crushed

Beat egg yolks and blend in remaining ingredients. Pour into ice cream maker and process according to directions. Five minutes before finished add pineapple. Transfer to freezer container and freeze at least four hours before serving.

Lemon whipped cream

Chill bowl and beater prior to whipping.
1 cup chilled heavy cream (again, raw is best)
2 Tb. Evaporated can juice crystals
1 Tb. finely grated lemon peel
2 ts. lemon juice

Combine ingredients and beat with electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Ginger cookie crust

Okay, I cheated and used Newman ginger cookies. I could have used homemade but I didn’t have time. I just twisted open the cookies and scooped out the cream- which my husband gladly ate.

Process 2 ½ cups crumbled cookies with 5 Tb melted organic butter and 3 Tb evaporated cane juice crystals in food processor.

To assemble cake

Line round eight inch cake pan with saran wrap. Press cookie crust onto bottom. Scoop softened pineapple ice cream over crust and press down. Freeze. When ice cream is hardened scoop softened coconut sherbet over ice cream layer. Spread a layer of whipped cream over sherbet. Freeze until top layer is hard. Pulling up on the saran wrap, remove ice cream cake from pan and place on tray (You can tear a piece of wax or parchment paper into four squares and cover the tray. Center cake over paper and pull out when done frosting. This will keep your tray clean.) Frost sides and top of cake with remaining whipped cream. Sprinkle with shredded-unsweetened coconut.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Addendum to raw milk installment

In my excitement over sharing the benefits of raw milk, I forgot to include a few recipes.
Because cooking raw milk would be counter productive (for obvious reasons) we tend to just drink it. There are a few recipes, though, that I use raw milk for.
Raw milk fettuccini Alfredo (4-6 main dish servings)


2/3 cup raw cream
2 Tb butter (preferably made from raw milk. If I don’t have enough I will use plain organic butter.)
8 ounces sprouted wheat pasta (Trader Joe’s has a yummy pappardelle)
1/3 cup grated raw parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated raw Romano cheese
Cracked black pepper
Dash of nutmeg


Allow cream and butter to come to room temperature (about thirty minutes).
Cook pasta according to package instructions in heavily salted water. Drain.
Return pasta to pot and add cream, butter and cheeses. Toss until butter has melted and pasta is well coated with sauce. Add pepper and nutmeg.
Top with grated raw cheese.

Yummy with grilled chicken and steamed broccoli, this is one of Shane’s favorite dishes. It is easy and so much healthier than jarred alfredo sauce.

Strawberry almond smoothie (2-4 servings)


4 cups raw milk
1 8 oz pack frozen organic strawberries
2 heaping TB organic raw almond butter
1 TB raw, unfiltered honey
½ ts. Vanilla extract


Mix all ingredients in blender. Add more milk if too thick.

The girls and I love this for breakfast. It is so filling, but doesn’t leave you feeling bloated like a carb-heavy traditional breakfast. Again, it is easy and much healthier than those processed “nutritional” drinks.

The first of six things

I was recently informed that I have been neglecting you, my dear readers. The oversight is entirely my fault. You see, I didn’t know you existed. I extend my deepest apologies.
In order to make up for my unintended lapse of attention, I thought it would be beneficial to reveal all that I have learned in my four years of seeking nutritional truth.
I will try to post a blog every few days. Each one will focus on an aspect of healthy eating. I hope all three of you enjoy it.

Kim’s six tips for healthy eating

1.Go raw. As in milk
2.Treat soy like Elijah did Jezebel
3.Grind your own grains
4.Add fermented foods into your diet
5.Use mainly organic produce and meats
6.Stay away from processed foods- even if you buy it at a health store


