Perfect Poppers

Good Tuesday Morning!

With Superbowl XLVI fresh in my mind, I have a confession to make.  I am not a huge football fan.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do love the idea of being a football fan but sitting down and watching a game from start to finish is just something I haven’t gotten the hang of yet.

But I am a huge fan of game day snacks!  One of my all time favorite things to eat, football game or any other day of the year, is jalapeno poppers.  Oh, even thinking about the tasty little bites makes my mouth water!  Unfortunately for popper lovers everywhere, these dudes are a pain in the neck and time consuming to make.  Here’s a quick tip to help get you from a pile of whole jalapenos, blocks of cream cheese, and raw bacon to the pure bliss of a perfectly prepared popper in record time.

Quick Tip #2:  Use a grapefruit spoon to remove the seeds and ribs from jalapenos when preparing poppers.

 

Did you know that all the heat of a jalapeno resides solely in the seeds and ribs?  So remove all of these parts and, presto, you have a jalapeno that even kids and adults with touchy taste buds can enjoy in mass quantities.

Back away from the paring knife!  The grapefruit spoon is the perfect tool for scraping out as little or as much of the seeds and ribs in order to make jalapeno poppers of your desired heat level.

Jalapeno Poppers

24 jalapenos

2 8oz. blocks of cream cheese

24 slices bacon (halved crosswise)

Slice jalapenos in half lengthwise.  USE A GRAPEFRUIT SPOON to remove the seeds and ribs.  Stuff each jalapeno half with cream cheese.  Wrap halved slice of bacon around the jalapeno and secure with a toothpick.

Place on a broiler pan or rack inside a rimmed cookie sheet.  Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour or until bacon is crisp.

Enjoy!

Introducing Quick Tip Tuesday

Good morning!

A few weeks ago I stumbled across the website www.quickanddirtytips.com .  I am officially hooked on The Get Fit Guy, The Nutrition Diva, and Grammar Girl.  Sounds crazy but these experts deliver their tips in concise eight minute or less podcasts.  Now that’s how I like to receive information!

In the spirit of Quick and Dirty Tips, I have decided to create a new section of my blog called Quick Tip Tuesday.  This will be a weekly, short and sweet post containing helpful (hopefully!) tips for all things to do with physical, financial, and spiritual fitness.  Email me (rkelling@plateautel.net) your own quick tips or leave them in the comment section if you’d like!  I would love to make this an interactive conversation!

Quick Tip Tuesday Tip #1:  Conquering the Incredible Inedible Eggshell

My family and I eat a lot of eggs.  Most mornings you can find me in my kitchen scrambling, frying, or poaching these  perfectly portioned orbs of protein, usually with a kid on my hip.  The kid on the hip obstacle is what often leads to the only problem I have with eggs, stray eggshells.  If you’ve ever tried to single-handedly fish bits of broken eggs shells out of a batch of pre-cooked scrambled eggs or a bowlful of cake batter, then you understand this frustration.  It seems like no matter the tool you choose to use, a spoon, paper towel or even your finger, to pursue the perpetrating shell the tool acts like an eggshell repellant.

Quick Tip:  Use an intact eggshell half to remove broken pieces of shell from places they shouldn’t be.

It really works!  I didn’t take the time to study about polarity or chemical composition to explain the magnetic attraction that occurs between the two pieces of eggshell but there definitely is one.  And just in case you are wondering about the cleanliness of commercially produced eggs, you can visit http://www.incredibleegg.org/ to see that the washing process and standards of sanitation are really quite extensive and remarkable.

There you have it.  A quick way to banish that icky feeling of crunching down on something foreign in your otherwise delicious egg dish.  You can even do this with one hand tied behind your back or around the middle of the baby on your hip!

Thanks for taking the time to participate in Quick Tip Tuesday!

One Foggy Morning

I woke up this morning with an earful of baby slobber and a kink in my back thanks to a sippy cup lodged under my shoulder blade.  I glanced at the clock.  Five fifteen a.m.  Bleh.  “I do not want to get up and go running,” I thought to myself.  It had been a long night of musical beds between all three kids’ rooms. I finally wimped out and brought the littlest one to our bed in hopes of a few minutes of rest before the alarm buzzed.  But restful isn’t exactly how I would describe the hours from 2:00 a.m. on.

In the predawn darkness, I let my mind wander through a myriad of excuses of why I should stay in bed.

However, the coffee was percolating merrily in the kitchen and its life-giving, caffeine-laden aroma was enticing.  I knew quite well that going running before the kids woke up and before Brandon headed out for the day was my best shot at getting a run in at all.  I pushed all the excuses aside, rolled my snoozing little boy out of the crook of my neck and slipped as quietly as possible out of my warm bed.

