Pea and Bacon Salad 

½ head iceburg lettuce
½ pound bacon, fried, drained and crumbled
1 package frozen peas
Tsp sugar
Shredded cheddar cheese

Wash lettuce in icy water and break into bite size pieces. Place in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Evenly distribute peas and crumbled bacon over top. Sprinkle with sugar.
Now – the dressing I didn’t give exact measures for because I do it different every time. So start with about ¾ cup of mayo, a tablsepoon or so of oil and a dash of vinegar. If you like a little more dressing adjust. Spread over lettuce and top with shredded cheddar cheese.

This is better if it sits in the fridge for a few hours. Hope  you love it, too!

Laundry - from 5/1/12

. . . continued (did you know that about vinegar?? I didn't - great tip, Elizabeth!)
I hope you all know how to sort your laundry. My husband did not know how to do this, and was a bachelor for ten years. When I married him, all his clothes were a shade of grey, drab blue, or olive green. My catagories are: lights, darks, reds, whites, bath towels, cleaning rags.
Load Size
Always wash a full load if possible. The machine does use lots of water, and the difference in the amount of water being used in a medium and high load is negligable. Whites and kitchen towels are the only two loads I run on less that "grande," because we don't have very many, and I can't combine them with anything else. (I guess if I used all white kitchen towels, then I could combine..... hmmmm.) Oh, and turn off the second rinse; total waste of water.
Water Temperature
Always set the water temperature to cold or cool, to save costs on heating water. Hot water is only necessary if you are using bleach.
I don't use fancy soap. In fact, my next adventure will be to make my own laundry soap. I have the recipe from my latest edition of Natural Home and Garden, and I will let you know how that turns out. I try to avoid the scented varieties (do you know how many different "scents" there are in your laundry room? Just take a wiff as you walk down that isle at the store. My word, such sensory overload must lead to migraines); I also don't use a soap that has added softeners or bleaches. I try to stay away from as many harmful chemicals as possible. I use Whole Foods store brand "365" unscented powder in the box. Most manufacturers tell you to use more than necessary so you will run out more quickly, and have to buy more! If you are not washing children's dirty clothing, or your husband's gardening clothes (do those seperately!), then you only need half to three quarters of what the directions recommend.
Fabric Softener
Oh my goodness, that stuff smells! But if you like it, go for it. I have learned that vinegar does the same thing for pennies compared to commercial softeners, so now I use it instead. And no, my clothes don't smell like vinegar! (I must confess, I do use it on my sheets. I discovered a brand at the mexican grocery store that I love to smell on my sheets. It's called Ensueno "baby.")
A note about towels. Fabric softener coats your clothes, or towels, with a layer of slippery stuff. That's how it controls cling. (And it probably rubs off on your skin, too, but I won't go there.) The coating prevents towels from absorbing water. If you want your bath towels to actually suck up the water on your body as you rub it against your wet skin after a shower or bath, then do not use softener when washing towels! Join the club; just use vinegar.
"Color" Bleach
What a raquet! Bleach is a very strong chemical, whether it is designed for colors or not. It is very hard on your clothes, and once it is on your clothes, it will be on your body. Would you take a bath in bleach? Not only does vinegar soften clothes, it also brigtens colors. If you don't use it any other time, use it in your dark load. It helps keep your blacks from fading. I use store brand, cheap ole bleach in my white load only, and even that is not every time I wash.
Here's where it gets interesting. The difference between "heavy," "regular," and "delicate" is the amount of time spent aggitating during the cycle. Aggitating is designed to remove heavy soiling. If you are washing your work clothes (and you are not a mechanic) then they are probably not very "dirty." Aggitating weakens the fibers in the cloth, and should be used as little as possible. The water and the soap will get most clothes clean. Most loads (even jeans if not heavily soiled) can be washed on delicate. The delicate cycle, at least in my machine, aggitates for a period, then rests, then aggitates again, then rests. Like I said before, it's the soap and the water that do most of the cleaning. Keep your washer on the delicate cycle for longer lasting clothes. 
The Dryer
I think this is the biggest energy waster in the house. Yes, I have one, and yes, I use it every time I do laundry; but sparingly. The high heat of the dryer is devasting to the fibers in most clothes, particularly synthetics, and it is absolutely lethal to elastics and spandex. The dryer's heat is the reason the elastic in your socks goes limp! I have a five foot closet rod on the wall opposite my washer and dryer. Rather than "line" dry, I "hang" dry most of our clothes. Here is my routine for the dryer.
As the clothes come out of the washer, I sort those that will take a tumble from those that do not need it. A tumble in the dryer for a few minutes helps to remove wrinkles caused by the spinning in the washer. (Shirts in particular can benefit from a tumble. Jeans, underwear, and other items that may look wrinkled as they hang will quickly smooth out as soon as you put them on and wear them for a few minutes.) Then I start the dryer on the "normal" setting. While it is tumbling, I put on hangers and hang on the rod those items that did not require tumbling. When I am done doing that, I open the dryer, and hang those items on the rod. The next day, I take the T-shirts down and fold them, along with anything else that we do not store on a hanger.
I confess, I do dry sheets and towels. Sheets are large, and I do not have a good place to dry them, and towels get "crunchy" if you let them air dry, and I like them soft and fluffy. I could dry sheets outside, I suppose, but it gets hot here in Texas, and the sun's bleaching power is very strong. I prefer to dry indoors.
So there you have it. A slightly obsessed woman's guide to chemical-free, energy-saving, clothes-preserving laundry. May your clothes live a longer, healthier, happier life!