Today’s blog will focus on the benefits of raw dairy products and how pasteurized milk is of the devil.
Okay, maybe that was a little extreme. But you can see the connections, right?
Hmmm. Maybe, I’ll have to explain.
I’ve had my own battles with dairy. Over the years (about 27 of them) I have had a love/hate relationship with that yummy, creamy white goodness.
It started when I was introduced to milk. Suffice it to say, it did not agree with me. For the next 24 years I was forced to drink skim milk, eat low fat ice cream and spread margarine on my toast. A few times my mother even tried tricking me into drinking powdered milk! To this day, I have flashbacks of that inconspicuous white box and I have to close my eyes when I pass it in the baking aisle at Kroger. With the mistaken idea that I couldn’t digest whole milk products, I was forced to endure these travesties.
After I had Ellie I went through an enlightening, albeit stressful, period of seeking. I was seeking the perfect diet. One that would free me from chronic fatigue, various aches and pains that shouldn’t plague a woman in her twenties and hopefully, one that would free me of about ten pounds. I had been vegetarian for fourteen years, but had backslidden into eating an occasional chicken breast or tilapia loin. I went back to vegetarianism and when I discovered Ellie was allergic to milk, we became vegan. That lasted two years. Deciding veganism wasn’t extreme enough I dabbled in raw foodism. For those of you who don’t obsess over nutrition like I do, that is a diet where a person eats nothing cooked. Ever. At all. No bread, no meat, no steamed broccoli. Not even a glass of chamomile tea.
Obviously, milk was out. I hadn’t had milk in a few years, though. That wasn’t much of an issue for me.
The starvation, however, was. Also, the fact that I was nursing and could see an immediate decrease in my supply didn’t bode well for my raw food foray.
I started eating rice, cereal and lasagna (made with soy cheese, of course) again.
A friend of mine introduced me to a book called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. I read it and immediately told her she was insane (My friend and Sally Fallon).
But I couldn’t ignore what the book said and I began my own search into the dangers of soy. I won’t get into that here. That will be in installment # 2. Because we didn’t eat dairy or meat, mine and Ellie’s diet had been heavy on the soy. Soymilk, soy meat, soy cheese, soy yogurt. Because of the research I conducted, I began to make connections between my own health problems and soy.
I threw out all the soy. I than called a local farm and bought a cow. We named her Bessie.
Now, I didn’t buy a whole cow. Just part of one. Or rather, a share of one.
In Ohio, it is illegal (ridiculous that the government can legislate what I can eat) to buy raw milk. Consumers are forced to “buy” into a cow share program. I won’t go into the logistics of this. It is boring and annoying…but, at least it keeps me from becoming a criminal (labeled as such by the USDA).
Raw milk is delicious, fresh and as an added bonus, doesn’t wreak havoc on my digestive system. Raw milk is obviously whole milk, yet I have never had a problem with it.
Also, even thought pasteurized milk and their products cause a histamine effect in Ellie (and to a lesser extent, Grainne), raw milk has never caused this in her. In fact, when I introduced raw milk into her diet, the eczema that had plagued her since she was very young stopped spreading and the hives that covered her mouth and chin every time she ate cheese went away. She didn’t develop a runny nose, a clogged throat or a cough with raw milk.

The Weston A. Price organization says this.

"Not only does pasteurization kill the friendly bacteria, it also greatly diminishes the nutrient content of the milk. Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin C loss usually exceeds 50 percent. Heat affects water soluble vitamins and can make them 38 percent to 80 percent less effective. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization. Pasteurization also destroys beneficial enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Pasteurization destroys lipase (an enzyme that breaks down fat), which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D. (The dairy industry is aware of the diminished vitamin D content in commercial milk, so they fortify it with a form of this vitamin.)
We have all been led to believe that milk is a wonderful source of calcium, when in fact; pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals less available. Complete destruction of phosphatase is one method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized. Phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium."

