Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday's Family Recipes

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead. ~Louisa May Alcott

When trying to eat healthier, it's always a challenge coming up with good side dishes that the entire family will eat. I stopped by the section at the store with the boxes of flavored noodle dishes and though the fat content didn't seem too horrible, one serving was OVER 300 calories. No matter how healthy your main dish is, if you add a side dish with that many calories the meal tips the scales. If you serve salad a few times a week and vegetable dishes like the ones below you can sneak in some rice and potatoes at other times and not worry about the extra
calories or carbs.

Sautéed Mixed Greens

1 bunch mixed greens
1/3 medium head cabbage, coarsely shredded
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced and halved
2 tsp. wine or herb vinegar

Wash the greens, remove stems and coarsely chop. Use collard,turnip, dandelion or any mixture of greens that you like. In a large pan, boil 3 quarts of water. Add the greens, return to a boil and cook for 4-5 minutes until greens are tender-crisp. With a slotted spoon remove the greens, leaving the juices/water in the pan. Set aside the cooked greens. Return the water to a boil, add cabbage and cook 1-2 minutes. Pour into a colander to drain and add to the greens. Set aside. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and sauté garlic and onion until softened-don't brown. Add the cooked greens and cabbage and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add the vinegar and toss. Serves 6.

Vegetables with Ginger

1 cup baby carrots-cut large ones in half lengthwise
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup broccoli florets
2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 piece fresh ginger root, peeled and cut into 3 or 4 pieces

Steam all of the vegetables and the ginger in the microwave with a small amount of water, or use a steamer basket in a pan of water. Cover and steam for 5-7 minutes until they are JUST tender. Remove to a serving dish, and take out the ginger pieces. These can be served as is, or seasoned with salt and pepper. Serves 8.

Green Bean Sauté

1 pound fresh green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8-1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Rinse and trim the green beans before cutting into pieces. You can also use frozen beans. Cook green beans in boiling water for 10-12 minutes or steam until just tender. Drain well. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sauté onion and garlic over a medium heat until softened---stir and don't brown. Stir in green beans,salt and pepper. Heat through and toss with the parsley before serving. Notes: I like a lot of pepper and use 1/4 tsp., but you can use less.

Roasted Carrots

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pounds baby carrots

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a 13x9x2 baking pan with cooking spray. Mix all ingredients except carrots in a large bowl. Toss with the carrots and bake uncovered for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes 4 Servings. Notes: I think a glass pan works better for this.

On OFL we have an easy Chinese menu to try:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More Helpful Winter Tips

It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts. ~K.T. Jong

I decided to share these tips for alternatives to ice melts (some have chemicals that can harm pets and leech into the ground as well.) today. I had shared them in past years, but it came to mind after I fell TWICE yesterday in our driveway. Under the fluffy white snow was very slick, smooth ice. After the ice tips I also have more winter tips I found while looking through emails.

We live in northern Michigan and use chicken grit for ice on walkways. It doesn't bother the dogs' feet. We use the fine and get it at the grainery. It's less than $7.00 for 50 lbs. ~Shar

Ice melt solutions. I use either sand or sawdust from our shop (make sure there are no nails!) on our driveway and sidewalks. It gives enough traction on the ice so we don't slip. It also seems to warm up enough around it to use the sun to melt better. The best solution is to put the sand or sawdust down before the ice freezes. This way it shovels off better! There are minimal environmental effects to plain sand or sawdust (as compared to salts). Sand and sawdust are free and they work just fine, so I don't bother looking for anything different. Just a note, salt does not work when the temperature is below about 15 degrees F. so don't bother putting any down - it will just end up in the lawn. ~Lorraine From Wisconsin

Last year, here at work, instead of using salt on the sidewalks,we used cracked corn. It helps prevent slipping and the birds get their bellies full. Plus, after they're done, there is no mess to clean up! ~Jennifer

That was an excellent article on maintaining your heating appliances. Two more tips for your readers. Buy a good carbon monoxide detector for each floor of your home. I work for a plumbing and heating company and each year we see needless tragedies because someone didn't have a CO detector. One family in our area died because someone left the car running in the garage underneath all the bedrooms.

The second tip: Have your heating unit serviced each year. Not only will this help maintain the unit but a good service company will also make sure the unit is in tip-top shape and working at peak efficiency. With the cost of fuel being so high that translates into more energy dollars in your pocket. ~Kelly Bailey, Zimmerman Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc.

We have tips on cleaning a kid's room in less than 15 minutes a day:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Home and Hearth: Winter Tips

Friendship that flows from the heart cannot be frozen by adversity, as the water that flows from the spring cannot congeal in winter. ~James Fenimore Cooper

Winter is in full swing for most of us, despite a few warm days. There are many things you can do to keep your heating costs down, and also some things to watch out for during the winter.

