Wednesday, February 29, 2012

5 Ways to Get Your Kids (or Husband) Eating Vegetables

RULE 1: DON’T let them into the kitchen while cooking or they will know the sneaky things you put into their food.

Trick 1: Spaghetti Sauce

When making your spaghetti sauce, pick a mild-flavored veggie (most any will do- carrots, spaghetti squash, spinach, etc.), steam it, dice it, and throw it in the blender and pour the puree into your spaghetti sauce. The red will cover your tracks visually and the blend of spices will cover the flavor. If needed, throw in a little extra garlic or onion powder to hide any trace flavors, so they won’t know your ‘special’ ingredient

Trick 2: Ham Fried Rice 

Use your favorite fried rice recipe, but with a few additions. Add 1/8 cup onions (VERY finely minced) per person eating and add it when you are frying the ham. Let it cook a little longer than normal, so that the onions become soft. Make sure that your ham chunks are a little larger than normal and add 1 teaspoon of chicken bouillon (Or a ramen noodle seasoning packet). The ham chunks being larger make them ignore the smaller onion pieces and the chicken bouillon gives it a yellow tint, covering the onions visually.

Trick 3: Mash Potatoes

Dice and boil potatoes, adding squash (after removing the seeds), making it 3 parts potato and 1 part squash (spaghetti squash, zucchini (make sure to remove the skin) and if your kids aren’t TOO discerning, butternut works, too.) After boiling until completely soft, mash and add (per 3 potatoes and one chunk of squash)

*4 tablespoons of butter

*½ cup sour cream (or 1/3 cup of evaporated milk)

*¼ cup of cream cheese (optional)

*Salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder to taste

They may not be light on fat… but they are delicious and more nutritious (secretly). If anyone comments on the slightly different color, simply tell them it’s due to the ‘extra butter’ that you added.

Trick 4: Barbecue Sauce

I use this one on my husband, who claims to hate tomatoes. When cooking up his favorite meat (chicken breast, pork chop, steak, etc.), I brown both sides on medium-high, turn down the heat and add, already mixed

*1 can of tomato sauce (for every 3 pieces of meat)

*1/4 cup of soy sauce

*1 tablespoon of cumin

*1/4 cup of brown sugar

*Salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder to taste

and then finish cooking the meat on low in this sauce. As it cooks, the water will evaporate, making the sauce thicker. When the meat is done, simply put the meat over potatoes or rice and divide the remaining sauce over it. They won’t know that your delicious ‘sauce’ actually gives them a full serving of tomatoes….

Trick 5: Taco Meat

Easy and fast, this is great for everyone that loves tacos. When adding your taco seasoning to your hamburger, simply put in 1/3 the water required (norm is ¾ a cup per packet, so put in only ¼ of a cup) and throw in one can of diced chilies for every 2 people eating. The strong flavor of the taco seasoning and the ground texture of the meat make it virtually undetectable. I told my husband, after a year of taco-making, that I add green chilies to his taco meat. He didn’t believe it until he saw me add them while I was actually cooking them.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baby I Love

Princesses Only.....

America is Number.... Seven?


MSN recently reviewed some of the richest nations in the world. They posted online the top seven. Seven? Not top five, ten, or twenty? Nope, it was the top seven.

Why?

Because the United States was number seven.

So, naturally, they had no inclination to go any further. For if there is one thing we Americans are, it’s a little ego-centric. The center of the universe hasn’t been found yet, but when it is, we are all quite sure that it will be found in America. That’s why when MSN looked at wealthy, important countries, they knew their list only had to reach to America.

If America was the fourth wealthiest country in the world, then the list would have been the top four richest countries in the world.

And, according to MSN, it seems that being an oil-rich exporter is what puts nearly all of the other six countries ahead of the US.

So, dear America, if we want to bump ourselves up in the global wealth sector, we must either go totally green and use nearly NO oil and reply on other resources for energy, thereby giving no monetary gains to those oil nations, or else crack open every possible oil main we have and export ‘til the cows come home.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gotta Love Rap?


Why is it that rap and R&B music is so catchy? Well, because they HAVE to be. If you could understand the lyrics the first time you heard the song, most people would abhor the music. So the music itself must be mega-catchy, so that people will listen to the music in SPITE of the lyrics.