When we began consuming raw milk many people had the type of reaction you would expect had I started giving my kids substances that are created in a laboratory and shown to cause cancer (installment #6). Eyebrows were raised, concerns were voiced. One very close relative to me even told me it was illegal and I could go to jail. Um, yeah. If the federal government is going to throw me in jail over drinking a glass of milk, than they need to turn on the news (fox news, of course. The rest of the stations are biased) and deal with real problems.
In fact, raw milk is safer than pasteurized milk. The farm I get my milk from allows their cow’s free range of pastured land. The grass is not sprayed with harmful chemicals, which in turn go into the milk. The cows are not given hormones and steroids that force them to produce milk at volumes four, sometimes five times their normal rate. The cows are not given antibiotics because they do not chronically suffer from the mastitis caused by the hormones that increase their production.
As a side note. I had mastitis. Once. When I was nursing Grainne. It was more painful than delivery. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone or anything and the very idea of drinking or eating something that came from an animal battling such intense pain makes me squirm.
The cows that provide my family with milk are happy, healthy and live the sort of bucolic life that dairy commercials want you to think commercial dairy cows live. I’m not going to tell you the horror story that is the commercial dairy. It is cruel, unnecessary and profit driven. I will tell you, though, that because of that nasty reality, most all of the dairy products sitting on the shelf of your local supermarket do little to benefit your body and do much to cause harm.
As a recovering vegetarian I am acutely aware of the lives the animals that provide me with food live. Even though I now eat meat, I still do not want these animals to suffer unnecessarily. I do everything in my power to seek out humanely produced food.
I can write a ten page blog and still not cover all the benefits of raw dairy. I won’t do that to you. Shane reminds me (often) that most people aren’t as interested in the minutia of healthy eating as I am. If you are interested you can check out the link below for more information.
I encourage you to check out http://www.realmilk.com/ in order to determine the laws governing raw milk consumption (again, ridiculous) in your state and locating a raw milk share program. You won’t regret it. In fact, I can just about guarantee, after one sip of that creamy, sweet beverage you will be hooked.
Maybe I haven't convinced you of the spiritual implications of consuming pasteurized milk, but hopefully you have a better understanding of the benfits of drinking something in its most natural, God created state.
Raw milk does a body good.

I want to note that it is becoming increasingly easy to locate raw cheeses. Whole foods and Trader Joe's carry a nice selection of everything from Cheddar to Romano to Gruyere. Yummy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

First phone call

Ellie got her first phone call today. From a boy. An older boy. Grant is the son of a friend. He is eight (I think), cute and full of energy. Exactly the type of person Ellie loves. She talks about him all the time. In fact, she has told me on numerous occasions that Grant is her friend and she loves him. She was talking about him at dinner the night of "the phone call".

Ellie: Is Grant coming over today?

Me: No, not today.
Ellie: Why not? Grant is my friend and I love him.
Me: That's very nice, honey, but Grant can't come over today.

The phone rings. From the caller ID I assume it is my friend.

Voice: Hi, Kim. Can I talk to Ellie?

Ellie? Okay. I'm not sure why my very adult friend wants to talk to Ellie, but I'll humor her.

Voice: It's Grant.

Oh. Well, I guess that makes more sense. Although, I'm at a loss as to why an eight year old boy wants to talk to Ellie.

Me: Ellie, you have a phone call.

Okay, that just sounds weird. I mean, am I already having this conversation? What's next? Curfews and sleepovers?

Ellie: Oh.

Very jaded. As though she gets phone calls all the time.
Ellie takes the phone.

Ellie: (before Grant can get a word in edgewise- which is a pattern for those speaking with Ellie) Grant, how come you're not coming over today?

Silence. As though she is listening. I know better.

Ellie: Oh! But why aren't you coming over?

Silence. Ellie waves her hand at me as I take pictures of her very first phone call.

Ellie: Mommy is going to ballet.
Me: No, mommy is going shopping with Katie.
Ellie: (Surely interrupting Grant) Oh! Mommy is going shopping with Katie.
Ellie looks at me with interest.
Ellie: Are you going to Trader Joe's?

I nod and point to the phone which has slipped from her ear. I can hear Grant chattering away.

Ellie: Hi, Grant. Mommy? Will you get me a balloon at Trader Joe's.
Me: We'll see.
Ellie: Hey, Grant. I'm watching Peter Man. (That's Peter Pan for those of you who aren't up on Elliespeak.) Do you like Peter Man?
Ellie: Here daddy, Grant wants to talk to you.

