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You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: 8/21/11 - 8/28/11

Friday, August 26, 2011

Overnight Crock Pot Steel-Cut Oats

I'm doing this for a contest at the Crock Pot Recipe Exchange blog.  It's simple, but it's sorta difficult to remember to set up breakfast the evening before.

"Real" oatmeal is heaven if you prepare it correctly.  If you're unfamiliar with the different "cuts" of oatmeal, here's a nice primer for you.  My kids are partial to the Quaker instant packets, but to make a real bowl of oats, with real maple syrup and brown sugar...well, it's so good for you!  Being the impatient, hungry family we are, it's tough having the hubby and kids wait 30-40 minutes for a pot of steel cut oats to cook on a Sunday morning.  Especially now that we go to a church that's 30 minutes away, and starts at 9:15am!

If you can remember to do it ahead of time, I recommend using your Crock Pot to cook your steel-cut oats to perfection.  Individual Crock Pots, locations, elevations and brands of oats (I use Bob's Red Mill) will result in variations on the cooking times, but this has worked well enough for me.  When I made it exactly as in the recipe linked below, it dried out...I think it cooked for too long.  You could rehydrate it and salvage most of it, but it wasn't the same as fresh-out-of-the-crock perfection.

Overnight Crock Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal, adapted from Alton Brown's Recipe

1 1/2 c. steel cut oats
5 c. water
1-2 c. dried fruit, such as raisins or cranberries, as desired

Cook in your Crock Pot on low for 6 hours.  You can set this right when you go to bed, and it should still be warm by morning.  My own Crock Pot has a "Keep Warm" function that it defaults to after the active cooking time is complete.  At least, that's the case in my house where we get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Enjoy some REAL oatmeal this weekend!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thoughts on Irene...

This is a representative forecast, click here for the latest!

Our thoughts and prayers are with those preparing for the onset of Hurricane Irene.  My family experienced the crazy 2004 Hurricane Season on the East Coast of Florida.  We packed both cars, both kids, our dog, and our most valuable belongings and tearfully evacuated our house in Melbourne, Florida for Hurricane Frances just before Labor Day.  Our house did relatively well in 2004, we are very grateful for that.

When an order is given to evacuate, it's done with a LOT of thought and consideration to the financial impacts on everyone they're moving.  One of the things emergency managers are considering is how easily rescues can be made afterwards.

I'm not giving you a special forecast....refer to the National Hurricane Center or your favorite weather forecast outlet for your forecast.

  • Please heed local emergency management authorities.  FEMA, state, and local emergency management agencies have learned many lessons from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina: they're more prepared than ever to respond, decide and inform.
  • Have a disaster preparedness kit handy (flashlights, matches, water, battery radio, clothes in plastic bags) if you choose to stay., the Department of Homeland Security's public website, has this handy tri-fold pamphlet that covers basic needs handily.
  • Fill your cars with gas.  Local gas stations remained empty or near empty after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne for several days.
  • Be prepared to lose perishables in your fridge and not have perishables at your local grocery store for several days.  The good news is that many homeowners' and renters' insurance policies will cover replacement of spoiled perishable foods, perhaps without a deductible.  Check your policy for this.
  • Do you have pets?  Get to know if local shelters take pets or not.  Prepare ahead of time for your pet's care in case of an evacuation or prolonged power outages if you don't evacuate.  Do you have 2+ weeks of pet food?  Consider it.


Florida Discoveries 17: Narceus Americanus

Ready to be grossed out?

This morning I went to the backyard to cover our grill (I forgot to cover it last night) and when I picked up the cover, this thing fell out and started walking across our patio:

At about 4" long, you can't just ignore this thing!

Okay, are you done screaming and climbing up to the highest point in the room?

These things are all over our backyard here.  Meet the Narceus americanus, or the North American millepede.  This thing is BIG!  And he's FAST.  And after I finished doing the heebie-jeebie dance about it, I ran inside to get my camera.  It was a race to get some pictures before he made it to the grass and burrowed into the soil.

Don't touch this millipede, it will exude some sort of irritant as a defensive mechanism.

Enjoy some more pictures!  I promise something MUCH happier and prettier tomorrow!

I took this picture for a size comparison.

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Florida Discoveries 16: Follow That Bird! Help Me Identify a Bird....

That beautiful garden from last March-May?  All but dead.  The insane heat, plus the lack of rain earlier this summer made it tough to maintain after our vacation.  Between the tomato hornworms, blossom end rot and other crap, I just said "forget it".  It was too hot to even stand outside to prune.  No fun!

My herbs are surviving, which can be expected since they typically survive on less water than fruit-producing plants.  I let my basil go to seed -- I tried to keep the seed stems picked off, but couldn't keep up -- and lately it's been a popular hangout for my backyard birds.  More popular than the two bird feeder areas I have on a different part of the yard.

