Sunday, June 29, 2008

Triple Party Fun

Yesterday we held a Triple Party for three teens. Ashley finished her first year of Technical School, Tony graduated High School, and Tony's sister graduated college. I didn't take any action shots at the party because we were fighting wind and rain. Thank God we had canopy tents set up for cover so the day was not a total loss. I did capture the food I contributed to the occasion...I kinda went a little overboard...but that is the creative side of me when I get an idea in my head and run with it.

"Veggie Platter"... Hidden under all of the veggies is a bunch of fresh kale that I picked from our garden.

"Fruit Bowl"...Just for the record, I didn't have a bowl large enough in my house to mix this quantity of fruit. I had to clean and disinfect my sink in order to mix it up. I used 1 Watermelon, 2 cantaloupe, 2 pounds strawberries, 3 pounds red seedless grapes, and 2 fresh pineapple. And yes, it all fit in the basket that was lined with tin foil.

The cake turned out great. The idea in my head was coming together masterfully. The topper exectuted exactly as I had it planned out in my head. Everything looked great when I went to bed Saturday night.

Unfortunately, heat and humidity with the fluffy boiled icing request did not agree. I knew the weight of the topper would not be supported sufficiently with the slowly sinking, sad and droopy icing on the cake. Instead, I used the cheesy plastic topper I had as Plan B.

By the time I got the cake to the party, the droopy frosting had conveniently slid south and the cake was exposed. I wasn't even going to try to fix it at that point. No one seemed to mind that the icing had slid, they were anxious to dig into the cake and there wasn't much leftover at the end of the day.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

30 Recipes ~ 2 1/2 Days - Part 1

Some food highlights from the Healthy Cuisine For Kids class this past week.
Veggie Wraps

Broccoli Salad (made with lowfat mayo)

Veggie Lasagna (with fresh garden salad)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chef Coats and Hats Return...

Today I am headed off to teach the "Healthy Cuisine for Kids" to other School Food Service Personnel around the state. I will be driving back and forth each day, even though the price of gas is through the roof. It was still cheaper for me to drive to and from than it was to pay for a hotel room and meals. I don't mind driving the haul this time of year, the mountains are amazing to look at and that helps to pass the time.

Back in February I took the course (read more here). We've worked hard to scale back the number of recipes to make the experience more meaningful to those taking the class. We sorta felt like we were on Iron Chef when we took the course, and didn't want the students we will be teaching to be overwhelmed. We have been divided into teaching teams, and holding the classes regionally across the state this week.

I will take pictures of the healthy, nutitious food everyone makes over the next three days and hopefully blog about it later this week.

Monday, June 23, 2008

School Nutrition

Despite all of the bad publicity taking place in the media over school lunches, there are some noteworthy good news that doesn't necessarily make its way into the media.

Vermont is one of the leaders in change for nutrition in schools. There has been a strong movement in bringing local foods to the cafeteria trays for several years now. We have a great group of "movers and shakers" that are increasing the whole grains, adding more fresh fruits and vegetables, and getting away from processed foods. Of course, the only way to make your budget float on very small shoestring budget, we have to serve some of the more popular processed meals to keep up the student participation.

Example: Chicken Patty on Bun is one of the more popular meals with my students. I've sought out purchasing a chicken patty that has whole grain breading, and serve it on a whole wheat bun. Had I presented a meal like this when I first took over the position of Food SErvice Manager, I might have been lynch mobbed and strung up the flag pole. Change is hard, and takes time. I try to focus my attentions on the younger, more impressionable students. By the time students reach middle school, they have already gained their strong opinions about food and nutrition. Changes I am making to the program today won't be seen as a widespread change for at least another 7 years.

I work in a K-12 school. What appeals to younger students doesn't necessarily appeal to the older students and vise versa. Trying to find balance and targeting both sides of the school can be extremely challenging at times. Sometimes I've had to create different versions of meals to appeal to the different age groups.

When the Jr & Sr. High students had exams in January, I held a beach day for the Grade School Students. They brought in sunglasses and beach towels and we had sack lunches and a rare ice cream treat for everyone. We played beach music, and had a lot of fun. As it turned out, the weather was really awful but the anticipation of fun at lunch time erased any ugly feelings about what was taking place outside.

Here are some great links about school nutrition. I would encourage you to become involved with your School Food Service Director. Find out what their needs are. Oftentimes those who are running the programs are made to feel as though they are dangling out in left field by themselves. Your help (small or large) just might be what your school food service program needs.