Ellie hands the phone to Shane and I am left with a camera dangling from my hand, wondering if this is the first step towards my baby's independence. I watch her watching "Peter Man". The crocodile tick tocks onto the screen and Ellie shrieks with laughter. She sees me standing there and hurtles herself as she is wont to do, shouting, "Mommy!" with all that three year old enthusiasm. I kneel to catch her and prevent myself from being toppled to the floor. I inhale her sweaty preschooler scent and kiss her sticky hair (sticky because she wasn't quite able to keep her curls out of her collards).
"Save me, Smee. Save me," cries Captain Hook, throwing himself at his stumpy sidekick.
"Can you get me a balloon, mommy?" cries Ellie, throwing her arms around my neck.
I just try not to cry and throw away my concerns. For now, despite her very first phone call, my little Ellie is still little...and she is so getting a balloon.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thank heaven for little girls

I love being a mom to two little girls. They are precious, beautiful and affectionate. Plus, they don't like to play in the dirt, eat bugs or pretend they are superman and jump off the couch. Instead, it is all tu-tu's, tea parties and baby dolls. (Sure, Ellie loves to play karate, but that is only the influence of the little boy I watch...I think. She does have a natural propensity towards administering headlocks and scissor kicks.)
One down side of having girls-and I never considered this until recently- is that once a little girls stops fitting into toddler sized clothes, it becomes increasingly difficult to find appropriate clothing. This coming season, Ellie will be wearing a size five. Now, I would love to be able to dress her in Hannah Andersson dresses everyday, but seeing as how my husband works for a non-profit, that is not within the realm of possibility. $38 dresses are hardly accessible to me, let alone a child who will cover them with green marker, spill blueberry yogurt on them and grow out of them before I've had a chance to say, "I wish I could dress my children in Hannah Andersson everyday."
I've been browsing around, looking at fall clothes for Ellie and I have been horrified by the overt sexuality of these clothes. I've recently seen ultra low-rise jeans (I wonder if these come with thongs, so that the three year old can fashionably let them "Peek".)
Sweats with words and phrases emblazoned across the rear end. (I don't care if it says "I love Elmo"- it is inappropriate to draw attention to a preschoolers bottom.)
Halter tops
Plunging necklines
Micro minis
High heeled, knee high black patent leather boots (Wrong on so many different levels.)
T-shirts that say: "Too hot to handle", "I love boys" and even one advertising AC DC.
String bikini underwear and String bikinis.

These are clothes that I wouldn't wear. These are not clothes that I want my child wearing.
It is getting harder and harder to find pretty, girly, modest clothing for my child...and she is only three. What is it going to be like when she is ten, twelve and fifteen?I'm aghast at some of the clothes teenage girls wear today. Even at church you see girls as young as seven or eight wearing tight miniskirts and high heeled wedges, pre-teens wearing shirts that clearly reveal their growing bodies and teens wearing jeans so low you cringe when they bend over to pick their bibles up off the floor.
It is not okay.
I don't care if everyone else is dressing like Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears. (For the record, one has a criminal record and the other has flashed her privates to the world, been in rehab and lost custody of her children- not exactly the role models I encourage my girls to look up to.)
I don't care if you don't want to be the mean mom who is so "uncool".
I don't care if you think the bible's dictates on modesty are irrelevant in today’s pornographic world.
Nothing changes when we role over and play dead.
These are my children and I will not allow them to be sexualized. Let me say this loud and clear.
Even in a lacy top, tight jeans and heels, they are still three years old (or ten, or twelve or fifteen.)
Our culture has been infiltrated by a playboy mentality. It has torn apart the moral fabric of our society. Teens today have no moral compass. They have nobody to look to that sets an example of modesty, purity and responsibility. Their sports figures are players (in every sense of the world)
Their celebrities act promiscuously and dress either like slobs or street walkers.
Even teen stars, whose primary audience is tweens, pose for suggestive photos in magazine spreads.
Music artists are lowering the standards for not only talent, but behavior as well.
Movies, that ten years ago would have been rated R, are now rated PG-13 and open to the most impressionable young minds.Why have we allowed this?
Why have we allowed ourselves to be bullied into not enforcing our morality on our children? Why have we allowed the media to take over and corrupt the minds of our most precious God-given gifts?

I will never allow Ellie to see a movie that is soft porn disguised as teen entertainment.
I'll be darned if either of my children emulates a talent-less, unfocused, promiscuous celebrity in either dress or action and I'd rather Grainne run around the beach in a diaper than wear a string bikini. (A baby in a diaper is cute. A baby in a string bikini is perverted.)