To illustrate my point:

“I’m trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful- Damn, she’s a sexy bitch.” (From David Guetta’s ‘Sexy Bitch’) Wow. Really. You’re trying to find the words to describe someone without being disrespectful- do you KNOW the meaning of the word disrespectful?

“This ring here represents my heart and everything I’ve been waiting for, just say it, I do….All I want you to do is be my love….but forget your face, I swear I will.’ (From Justin Timberlake’s ‘My Girl’). That’s a win. Marry me, then I’ll forget your face.

And, of course…

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! Yeah, Yeah! Yeaah! Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! Yeah, Yeah! Yeaah!” (From Usher’s ‘Yeah’)

But then again, maybe women-hating and repetition is what you look for in music? Yet, the tune is so catchy, here we are, listening to the songs anyhow....

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Words to live by

Americans and TV


What do Americans love more than TV?

Almost nothing, if the time we spend watching TV is any indication of our fervor for it. Most American’s average 4 hours a day. Barring sleep, there is nothing that the average American does more.

That said- how closely do you pay attention to the commercials on TV? True, with the advent of TV-on-DVD and various DVR’s, it is possible to skip or eliminate commercials to some degree, but I think most of us find that we are still exposed to a variety of commercials.

Pick a show that you watch often and pay close heed to the commercials. What do they say about you? About the other people that watch the same shows? Aside from widely popular things, such as the Super Bowl, most commercials are very closely tailored to their audience.

If you see chocolate commercials? Know that they are generally created for women. Truck commercials? Men. Others are more specific, like Axe products, which are made for men from the ages of 13-28. Baby food commercials are usually adapted for women in their 20’s (the age when most women have children).

Now, watch your show and pay attention during the breaks. See how they often seem to perfectly describe you and the position you are in.

When I watch America’s Next Top Model (my own personal guilty pleasure show), I see chocolate commercials (women-I am a woman), then Venus razors (women that care about their appearance- I do). This is followed by a whole slew of weight loss commercials, (I just had a baby- I AM working on losing the baby weight) and 30 seconds on how Huggies will make my baby’s bottom happy (I DO have a new infant).

 It goes on and on- and you can see how these commercials are so closely tailored to me, it is almost like it was made just for me.

There are a few shows that are poorly funded with their commercials or else are more for a general audience, but for most shows, you may well be surprised at what your will find if you simply pay attention.




Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tuesday: DIY Restaurant Style Sushi Made at Home

What's more American than hot dogs or hamburgers? Many things, as neither originated in America. America, however, is great at incorporating items into its own culture. In that case, what's more American than sushi? It's about as integrated into our society today as a fancy burger joint- though much pricier! So, here is a step-by-step (focusing mostly on methodology) on how to make sushi at home- for about $1 a roll.

1st- Assemble your ingredients. We'll start with what you need for a basic California roll.
-Botan rice
-Avocado
-Cucumber
-Imitation crab meat
-Rice vinegar
-1/2 sheets of dried seaweed (or full sheets, cut in half)
-1 cup cold water in a bowl
(My pictures show additional salmon and shrimp for other rolls I assembled later)

A- Cook your rice (2 1/2 cups will make about 5 rolls of sushi)
    ***Add 1/8 cup rice vinegar after rice is cooked
    ***Allow rice to cool, mixing every 5-10 minutes until cooled.










B-While the rice is cooling, prep your ingredients!
Let's get started!
***Cut the seeds from your cucumber and slice even, 2-2 1/2 inch long segments
***Slice open your avocado (since it is such a soft fruit, there is no need to prepare slices until right before you add it to your roll)
***Slice, then separate your krab meat
***Use plastic wrap to cover your bamboo rolling mat




And the other side

Adding plastic wrap on one side




















C- Assembling the roll
***Wet hands and place the shiny side of the seaweed down on your bamboo mat. Sprinkle a small amount of water on each of the ends of the seaweed.
***Place a line of cucumbers in the middle, then add a sprinkling of krab meat and a row of sliced avocados.

***Next Part- tough- ROLL the half sheet. The most important thing to know in rolling is to GET IT ROLLED TIGHTLY! To do this, make sure each end of the seaweed is slightly dampened, then use the bamboo mat to roll the seaweed over until the two sides touch. Once this is done, pull it tight!
Pull tightly by following the directions of these arrows.