Even in the dark of the morning, I could tell that it was very foggy outside.   A glance at the thermometer informed me that it was a frigid 19 degrees.  Yuck.  The excuses flooded my mind again.

I would really love to sit on the couch with a warm blanket and enjoy another cup of coffee and another few pages of the Southern Living magazine my mom gave me but…

I reluctantly pulled on my shabby winter running gear which consists of track tights left over from high school (emphasis on the TIGHT thirteen years later), layered unflattering sweat shirts, a fleece vest, a Carhartt stocking cap, and mismatched roping gloves.  Wow.  I’m sure I looked like I came straight from the most recent issue of Runner’s World.  But I was dressed and ready to brave the icy morning so I gathered up the technological components of my get-up only to realize that my cherished Ipod was dead.  My desktop computer is in the shop and there was certainly no time to install Itunes and charge the little dude on my laptop so for the first time in a long time I headed out the door without Dave Ramsey, 90’s rock, or an audiobook to distract me.

The first quarter mile or so was miserable.  My legs were heavy.  The freezing air was burning my lungs.  My fancy minimalist shoes weren’t doing much of anything to keep my toes warm.  But then, I got over the hill and found myself enveloped by the fog.  I could only see about thirty feet on all sides of me.  There was no wind.  I couldn’t hear anything except the sound of my feet crunching along the frozen ground, the pitter-patter of my dogs behind me and the huffing and puffing coming from my mouth.  No distractions.  It was weird and wonderful all at the same time.

There in the fog that blotted out the rest of the world, I mulled over the events of the last few days.  We celebrated my daughter’s fifth birthday.  FIFTH birthday!    Although the party had been a joyful event, I hadn’t been able to shake the uncomfortable thought of the years blazing by as I struggle with the day to day laundry, cleaning, cooking, changing diapers, keeping the kids happy and healthy, etc., etc.

I am the mother of a FIVE YEAR OLD!

Where has the time gone?  She will be going to kindergarten soon!  Have I taught her everything she needs to know up to this point?  Have I adequately documented her five years on this earth?  Have I hugged and kissed her and told her I love her enough?  Have I paid enough attention to each milestone in her life?

I know that I am not the only mother who is haunted by these types of questions as their children grow up.  I am reading a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  The author proclaims “The days are long but the years are short” to be one of her “Splendid Truths”.  Ouch.  That is exactly how I am feeling as carefully pick my way through an iced over mud puddle.

Rubin also addresses the obvious fact that we can’t stop or slow down the progression of time.  If that were the case, as my dad says, my sisters and I would all still be seven years old.  According to Gretchen, the only way to combat the years whizzing by is to make every effort to be “conscious in the moment” with your children.  A little psycho-babble-y, yes, but true nonetheless.

I pounded my way along the ruts in the frozen two track road and realized I had reached my turn around point.  I hollered to the dogs who had ventured off into the blanket of fog ahead of me and then I about-faced and headed back in what I knew was the direction of home even though I still couldn’t see a blessed thing beyond the thirty foot radius around me.

I played a mental slide show of the last five years.  The day we brought Natalie home from the hospital.  The four day power outage when she was a week old.  Her first steps.  Riding her pony.  Splashing in the mineral tub “pool”.  The pride and joy she takes in being a big sister.  Learning to skip rocks.  Her first ballet recital.  My eyes burned with tears.  Yes.  These last five years have been a blur but what a happy, beautiful, and delightful blur it has been!

I finally trudged through the back door of my house and was greeted by three sleepy-eyed, pajama-clad kids with early morning craggy voices yelling “Mama’s home!  Mama’s home!” and a smiling husband who only looked slightly impatient.  Despite the obvious need to change the baby’s diaper and my sweat soaked clothes, I made sure to hug them all soundly and tell them good morning rather than rushing right in to the daily rigmarole.

I suppose the answers to the guilt-ridden, and perhaps overly anxious, questions plaguing my mind during my thoughtful run do not exist or are at least not relevant right now.  All that really matters is that I am doing my very best to be “conscious in the moment.”  Thanks Gretchen.

I am going to make running without my Ipod a regular part of my workout routine.  I can’t say that I will always go au natural because it took me a good bit longer to run my scheduled three miles without something in my ear to quicken my step but it was a very interesting exercise in ‘being in the moment’ and one that I would like to repeat.

I also know that it will be difficult if not impossible to cherish each moment with my kids but I want to make a conscious effort to improve the ratio between moments I appreciate what is happening RIGHT NOW to those that I am pushing the kids aside or distracting them into leaving me alone to grind out another item on my to-do list.

In fact, I’m starting right now as Ike has been snuggled on my lap watching me type the last three paragraphs.   Now Natalie is going to push the final ‘save’ button for this post.  Even though I can hardly reach the keyboard because of my lapful of kids, I know that the days of them asking to sit in my lap are numbered.  The days are long but the years are short.  I’m loving this moment in time.

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful…

Like much of the nation, Northeastern New Mexico is in the deep freeze this evening.  It is snowing like crazy and the forcast HIGH for tomorrow is not expected to get out of the single digits.  BRRRRRRR!  This calls for some serious comfort food!

There is nothing like a hearty bowl of potato soup to warm a person up from the inside out.  This recipe can be altered to suit any taste.  The addition of green chile, green onions, or browned and crumbled sausage are some of my favorite variations.

Becky’s Potato Soup

4 strips bacon, chopped

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 heaping TBSP flour

4 c. milk

5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

Salt and Pepper to taste

Shredded cheese

In soup pot, fry bacon until crisp.  Remove to paper towel lined plate and reserve.

Add onions to bacon drippings in soup pot and saute until softened, about 4 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook about 1-2 minutes until mixture smells nutty. 

Slowly stir in milk.

 

Bring to a bubble and add potatoes.  Simmer over low heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Use a potato masher to break up potatoes until desired consistency is reached. 

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Ladle into soup bowls.  Top with reserved bacon and shredded cheese.

Dig in!

Now for dessert! 

I’m not exactly sure where this recipe originated but it is definitely a good one to keep in your recipe arsenal in case of a near bare pantry, unexpected company, or the realization that it is potluck Sunday at church and you only have 20 minutes to throw something together.  The only problem with these cookies is that, inevitably, people will rave about them and ask you for the recipe.  Then you will have to sheepishly admit how simple they are and your reputation for being a master baker will be dashed.  Sigh…  There are countless delicious combinations of cake mix flavors and additions.  Tonight I made traditional chocolate chip cookies but some of my family’s favorites include German chocolate/milk chocolate chips, white/peanut butter chips, and devils food/Andes mint chips but the possibilities are endless.   Feel free to use your imagination!

Cake Mix Cookies

1 cake mix (any flavor)

1 stick butter, melted

2 eggs

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Any additions your heart desires (i.e. chocolate chips, nuts, chopped candy bars, coconut, etc.)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients in order listed.  Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.   Alternately, the entire batch of dough can be smashed into a 9×13 baking dish to make bars.  Bake cookies 14 minutes or until slightly browned.  Bake bars 30 minutes or until middle is set and edges are slightly browned.    

Devour!

Tonight’s meal is actually dual purpose.  For one, I wanted to cook something cozy for my family on this frigid evening.  On the other hand, I wanted to indulge!  Tomorrow morning, February 1, 2011, I am embarking on a thirty-day Paleo challenge.  So it is so long for now potato soup and chocolate chip cookies.  Stay tuned for more on this subject.  Health and wellness are in my crosshairs.  Anyone want to join me?

Thanks for spending a few minutes with me!

Becky

Chasing Rabbits

“The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.”  ~Confucius

Our family is the proud owner of two of the cutest, sweetest, and most affectionate dogs in the world.  Although they are quite athletic, I cannot include talented working cow dogs to their list of attributes, much to the dismay of my husband.  But all of that is okay with the kids and me.  Daisy and Trixie, as we call them, are great companions. 

Daisy                             

When we are outside working, playing, or running, Daisy and Trixie are always close by.  Well, always close by might be an exaggeration because these two dogs have a habit that is naughty yet very interesting to watch.  They adore chasing rabbits.  Our two Border Collie-Australian Shepard crosses are lightening fast and more times than not, they end up catching the rabbit they set out for. 

 Yesterday, on my down and back to the mailbox run in preparation for the Running Mate Sweetheart Virtual 5K, I witnessed one of the rare exceptions to their typical success.  They were nosing around in a pile of pipe and jumped two rabbits at the same time.  Daisy shot out of the driveway with Trixie hot on her heals in blazing pursuit of the two furry pipe dwellers.  As nature designed them to do, the rabbits went in opposite directions and the dogs hesitated for a split second.  Then the dogs set off in the direction of the rabbit headed east but they were several strides behind it now so they about-faced and attempted to run down rabbit number two.  However, as you can imagine this particular little critter had already made it to the fence and was westward bound at a high rate of speed.  The dogs clumsily bounced back and forth between the paths of the two rabbits for a few moments before admitting defeat and falling in behind me to finish up our run.  I guess Daisy and Trixie haven’t studied much ancient Chinese philosophy.

