Photo: El Capitan, Yosemite National Park
While I love living in our time period and the technology that we are blessed to have I feel it refreshing to escape the fast paced world of video games and internet to reconnect with nature. I feel like a day hiking in a glorious place like Yosemite resets my mind and puts everything back into a clearer perspective. Pricey decorations, the internet, cell phones, shopping and all other modern day distractions are of no importance. There is a brilliant ecosystem out there that when righteously tapped into is the best $20 stress medication one can buy.
When my siblings and I were growing up my parents took us on plenty of camping trips. It was common practice if we traveled anywhere we mainly camped. Many times that was the only way we could afford to take a family of seven to Disney World. We either pitched our tent in the campgrounds or camped out on my Aunt Sandra’s family room floor. My mom’s handy-dandy electric frying pan filled our bellies with pancakes and bacon, egg sandwiches, spaghetti and other delicious meals. Our camping trips were not as primitive as one day I hope ours will become. When the kids are older my ultimate goal is to take them on a week wilderness hike every summer.
I will confess camping with young children as inquisitive as mine may not seem like a vacation at the time as we scurry them away from the poison ivy, save them from dropping of a cliff or from burning themselves in the fire. When I see the light of childhood burning brightly in their eyes I recognize that this experience is not about me. They are free to explore, to leap from rock to rock, play hide and seek in caves, splash in a stream and even watch raccoons at 2:00 AM. They can get dirty and sticky and it is ok.
Camping with active little children or teenagers who think the whole trip is lame can be daunting. If you are new to camping or have a high anxiety level personality start out simple. Set up camp in the back yard or just plan on camping for the day. I know it sounds like a lot of work to set up a tent that morning and take it down that night. The first reason for doing this is if things are going well everything is already set up for the night. Secondly if you are easily overwhelmed the practice will help you become more comfortable and over time the children will learn what is expected of them. Also you will want to plan activities to keep the kids busy such as going on a hike, swimming, playing games, a bike ride, drawing or writing. Lastly be prepared to stay up late. Light a camp fire, roast some marshmallows and tell fun happy stories or sing songs together.
For a successful camping trip bring the necessities.
Your menu will depend on the area you are camping in. If you plan on hiking in a cooler with perishable food is not a good idea. Be aware that some camp sites do not have tap water or electricity. Plan accordingly.
Search the following websites for yummy enticing meal ideas: Camping Recipes, One Pan Wonders, Camping Blogger, Papa Dutch, Gluten Free Camping, Simple Backpacking,
Some of our favorites include: Hot dogs, Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Potato and Meat packets (combine onions, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, celery, butter, spices, meat or beans. Wrap in heavy duty foil then cook using indirect heat), Grilled chicken breasts with roasted vegetables, Canned or fresh soup or stew, Fresh fruits, Fresh vegetables cut up, Cereal and milk, Eggs, Pancakes with Sausage or bacon, S’mores, Banana Packets (chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and chopped nuts stuffed into a banana with the peel still on. Wrap in foil and cook in indirect heat.) and Hot chocolate.
There is a path by our old house that lingers near a home with a lemon tree in the back yard. What is so special about this tree is the fruit that grows on it. The lemons are the size of oranges and harbor a robust scent unequal to the puny lemons often found in the grocery store. I love the smell of lemons and I enjoy tasting them as much as I love smelling them. The perfect lemon has just a hint of sweetness entangled with sour lip-puckering goodness. Mmmm, so yummy.
Lemon Sponge Pudding is a clean variant of the ever popular lava cake. On the bottom of every cup is a layer of gooey lemony pudding sauce that is spooned over the top of the sponge cake when inverted onto a plate. Try to find the best lemons if possible, preferably without wax. So beg the neighbor with the lemon tree if you do not have a farmers market nearby.
Source: Martha Stewart
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pot de creme pots
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter seven 4 1/2-ounce pots de creme pots, or six 6-ounce ramekins; set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together butter, granulated sugar and salt. Stir in yolks. Add flour, milk, and lemon juice and zest; mix until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into butter mixture.
Ladle batter into prepared pots de creme pots. Transfer pots to a roasting pan or baking sheet. Pour boiling water around pots to come halfway up the sides. Bake until puddings are firm to the touch very lightly golden, about 20 minutes (25 minutes for ramekins). Remove from roasting pan; let cool slightly. Serve immediately or cover cooled ramekins and refrigerate up to 2 days.
To serve: Run a knife along edges of ramekins, then invert puddings onto serving plates. Spoon any of the mixture clinging to the ramekins over top. Garnish with raspberries.