My children will not grow up expecting to be objectified. They are much more than one dimensional and they will never, ever be sexualized.
They will dress modestly, act virtuously and remain innocent as long as I can manage it.
I will not allow the world to intrude and turn their innocence into immorality, their naïveté into nastiness and their simplicity into sexuality.

You might remember the old song, "Thank heaven for little girls" from the 1958 movie, Gigi. Okay, the plot line is raunchy, some of the characters are creepy and the song leaves a metallic taste in my mouth, but at least they got one thing right. They let the little girls grow up.
The entertainment and fashion industry are overlooking that one important step. Here's an idea... let's let little girls grow up before bombarding them with smut. When they are legal they can decide whether they want to follow in the footsteps of honorable, classy women or become part of the homogenous world of loose morality.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Fresh Idea Friday

Fresh Idea Friday was started by my friend Lisa. It is a terrific way of sharing tips and advice. Today, Lisa thought we should share a favorite recipe source and maybe a recipe. It's no secret I love to cook and bake. I have tons of cookbooks. I love getting new ones and can spend hours reading them. Some of my favorites are Italian Farmhouse Cooking and Food of the world: Greece. Greek and Italian food is my favorite. Not only is the food delicious, but authentic Greek and Italian cooking relies on fresh, usually seasonal produce. The meals are simple and healthy. Served with a bottle of wine and some company, eating Mediterranean food is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. My favorite recipe (and Grainne's, too) is spanakopita (from Food of the World: Greece) It might seem intimidating, but give it a try. It is really very simple to make and keeps beautifully. I normally serve it with a simple salad, hummus with vegetables and some chicken kebobs. It is the perfect summer meal.
Serves 6 (these are really big pieces, though!)
2 Tb olive oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
2 lb fresh spinach leaves, washed or 1 lb 2oz frozen, thawed (I've only ever used fresh)
4 tb chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tb chopped fresh dill
3 beaten eggs
7 oz Greek feta cheese
Salt and pepper
3 1/2 oz butter
8 oz phyllo dough
To make filling, heat oil in saucepan, add onion and fry for 5-10 min (I usually add a couple TB of water- this will keep the onion from burning and the water will evaporate) until softened. Add spinach and cook 2-5 min. until wilted. Remove from heat and let cool. When the mixture has cooled add parsley, dill and eggs. Crumble in cheese, season with salt and pepper and mix well together. Melt butter and use a little to lightly grease a deep 12 by 8 inch pan. Cut pastry sheets in half. Take one sheet and cover remaining sheets with damp dishtowel (to prevent phyllo from drying out- this is very important). Line pan with sheet and brush with a little melted butter. Repeat with half of pastry sheets, brushing each with butter. Spread spinach and cheese filling over pastry, then top with remaining pastry sheets, brushing each with butter and tucking down edges. Using a sharp knife, score top layers of pastry (into as many squares as you want). Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 40 min., until golden brown. Can be served hot or cold.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Recipe for sparkling eyes and wonder


One plastic container
Twigs, sticks, bark (preferably without wood roaches and/or larvae sticking to it)
Fabric leaves
Glitter in various colors (I like the fairy dust glitter. It is much more realistic. After all, these are fairies we are talking about. You need portray them realistically.)
River rocks
Spanish moss
Silk flowers
Squares of felt (I like green (grass), white (snow) and brown (dirt).
Tiny nests and birds (the kind you find at Michaels or Hobby Lobby, not the kind you find in a tree)
Small fairy figures (I went to at least half a dozen store and finally found them at WalMart.)
Elmer’s Glue
Foam fairy hats from Michael's and foam stickers.


Place thin layer of Glue on some of the leaves and cover with green glitter. Let dry.
Pack everything in plastic box.
Allow children to decorate hats.
Take pictures.
Decorate hats with squiggles of glue and cover with various colored glitter.

Allow children to make fairy houses out of contents of plastic box.
Take pictures.



Nets from the elefun game
A willing husband
An accommodating sister

Take children to sister's house to ask instructions on how to find fairies. Good answers would include: Listen for bells, look out for fairy dust, ask cats (because everyone knows cats can tell humans where fairies are), and catch a butterfly (fairies often ride them when they get tired of flying).
While sister is giving you strange looks and repeating your whispered instructions, have husband apply green fairy dust to leaves in backyard. Take kids to backyard and allow them to "find" the fairy dust and exclaim with wonder that this must be where the fairies sleep.
Take pictures.
Have husband shake bells one floor up from kitchen window.
Allow kids to frantically look for the fairy that is teasing them with its tinkling sound.
Tell kids that one year old (the one husband is allowing to shriek from kitchen window) has scared the fairies away.
Take kids through woods behind house. Have an anxiety attack when daughter slides down an embankment and little girl you watch almost steps on a rusty nail.
Point out cat sitting by tree and tell kids to chase it out of woods and ask it where the fairies are.
Smile when daughter does so.
Tell kids you watch that they insulted the cat when they said, "cats don't talk." Now the cat will not talk!
Breathe when kids leave woods.
Take kids up the hill known as Fairy Mountain.
Take pictures.
Call husband from cell phone and tell him to construct a fairy house in front.
Walk around the community and watch the kids insanely try to catch butterflies.
Wave at neighbors.
Tell them you are looking for fairies.
Try not to appear in need of Psycho-somatic drugs.
Take kids home and allow them to "discover" fairy house. Notice that he also sprinkled pink, blue and purple fairy dust around the steps.
Give husband a big kiss.
Allow one year old to try to catch a fairy, too.
Take pictures.
Enjoy the imagination of your children.
Take pictures.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ellie's faith lesson

I woke Saturday morning with a twinge and tightness in my back but didn't want to miss ballet class. Unfortunately, our comfortable, sweet ballet teacher had moved back to Jersey and an overzealous, company dancer had taken her place. Her idea of a beginner's ballet class was like asking Chef Ramsey to teach my husband to cook.
I've had back problems since becoming pregnant with Grainne. One 9 lb. 2 oz. baby, three months of physical therapy and half a dozen very scary chiropractic visits later and I still suffered from sporadic pain.
Ballet has actually helped a lot. I guess the exercise worked. Well, it could be the constant refrain of my teacher pounding in my head all week long. "Suck in you belly! Tuck in your butt! Tighten your thighs! Push back your shoulders! Stick out your chest!"
Nothing beats the desire to look like a ballerina to remind you of your posture.
This past Saturday I was determined to at least master the mechanics of a tour jette. One glance in the wall length mirror assured me it wasn't very pretty but I could work on that later. In the middle of my one thousandth try (I'm slightly prone to exaggeration- don't take that too literally) I did a beautiful pique arabesque, a graceful chasse, a jump, a switch of the legs, a turn...and realized-midair- I should have stopped at my 999th try.
I haven't experienced such excruciating pain since having Grainne (remember-9 lb. 2 oz.) without any medication (again... 9 lb. 2 oz.) and a nurse who was ridiculously inept with needles.
Seriously, I spent all day Saturday popping Tylenol and debating whether or not I should take the last of my codeine (left over from having above 9 lb. 2 oz. baby). Sunday, I required the assistance of my mother to feed, clothe and strap my children into their car seats in order for me to make it to church so I could receive prayer and hopefully healing. Monday I wondered all day why I hadn't received my healing and again debating the codeine question, despite the fact that I needed to be cognizant and not under the influence of drugs because of my desire to not accidentally starve or maim my children. Tuesday (today) I hired a teenage girl from my church to help me with my two and the three I baby-sit. I spent most of the day flat on my back with my legs on a chair and the rest of the day lying over my exercise ball trying (futilely) to remember my physical therapy exercises.
Through this whole trial I received such an incredible blessing though and I honestly am glad it happened. Although, I kind of wished it had happened to Shane because I would have witnessed the following anyway.
My Ellie, who has always been so sensitive to my moods and empathetic when I hurt myself, asked me, "Mommy, does your back still hurt?"
"Yes, sweetheart."
"Can I pray for you?"
"I would love for you to pray for me!"
Ellie than goes to our vanity where we keep a little vial of anointing oil. We aren't really that spiritual, I just tossed it there after our pastor handed them out and exhorted us to pray for the people at the hospitals.
"Mommy, I need to put that on your back."
Where in the world did she learn to anoint people?
We pray as a family. I pray for her when she is hurt. We pray first thing in the morning and before bed, but we have never used anointing oil. (Sorry Rex. I promise, one day I really will attempt to cause a stir at Mercy hospital. Maybe when I can walk again.)
Maybe, in between her two dozen trips to the potty, her insistence for her snack and her desire to run around the sanctuary like a screaming, locked up monkey she absorbed the importance of anointing people with oil.
Shane put a little oil on her little fingertip. She pulled up the back of my shirt, asked me where it hurt and placed her sticky hand on my lower back.
"Dear Lord Jesus," she prayed, "Please thank you for Mommy's back. Thank you for making Mommy's back all better. Amen"
Wow. That's how we are supposed to pray for healing. No screaming, yelling, begging or whining.
Thank you Lord for your blessing. Thank you Lord for your healing. The end. Short, sweet, simple. No pretense, no excess. Honestly, it was the most powerful, healing prayer I've heard in a long time.
As Christians we sometimes think we need to embellish things. Make it more exciting and interesting. We want to make everything seem more important. We are not content to be simple. We are not comfortable with the basics.
Well, Ellie taught me something. I like to talk about "the faith of a child" but I have trouble putting it into action. How many times have you prayed for someone by thanking the Lord, than simply asking for a blessing?

