Thursday, January 26, 2012

Little Miss Over-Achiever

I am always amazed at how different our three children are [from each other].  They each have their own gifts and talents, and I have to say that they really are great kids, but they're so different!  I also find it fascinating to see little glimpses and idiosyncrasies of Rob and I in their personalities.  In many ways, though, they are uniquely their own. 

Kate is a prime example.  First of all, she's a paradox for a middle child - she doesn't just kind of disappear on the mix.  She's strong-willed, intense, and a leader.  She's also brilliant, driven, and an over-achiever.  Rob and I had the luxury of kind of "skating" through school.  We did the bare minimum.  We were able to do well while putting forth the least effort.  This kind of attitude doesn't perform well in today's schools (and that's probably a good thing). 

So, when Kate came home a few weeks ago and showed me her extra credit project, I was secretly thinking two things in my head -
1. Where did she come from?
2.  I wonder if you're allowed to do an extra credit project when you already have an A+?
And, the girl doesn't procrastinate - again, nothing like Rob or myself. 

The project was to build something with a small motor.  Enter my dad.  The man is a mechanical genius.  All I had to do was give him the list of materials.  The project worked, it was handed in a week early, and all is well in our little girl's world. 

I wish she gave lessons.  I want to be her when I grow up.

Baked Coconut Oatmeal

I am not a bandwagon type of girl.  I'm more of a "I'm not going to do specifically because everyone else is".  But, sometimes I get sucked in, too.  I was on Pinterest and found this recipe for a single-serving baked oatmeal that "tastes just like an almond joy".  Vegan.  Healthy.  Oooeey, goooey. 

So, I made it. 

looks yummy, doesn't it?

So, as my oatmeal was baking, I was busy cleaning my house.  As the aroma filled my increasingly cleaner house, I was convincing myself that my attitudes about vegan baking were already changing.  Now, I should preface this by saying that I fudged a little on the ingredients (using milk).  Also, I'm pretty sure I have a sinus infection, so my smell and taste are a little off.  After snapping a few quick picks, I covered my "almond joy oatmeal" with some milk and dug in.  Not good my friends, not good at all. 

It was okay - not the worst thing I've ever made, but I think I'll just stick with good "old-fashioned ingredients" (butter, sugar, dairy, unbleached all-purpose flour).  We are very blessed to not suffer from any food allergies or digestive issues - so this makes my decision easier.  I have tried [one too many times] to make our baked goods healthier.  I'm sorry everyone - you will will not find beets, agave, semolina flour, or anything unusual hiding in my baking recipes.  I feel like when I bake for my family, I want it to be a treat - a splurge, a reward for eating a healthy dinner. 

I'm back off the bandwagon - that I was on for the 25 minutes my oatmeal was baking. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hog Maw

Brace yourselves.....

Since the thermometer reads 18 degrees Fahrenheit here on this side of the world, we've been eating lots of hearty fare.  This week we've enjoyed roasted chicken, beef stew, and soup. 

Then there was this little gem.  We invited my parents over for dinner and ate a pig's stomach.  What?  I told you to brace yourself.

If I thought anyone would actually make this, I'd share the recipe.  Anyone?

But, look how delicious it looks after it's cooked all afternoon.

Okay, you're right - it still looks disgusting.  Would you trust me if I said it really was delicious?

Here's the story:  hog maw is what this little delight is called in our corner of the world.  Basically, you use the maw (or the actual pig's stomach) as a way to house all of the comfort foods unique to our area.  I stuff mine with chopped potatoes, onions, carrots, fresh sausage, and stuffing (like the kind you put in a turkey).  We kind of love it.  Some people make gravy to pour over the hog maw, my mom prefers horseradish, we like ketchup.  My dad is the only person I know that actually eats the maw.  Coincidentally, a classmate of Kate's was also having hog maw last Saturday night, and a local church was serving it for a fundraiser.  So, see - we're not that weird.  Right?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Creamy Feta Dip

this dip is so good, so garlicky, so creamy, and so addicting! 

The recipe is basic, with easy to find ingredients.  All you'll need to do is put the ingredients into your food processor or blender and process until smooth! This recipe is courtesy of a spicy perspective.  Check out the original post here. 

Creamy Feta Dip with roasted red peppers

  • 1 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ lb. whole milk ricotta
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 Tb. fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 Tb. dried oregano
  • 1+ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 large roasted red pepper (jarred in fine)
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • Pita bread, cut into wedges or pita chips
  • Kalamata olives as garnish


  1. Using a food processor, pulse the feta, ricotta, garlic, oil, lemon juice, herbs and crushed red pepper together until smooth.
  2. Drain and dice the roasted red pepper.
  3. Scoop the mixture into a bowl. Fold in the red pepper and ground black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. To serve, drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil on top and serve with pita wedges and olives.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12

MOTE Aquarium

MOTE Marine Laboratory was on our list of "educational activities" during our recent trip to Florida.  We had driven by the research facility/aquarium many times on our way to Sarasota and finally decided that we should spend the day there (plus, we had to justify an educational absence to our school!).  Usually when we visit Florida, it's very hot, so the temperate weather was a bonus.  We decided to combine our tour of the facilities with a boat tour of the bay, an "eco-tour" is how the brochure described it. 