The last few weeks has created a feeling in me that mirrors the moment when Daisy and Trixie were floundering around trying to decide which rabbit to chase.  Between being a good mom to my three little kids, a good wife to my darling husband, building my home business, fulfilling my duties in community service organizations, and wrapping up the year-end bookkeeping for the ranch, my house is a complete and total disaster.  Rather than logically weaving housekeeping into my day, I have been doing a whole lot of frantic spinning my wheels and not accomplishing anything. 

Luckily, I know the solution to my problem.  I desperately need a routine!  But how does one go from frenzied, undirected activity to efficient, purposeful action?  For me, it all begins with one of my heroes, the FLYLady.  My sister introduced me to her a few years ago and, despite my original balking at the idea of a creating a structured home flight plan, all I have to say now is God bless the FLYLady!  She has a really straightforward system for avoiding CHAOS and keeping a home running smoothly, efficiently, and crazed-mother-breakdown free.  I have started, implemented, and mastered this program in the past but as I added more and more to my plate, I have slowly let my FLYing go by the wayside.  But I am back on the bandwagon now! 

FLYLady’s program is a series of baby steps that eventually turn into a well-organized routine.  The first step in FLYLady’s program is to shine your sink.  Yep, that’s right.  Shine that puppy until it sparkles.  And keep it that way no matter what.

 

It seems like a very small and insignificant undertaking but it is a giant leap toward developing a plan and getting back on track to a house that won’t make a person want to turn off all the lights and hide in the closet if anyone drops by for a visit.  Trust me.  I haven’t ever actually hidden in the closet but, oh boy, have I wanted to!  I am babystepping my way back to a routine that incorporates all aspects of this busy home life I have created for myself and it all starts with a shiny sink.  I am FLYing high now and being more productive than I have in a long while. 

Housekeeping rabbit, you better run fast because I am after you with a vengeance!

Until next time,

Becky 

Getting Rid of Big Buts

I wish that I could take credit for this title but it actually came from a speech given by a girl who creamed me in an election for District FFA President when we were in high school.  I remember being backstage with her waiting our turns to go out and give our speeches the night of the election.  When she told me that her speech was about big butts I felt sorry for her because she was, in my adolescent mind, about to embarrass herself in front of about 50 of our FFA peers, advisors, and guests.  I thought to myself, “Oh, I’ve got this win in the bag!”  In my recollection, this young lady’s opening line was something like, “Have you ever noticed that most people in this room have a big butt?”  The audience sat in an uncomfortable moment of silence.  I mentally patted myself on the back for the professional and serious speech filled with moving and motivating quotes and calls to action that I was prepared to present after this disaster was done occupying the spotlight.  But then the tide turned.  Her speech about big butts turned out to actually be about big BUTS and how they hold so many people back from accomplishing greatness.  She gave examples like “I would have better grades in school BUT the teacher doesn’t like me,” or “I would run for Chapter FFA President BUT I am afraid of losing.”  It brought the house down.  She won the election handily that night.  Thirteen years later I don’t remember her name but her clever play on words and, as it turned out, inspirational message, still stands out in my mind. 

The beginning of a new year is always so refreshing to me.  I know that there is no magical change that takes place at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, but I, like so many Americans, appreciate a the mental fresh start offered by the spirit of the new year.  And with a clean slate in front of me, I am committed to make 2011 the year of getting rid of my big buts.

The area of my life that has almost been snuffed out by my big buts is physical fitness.  I would often say “I would go running BUT I’m too tired from being up all night taking care of a baby, it’s too cold/hot, I don’t have anyone to watch the kids, I’m not motivated, I’m too busy,” and on and on and on.  You get the picture.  But that was the old me.  Today, the new and reinvigorated 2011 me stopped all those big buts in their tracks and got myself out the door and back into the wonderful world of running. 

Thanks to a very carefully orchestrated morning, I had two sleeping little boys and one little girl peacefully playing with play dough at the kitchen table with a clear view of my running route. 

My running program requires a few key elements. 

A place to run:

 

Yep, that’s right.  I ran .18 of a mile to the mailbox and back, over and over and over.  Yes, it was snow covered in spots and muddy in others.  It is not a running route made in heaven but it served the purpose, no ifs, ands, or BUTS about it. 