"Thank you, Lord for my job. Please, help me pay my mortgage."
"Thank you, Lord for my mind. Please, heal me of depression."
"Thank you, Lord for my wife. Please, heal our relationship."

Matthew 7:7 says, "Ask and it will be given to you..."
Matthew 21:22 says, "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
Mark 11:24 says, "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you."

Ellie keeps asking me, "Mommy, does you back still hurt?"
When I say "Yes, honey" she looks confused and asks, "Why?"
She fully believed when she prayed for me I was going to be healed. What she doesn't realize is that I didn't believe. Oh, I believe God could heal me but I didn't really believe he would. I've always been too pragmatic, too realistic and down to earth to deep down believe that.
But, now? Well, I'm tired of being in pain. I'm tired of worrying that I will suffer the rest of my life. I'm tired of trying everything but God. I've also become a little bit tired of being shown up by my three year old daughter in the faith department.
So, I'm sitting here on the floor, trying to ignore the pain and I've decided something.
I'm going to pray.
"Dear Jesus. Thank you for my back. Please, heal my back. Amen."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Raising swiss chard kids in an Oreo world.

Despite the title of this blog it is not a food blog. Although, there will be a few blogs with an emphasis on food, it is primarily a blog on practical parenting.
I'm not an expert. I don't have a PhD or MD or any letters after my name. I am, however, a mom. Which makes me a bit of an expert in the raising of my children at least.
Let's face it, though. Children are children. Children in America, Germany, India, China and Africa are still children. When you give an inch they will take a mile. When you submit YOUR will, they will take over and rule the world (or at least your home). When you give in to one temper tantrum, they will sprout horns, carry a pitchfork and gleefully make your life a living...well, you get the point.
In the nearly four years I have been a parent I have noticed a few things that cause me pause.
One, for some reason (and I have my ideas about those reasons) parents are loathe to make rational, down to earth, practical decisions regarding the discipline and parenting of their children.
Two, American's have formed a new religion- the cult of the child.
Three, because of number one and two, our children are generally rude, disagreeable, prone to ridiculous outbursts, defiant, disrespectful and have the manners of an orangutan. That's just the preschoolers. Teens, once on the precipice of adulthood, are now just toddlers that can drive and date (scary).