D. This will give you a small, thin, green roll. Place it aside temporarily and wet your bamboo mat thoroughly.
***Moisten your hands in water as well and then take your vinegar-rice and sprinkle (not press) it over the mat until it covers approximately 2/3rds of the mat.
***Next, place your thin, green roll in the middle of this rice


*** Squeeze the rice together to cover the roll and roll together with the same motion you used when making your seaweed middle


***If,  upon unwrapping, you see places where the rice has not fully covered the center












***Simply sprinkle rice to cover the holes, and re-roll it tightly


E. Finishing Up!

***Get ready to slice your roll! If you don't have a sushi knife, sharpen your best blade and put it to work. (If you are having trouble slicing the sushi, make sure that your blade's surface is free of any sticky rice, wet the blade, and slice again)

***Assemble your roll in 6-8 pieces on a clean plate and get ready to serve!




This is my finished California roll-





Good luck to you in your sushi making! It's an acquired skill- don't give up if you don't get it perfect the first time!


Here are a few more rolls I  made in this same batch.


Spicy Veggie Roll




Shrimp Roll









Cucumber Dragon Roll















*** If you are interested in the how-to for the more complicated rolls or the recipes for your own eel-sauce or spicy mayo for your own sushi creations, just let me know.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chocolate Goals

Goals. A great way to get something done- or to disappoint someone.

There seem to be two different methods to goal setting.
First, there are those that are clear, concise, and readily attainable. They don’t challenge you
very much, but you obtain it nearly every time.

Example: I will eat one less chocolate bar a week.

Secondly, there are the goals that are so steep and so high that
they are almost never attained.

Example: I won’t eat chocolate for two years.

With the first type,
you have a good change of actually accomplishing. The second? Rarely, if
ever. Which is the best way to run your life?

NEITHER!

For some, unknown reason, people seem inclined to believe
that there are absolutes for each thing they do in life.

EVERYTHING made at McDonald’s
is garbage, or NO VEHICLE should run on fossil fuels.
Reality doesn’t usually work with absolutes.
And so the answer?

A balance.

For some things, like learning a language, a goal to become
fluent in six months (ridiculous) will have the ability to push someone to
learn more than what they would have if they had set a more reasonable goal.

For others, like losing weight, a more realistic goal, like
1-2 pounds a week, has the power to motivate you to actually lose weight in the
long term than a goal of 15 pounds in 2 weeks would.

So, which should it be? Give up chocolate for two years? Or one fewer chocolate bar a
week?

Figure out what, for yourself, will actually get you on the
path to change- and then DO it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Airport Security- Under and Over Kills



A few years after 9-11 occurred, when airport security was in full force, I made a trip down to South America.

At that time, I was working as a stocker at a local grocery store and owned dozens of box cutters; they were as common for me as a ball point pen is for a banker. They could be found in my car, purse, backpack- anywhere I was, basically.

Knowing the rigid guidelines for airport security, imagine my surprise when, after successfully completing my flight, I looked into my purse and found not one, but TWO box cutters.

Please keep in mind that most theorists believe box cutters were used in the 9-11 attacks.

Now, because I was young and stupid (the two often go hand-in-hand), I thought I would experiment and see if I could make it back into America with the same two box cutters. I left them in my purse, in plain view, and proceeded to fly home.

I made it through not one, but TWO hand-searches through my purse and through international security. I arrived home with the same two box cutters, unknown and untouched.

Fast forward a few years. Allow me set a scene for you. I am going through security by myself with my five month old daughter. Stroller, carry on, car seat, diaper bag, three extra blankets, and, of course, my sick daughter. I am stopped and asked to have my fingers tested for ‘trace explosives’.

All I can think is that I hope this is a sign that all the money and time they have spent in the last five years to amp up security has actually worked.

What do you think?

I made it in and out of the country with box cutters in open sight…. and then was randomly tested (baby in tow) for trace explosives.

Please tell me this is a sign of airport security actually being worth the time and trouble.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday: The Best Things in Life Aren't Things- Usually

I often detest cheesy statements: “The best things in life aren’t things”, or “Everyone is everything to someone”. Blargh. That said, allow me one brief moment of hypocrisy to share a few of those small things that bring me real joy in my life. Regardless of how cliché or cheesy they come across.

*When I get up, sick, probably smelly, hair in a rat’s nest and peer into my just waking baby’s face- and she gives me a smile that makes me feel like I am the best thing she has ever seen.