Homemade Croutons


You know that bread recipe I posted last week? Well, sometimes you just can’t eat the whole loaf before it begins to go stale on you. It’s good toasted the next morning. If you have some excellent jam on hand all the better. But for the third or fourth day here’s a great way to use the remains of the loaf.

Cut your leftover bread into chunks leaving some crust on each piece if you can.

½ stick butter
2 tablespoons (or so) olive oil (I had some garlic flavored – mmm)
Adjust the butter and oil depending upon how much bread you have left
Salt to taste

Add ins – these are mine, but you go ahead and experiment

Garlic – dried or a few cloves to flavor the butter and oil
Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil together in a large pan on the stove.

Swirl pan and flip chunks as they brown.

Oven at 250 or so
Place croutons on cookie sheet and ‘dry’ in the oven to your liking. Fifteen minutes should do it.

You can skip the oven part if you want, but we like ours crispy.

Here's what you wind up with. Why can't I ever get the corners of the dang cookie sheet clean??

Okay, does this look better?

Now – You can freeze these in a snug little plastic bag. Or you can keep them 'snugged' in the fridge for up to a week. Of course they’re great on salads but they’re absolutely wonderful in split pea soup – even canned. Oh - and they're each about 700 calories - Ha! Think of all that butter they've just soaked up. I'm kidding, of course.


Hamburger Soup

1 lb. ground beef
5 cups water
1 16 oz. can tomatoes (or your own that you put up from your excellent garden)
2 medium onions chopped
2 medium carrots sliced
2 stalks celery chopped
1/3 cup barley
1/4 cup catsup (I actually make my own, but use store bought 'cause my own is too good for soup)
1 Tbs. instant beef granules (chicken works as well)
2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 bay leaf (it really does add something)
Salt and pepper to taste

Kitty suggests throwing in any leftover veggies you may have kicking around in the fridge. So - brown your ground beef with the onions. Add the water and other ingredients. Simmer until veggies are tender or let it go for longer so the house fills with the incredible aroma this stuff puts off. It makes a big pot so invite people off the street like it says in the Bible. Or not. They might have to beat your family off first so use your discretion. And do let me know if you want the bread recipe. Enjoy! (oh - and remove the dang bay leaf or it could slit your throat - then how would you - Enjoy!)



Freezer Boy

Thunk…thunk…..thunk..thunk. Brandon’s head smacked the bottom stair. One step backwards to avoid his sister’s jabbing fingers and he was a goner. They exchanged lightning bolt looks as he felt a stab of pain over his eye.

     “Mom!” Brandon yelled, “Bonnie pushed me!”

     “I only touched him with one finger,” Bonnie yelled back.

     “Did not! You pushed me!”

     “One finger, lunkhead, one finger!”

     Their mother was there instantly, like she’d shot up through the floor.

     “You two! Argghhh!” she said, bending down to examine the rising goose egg on Brandon’s forehead. “Don’t move, kiddo, I’ll be right back”.

      Uh oh, he thought, one dreaded Frozen Vegetable Cure …coming up!

      Bonnie trotted down the stairs and looked at his lump. “You fell all by yourself Brandon,” she hissed.

      Brandon winced as his mother returned with the two for a dollar bag of frozen corn.

