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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fried Apples

This summer, after years of talk (all talk!), the Husband and I finally took action and subscribed to a multi-farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Every week the Bear and I drive downtown and pick-up our share of locally grown fruit, vegetables, and herbs. We also get a dozen eggs, a half gallon of milk, and a rotating staple item.
I’m glad we decided to do this despite the resulting: 
  1. Challenges: the preparation is rather time consuming and the weekly rate does not match dollar for dollar what I could get at the supermarket; 
  2. Failures: the Husband and I agree that no amount of salt or butter will ever make spaghetti squash appeal to us!; and 
  3. Weekly Temptation to Prepare Butter-Laden Pastries: including, apple crisp, peach cobbler, sorghum pie, and buttermilk biscuits...(none of which fit in with my intentions to eat less and drop a few pounds).
We have certainly enjoyed the summer harvest and remain confident that the fall will bring more than what we’ve seen in the past few weeks: squash, squash, squash. (At present I have five acorn squash in my pantry...Yikes!) 
A couple weeks ago our subscription included the saddest bunch of bad apples I have ever encountered. I felt guilty every time I spotted them (pun intended, of course), because I had a feeling that the next time I cleaned out the fridge they would be bound for the trash. At the next pick up I received a second bag of these gnarly little guys, (which by the way are called Arkansas Black Apples). Now I had two bags, totaling four pounds.What could I do?

Arkansas Black Apples

That weekend I had dinner with a friend who subscribes to the same CSA.
“What have you done with the sad, spotted apples?” I asked, almost certain she was contemplating the trash bin like me.
“I cored them, cut them in rings, and fried them,” she said. “The baby loved them!”
(Ah, girlfriends...they always have all the answers!)
A few days later I tried it for myself. Here’s what happened:

First, I diced the apples. 

Coring apples is one of my least favorite kitchen tasks (even though I own a corer, peeler, dicer gadget), so rings were out of the question for me. Additionally, my final product would have been much better if I had peeled the apples, but I knew this step would add at least 30 minutes to my prep time, which was out of the question because I had already spent nap time making Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup for dinner and knew the Bear could wake up at any minute.

Obviously, I cut out all the yucky parts. 

And thankfully, I encountered no worms, or parts of worms, or worm corpses of any sort (although I know they had to have been there at some point!).
My friend had mentioned that her recipe called for lemon juice, but none of the recipes I found listed lemon juice as an ingredient. I added it anyways; lemon juice prevents the flesh of the apple from browning, and I had a bag of lemons in the fridge. Other ingredients included butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

The recipe I consulted was the top Google hit for "fried apples" from I modified it just a bit:

SouthernFood.About. com says:
Librarian @ Home says:
8 medium Granny Smith apples, chopped
4 lbs. gnarly, spotted Arkansas Black apples diced (about 6 cups, once the rotten parts were removed)

Juice of one lemon (about 2 T)
1/4 c butter
3 T butter 
(Shhh! Don’t tell The Husband, but I usually cut the butter, knowing I can add more later if needed).
1/2 c brown sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar 
(Again, I cut back, knowing I can add more later).
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Dice apples, (peeling if desired), and toss in bowl with lemon juice.
Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are tender.
Yes, with one note: the Arkansas Black Apples probably needed to cook longer than 20 minutes. The skins were quite tough, but I was afraid the flesh would become too mushy, so I took them off the heat after about 25 minutes.
Serve as a side dish for pork or with breakfast.
Serve to your toddler on a plate with a fork or mixed with baby cereal for breakfast. Can also be served with ice cream. (Just don’t tell The Bear about the ice cream, okay?)
Serves 6.
Serves 4: Mama Librarian 2x, The Bear 2x, (which is really the equivalent of 1x), and The Husband 1x. 

The next time I make fried "Arkansas Black" apples, I will definitely add all the sugar, because these were a little tart. I'll also consider peeling the apples, because, as I mentioned above the skins were a little tough. Still, all my efforts plus a dollop of ice cream turned my bad apples into something pretty good!

And that certainly beats a trip to the trash bin! 

Jaelithe, the L@H

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Golden Rule of Housework

I learned the most important thing I know about housework from the Husband.

Little does the Husband know, over the years he has reinforced what I now consider the golden rule of housework. It is the key to staying on top, and most definitely, the first step to domestic peace of mind.

The Husband’s all important secret is this: “Put your stuff away.”

I’m a little embarrassed to admit the numerous times I have heard this statement (or some variation of it) from the Husband. Many times he hasn’t said anything at all, resorting instead to a more passive aggressive tactic that goes something like this: He cleans up; then I stumble in a few minutes later and find all my stuff stuffed into closets and drawers.

“Hey,” I cry in disbelief. “I had all this stuff organized into piles. It’s going to take forever to sort through it all again.”

I think this is a logical argument, but you might be able to guess his reply: “ have to put your stuff away!”

Now that I work at home, the Husband and I seldom encounter this scenario. (Maybe he’s given up on me?), but that doesn’t mean his “training” didn’t sink in.

I wish I could say, now that I’m home, all my stuff is put away, but this is not always the case.

Although I like the old proverb “a place for everything, and everything in its place,” it doesn’t always come naturally to me. When stuff slowly starts to clutter the house, I make excuses for it. That stack of papers on the kitchen counter is there because I need to sort through them. My shoes are by the back door because I’m going to wear them out tonight. The vacuum is in the living room because I intend to vacuum tomorrow. (Why should I haul it down to the basement when I’ll just have to haul it back up in the morning?)

The clutter builds, and I start to overlook it. In fact, at times I stop seeing it! And soon something else happens that I cannot see -- but I sure can feel it. I become stuck, blocked, overwhelmed by all that stuff, and it becomes so much harder to dig myself out and get back on top again.

"Jaelithe...put your stuff away!"

Every day has its own rhythm and some days that rhythm might lead me to defer picking up my stuff. Picture it, my house, a couple weeks ago: I went shopping, came home, threw the cold stuff in the fridge and left all the other purchases on the dining room table. (Remember the photo from a previous post

That stuff had to hang out on the table for a while, because as soon as I got home I had to feed the Bear lunch, put her down for a nap, start dinner, pay a few bills, etc., etc. And hey, I’m just glad I was able to take care of the shopping that day because we were running low on milk and I needed nighttime diapers and a gift for an upcoming birthday party.

What I’m trying to say through this illustration is...I try to avoid getting all bent out of shape simply because I have some stuff to pick up. Instead, I make allowances for myself and accept that sometimes a messy house is inevitable.

Nevertheless, I’ve realized that in my house clutter seems to breed more clutter, which can then make me really tired and super unmotivated. When this happens, I make it my goal to put my stuff away asap, because I know from experience that a de-cluttered house tends to energize and motivate me so much more than a cluttered one.

Sometimes I take a look around the house and imagine what the Husband would say: "Jaelithe...until you are going to look at those papers, wear those shoes, run that vacuum...put it all away!"

Truth be told...despite my best intentions, I rarely vacuum “tomorrow” as I’d planned and the vacuum has a way of cluttering up my house for days.

“Oh holy crap, just put it away!”

Stay tuned for more thoughts on stuff, where to put it, and how to convince your spouse/partner/roommate etc. that you really can stay on top of the housework after all...

(Or not. Whatever.)


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Food Issues and Mika Brzezinski

This week I cannot stop thinking about Mika Brzezinski and food issues. 
All Things at OnceBack story: I am hooked on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. I love all the regulars, but Mika is probably my favorite. Before this week, I’ve never googled her or made any attempt to research her bio. Also, I have yet to read her book All Things at Oncewhich came out earlier this year...but I have wanted to read it and now I'm definitely going to add it to my queue...
I love Mika because she is smart, sexy, strong, and so eloquent in her speech. She stands up to those Morning Joe guys and looks great while doing it. She is an outspoken advocate for healthy eating, which has become a running joke on the show. (Those guys are always razzing her about it and she’s always telling them to eat better, exercise more and lose a few pounds. And I’m all...Yeah girl...Someone is finally on my side!

On Monday’s show (Aug. 30) Joe made a comment about all the hate and vitriol that erupted after New York Magazine posted a food journal that Mika kept for the magazine’s
And so, of course, I had to google it later that day. Oh how my spirits sank when I read Mika’s food journal. You can take a look here if you’re interested. But let me just recount what I found to be the most disturbing day of her food blog (Keep in mind, she says she runs an average of 5 miles every day!):

Breakfast: coffee, two Kind granola bars, 4 mugs of hot water.

Lunch: arugula salad with strawberry dressing and some kind of broccoli rabe dish that includes white wine.

Dinner: omelette made from six egg whites, fresh spinach, and a “little bit of cheese -- probably swiss.”

My first reaction to this was: Mika...Seriously? I thought you were an advocate for a healthy diet, not a calorie restriction diet! How can such a vibrant woman run on so little fuel?
My second reaction was: Is this what eating less looks like? God, I hope not!
Ever since the conclusion of pregnancy and breastfeeding, I have been reluctantly confronting the fact that I eat too much. For the most part, I eat really healthy,  but I just need to eat less, (especially less carbs, sugar, and cheese). 
To eat less is one of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules and ever since I watched the documentary Food Inc. and skimmed a few of Pollan's books, I have been thinking about eating less. How would I actually do that? Would I even be able to?
I've never really had to diet to lose weight before. But I have never been as old as I am now (31, if you’re curious).  Lately, I am starting to accept that my only chance to drop the baby weight is to cut back on my food intake. I have about 10 more pounds to lose, but honestly some days I think peach cobbler, buttered toast, and pancakes with maple syrup just might be worth the extra pounds. After all, I am at a healthy weight.
That’s right...I said I’m at a healthy weight, so what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that our culture worships thin women, and I want to be one of those thin women. Does this make me vain? Probably. But I’m sure many of my female readers can relate.
I think my big takeaway from Mika’s food blog is the extent to which it reveals what a thin female celebrity has to endure in order to be a thin female celebrity. Small, low-calorie meals followed by a five-mile run. Boo!!!
I am not a nutritionist, but on this topic I am an expert at one thing: my body. I intend to explore this eat less idea, but only in a way that I believe is healthy for me. Mika’s diet might work for her, but I know it would never work for me. (For starters, I know I’d need a little bit more protein and a lot more whole grains. But remember, I am only an expert on my body, not Mika’s -- or anyone else’s for that matter).
I hope you’ll join me as I make my “food issues” public. If you’re interested, here is what I ate today. (Keep in mind, this is me trying to eat less!)
Breakfast: bowl of cheerios with soy milk, half a banana, coffee, (followed by a refill on the cheerios).
Later: three handfuls of slivered almonds
Lunch: tomato-based white bean soup (leftovers from last night’s dinner), whole wheat crackers with pesto (basil from my garden), and goat cheese, plus all the raspberries that were too mushy to feed the Bear, and water.
Later: More coffee 
Later: Pecans and raisins (probably about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup, total), glass of 2% milk
Dinner: Steamed broccoli, baked quesadilla on whole wheat tortilla with black beans, 1/8 cup cheddar cheese, minced onion, tomatillo salsa, and avocado, plus a couple small squares of dark chocolate (85% cocoa) and water.
Later: glass of white wine
Now it is almost midnight, and I’m starving! After this post, I will probably have a banana and a glass of milk, but hopefully that is all.

What did you eat today?