*The look on my husband’s face the Christmas when I told him that I hadn’t qualified for my bonus (I had) and then used that money to surprise him with the big screen LED that he had been secretly hopeful for but knew he wouldn’t get.

*When my friend who lived out of state drove through the night just to take me to lunch on my birthday.

*When I get into bed after my husband has fallen asleep and he, being just slightly startled by me, turns to me, pats my face, says, “I love you”, and is snoring again within 30 seconds.

*When I wake up in the middle of the night to feed my baby and as I pat her back before I lay her back down, I can feel her smile on my shoulder as she falls asleep.

*When I make a recipe that turns out so well, I would pay for it at a restaurant.

*Anytime someone says that my house feels like a ‘home’.

So, yes, it is cheesy. But, I suppose there should be room for a little bit of cheesiness is one’s life, right?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spoiled Americans

I grew up in a large family; my mother stayed home and my father worked. While we were never destitute, we certainly were never rolling in the dough. I got a paper route as soon as I was old enough and a job the moment I turned 16. I learned to pay for anything that I needed or wanted, so I certainly never thought of myself as spoiled.

That is, until I flew overseas.

I spent some time living in a small town outside of Moscow. When I first arrived at the apartment that was to be my new home, I could barely stand the smell of stews that had seeped into the wood stairs over the years. The carpets, soviet-era couches and beds- they all disgusted me. I was certain I would get lice or some scarring disease.

All in all, the entire place was too much for me.

Fast forward one month. I don’t notice a thing about the smell; I sleep, play, and work out on the carpets. Not a worry or fear in the world. Great on me for adjusting to terrible conditions, right? Wrong. I found out later that I was living just a few miles down the road from Vladimir Putin, and that my small apartment was one of the better apartments available.

In fact, just down the road, wealthy mafia members chose similar apartments, which, to them, were lavish.

It was at this point that I realized I was spoiled because I am an American. Our country is certainly not without its own trials. There are those who live in less than desirable circumstances and do not have the best food that they might wish for. That said, the average lifestyle of an American far exceeds the lifestyle for nearly any other middle of the road individual in any other country.

Russia was more than I could have expected, and in some ways, better than I had imagined.

More than anything, though, I was grateful that I learned that although Russia is a first world country that has a GDP of 1.5 trillion, their upper middle class held nothing in comparison to my lower class upbringings. Now that is something to be grateful for, Americans.

How Genocide Happens

Genocide.

An awful, dirty, terrible word, made only more hateful by that fact that it actually occurs. One man, one woman, discriminating and then slaughtering their neighbors, co-workers, anyone that falls into their categorized thoughts as ‘undesirable’. We have all heard horror stories from the Holocaust, slaughtering in Rwanda, and Middle Eastern terrorist bombings.

Race seems to be everything.

It’s not.

How could someone, anyone, stray so far from what is good and what is right and be able to commit such unthinkable acts? Shooting babies for target practice? Literally hacking the limbs from a living person? The sentences alone have power to break ones heart.

How?
It begins very simply. The very day, the very second when you meet someone, learn a trait about them and then apply the trait not TO them, but to an ATTRIBUTE about them. For example, your neighbor is lazy. He is also Asian. Rather than acknowledging your neighbor as a lazy man, you create a false truth: Asians are lazy. It begins so simply, so nearly innocently. For in that moment, you have removed a piece of his humanity in your own eyes.
*He is not a lazy man.
*He is a lazy Asian.
*He is not a human- but an it.
*It isn’t difficult to move from that thought to simply believe all Asians are lazy.
*Lazy Asians don’t deserve the good they get in life.
*There’s a rich Asian. She, too, is lazy.
*She, being lazy, doesn’t deserve that wealth. That dirty awful lazy Asian. Asian’s are no good.

Continue in on this trail, this all-too-often-traversed trail, and you find that, in your eyes, no Asian has the same humanity as you. Find a few social injustices and pin them on your scape goat, these lazy Asians, and soon, with the prodding of a persuasive and forceful leader, you find yourself as capable of the horrors of genocide.

What an awful failing of mankind.

Think carefully, think deeply about the way you describe others. Is this co-worker black and deceitful? Or is he a deceitful black? The way that you describe people in your mind will determine the way you, your friends, and your family see every other race. Do not couple yourself with the type of thought pattern that makes genocide a reality.

Rise above ignorance.
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