Art Work by: Franz Eugen Köhler
No one is for certain where exactly the vitamin packed “Golden Apple”, as the natives of Northern India often referred to lemons, came from. Lemons are believed to have originally come from India and China. Those in Northern India considered the lemon to be a valuable trade as they prized the lemon for its unique flavor in cooking. The Chinese used them as an antiseptic for wounds and as an antidote for poisons. The lemon eventually made its way to Egypt and the Mediterranean by way of the ancient Jews. Lemons were introduced to the Islamic gardens as an ornamental plant while the Egyptians used the leaves of the lemon tree in a drink known as Kashkab. Kashkab was a beverage made of fermented barley, mint, rue, black pepper, and Citron (lemon) leaf. By the thirteenth century the trade in lemon juice had grown considerably. Records of a medieval Jewish community in Cairo show that bottles of lemon juice, Gatarmizat, made with sugar were consumed locally and exported. Scholars believe this lemon juice to be an early version of lemonade.
By the time Christopher Columbus made his second voyage in 1493 the lemon tree was well established across the Mediterranean and Asian continents. On that voyage Christopher Columbus brought with him the seeds of the lemon tree, among other citrus trees, to the Island of Haiti. The Spaniards also brought a crew populated with scurvy (a nutritional deficiency) to the New World. Ironically they were carrying the vary fruit that could have prevented the disease. The antidote for scurvy was not published until British naval surgeon, James Lind, sanctioned the use of lemons in his “Treatise on the Scurvy”, in 1753. Nonetheless, his advice to give citrus fruit to the sailors was not implemented by the Royal Navy for several decades. By 1563 groves of citrus fruit including the lemon were introduced along the South Caroline coast and Saint Augustine Florida. Today California and Florida remain the largest producers of lemons in the United States while India is the world’s largest exporter of lemons.
Lemon juice is a complementary flavor in many fish dishes. Lemons are often used in marinades with poultry or red meat. They are also used to flavor steamed vegetables and lend flavoring in baking decadent desserts, cakes, pies, tarts, icings, puddings, fillings and candies. Mostly lemons are used as a garnish for iced beverages or hot tea. Besides cooking, lemons offer many healing properties.
To juice a lemon keep them in a bowl on the counter rather than in the fridge. Press down and roll the lemons on your cutting board before juicing.
Ideally one should be able to take any cake or quick bread recipe to make muffins. The banana bread recipe that we love so much by Baker’s Illustrated is not an exception to this rule. However, for our banana muffins we prefer a more delicate tender crumb with a little extra oat fiber mixed in. When oats were added to our favorite banana bread recipe the result was a bit dry. With a few alterations wa-la we have banana oatmeal muffins. These little beauties make a perfect treat when hiking or on a road trip.
3 bananas, mashed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup rolled oats
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a large bowl combine the mashed bananas, sugar and butter; mix until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
Sift the flour, powder, soda and salt. Fold in the nuts. Add flour mixture to the banana mixture stirring until just combined. Pour batter into greased muffin tin. Bake 30-35 minutes or until firm to the touch and golden brown. Let cool 5 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack.
Makes 18 muffins
Sprinkle a 1/4 cup of chopped dried pineapple, chopped crystallized ginger, shredded coconut or chocolate chips for an extra treat.
Photo: Hobbies Magazine February-March 1919 issue, cover by J.E. Standley
Several years ago a friend of mine started a Yahoo Group for local moms comprised of her friends, our friends and their friends as a way to share news quickly without having to call everyone. We post upcoming events, deals for the local restaurants, coupons for the grocery store, items we are looking to get rid of or looking for and parenting woes and advice, among other things. Occasionally my friend will pose a question to start a discussion. The first question asked us to list some of our hobbies and projects we are working on. Before children I had hobbies. I am sure of it. Sadly they were placed by the wayside and over time forgotten. This actually is not a bad thing. It is part of growing up. With each stage of life come new and exciting ideas that we can look forward to. Otherwise we would all be playing with barbies and GI-Joe figures at age 36. However if you have young children you are probably doing just that.
This month’s resolution is all about finding a hobby that is fun, yet challenging. My goal for this month was to finally sign up for fencing classes. For years I have had a secret desire to learn fencing. Just when I was about to sign up for classes we uprooted our family and moved to another city that does not offer any classes. Now I am left trying to figure out another alternative.
A hobby should be something you want to do. It should be relaxing never forced; although sometimes our children need a little push to motivate them in the right direction until they find something suitable. A hobby should be all about the passion. If you are doing it because everyone else is doing it or because you have to then it becomes a chore not a hobby. Here is the exception to the rule. I love to read. Recently I found a group of women in my area who share a passion for literature. Each month someone chooses a book from a long list of classic literature. The following month we meet for breakfast to discuss the novel and how it relates to us in our time. The experience has been exhilarating. Most of the books are not books I normally would have picked up to read. Yes at times, when I would rather be reading something else less complicated, it feels like a chore; however, the goal of enriching my life through beautiful literature and then connecting with other moms is the hobby. Studies have found that when we are genuinely engaged in an activity we find interesting we fuel our self-esteem and life becomes more exciting. After my first book club meeting I felt alive. Invigorated. I was inspired.