      “Aw mom, it doesn’t hurt!” he lied.
     “Ice the bump and you won’t get a lump,” she said. To his horror she taped it on with a big hunk of masking tape. “That’ll be ten minutes on the couch, buster!”

      Bonnie lurked behind them, ready to defend herself. “I didn’t push him mom, he stepped back too far.”

     Her mother turned, raising an eyebrow. “Young lady you have a room to clean, so hop to it. See what fooling around gets you?” She tapped her foot and watched Bonnie climb the stairs and then retreated to the kitchen.

      Brandon flopped down on the couch. He felt like an idiot. If he could wring his sisters’ scrawny neck he’d feel much better.

      Dink…dink… …dink-a-dink. A little red ball bounced down the stairs. Bonnie the Brat was at it again. Brandon shot up from the couch and grabbed the little ball. He crept to the bottom of the stairs and snuck up, like a stalking tiger, taking them two at a time. At the top he caught a glimpse of Bonnie’s backside and took aim. Whack! Got her!

     “Mom!” she shrieked, tearing after him.

      Brandon turned whip fast and bolted down. The bag of corn slipped over his eyes and blinded him on the last two stairs. He over shot them and ….ka-wham! Right on his knees. Ow, ow, oh man! He heard his mother’s heels clacking. Get back to the couch, get back to the couch! But he was glued to the floor with jelly for knees.

     “Now what?” cried his mother, rounding the corner. “I told you to lie down!” When she saw his scrunch face, however, she helped him back to the couch. “It’s a good thing I went shopping today,” she said, turning on her heel.

     Bonnie sat on the bottom stair puffing out her cheeks. “You better really be hurt Brandon, you faker,” she said, peering closely at him. “One of these days I’m gonna clobber you!”

    Brandon made his closet monster face as his mother reappeared with two bags of frozen peas.

     “Mom!” he cried. “I’m gonna look like….. freezer boy or something!”

     She paid no attention. Whipping out the masking tape she wrapped each knee.

    “Stay!” she ordered and glared at Bonnie who turned to go back upstairs. As soon as her mother was out of sight, she backed down two steps.

     “If it hadn’t rained so hard this morning,” she grumbled, “ I’d be outside instead of stuck in here with you… freezer boy!” She stomped back up.

     “Buffalo butt!” he snapped, grabbing the television remote from the coffee table. The corn was melting and the bag kept slipping. He clicked, he shoved, he clicked, he shoved. Only four more minutes to go he thought.

     Bzzzt…the doorbell.  
    Brandon sat up straight. Who could that be? He twisted around to see out the window behind the couch. It was his buddy Rich wearing his football helmet and….something else. Brandon ducked down. There was no way Rich was going to see freezer boy. He’d laugh his head off. Aack! Too late, his mother was at the door in less than half a minute. 
     “Come on in, Rich,” she said in her chirpy Mom voice. Brandon rolled his eyes. His knees throbbed as he put his feet on the floor. Rich stepped into the room and went all bug-eyed when he saw his friend.

      “What happened to you?” asked Rich.

     “What’s under your helmet?” asked Brandon.

      Rich removed the helmet carefully. A pink and black bandana was wrapped around his head and the whole left side looked lumpy. His mother’s double-dreaded cure was a frozen veggie burger. “My little brother clonked me in the head with his bottle,” he said, grinning to show his missing front teeth. “I’ve got two more minutes to go.”

     Now the day seemed brighter. Brandon looked at his mother. “Are my ten minutes up yet?”

   “Yes indeed,” she said, sighing. “And it’s drying up out there. I think you’ll live freezer boy. Go on outside with Rich.”

    “Alright!” Brandon shouted as the bag of corn slid down his face. When he stood up the peas on his knees dropped all soggy to his ankles.

     Bonnie hooted from the top of the stairs. “Hey! It’s doofus and dork!”

     Brandon and Rich grinned at each other, looked up at her and gave a little salute.

     “All right everybody, go outside!” said their poor mother.

     And they did. 

Prologue to a Review

Let me start by telling you that although it was painful to read this book, I am thankful that I did.  I GET IT.  I really do understand where Sam Harris is coming from in his arguments and he asks some very challenging and fair questions.  There are many things in the Bible that don’t make sense to me and I wrestle with it all the time.  At times I have felt that the message of Jesus is absolutely ludicrous.   I’ve even questioned my faith and have wondered whether or not I even believe in God. I have a Buddhist friend who has challenged me to think more deeply about my beliefs and has brought me to place of questioning.  It hasn’t been easy.  In fact it’s downright scary and uncomfortable for me to doubt what I have always believed to be true, but that’s how we grow.  Our brains are miraculous and have the capacity to do so much more than we sometimes allow.  We should use them to their best ability.  I don’t want to believe in anything (let alone God) just because my surrounding culture has indoctrinated me.  I want to make my own choices.