School Nutrition

Team Nutrition

Training Grants

Vermont focus

Take Action

It'S nOt EaSy BeInG gReEn!

I've had this treasury picked out for a couple days and because I was so busy on Sunday missed the time to make a new Treasury. I snagged one on T-west this morning before I have to get rolling for the day. You can view it here until Thursday at 3:58 AM.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Project

I have been playing with some new yarn today. This is Lion Brand Organic Cotton yarn. Quite a bit pricier than the cotton yarn I typically use. What is nice about this yarn is that it is free of pesticides, herbicides and other agri-chemicals that are used to grow or color yarn. All of the harvesting and sorting is done by hand and it has been grown in the natural shades. Impressive that this yarn gave consistent results throughout the project with the benefit of being extremely soft and dreamy to work with. I'm hooked! (no pun intended)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cure For Those Summertime Blues

The Etsybloggers Street Team Rocks with fun, friendship, and outstanding talent. I am proud to be a member of this rather active, wild and crazy bunch of bloggers. You can see this fabulous talent until Sunday at 11:44 AM.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Etsyblogger of the Month ~ Alicia Mae

Alicia Mae states on her blog that she's moving from the south because she's a snowbaby. After this past winter I would gladly change places with her because I'm NOT a snowbaby! I live for the summer sun and heat.

I was looking over Alicia's three (whew!) Etsy sites...Alicia Mae, Alicia Mae Prints, and Random Supplies. She has an Ebay site, and I just spied that she has a shop on! Busy, busy lady for sure! Does she ever sleep?
Anyhoo...I couldn't resist myself when I spied the cutest little polymer clay candy canes that I "needed" as tie-ons for some Christmas ideas rolling around in my head. And since she had them on deep, deep discount on account of her move, yours truly just HAD to give them a new home.

Not only is Alicia a crafty lady, but she's a woman after my own heart in that she loves to cook and bake.

If you want to order anything from her stores, you better hurry on over. June 25 is the last day she will be shipping before her move. Let's help Alicia lighten her load for moving! Good Luck, Alicia!

Written for the Etsybloggers Street Team ~ Etsyblogger of the Month.

Yummy Strawberries

Will you check out all of those delicious strawberries! It's only up until Sunday, 2:44 AM!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Beetnik Cake

This cake recipe was graciously contributed by Mary Lou LaPierre, Jericho Elementary School, Vermont. It is part of a recipe booklet Vermont Feed has given as a handout from their various conferences and classes that I have had the pleasure of attending over the past four years. You can find a sampling of some of their other recipes in a PDF file here. I have tasted all of their recipes and haven't found one that I didn't like.

(Keep in mind these are written for larger quantities so you could cut the recipes in half or fourths for home use.)

Yield: 25 servings
Set oven to 350 degrees

67 oz. cooked & peeled beets in water (chop in food processor and use juice)
2 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp. Vanilla
3 pounds sugar
3 Tbsp. baking soda
7 eggs
1 1/2 pounds unbleached flour
1 1/2 pounds whole wheat pastry flour

Puree beets in food processor with juice. Mix all ingredients in mixer. Pour into greased sheet cake pan (or lined muffin tins). Bake 40-45 min. (if cutting recipe in size I would check after 30 min.) Muffin cups check after 20 min. Test with toothpick. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or frosting of your choice.

These are AWESOME!!!

I've been interested in the spa salt bars for a good while but was too chicken to jump in. With summer vacation I decided it would be a good time to test them out, but I had to try one first to be convinced it would be worth my time.

I have been eyeing The Soap Store on Etsy for several months. I am amazed at the swirls and layering techniques of this very talented soap artist! Soon as I opened the package the fragrance of the spa bar wafted up and filled the room. I admired the bar for a couple days before taking it to the tub. Isn't this a gorgeous bar of soap?
What can I say? I'm HOOKED on the spa salt bars! I was pleasantly surprised that the soap wasn't scratchy at all. The water transformed the spa salt bar into the most incredible experience for my skin. My skin feels so soft and smooth, not at all dry. Good bye salt scrubs, hello spa salt bars! Less mess, safer to use and much easier to package!