My Garmin Forerunner 305:

  (Please ignore the fact that it took me 19:33 minutes to jog 1.35 miles.  With my big buts out of the way, both literally and figuratively, this time will steadily improve!)

I rank my Garmin right up there with my Kitchen Aid mixer as one of my most prized possessions.  I love having motivation strapped to my arm every step of the way. 

My Ipod:

Okay, add Ipod to my list of most prized possessions.  This might very well be the most important piece of gear in terms of my running life.  It is the most stripped down Ipod on the market but that makes no difference to me.  Its what’s on the inside that counts!  This little machine holds the lifeblood of my running program.  Drum roll please….Running Mate Podcasts!  Todd Lange, the creator of Running Mate, is my constant companion as I trudge through my runs.  His 5K 101 training program is aimed at beginning runners and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a little motivation and guidance to get out the door and run.

My Asics Nimbus Gel 11 Running Shoes:

I have promised myself that I will replace this old ratty pair after successfully completing Week 3 of my Running Mate training program.  I can’t wait!

With all of my equipment in place, it’s ’round and ’round the vinegar jug I go.

I had the company of our two dogs, Daisy and Trixie, but the majority of these tracks are yours truly.  It takes a lot of trips down and back to the mailbox to add up to two miles!

And at last, I’m done and stop at my front door rather than head off for another loop.

Big buts about not being able to run… you’re outa here!

Happy New Year and may 2011 bring smaller or nonexistent buts to your life as well!

Thanks for stopping by!

Becky

 

Trash to Treasure

One of the things I love the most about the Christmas season is that even ordinary things get a festive makeover.  I love Christmas carols on the radio, paper plates decorated with holly, my dish towels with “Joy to the World” written on them, big red bows on vehicle bumpers, and the Mary and Baby Jesus postage stamps I used to mail my bills today. 

I would love to decorate every nook and cranny of my home for Christmas.  So what is a girl to do if she doesn’t want to shell out her hard earned dollars to pull off such a feat?  Be resouceful, of course!  Here is a cheap and cheerful way to use oridinary “trash” to create a festive “treasure.”

Homemade Christmas Wreath

Required supplies:

1.  Heavy gauge wire of some sort to serve as the backbone of the wreath. 

I chose to use barbed wire because it is readily available around here. 

This particular pile came from an old fence that Brandon tore out and replaced last summer.  It is bound for the scrap metal recycling plant…someday.  I hope that he doesn’t miss the four foot chunk I borrowed for this project.

2.  Enough evergreen clipping to fill a tall kitchen sized trash bag.

My evergreen of choice is cedar because it is considered an invasive species our area of New Mexico.  The average mature cedar tree consumes about 32 gallons of water per day.  Considering our annual rainfall is only 14 inches, we do not need any encroaching cedar trees snitching water from the grass that feeds the cattle, that feeds the ranchers, who feed the world.  Come to think of it, this exhibition of yuletide noxious weed control is really a humanitarian effort!  Much to the dismay of my natural resource conserving husband and the folks at www.peopleagainstcedars.com, no cedars were actually eradicated in the making of this Christmas wreath. 

3.  Pliers and lightweight wire such as floral wire.

However, twist ties from bread sacks would work just fine if you want to be really frugal.

4.  1 strand of Christmas lights.

I bought these for $1 at an after Christmas sale last year so I am including them in the ‘free’ supplies category for this year’s wreath.

Author’s Note:  Flatbed pickup is optional on the list of supplies but it does make for an excellent work surface.  Thanks, Brandon!

Now lets start building!

First, wrap the ends of your heavy wire around each other to form a loop.

Please ignore my poor exhibition of fencing abilities.  My excuse is that I didn’t want to go in the house to get my leather gloves because I didn’t want to risk waking my napping babies which would bring my wreath making time to a screeching halt.  So you might want to add leather work gloves to your list of supplies if you are working with stiff, old, barbed wire and or have sleeping babies…

Next, begin attaching individual cedar clippings to the loop of wire using the lighter weight wire.

Once the entire loop is covered with one layer of cedar it will look something like this:

A little puny, don’t you think?  Let’s fix that.

Next, wrap the strand of Christmas lights all around the entire wreath.

Then add another layer of cedar in the same fashion as the inital layer, wiring each clipping individually.  Take care to cover the unsightly electrical wires of the lights and any obvious bare wood branches of the cedar clippings in the first layer.

The finished product will look something like this:

Of course, any additional accents such as ribbon or ornaments would make this wreath even more festive but in keeping with my “Trash to Treasure” theme, I chose to keep mine simple.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good…day!

Becky