If you are interested I’ve written out my reaction to Sam Harris below.  I have done this for my own personal benefit, but I offer it to you for the sole purpose of sharing my thought processes.  As I have come to a better understanding of who you are, I hope you might, in turn, better understand me.   Be warned that my reaction is tinged with emotion, but I feel they match the tone of those expressed by Mr. Harris.
I have opinions about every single one of his arguments (some of which were very condescending), but I started with the basic question of whether or not a god exists. It has to start there.  As I search for truth I hope to engage with you.  I would love to hear your opinions.  I have absolutely no desire to convince you of anything or degrade you in any way for what you believe to be true.  I would just enjoy the interaction and dialogue as I seek to grow in understanding and truth.              -Stephanie

Caramel Corn Puff

You will need:
Corn popper or microwave oven
1 quart saucepan
Two large cake pans 9” X 13”
Measuring cups and spoons

15 cups plain popped corn (can be microwave)                           
 1 Cup brown sugar (packed)                 
 ½ Cup butter or margarine
 ¼ Cup light corn syrup
 ½ Teaspoon salt
 ½ Teaspoon soda

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Fill each pan with half the popped corn. Heat the sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt on medium-high until bubbly. Stir a few times. Cook for about 4 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in the baking soda until syrup puffs up. Pour on popped corn in each pan and mix quickly with a fork until well coated. Bake for about ½ hour, stirring twice. Remove pans from oven and transfer caramel corn to a large bowl, breaking it up with your fingers as you scoop it carefully from the pan.  

Yummy add-ins:

½ cup toasted pecans and a chocolate drizzle made from ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips and ½ teaspoon of shortening melted in the microwave. Add the nuts while mixing caramel with corn. Use drizzle when corn has cooled.

Image:  digitalart

Romaine Apple Salad

This salad is diet friendly and super delish.

You'll need:

Romaine lettuce             
1/2 Honey Crisp or Pink Lady apple, skin on
Asiago cheese
Poppyseed dressing (lite)

Break off several romaine leaves, wash and tear or cut into bite sized pieces. Place on a lovely plate.
Slice apple over lettuce, shave some cheese off the wedge onto the lettuce and scatter walnuts on top.
Drizzle with poppyseed dressing.

Eat slowly with your big glass of lemon wedge water. You'll thank me for this.

For the Kids

Skip & Snow

By Susan Sundwall

I think I see a shaggy snowman
pushing through the door.
No wait, it’s only Skip, my dog
who’s dripping on the floor!

Oh no! He’s got that certain look
that tells me he will shake
his tail, his rear, his big ol’ head
and what a mess he’ll make!

Oh Great, I think I hear my Mom,
she’ll have a cow, for sure
if I don’t find a way real quick
to dry Skip’s soggy fur.

I hurry, cuz’ it’s melting fast
and Mom has her own laws -
“No dogs allowed inside the house
with crusty iced up paws!”

She’s coming up the basement steps
as Skip stares up at me.
There’s only one thing left to do,
I guess we've gotta flee.

I grab my hat, I grab my coat,
back out the door we run
so Skip can shake the snow away
out in the winter sun.

My Decalogue Diet

This is just for a bit of fun. The Decalogue is more commonly known as the Ten Commandments. Divvied up in Greek - deca is ten, and logue or logos is word. So it's ten words of instruction to live by, figuratively speaking. Anyway, this diet works every time it's tried in earnest and there are a mere ten words to remember.

1. Eat slowly  2. Drink water  3. Weigh daily  4. Chew gum  5. Have dessert

Why it works

Eating slowly increases your enjoyment of whatever you're eating, like that yummy calzone, and you're less likely to overeat.

Drinking water helps you feel full (and somewhat sloshy).

Weighing daily - make sure you do this - is a great visual reminder. On the days that sucker goes down you will be flying!

Chewing gum cleans the crud out of your teeth, freshens your breath, and gives a little bit of sweetness. And the flavors gum comes in now is vast! Treat yourself to several packs and keep them everywhere.

Have dessert because it will help curb your other cravings knowing you have something sweet waiting for you. Just don't overdue it!

Hope it works for you.