In a society such as we live in the term hobby is often viewed as juvenile. The truth is we all need enriching experiences to help us stay centered and live a more balanced life. We all want success in some form. We all want to give our best to our bosses, families and friends. However, it is impossible to maintain such high demands of ourselves without causing a negative impact on our health and well being. When we allow ourselves to become tired and drained from work or overloaded with obligations our ability to innovate drops significantly. Our failure pushes us to work even harder. We feel guilty. We feel frustrated. Ultimately we feel defeated. Hobbies help relieve the stress resulting in a happier you.
A hobby is a fantastic way to blow off steam from a stressful workweek. A friend of mine could not wait until Saturday morning to hop on his bike and ride for 3 hours to distress. Hobbies such as collecting books, stamps and maps have a historical educational value. Tinkering hobbies like building trains, models, rockets and cars can build career oriented talents. Active hobbies like hiking, running and sports invigorate us. Moreover, hobbies can enhance our creative minds and help us think more clearly. I always seem to find my best inspirations while I am running or working on a project.
Sometimes we may feel guilty selfishly setting alone time aside for our personal hobbies. The truth is our hobbies can have a lasting impact on the children who learn from watching us. When they see mom and dad happily working on a hobby they are more likely to engage in a hobby themselves. They may copy what their parents are doing or adopt something of their own. Learning to manage their free time at an early age will benefit them when they are older. As parents we can help them discover enjoyable activities together. I love camping and hiking. I am passionate about camping and hiking. However it is no longer the relaxing hobby I enjoyed when I was a single college student or newly married. With our three little ones it is no easy feat. Yet, we continue to put on a brave face and take our kids hiking to give them rich fulfilling experiences. Hobbies shared with parents create lasting bonds. These activities such as sports, running, music, camping, cooking, fishing among others continue to hold value after the children have grown and move off to college. Children are also less likely to turn to drugs or exhibit bad behaviors when they are older if they are pursuing fun interesting hobbies to keep them busy. Who knows maybe the little boy that was into building rockets will grow up to become a rock scientist.
Choose a hobby from the following list or log onto DiscoverAHobby.com for a more comprehensive list of ideas. Local colleges, home and garden depots and craft shops offer all sorts of classes for a minimal fee. Contact a small mom and pop shop or ranch to see if they would be interested in training an apprentice for free or ask a friend to teach you.
Tuna Noodle Casserole is what you get at the end of the month when the monthly grocery allotment is depleted and the items in the pantry and the refrigerator are limited. As for the pasta anything goes. I used half a box of the little tubular salad pasta and a can of mushrooms from the pantry. The extra pasta that was not added to the casserole was set aside for lunch the day.
I am not an advocate of purposely hiding vegetables I just like to use diced vegetables to help add flavor. The vegetables also contributes a few healthy vitamins and minerals that are lacking in an ordinary serving of pasta and tuna with peas. The broth is an important step that you may be tempted to overlook. Not only does the broth add a little flavor it helps to soften the celery and onion. If you skip adding the broth turn down the heat after adding the onions and celery and cook longer or you are likely to end up with crunchy tuna noodle casserole. I like the idea of not having to bake the casserole. First off the bread crumbs are eliminated and secondly the time is cut down to only 30 minutes.
2 cups broccoli
8 oz pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced, thinly
1/2 chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese
1 can tuna
Salt and pepper
Steam broccoli in a pot of water until slightly tender but still cunchy. Remove. Let cool then chop and set aside. Boil pasta in the same pot of water until desired doneness. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet. Add celery, onions, garlic and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add broth. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
Melt butter in the same skillet with the vegetables. When the butter has melted stir in the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk blending until all the lumps are gone and the sauce is smooth. Simmer until the mixture starts to thicken, about 3 minutes. Stir in cheese. Mix until well blended.
Stir in chopped broccoli and tuna. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
“Frukostdags” by Hanna Pauli
Wednesday morning breakfasts appeared one day without any solicitation on my part. On Wednesday mornings I like to make pancakes. They make for a nice variation from the typical egg burritos or oatmeal. One Wednesday morning I was surprised to discover the whole family sitting at the kitchen table ready to eat. I know the kids were just as delighted as I was to have dad at the breakfast table. The kitchen was filled with smiles and laughter as we shared our crazy dreams and our anticipation for the day ahead. The usual rush of morning events was placed on hold as if the world had stopped and time had ceased to exist. When breakfast was over we each went about our routine happy as larks. I find my heart swelling within my bosom each Wednesday as I turn around to see everyone present at the table. I love the closeness we feel as we sit down together in the middle of the week. There are never any stragglers. They are all there because they want to be. I like it.
