March 29, 2010

A day at the Zoo…kind of!

So last Thursday the local schools were out for parent conferences or something like that. Even though we home school, trying to get the girls to do school work when their friends are home from school is impossible. So this year I figured if the traditional schools were out we would take the day off too. It's worked pretty well. Thursday is cheap day at Zoo Boise, the girls invited a few of their friends to come with us and we headed to the zoo. The weather man said it would rain in the morning, but as soon as we got into Boise the wipers were on full speed. The kids were undaunted by this fact and decided to go to the zoo anyway. After making a mad dash to the monkey house I pulled out the camera to document the craziness and found the memory card was still at home in the laptop. I figured I would check the gift shop as we ran past it to the rainforest house and was shocked that a 2G card was the low low price of $27.99. Having the common sense to not spend a fortune on a little memory card…I do have about 10 at the house…I left the gift shop empty handed and found the girls sliding down the rain drenched slide. Now that two of the four girls looked like they had a potty training accident, we moved quicker through the zoo. After a few hours of running from shelter to shelter getting soaked I took pity on them and called my Grandmother who lives close by asked if we could stop and use her dryer. By the time we finished drying our clothes the sun was shining and I think little birds came out to chirp…good thing I listened to the weatherman. Anyhow, since I refused to buy the overpriced memory card I will show you pictures of our zoo trip from a year or so ago.

About the time we went the zoo had just opened the Africa theme area. Allyson is standing on the 'dock' where the boat to Africa departs. You don't really get on a boat; as a matter of fact the dock is overlooking about 2 feet of water in the duck pond. You can stand on the dock; take pictures that look like you are waiting for a boat, and then walk the 100 feet or so to the Africa area. The girls were disappointed they didn't get to ride a boat,

But hey we have giraffes now.
And Lions

We have our good old favorite tigers,
And the always good for laughs penguins. I love seeing them half in the water, glass walls are great!

The girls always love posing with the bat ears. I must have a picture like this from every trip we have made to the zoo. They are finally growing into those bat ears.

March 28, 2010

Pizza is now a staple in our house

For the last 9 years I have stayed away from pizza. Ever since I was pregnant with Allyson just walking into a pizza place is enough to give me heartburn. Occasionally, if Mark and I had a date night I would order pizza and leave the check for the babysitter to pay the pizza man…that happens maybe twice a year, yeah we have a very active social life. Lately I've been getting recipe inspiration from various blogs and I saw a bunch of great pizza recipe. Hoping that maybe my heartburn issues have something to do with mass produced sauce I decided to give pizza a try with a homemade version. I found a good pizza sauce recipe at MyKitchenCafe but needed to change it for our family taste. I made some changes to the pizza crust recipe I found in the Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook. If you want to see the original recipes click the links to view them.

The pizza sauce recipe makes enough for two pizzas. We don't like a lot of sauce so I make the kids pizza first then add crushed red peppers to the remaining sauce and put it back in the food processor to blend in the peppers. We usually added the red peppers to the top of the cooked pizza, but I found the flavor better if I add it to the sauce.

We love a nice crispy crust, so I cook the pizza on my pizza stone. Funny how I have had this pizza stone for about 6 years and it just saw its first pizza two months ago. I figured out that it's best to preheat the stone. Even though the manufacturer does not recommend it in an oven over 400 degrees, my perfect crust is found at 425 degrees. So I rebel and heat my stone to 425 degrees, I like to walk on the wild side. Sometimes, but usually in my mind only. The problem I found was once the pizza stone was 425 degrees I couldn't touch it to make my crust the right size to fit the pan. It's amazing how your fingers don't like touching that hot stone. So I improvised and found my largest metal bowl, turned it upside down and put a little olive oil on it.

Then formed my crust.

If the crust gets tough and doesn't want to move down without tearing, give it a rest for a few minutes and try some more. Within a few minutes I usually have the crust all the way down.

Once the pizza stone is heated, carefully peel the dough crust off the bowl and put it on the stone. Top it with sauce, cheese, and any other topping you like. I bake mine in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes. While the first one is baking I remix the sauce adding crushed red peppers and form the second crust. When the first pizza is finished it will slide off the pizza stone and I can make the second pizza.

I'm glad I decided to give homemade pizza a try. It has been crazy easy and so much yummier than store bought pizza…not to mention I almost always have the ingredients on hand and the cost is much less.
Pizza Sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 teaspoons garlic salt
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
Crushed red pepper (optional)

Put all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and blend until it is the right consistency. This recipe makes enough sauce for two pizzas. I usually make the kids pizza then add the crushed red peppers to the remaining half of the sauce and blend it again so the adult pizza gets the spicy effect.

Pizza Crust
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ Cups Warm Water (110 degrees)
1 Cup Wheat Flour
3-4 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/3 cup Olive Oil

Put yeast, sugar and water in small bowl. Let the yeast sit for about 5 minutes to get frothy. Combine wheat flour, 3 cups white flour, and salt in mixing bowl. Add olive oil and mix for a minute. Add yeast water and mix until dough ball forms. If it looks really wet and sticky add a little bit of flour and mix again. I have found that when I use the wheat flour I only need about 3 cups of white flour. If using wheat flour let the dough ball sit for about 5 minutes before kneading. Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes. I just leave the dough in the mixer bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it sit to rise about 2 hours. After it has doubled in size, split the dough in half and shape for your pan. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Top the crust with your favorite toppings and bake for 10-15 minutes.

March 17, 2010

Breakfast is served

Lately I have been neglecting breakfast. I know it's a bad habit to start and even harder to break. I always make sure the girls eat breakfast, we have been talking about nutrition and what makes a good meal, but I hardly ever take my own advice. So today I decided to fix the breakfast problem and make a big pan of steel cut oats. YUMMM sort of…. I've used Alton Browns recipe from the food network as a starting point, but made some changes to make it a little healthier for me. The trick to it is to NOT stir it after adding the boiling water. Just let it bubble on its own for 25 minutes then add the milk. I like to add golden raisins to the pot and a pinch of brown sugar to my bowl. The raisins give it a nice sweetness so I don't over sugar the oats. After it cools a bit I put it in a plastic container and keep it in the fridge so I can heat it up quick every morning.

Steel Cut Oats
Adapted from Alton Brown, food network

1 T butter (I skip the butter and just toast them dry in the pan)
1 C steel cut oats
2 ½ C boiling water
½ C Soy milk
Raisons/Craisons (optional)
Brown Sugar (optional)
Cinnamon (optional)

Melt butter in large sauce pan. Add oats and toast for a few minutes until brown and nutty smelling. Add boiling water, reduce to simmer 25 minutes, NO STIRRING. Add soy milk and Raisons if using to pot, stir, cook an additional 10 minutes.

Place in individual bowls adding brown sugar and cinnamon to taste.

March 16, 2010

Workin on the basement

Mark and Jason have most of the basement ripped out.  The family room, playroom, storage area, and office are no longer.  All the drywall has been taken down, the insulation (not that there was much of it) has been removed, and all the studs on the outside walls have been removed.  Since we are making two bedrooms down there we had to have the windows cut bigger and custom windows made to fit the new holes.  Next to go is the laundry room and bathroom.  Then the fun can begin. We have little to no idea what we are doing, but I'm sure we will learn.

St Patrick's Day Cupcakes

I saw this recipe for frosting this morning and decided to give it a try. I made butter cream frosting over the weekend and it was ok, but Ashley said it was 'too buttery'. I figured I would find a different one for her and this one looked interesting. The girls helped me make cupcakes and after they cooled I used a piping bag to put the frosting on the cupcakes.

The frosting came out more like whipped cream. It was really soft and wet so I put the cupcakes in the fridge and the frosting firmed up. Again, one kid liked them and the other didn' winning with this crowd. I think the girls will give most of them away to friends this afternoon. I love baking but don't need the stuff around the house tempting me to eat it all.

We have run into the spelling word blues around here lately. I decided to change it up this week. We are reviewing old spelling list and adding in a few new words, but we decided to give up the notebook and pencil this week and we are using the white board. Schools are closed on Friday, so I figure we will take Friday off, too. So for this weeks spelling lessons the girls are given random words and if they spell them correctly they get a colored noodle. On Friday they can trade in 40 noodles and I will take them see the movie "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" we are almost done reading the book together (both of the girls have already read it separately) and it should be neat to see how the book is translated to a movie.

March 5, 2010

Working on the basement

The basement remodel has begun. For the last few weekends Mark and Jason have been ripping all the drywall, insulation, and most of the walls out of the basement and hauling it to the dump. So far we have moved 3000 pounds of the house to the dump. Since we are having new windows installed Mark worked on making a window well larger. So he jumped in the hole and shoveled.
and shoveled,
and shoveled. About 10 wheel barrows later he was done.
Bright and early this morning the window company and the concrete cutting company showed up to get the new windows in place. The noise is crazy
L O U D, but the excitement of getting to the next step of the project is great.