This has been fun because the garden containers are right outside our back door and the kids can watch the birds while they're eating breakfast in the morning.  We've been seeing finches, sparrows and cardinals hanging out at my basil, and even the occasional bluebird who is after the bugs that hover around my herb flowers.

This photo was taken through my screen porch, there's a house finch among the basil.

Latecomers hang out on my cucumber trellis to wait for their turn.
Much less traffic at the bird feeders.

This morning I had my usual assortment, but then this HUGE bird was trying to get in on the action.  ("Huge" is relative -- I have a blue jay that hangs out in the front yard, but this is the biggest bird I'd seen in the back).  I haven't researched what kind of bird he is, but I'll post the pictures here and see if you can help me out.

My hypothesis: a northern mockingbird fledgling.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Now for Something Completely Different: Pork Wonton Soup

I had some ground pork in the freezer.  I had picked it up to make some meat loaf, but then I found The Country Cook's recipe which ended up not needing the pork after all (Tangent: want to make a small meatloaf with just 1 pound of ground meat?  Brandie's recipe is very very nice!)

Anyhoo, here I was with a pound of ground pork.  What to do...what to do...

After having dinner at a local Chinese restaurant last week, I had an idea.  I'd attempt homemade won ton soup!

So here we go!  I didn't document this as well as I would have liked -- this is a messy (but FUN) recipe and when Jacob got into helping me, it got more messy!

I used a combination of two recipes here, since one had ingredients I had on hand, and the other provided some better cooking information.

Start this recipe either the night prior or first thing in the morning before serving.  You want 6-48 hours of time for the ground meat mixture's flavors to combine.

Chop up a green onion...or two.  No one's counting.

The recipe called for a cup of finely shredded Napa cabbage.  Sadly, our local Publix was all out, so I got all lazy and picked up this bag of cole slaw mix.

Ran my knife across it a couple times...

Toss everything into a large bowl.

For my finely shredded carrot, I used my Microplane and 3 baby carrots.  Use the Microplane for the ginger too.

Add some sesame oil and soy sauce....

Mix it all together...use your hands, it'll work better that way!
Cover the mixture with some plastic wrap (tuck the wrap right down on top of the mixture) and chill for 6 hours or overnight.  The first recipe I liked says 30 minutes, but I vote for 6+ hours, per the 2nd recipe.
After chilling the mixture to let the flavors combine, it's time to prepare an assembly line for the wontons.  If you're going to cook the dumplings immediately, get a pot with 6-8 c. of chicken broth heating to a simmer (homemade is best!).  You'll turn it up to a gentle boil just before popping the dumplings in, but I took a while assembling the noodles, and to have the broth boiling all that time would have evaporated everything away, tee hee.

Here's my bouillon-cube chicken broth simmering.  I didn't have any of the good stuff on hand, although I need to cook up a batch soon!

You should be able to pick up refrigerated won ton wrappers at any grocery store.  I got these from my local military commissary.

Jacob made most of the wontons, which was a great help.  I wish I had done this a little more neatly, but you need a bowl with water (or egg white, but water works for us), the wonton wrappers, the meat and a place to put the finished wontons.  I put the finished wontons on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and a damp towel on top.  (PSST: Like my new Penn State Scentsy warmer in the upper right?)

Here's a wonton.

With a moistened finger, damped TWO adjacent edges.

Scoop out one teaspoon of the meat mixture.

Put that teaspoon on the center of the wonton, perhaps slightly off center.

Fold over the wonton and press the edges down.

You can have a little fun from here, folding them into assorted other shapes.  

I tried to keep them separated, but somehow that didn't happen.
Time to turn up the heat on the broth to boiling.  Drop in 8-10 of the wontons at a time into the water and bring it back to a boil.  Gently boil for 7 minutes, and then remove to serving bowls...2-3 at a time with some broth.  Garnish with some chopped green onion.

Don't crowd the pot, the wontons will stick to each other, and the bottom of the pot.

Unlike our local Chinese restaurant, I must have loaded the bowl with 5 wontons per person for dinner Saturday night.

I had a LOT of extra ground pork mixture, which I stir fried and added to the soup when I served it to the family.

This was somewhat labor-intensive, but not difficult.  Jacob had a good time helping me out, and all 4 of us agreed that this homemade soup was just as good as what we enjoy in restaurants.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Back to School!

Today was the first day of school in our boys' public school system.  Unlike our experience in Nebraska, where the boys walked to school and the parents were requested to spend the first hour of the first day of school with the the parents met with the teachers last week and the kids were encouraged to take the buses and get dropped off.

Dave and I didn't have much to document this morning, since it was just them getting on the bus, but here are the pictures we did receive.  Enjoy!

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