Spring Pickins

Sassy Sous-Chef
This is one of my favorite food times of the year.  Everyone is getting excited and planing their gardens, farmer's markets are open again, road side produce stands are back and fresh strawberries are ready for the pickin!  I loove fresh, ripe strawberries and we are lucky enough to have a local, patch about 10 minutes away from us.  I snuck away for a little Me-Time last week while the munchkins were both in school and managed to pick just over 12 pounds.  Nothing crazy, but enough that I needed to find something else to do with them in addition to eating them non-stop.  I started feeling a little like Bubba from Forest Gump. Fresh strawberries... frozen strawberries... strawberry banana muffins... strawberry panzanella... strawberry jam... strawberry smoothies...strawberry pancakes...

Being in the Kinda Country offers us quite a few of Pick-Your-Own options, but this patch, Hilberts {Nazarene Church Road, west of Dayton, VA,(540) 879-2595}, is also spray free-- not the norm.  This is my second season visiting and I will return every spring.  I love that is so close and I love getting to know our area farmers.  Last year BigBoy was covered from head to toe in mud and Farmer Gary hosed him off for me. This year he said he wished he had a long sleeve shirt to give me cause my arms were allergic to something in the patch.  Real People and Real Food.  Can it get any better than that?

As Farmer Gary rang me up, we chatted about spraying techniques and he told me about his friend who transports tomatoes and strawberries up from Florida.  The friend told him how he is in charge of ripening them up before they get to Costco, Walmart, Kroger, etc.  The fruit gets picked green and they get gassed along the way at various points to ensure they get ripe just in time for unloading. um, yum?  I gave him a big Thank You for providing us with a spray- free patch and let him know how much we appreciate it.  I brought my loot home and couldn't keep Sassy out of the fridge.  She figured out that since I picked them, she didn't need me to worry about washing them (it had just rained- prewashed!), and she was grabbing strawberries all. day. long.

The strawberries were amazing, ruby red and sooo sweet.  None of us could really stop eating them.  I ended up freezing most of them and I made one batch of strawberry banana muffins, one of my favorites. I briefly thought about making Strawberry Panzanella again. but eating an entire dish like this (which I would totally do) probably isn't the smartest thing to do pre-summer.  I'm going back later this week to pick some more and hope to do a batch of strawberry ice cream. YUUUUUUM!

I tweaked the recipe since the berries were so sweet already.  I almost always cut back on the amount of sugar, but for this I subbed out some of the butter, and subbed some regular flour for whole wheat.  I made a batch each way and couldn't tell the difference by much.  The munchkins gave them four thumbs up, so it's a keeper!  You could also play around with using molasses in place of the sugar or agave nectar.  I used molasses last year when I was obsessed with molasses, and they were super tasty, but totally spaced on it this time around.  What do you like to do with strawberries?  Any recipes to share??

Strawberry Banana Muffins (adapted from joyofbaking.com)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened, organic applesauce
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1 - 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Position rack in center of oven.  Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease with butter or a vegetable spray.

In a small saucepan melt the butter.  Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the brown sugar, applesauce, eggs, vanilla extract and mashed banana. Add the melted butter to the brown sugar mixture and stir to combine.   

In another large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gently fold in the berries, making sure they are coated with flour. This helps to prevent the berries from sinking during baking. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are just combined. Do not over mix the batter or tough muffins will result.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Place in the oven and bake until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 12 regular sized muffins


Meal Planning Monday 5/24

Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad. yuuum!
Last week I gave you our summer meal plan template so I thought I'd follow up with my actual plan for the next two weeks.  We're moving yet again, in about 6 weeks (more on that later!) so I really want to use up what we already have on hand in the freezer.  If you are new to meal planning, step 1 is to shop in your freezer and pantry.  See what you already have to work with, then from there you can check out sales and fill in your blanks.  Right now, I've been so spacey and our schedule has gotten all wonky, that I haven't been using coupons/sales at all.  But that's okay, MamaBear's brain can only handle so much.  And Grey's season finale kinda fried what little space I had!  Crazy episode! Weren't you just on edge?!? Meredith is so bad ass I love it...And Cristina! Holla! What was I talking about again? Oh meal planning...

So to keep it real for The Loyal Seven, and to keep me accountable, here you go.  Is this not the most boring blog post evah? gotta do whatcha gotta do.

Monday (Meatless)--
Crock Pot Split Pea Soup fresh homemade bread, and watermelon. I'm cheating a little and tossing in hamhocks and I'll probably use chicken broth instead of plain water.  I need to use the hocks up from the freezer.  
Beans, rice and cheese.  tortillas and fruit.  I swear the munchkins could eat this every night. simple and yummy!

Tuesday (Pasta)
Turkey Bolognese w/ spinach salad. double batch to have dinner ready another week.
Dinner at KCBFF's!

Wednesday (Fish)
fish tacos, beans and/or rice, applesauce.  Most likely I'll bake the fish instead of frying though. 
Baked wild Salmon, lemon quinoa salad.

Thursday (Meat Dish)
Sassy has her preschool dinner picnic.  Need to figure out what I'm bringing...
Boardwalk Italian Beef Sandwiches, green salad.

Friday (Pizza)
30 min. dough, BBQ chicken and Pepperoni/Olive  Need side. both weeks.

Saturday (open)
Baked wings, veggies and dip.  I have a ton of frozen, organic wings that I got on cheapy cheap, but I'm not sure what to do with them.  Any ideas or recipes??
Turkey burgers based on this recipe.  Need side.

Sunday (Poultry)
Crock pot turkey legs, mashed potatoes
Crock pot "roasted" whole, organic chicken.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program with tales of gashing my forehead and sparkly vampire love.


Summer meal plan, take 1

Somehow I missed Spring.  We were in an allergy infested stupor and now we've been seeing hot and humid.  when we got back from our NYC trip, it was in the 80s. at night. hot, sticky and just plain ol' icky.  Time to start meal planning again, and time to switch to our lighter, summer (no oven if possible) recipes.  I can 't use my old stand-bys of soup and chili. What's an overwhelmed, not really into cooking right now, momma to do?  Plan. Boooo! I know. Boring, but it really does help you stop staring into the fridge at 5 and wondering what to make.  So, I've come up with a general template for us and I'm going to go from there.  We've changed our habits again, so some of my old faithfuls have been tossed out.  I decided to have my template and use the meals that we gravitate towards anyway.  Then I can build from there. 

Barbie Oven.  That's a reg. sized cookie sheet. nice, huh?
So Summer Meal Plan, Take 1:

Sunday:  crockpot roasted chicken or chicken soup (or um... Fried Chicken from IGA in a pinch)

Monday: Meatless- smoothies and eggs/ burritos/ beans, rice and cheese/ grilled cheese/big salad/eggplant Parmesan try: Falafel and Cucumber Sauce

Tuesday: Pasta- turkey Bolognese/ chicken spaghetti/ creamy sausage, kale, ( I also add beans)/ kid pasta/ mac & cheese/Pasta "garbage" Salad (toss everything that needs to get eaten into the bowl!)

Wednesday: Fish- wild Salmon patties (from Costco) /stir fry/tilapia in pimento sauce/tacos/BBQ-baked

Thursday: Meat- crockpot/WW parmesan turkey meatloaf/turkey burgers/beef broccoli

Friday: Pizza try: 30 min. dough

Saturday: Grill out/New recipe/leftovers

Cous cous
Bean salad
Veggies and dip
Fresh fruit
Brown rice

Bread- wheat and French
Pizza dough
Pizza sauce
Brown rice

I would love for you to comment with suggestions for recipes or commit to doing a meal plan if you haven't before.  Even if you just commit to doing one more homemade meal per week, you are taking a step in the right direction. I'm also trying not to use any convenience items (season packets, processed foods, etc).  Also, our Barbie Oven takes forever to heat up and then the kitchen is roasting (have I mentioned we don't have any a/c yet.  And when we do, it's only a window unit) so I want to keep it to a minimum.  Oh yeah, and our microwave broke.  Actually it.caught.on.fire.  really.  flames shooting out the inside wall. I can't make this stuff up.  The toaster oven has been my BFF lately.  And my beloved new non-stick pan--- I'll tell you all about this later this week. It rocks my world.  Yes, a non-stick pan.  who knew??

BTW, I keep most of my recipes online at delicious.com under sassyaztec if anyone is interested.  Go here to see


Mommy Down!

Exhibit A- Evil Cabinet Corner
Recently my FB status read: 

not sure if I'm more embarrassed that I whacked my head and unbeknownst to me, had the elementary school staff on the phone, or that they were so concerned that they sent the cops over to check up on me (this was after I called them back to let them know it was me and yes, I was okay) #OnlyInTheKindaCountry   

Looking for my cardboard box to crawl in.

I wasn't paying attention, hit my head on the corner of an upper cabinet door and literally, was knocked off my feet.  total collapsation, followed by big, HUGE, sobs of anguish.  Sassy was wide-eyed with concern.  Between sobbing and checking for how much blood I was dealing with, I rallied a few "Mommy's okay! Mommy's okay!"  I finally regained my senses and then came the realization that the phone was on "talk." O.M.G. I had to call back and fess up.  They most likely had call waiting and what in the world did it sound like on the other end?  I can't even imagine.  Um hi.... I think I just was on the phone with you when I hurt myself... 

After the confessions from the school staff that they weren't sure if they should call for help, I assured them all was well.  But that's not enough in the Kinda Country.  Nooosiree.  As I'm retelling my saga in full detail to BigDaddy, because OF COURSE he was out of town when this happened, I look out the window to see our local town police pull up.  for reals?  