Often times it can be difficult to cram a family dinner in with late week night activities. Setting aside one morning out of the week allows us to reconnect and can provide a relaxing start to the day. Give the family a question to think about during the day. Share profound quotes from classic literature or tell stories. Most of all have fun.
We do not eat very much pasta around here. When we do I prefer to make my own. I found a pasta maker years ago for $13.00. It seemed like such a bargain as the Kitchen Aide attachment can run you $150. I do not even have to roll the dough out. I just run it through the rollers until it is thin and then cut. The kids are a great help. One likes to hold the pasta as the other one cranks the handle. Making homemade pasta does add 30 minutes to your preparation time. I like to make a batch on Sunday to use later in the week.
This recipe explains how to make dough for use in cannelloni, tortellini, ravioli, tagliarini, fettuccine, tagliatelle and lasagne. For a thicker doughy version commonly used in homemade soups try my mom’s recipe for Egg Noodles.
Makes about 3/4 pound (about 5 servings)
1 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1 egg white
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
Pour flour into a large mixing bowl or in a heap on a pastry board. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the egg, egg white, oil and salt. Mix together with a fork or your fingers until the dough can be gathered into a rough ball. Moisten dry bits of flour with a few drops of water and press them into the ball.
Knead the dough on a floured board, working in a little flour if the dough seem sticky. After about 10 minutes, the dough should be smooth, shiny and elastic. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let rest for at least 10 minutes before rolling.
Divide dough into 2 balls (or follow the directions below for desired pasta). Place 1 ball on a floured board and flatten with your hand into an oblong disk about 1-inch thick. Dust the top lightly with flour. Using a rolling pin, start at one end of the oblong and roll it out lengthwise away from yourself to within and inch or so of the far edge. Turn the dough crosswise and roll its width. Repeat, turning and rolling the dough, until it is paper thin. If the dough begins to stick, lift it carefully and sprinkle more flour under it.
As you cut the noodles separate them and lay them flat on waxed paper or wire racks. This keep them from sticking together until you are ready to boil them.
Homemade noodles may be cooked at once or covered tightly with plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator for as long as 24 hours. Cook the in 6-8 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water for 5-10 minutes, or until just tender.
Divide dough into two pieces. Roll first half paper thin. Cut rolled dough into 36 rectangles 2 by 3 inches. Drop into boiling salted water, stirring gently so they do not stick. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain, cool slightly then lay side by side on a piece of paper towel to dry. Place a tablespoon of filling on the bottom third of each rectangle and roll up.
Divide the dough into four pieces. Keep unused dough covered with a damp cloth. Roll out the dough on a floured board until it is paper thin, then cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter or a small glass. Place 1/4 teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Moisten the edges of each round with water. Fold the circles in half and press the edges firmly together. Shape into little rings by gently stretching each half circle slightly and wrapping the ring around your index finger. Gently press the tips together.
Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll out first quarter of dough as thin as possible. Cover rolled dough with a damp cloth to prevent drying out. Roll second quarter of dough to a similar size and shape. Using the first sheet of dough, place 1 tablespoon of filling in a checkerboard pattern every 2-inches across then down the pasta. Dip a pastry brush or your finger into a bowl of water and make a vertical and horizontal lines between the mounds of filling. Be sure to use enough water to wet the lines evenly. The water will help to bond the finished ravioli together. Carefully spread the second sheet of dough on top of the first on, pressing down firmly around the filling and along the wetter lines. With a ravioli cutter, pastry wheel or small sharp knife, cut the pasta into square along the wetted lines. Separate the mounds of ravioli and set them aside on wax paper. Repeat with remaining two disks of dough.
Tagliarini, Fettuccine, Tagliatelle, Lasagne:
Dust rolled dough lightly with flour and let rest for about 10 minutes. Then gently roll the dough unto a jelly-roll shape. With a long sharp knife, slice the roll crosswise into even strips about 1/8-inch wide for tagliarini, 1/4-inch wide for fettuccini or tagliatelle, and 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide for lasagne. Unroll the strips and set them aside on wax paper. Repeat with second disk of dough. Boil the lasange noodles until chewy, about 5-10 minutes, before adding them to the pan.
Jeff Eusebio is the CEO and Co-Founder of FamilyMint.com. Jeff created Family mint to give families an easy fun way to teach children and teenagers how to manage their money.
Family Mint is a free website. The way it works is you, the parent, sign up creating a virtual bank. As owner of the bank you manage your client’s (your children) funds matching interest rates, handling deposits and withdrawls just as a bank would for you. Family Mint takes the stress off parents by automatically depositing your child’s allowance in their account. Allowance deposits can be made weekly or monthly.
Each child creates their own account to keep track of their progress. They can manage deposits, withdrawls, transfers and plan long and short term expenses and saving goals. As the banker you can help motivate your child to save by giving them interest for so much money they save or by offering to price match when they reach a decided goal.