Allow as much sun as possible into your house. During the day open all the shades and drapes, which will help warm your home. If it's a very cloudy, windy day or in the evening, close the curtains to keep in the warmth. Especially at night, keep your thermostat as low as you can while remaining comfortable, and double up on the blankets. A degree or two can save you money. Keep the humidity level up in your home by placing shallow pans or bowls of water near heating vents or on top of radiators and wood stoves. Invest in a humidifier if you can. We all know to use storm windows or some type of weather stripping to keep out drafts. Watch the bottom of your doors for drafts. For example, use a rolled up blanket in front of the door to block drafts. Old houses are especially prone to drafts. Our first home had this problem and blocking the bottom of the door made a HUGE difference.

Carbon monoxide is always a concern, more so when the house is closed up tighter and we are using heaters and furnaces more often. The following are safety tips:

-Be cautious and only work on fuel-burning appliances if you are experienced; this includes oil and gas furnaces,gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces. If you suspect something isn't right call someone who is experienced.

-Don't use your gas oven to heat your home.

-Never use a charcoal grill inside-even if it's on a hearth or fireplace.

-Don't leave your car or snowblower running in a closed garage. Fumes can build up quickly in the garage and seep into your home.

- Never use a gas or kerosene heater in an enclosed space.

Note: If you don't have a furnace repairman that you've used in the past, find one now before you need them. Find out rates and hours, then post them someplace you'll remember. Our furnace gave out on a weekend-we were lucky to find someone nearby who had the part and fixed it in a short time. You'll need to compare weekend and after hour rates, as well as regular rates. Also, have a back-up! Hopefully, you won't need a repairman, but if you do-be prepared.

Tips on OFL for cleaner air in your home-

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hodge Podge Day

In character, in manners, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. ~Henry Longsworth Longfellow

Today I have tips sent in by our talented and wise readers!

I made the Black-Eyed Pea Soup recipe for New Year's Day, adding boiled chicken pieces to the cooked soup. Wonderful! I doubled the recipe, and took some to my mom, brother, my children, and their spouses. Everyone loved it! Thank you for helping me start 2009 in such a delicious way. ~Linda Lee

When I was in Germany I learned that if you add just a pinch of flour to your bacon that while it is cooking it will not pop hot grease. Remember--just a LITTLE PINCH! Too much flour will cause the bacon to taste like flour. ~Lindy

I found this in a book called Grandma's Remedies: Put 1/2 teaspoon sugar in the palm of your hand and cover the sugar with baby oil and rub in for 3 or 4 minutes. Rinse your hands with warm soapy water. Don't forget to take your rings off before you do this. It does work and your hands are nice and soft afterwards. ~Thanks again, francorrine

If you have a small job, the best silver polish is white tooth paste. Dab some on your finger, and rub into the tarnish. For bigger pieces, use baking soda and a clean, damp sponge. Make a paste of baking soda and water. Scoop the paste onto the sponge, and rub the paste into the silver. Rinse with hot water and polish dry with a soft, clean cloth. For badly tarnished silver, leave the baking soda paste on the silver for an hour or so, before cleaning off with the help of the sponge and hot water. ~Jeanieb

On OFL we have tips for storage organization:

Monday, January 5, 2009

Garden Activities for January

The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before. ~Vita Sackville-West

The seed catalogs started arriving in December and the planning has begun! Today I have a few tips for January when most of us are itching to do something garden related.

First as you are looking through catalogs you'll see a couple of terms you should know. Scarification is one, and means to nick or file a tiny section of the seed before planting. It gives it a better chance of germination. Some seeds, like morning glories, can be soaked in water overnight instead. Stratification means to expose the seeds to a period of cold to break the seeds dormancy which will allow it to germinate. Usually you do this by placing the seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on the temperature that is called for. Some bulbs may need this too if you live in a warmer climate.

What can you be doing this time of year, even if you are in a cold climate? You can start pansy and snapdragons inside if you want to get a head start and grow your own. In Zones 6 and 7 you can start cabbage and onion seeds inside too. In Zone 8 you can actually start hardening your seedlings off or quickly get them started inside if you haven't already. You can also start lettuce inside.

Zone 9 gardeners can sow carrots, lettuce, peas and greens outside, plus tomatoes and peppers inside!

Whatever zone you are located in, it's a good time for planning. Walk around your property with a tape measure and notebook. Makes notes of what worked for your landscape and what didn't, which plants need to be divided or moved, spots that seem to be lacking and you'd like to add plants. Measure those spots and take notes. Keep the notes handy when you are looking through seed catalogs and make your plans before spring.

Learn how to plan your own rock garden on OFL: