Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Overcoming Obstacles

Today I have to brag about my 6th grade son David.  Several months ago he decided to participate in his middle school spelling bee.  This afternoon, the spelling bee was held at school and he scored third overall among 6th, 7th & 8th graders, and second among the 6th graders.  He was so proud to receive a silver medal.

His accomplishment may not be overly significant to most, however, to stand in front of a large number of people, keep cool under pressure and spell from memory without the ability to write the words down (something I certainly can't do) was mind-blowing to me for two reasons.  The first is that this is really not his forte.  He is very smart and loves to read, but again, spelling in your head is so much different than writing it down.  The second is because he is autistic.    

When we first received his diagnosis many years ago, my husband and I were basically told he would never amount to much.  It was one of the worst days of my life.  But we always pushed, helped and exposed him to different things.  He has a love of learning, museums and books.  He is confident, stood up to a bully this year, has achieved high honors all year and became a member of his middle school Student Council.

We are so proud of him, so grateful for the wonderful teachers we have had along the way, so thankful for our fantastic tutor (and friend), Carol and proud of ourselves for our continued efforts in pushing forward and continually overcoming obstacles.   He is growing into a very driven and successful young man.

I revel in the multitude of ways he has proven and continues to prove his prognosis was wrong.  He continues to amaze me with his scholastic accomplishments.

I love you David and I am so proud of you!  

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Taste of Spring at the RI Spring Garden & Flower Show

The Rhode Island Convention center hosted the 21st annual RI Spring Flower & Garden Show this past weekend.  This end of February show is always a welcome taste of spring, especially this year after a winter full of weekly snowstorms and arctic cold spells.  

This year's theme was vintage gardens using vintage cars as centerpieces.  

There were dresses made of flowers.

Lovely tables were set. A gorgeous pizza brick oven/bar or a tiki barbecue/bar would look really nice in my yard.

I'm getting spring fever, are you?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Winter Blues? GO OUT AND PLAY!

Just in the past couple of weeks Mother Nature has graced us with several snow storms.  This week has been February vacation, but there was a snow day the preceding Thursday.  This set off a flurry of activity on my Facebook feed as it has done all winter, every time snow was forecasted.  And pretty much the same people are complaining.  While I do appreciate the dilemma of finding child care when school is cancelled but work is not, these same people that  whine "They cancelled school for THIS?", are also moaning, "Why didn't they cancel today, the roads are a mess."  And they will also be bitching in summer when "It's too freaking hot out".   

The only complaint I had was during one storm in January.  I wanted to go sledding and my sons wanted to watch some DVD's.  Seriously?  Who's the kid here?  

The weather has caused me to make some delicious comfort food.  And drinks.  Well, what's a couple of extra pounds?  Spring is coming soon.  Really it is.  I think it is.   I hope it is.

Home-made Mac & Cheese
Pat D's Pulled Pork
Leftover Mac &  Cheese With Mimosa ~  For Breakfast!!!
But in the meantime we've tried to enjoy ourselves.  We've gone sledding, had a movie marathon for two days, and the board games came out.  I even sat down over a period of three days and read a book I had bought a couple of months ago, but hadn't yet had the opportunity to read.  It was wonderful!  

Tuesday's storm was a surprise.  Originally supposed to give us an inch or two, we instead got 5 inches of snowman snow!  Yippee!  We all suited up and went outside.  We made a snowman, I finished shoveling, made a batch of lemon drops and watched the kids pelt each other with snowballs and roll around in the snow.  I made NY System Weiners (It's a Rhode Island thing), took a nap and finished my book. 

NY System Weiners

We live in the Northeast.  It's winter.  It's cold.  There's snow.  People can either whine, moan, groan and complain, or sit back, enjoy a little extra time with their families, eat some comfort food and indulge in a couple of drinks, but for heaven's sake, GO OUT AND PLAY!!!

Beach time yet?

Best way to chill Lemon Drops!

Watching the Sunset

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Saturday Special ~ Homemade Mac & Cheese

This Saturday was filled with early morning errands and now hunkering down for another snow storm.  We are expecting nearly a foot of snow on top of the several inches still on the ground from earlier this week.  We were supposed to go out for Chinese food but instead I have pulled pork cooking and fresh cole slaw chilling.   And since the diet is pretty much shot after all the indulging during these storms, I am making home-made macaroni & cheese.   To me, this is the ultimate comfort food and I am re-sharing last year's post of my lower calorie version of this tasty treat!

My Ultimate Comfort Food - Homemade Mac & Cheese

Let's face it, Mac and Cheese is just not meant to be a low fat, low calorie dish.  I found an online recipe with the total cholesterol being 160% of the daily allowance and there was 60 grams of fat per serving.  So I doctored it up to reduce as much cholesterol and calories as possible without losing the taste.  If you are watching your cholesterol and fat closely, you may want to skip this one. 

I start with my favorite Vermont Cheddar from Grafton Village Cheese Co in Grafton, VT.

Homemade Mac & Cheese

8 oz cooked pasta
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour 
1 cup of milk (I used 2% milk)
1 cup cream (I used 1/2 and 1/2
2 cups of shredded cheddar (I cut small squares of Grafton Village Cheese Co. Cheddar Cheese from Vermont)
Buttered Bread Crumbs (I used seasoned Panko bread crumbs, no butter)
Buttered baking dish (I sprayed with Pam)

Cook the pasta as directed and set aside.  

Preheat Oven to 400.  

Melt butter in large saucepan and then stir in the flour, salt and pepper.  Keep stirring until smooth.  Slowly add the 1/2 & 1/2 and the milk, constantly stirring to keep the mixture smooth.  Bring to a boil, boil 2 minutes, then lower heat and cook for 10 minutes stirring constantly.  Add the cheese a little at a time, stirring until cheese is melted.  Remove from heat and stir in the pasta, thoroughly coating with the cheese mixture.

Pour mixture into a baking dish liberally sprayed with Pam Non Stick Cooking Spray.  Sprinkle the seasoned Panko bread crumbs on the top.

Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until bubbly.

I don't know what the final fat & cholesterol counts are, but they are bit lower than the original recipe - ENJOY!!!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's All About the Food ~ Pat D's Easy Pulled Pork

Here in New England the Arctic cold spells have treated us with some of the lowest temperatures we’ve had in a long time.  There have been some snow storms and I tend to hibernate in this weather.  I will say it’s really kicked myself in gear to do some straightening out.  But mainly, it’s been all about the food, which I must say is not good for the weight loss goals!

A Facebook friend posted a request for crock pot recipes as she had just purchased her first one.  Pulled pork was a suggestion, so I googled recipes.  I was thinking that sounded like a good dinner for us as well.  Pulled pork is pretty basic but I poured over dozens of recipe variations which included cooking it with root beer, using vinegar, chicken broth, water, even a brine solution as well as just cooking it in BBQ sauce.  Mostly all the recipes I read called for using a pork shoulder.

When a mutual friend responded to the post and shared her recipe for pulled pork, I decided to try it.  It was super easy and sounded so good I had to try it.  It WAS so good and became a giant hit in my house!  I made an oil and vinegar based cole slaw (dairy, egg free) and my boys especially loved it!  The pulled pork and cole slaw recipes are dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut free.  

PAT D’s Easy Pulled Pork

Pork Butt With Bone (I used one approximately 5 pounds)
2 bottles of beer
1 large onion chopped

BBQ sauce to taste 
(I used 1 1/2 bottles as my kids like a lot of BBQ sauce)

Cole Slaw (my recipe below)

Chop a large sweet onion and lay on the bottom of the crockpot.  Put the pork shoulder on top of the onions.  Pour two bottles of beer over the pork shoulder.

Cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.  I actually cooked about 2 hours on high and 4 hours on low and I turned the meat over about 1/2 way through to make sure the beer got to every bit of it!

Remove the meat from the crockpot and shred, removing fat and bone.  Strain the liquid out.  Put the shredded meat and strained onions back in the crockpot. Add BBQ sauce and cook an extra 1/2 hour to an hour until sauce is heated through.

Cole Slaw (no Mayo)

1 package of cole slaw mix  16 oz
1/8 cup minced or finely chopped onion

1/3 cup of red vinegar
2 packets of trivia (or sugar)
1/3 cup of canola oil
celery salt, salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the red wine vinegar and sugar, then add oil.  Pour over the cole slaw mix and season to taste with celery salt, salt and pepper.  Mix well, refrigerate and stir again after 30 minutes.  Stir before serving.   (if it's too dry for you, add a little more oil and vinegar).

Would love your feedback!
Bon Appetit!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bacon & Leek Stuffed Mushrooms ~ Dairy, Egg & Nut Free

When Superbowl Sunday comes around, for us, it's all about the food.  The boys always get cheated with their food allergies, but I adapted a stuffed mushroom recipe for them that is so delicious, even the non allergy guests love to partake in a few!  It takes about 30 minutes to prepare and about 45 minutes to cook.

Bacon & Leek Stuffed Mushrooms 
(Dairy, Egg and Nut Free)

24 stuffing mushrooms
2 tablespoons flavored olive oil (I used Sicilian garlic from Stop & Shop ~
Or, can use plain olive oil with a pinch of crushed thyme, rosemary and cayenne pepper)
1 bunch (3) leeks sliced thinly
2 packets of Ritz Crackers, crushed
12 oz package bacon, cooked very crispy and crushed
1/3 cup of chopped stems (fleshy part from the top of the stem when removed from the mushroom)
1 1/2 sticks of Fleischmann's Unsalted Margarine (soy based margarine, dairy free)

Remove stems from mushrooms and finely chop some of the top portions of stems for the stuffing.  Rinse mushrooms well and dry.  Place on baking sheet.

In a medium fry pan, saute the leeks in the seasoned olive oil on medium heat. Add the chopped mushroom stems and 1/2 stick of margarine.  Saute until mushroom stems are tender, about 5 minutes.  Melt the rest of the butter in the pan then remove from heat.  Add the bacon and crushed Ritz crackers and mix well. (if mixture is too loose, add a few more crackers to it).

Stuff the mushrooms and put in middle rack in 350 degree oven for approximately 35-45 minutes.