Mr. Officer was called by the school to check on me.  Of course.  I can't imagine this happening to me if we lived in CA still.  But here, of course they would check up to see if I was okay. After discussing the events with local friends, we dissected each part.  Who the staffer was at the school, who she is related to, and whether or not she had me on speaker.  Who the officer was, whose husband works with him and the realization that he's the "new guy" (probably has been on staff for years, but didn't grow up here.) Then we did a play-by-play how it WAS a good thing they sent someone out, because what if someone had broken in and was making me call back to say I was okay, and BigDaddy wasn't even in town.  Yes, good thing they are looking out for this MamaBear. As Mr. Officer and I mentioned, "This is why we live here."  Indeed.


BigBoy in the Big Apple

I took the train up from VA to NYC over a year and a half ago, for a Sister Trip for the holidays.  BigBoy was not happy.  "'Why don't I get to go?"  I explained to him how much walking you need to do, you have to listen and pay attention and little kids just can't go.  I decided on the fly that 6 was the magic age.  I really thought he'd forget and something else would be the most important thing ever, taking its place.  nope. no dice.  at his 5th birthday:  "When I'm six I get to go to New York with Mom!" And then of course at 6, he remembered. He cashed in and I had to pay up on my year and half old promise.

BigBoy and I took a long weekend trip to NYC. Imagine if you will, being trapped with Buddy the Elf. really.

Spin around continuously in the revolving door. check.
Pick up nasty things from the street and play with them. check.
Jump up and down and clap due to an approaching subway. check.
Say "Thank you" and give the courtesy wave to taxis stopped at the crosswalk. check.
Dragging legs and complaining it's.just.so.much.walking. (after getting off the subway). check.

I was waiting for him to start pouring maple syrup on his spaghetti.

For some reason he is in love with the Statue of Liberty.  I think this is what sparked his interest in NYC in the first place.  So of course, SOL was a must do.  We also managed to fit in seeing Little Airplane Studios, Lion King /Times Square and Central Park.  We used a double decker bus tour that you can hop on and off all over the city.  Not my first choice, but I realized after the fact, that it totally fit the bill.  Squeeze in your various trips on the subway, rides in glass elevators, ice creams a la Mr. Softie, hot dogs, petting a mounted police horse, cab rides and you have yourself a fabulous 6 year old trip to NYC!

I also realized how country lovin' my kids are.  BigBoy was excited about everything.  and overwhelmed.  But he truly shined at Central Park.  He ran "off hand" and couldn't wait to climb all the boulders.  He was beyond happy and totally in his element again.  He listened to me again. Paid attention to his environment again. He was in control of his world again. It was nice to have him back for a fleeting moment.

BigBoy in his NYC Happy Place

But I was also proud MamaBear.  He was polite and independent. Ordering for himself in the cafes and always saying thank you and please. I'm also here to proclaim that New Yorkers aren't mean and nasty or unfriendly.  They ARE impatient, but luckily we were doing things during the week and off rush-hour times.  People smiled a lot at him, helped him and engaged him in conversation.  They were NICE.  and helpful. pinkie promise!

The trip was a fantastic experience for him and at the end of the day, all the hyperventilating and shvitzing I did worrying about BigBoy being taxi-road kill was totally worth it.   He won't remember mom freaking out about him not holding my hand on the sidewalk. or pulling him back after leaning over too far at the subway platform. or telling him over and over not to touch ANYTHING.  What he will remember is seeing Lady Liberty for the first time. or how awestruck he was seeing the "animals" at the Lion King. or how the Mr. Softee guy flipped his ice cream cone upside down before handing it to him and both of them cracking up together. or how fun it was climbing the rocks at Central Park. or the coolness factor of riding up 20 floors the glass elevator in the middle of a Times Square hotel. THAT makes it worth it.  

I'm not so sure I could handle another trip like this anytime soon, but I'm happy we were able to pull it off.  Thanks Aunt Bebe and Mr. Andrew for your hospitality!!  Now Sassy wants to know when SHE gets to go to NYC, just girls, and see Lion King too. sigh. I need another cupcake.

What we did:
Amtrak train, Northeast Lines
Little Airplane Studios, South Street Seaport  (tours on T/Th at 11 & 4) Ask for Robbie- he's fabulous!
Times Square & Midtown (near Aunt Bebe's work)
Mr. Softee (YUUUUUM!)

City Sights NY Double Decker Tour Bus, all around town + Statue of Liberty Ferry
Tour ride south to Battery Park
Statue of Liberty  unless you get there at the crack of dawn, it WILL take you all.day.long.
Tour ride north back to Gramercy

Central Park, hopped on tour bus for a quick ride south
Lion King, Times Square
Cool Elevator Ride, Marriott Marquis (they have bathrooms here!)
Pax Foods for a quick bite
Subway ride to Gramercy

Walked with my sis to sugar Sweet sunshine (BEST cupcake evah!) a must-do on MY list. ;)
Madison Square Park. Note: they have a cool art installation going on, statues are located on top of random buildings all over the area.  We had a lot of fun finding them.
Penn Station, Home!


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