From what we were able to observe (and read about MOTE), the laboratory is world-class.  They are the only research facility in the US with a congressionally-appointed shark research program. 

first we toured the "aquarium portion of MOTE"

we loved the touch tanks!

Emma's favorite was the stingray pool

we stopped on a small uninhabited island in Sarasota Bay (see how much taller Josh is than me?)

on the boat, our on-board biologist showed us several native species of marine life

many different crabs live in the bay

and urchins

on on-board biologist

this hideous thing was a batfish (he had legs and fins)

We really enjoyed our time at MOTE.  If you have the chance, it's totally worth your time to take a peek at what's lying beneath the surface of the Florida waterways!

At Mote, you can explore the secrets of the sea through touch pools, viewable-working labs and high-tech interactive exhibits that showcase the world-renowned research of Mote Marine Laboratory. See sharks, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles, along with more than 100 other species of marine life.(from their website)

1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy
Sarasota, FL 34236
(941) 388-4441

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Plesscher's Orange Grove

Even though I've been vacationing in the same town in Florida since 1988 (and, no, there will not be any photographical evidence), we try to discover new things with each visit.  This past visit, we left for Bradenton, Florida on December 27, leaving at 4:00 am with my mother and father-in-law.  After a 16-hour drive, we arrived! 

Two of the places we discovered during this last trip were the MOTE Aquarium in Sarasota, and Plesscher's Orange Grove.  We also visited the Lake Manatee State Park, and I'll share some really cool pictures later in the week! 

One of the many special things about visiting Florida in the winter is the abundance of produce.  We also visited a farmer's market and I can't wait to show you some of the pictures!  I tried to read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and while I want to agree with her - I just found myself hungry for fruit throughout the whole first half.  All I know is that produce tastes even better when you're visiting a more temperate climate.  The citrus and tomatoes alone make a 16-hour drive totally necessary. 

But, back to the orange grove.  Plesscher's is located about 40 minutes outside of Bradenton and run by Eugene Plesscher (we deduced that he's 84 years old).  He and his wife bought the property in 1960 and planted citrus trees, finally harvesting three years later. 

We picked 4 bushels of citrus.  Ruby red grapefruits, navel oranges, and tangelos.  A five-gallon bucket cost $8.  And the taste - holy moly, that fruit is to die for. 

The Plesscher's even have an honor system - if they're not home when you get there, just put your money in the slot. 

As the season progresses, they'll be growing honeybells, white grapefruits, and valencias, to name a few.  We had such a great time, and the bonus was that we'll be enjoying our citrus for several weeks!  I just love exploring areas we're already familiar with - especially when it involves food!

Eugene was giving me a lesson in how to pick navels

we stocked up on honey, too! 

If you happen to be in the Bradenton area, go check out Plesscher's -

Phone: 941-322-2030
3350 Highway 675
(County Road 675 East, 1/2 mi south of State Road 64)
Bradenton 34211

Monday, January 9, 2012

Highlights From Christmas

We had a really nice time celebrating Christmas with our families.  The one unfortunate thing about Christmas weekend is that I had a cold, which rarely happens with me.  I lost my voice (Rob called it a Christmas miracle), and lost my appetite.  I've just discovered that when I don't have an appetite (mostly due to being hopped up on cold meds) I can't cook worth a darn.  Like seriously.  Everything I tried to cook turned into a colossal failure.  So, nothing to report on that front.  Sorry. 

We did start a really fun family tradition, though.  This idea is something I borrowed from another blogger.  Every year we buy each of our kids several small presents and then one "big" present.  In the past, Rob made up something silly about "just finding one more present", "Santa must have forgotten to put these under the tree", etc.  So, this year, each of our kids received clues, leading to the next clue, until they finally found their "big present".

Emma was our first participant

then Kate

this picture totally describes their excitement for each other

Josh looking for his last clue, wrapped in a dollar bill

and, success - skis and boots!

Kate with her bitty twins, Wesley and Macy

Emma with her Barbie dollhouse

We celebrated Christmas Eve with Rob's side of the family and Christmas Day with my family.  I'll share some pictures - it was a really special time, and splitting the time up made our holidays even more relaxed and meaningful!

First up - Christmas Eve Day at the in-laws.  Presents, family time, and brunch!

our little fashionista

reading the Christmas story, from the book of Luke

Papa Peter with Wesley and Malachi

Natalie, our fashionista in training

still no voice, but wearing an Emma-approved outfit


Nana Putz, Jeremy, and baby Malachi (and Jess hiding in the background)

Travis and Wesley

 Sorry for the less than stellar lighting - unfortunately our camera does not do well in artificial lighting.  Even though all of the previous pictures suggest we all have jaundice... we, in fact, do not! :) 

Christmas Day at my parents house

my sis and the vintage brooch we found for her!

Josh and his new dirtbiking  boots

my mom, the hostess with the mostest

our dinner, beef tenderloin

Emma and "buddy", her baby that loves stuffing balls

our little Kate!

the hit of the day - "just dance 3"

Josh on his "new" hand-me-down laptop

me - smiling at my hubby :)
I hope you were able to celebrate with your family during this holiday season!  I can't wait to share another year with all of you - hopefully there will be lots more good food, family fun, traveling, and getting to know all of you a bit better!  Happy New Year.