I have seen grown, professionals cower before the wrath of a toddler denied a cinnamon sugar Auntie Anne's pretzel. Parents today run to the latest parenting guru's (usually childless) and eat up all the psycho drivel that pours from the pages of their shiny, paperback books. They read Star magazine so they can mirror the parenting prowess of the stars (and if three year olds sucking bottles and five year olds demanding Gucci is your thing, I suggest to find another blog) and they are so afraid of hurting their child's self esteem that they are loathe to give so much as a time out. For the record, after the millionth three minute time out on the naughty step a three year old will learn she will eventually be set free. I recommend changing it up a bit. How about a two hour time out in the bedroom one day and gleefully putting every beeping, singing, china-made toy in time out the next.
There is so much focus on the children these days we forget that in a few years these kids will be adults and they won't know what to do with the loss of attention. Ask any married couple with kids when the last time was that they went out on a date, let alone a vacation (sans children) and you will see that the majority are terrified of leaving their kids. If the adults do get a date they inevitably spend their time talking about...you guessed it, the kids. Now, I adore my children. They are two of the most important things in the world to me. I miss them when I am away and love to be with them. However, I don't feel guilty about going out alone with my husband- even when Grainne (my 17 month old) is standing at the door, clutching her baby, with tears rolling down her cheeks, screaming "Mommy! Mommy!" I go to ballet lessons twice a week and don't bat an eye when Ellie (my three year old) begs me to take her with me. "Mommy, I want to be with yoooooouuuuu!" she will cry. Well, mommy wants to be alone for two hours. See you in the morning.
Children are masters of emotional manipulation. If I followed Darwin's line of thinking, I would say it was natural selection at its best. I can picture a cave woman able to feed only one child and trying to choose between two. Which one will it be? The stoic one that is emotionally distant or the big eyed one whose lips quiver and arms wrap around cave daddy's neck?
Since I am more a creationist type I'll just chalk it up to every person's (and yes, I mean children too!) sinful nature.
We've established that today's parents have lost their spine and today's children are doing what comes natural. Let's discuss point three. When I was a missionary in India I noticed something about the children. The children, before every church service, would gather at the front of the auditorium. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of them. They would sit, cross-legged, on the hard concrete (if they were lucky) or dirt (if they weren't) floor. The pastor would get up and speak for HOURS. Indian pastors are much for brevity...or the after church rush to Applebee's (they really don't care if the Baptists get the best seats.) So, you have a very large group of children. All ages, from toddling one year olds to lanky fourteen year olds. And you know what? You wouldn't hear a peep. After my first few church services I was curious. I was a children's minister, after all, and I wondered if it was some genetic mutation or tranquilizers slipped into the curry.
It was neither. The motivating factor behind the children's good behavior was the man walking up and down the aisle with a long stick. A whisper, a giggle, nodding off, even a nervous twitch and this guy would reach his stick out and, WHACK, across the shoulder it would fall.
I'm not advocating smacking children in church (although, I've been tempted a couple times to swing my praise flag in a wide arc and knock bratz dolls from the hands of the five year olds playing teenager behind me). What I am advocating, is teaching our children that there are repercussions to bad behavior. I know. I know. I'm not supposed to say bad. Hush. That is a very bad word. I'm also not aloud to say no, because I said so, wait until your father comes home or "If you hit your sister with your stick pony one more time I am going to send pony to the dog food factory". But, I have said all those things. And you know what? People constantly comment on how well behaved, well mannered and obedient my children are. I've made a ton of mistakes parenting but at least I do it. Parent, that is.
So many parents today are afraid to draw the line. They are afraid of offending modern parenting experts. They are afraid their children will call CPS if they deny them dessert because they didn't eat their dinner. They are afraid of the collective "them" judging them unfit and unloving. Here's the thing. Why should we parent from fear? Your children won't hate you if you have rules. They won't grow up to be maladjusted sociopaths unable to show love because you punished them. And despite what most of the "experts" in America (and most of the population of Denmark) think, your kids self esteem shouldn't be your first priority. Their ability to grow into productive, compassionate, responsible adults should be.

So, what's up with the whole Swiss chard thing? That's simple. In a country where most kids consider sugar to be a food group, my children love Swiss chard. They dance for it, actually. No joke. Grainne does the seventies pointing finger thing when she gets a bite of that green goodness. Why do my children love Swiss chard (and asparagus, hummus, kale, and spanikopita)? 'Cause they have no choice at dinner. They learned very young that mom is not a short order cook and I will not feel bad if they go to bed hungry because they didn't like what I made. They are not always allowed to have cake and ice cream at parties. We don't have cookies in the house and they think an apple with almond butter is dessert. I know parents who give their kids Oreo's (really, I'm not picking on Oreo's) because they won't eat their chicken. Well, my kids don't have that option. They eat their Swiss chard because they have to. Why?
Because I said so.