Now that I'm convinced this is something I would like to make and offer my customers, I just HAD to make some of my own this morning. It wasn't as tricky as I had thought they would be. Everything went smoothly, and behaved well for me. Because everything went so smoothly for me, I decided to add a swirl to mine and I'm pretty tickled with the result. Now to wait (impatiently) for the next 4 weeks while these harden and cure before I test one out.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gourmet Feast

There are those (I won't mention any names, but I commonly refer to him as DH) who thumb their nose up to the idea of healthier meals in schools. He is of the opinion that people should have the choice of what they want to eat and no one should be forcing them to eat healthier. Part of my job is being creative with the healthier food options. I have many healthier options that look appealing and taste great so the challenge to prove him wrong went into full swing today.

Fresh Garden Salad made with fresh greens purchased at the Farmer's Market. After having to buy lettuce in the grocery store all winter long, fresh baby greens hit the spot!

Due to technical difficulties, there is no photo of the pasta salad made with whole grain pasta. Does not change the taste, and the slight color variation of the pasta isn't noticeable. I mixed in peas, red onion, white albacore tuna, a bit of mayo, and garden seasoning with no salt.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken hot off the grill. Made with boneless skinless chicken breast. Always a hit when I make it. I love cooking extra so I can add some of the leftovers to a Garden Salad for lunch. A vegetarian option - the jerk spice mixture would be awesome on a piece of firm tofu then grilled. YUM!

And what EVERY Gourmet Feast should have...Rich Dark Chocolate cupcakes with Whipped Icing. I seriously don't know what happened to the first two or three cupcakes. I certainly didn't go "healthier" on the dessert, although I do have a recipe for chocolate beet cake that is excellent and no one even knows they are eating veggies! I figured I best just break him in "slowly" with the healthier options. After all, he had baby beet greens in the salad and he didn't know what it was.

DH had no complaints, but the look on his face was priceless when I told him today's healthier food experiment worked. He really didn't notice anything different about the baby greens (won't tell him about the beet greens) and the whole grain pasta went unnoticed. It has made him think twice about his earlier opinion.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Forgot to Announce!

We have a winner in the Repeat Day Contest. Congratulations to Storybeader who was selected as the winner in a rather interesting manner. While on the phone with my oldest daughter I asked her to pick a number. After she told me the number she asked, "what did I just do that for?" Storybeader's entry happened to be the post that coincided with the number and she had mentioned two work-outs in one day which counted as a repeat. She picked the following soaps:Berries & Cream, Naturewalk, Spring Fling, and Lime Sugar. They are on their way, keep watch in the mail, Storybeader!

Next month is my Birthday so I'm going to have to come up with another contest.

WOO HOO...It's Summer Vacation!!!!!

It's the first day of summer vacation...WOO HOO!!! To celebrate I listed some new soaps in the Spotted Cow Soaps Etsy Store! Ummm...just for the record...the kumquat is very intoxicating!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I'm Proud to Be American!

The 4th of July holds special meaning to me. There are parades, picnics, fireworks, and freedom to celebrate. Every year since I can remember, my parents always planned my Birthday festivities to celebrate on the 4th of July and it seems to have been carried through into my adult life. My Birthday is actually on the 6th but I certainly don't mind celebrating a couple days early. Perhaps that is why I have such a love for Patriotic decor, and why my kitchen is bursting with 4th of July fever year round. This was the inspiration for my newest treasury. It will be active until Wednesday at 12:24 PM.

Father's Day

Father's Day is rather peculiar this year. With all of the graduations taking place this weekend and last, we have been invited to multiple graduation parties today. And, everyone's work schedules, etc. has allowed for time to pick up our best friend and family pet, Pepper from the Vet's, where she has been in the deep freeze since late February (too much snow at that time to bury her), and properly lay her to rest. I fixed a gourmet breakfast for DH in honor of Father's Day. My own father is off camping for the weekend so wishing him Happy Father's Day will have to wait.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's Graduation Time...

Thursday night we attended the 2008 Recognition Night ceremonies for the Randolph Technical Career Center. Students that were successful in their program studies achieved a certificate of completion, and many scholarships are distributed during the ceremony.
Above, Ashley is pictured with her instructor for the Environmental Resource Management program studies as she is receiving her certificate of completion. She was one of three girls in the school that received the Gender Equity Scholarship Award. The award is presented to young women who are successful in their program studies that are primarily a "male" program/career training. Way to go Ashley!!!

Friday night was an emotional evening while we attended the 2008 Randolph Union High School Commencement Ceremony. Ashley's main squeeze, Tony, graduated from High School and has plans to attend The University of Northwestern Ohio to study High Performance Engines. Way to go Tony!!!

The summer has finally arrived. School is over for the year, with plans for summer fun to follow. Senior Portraits are on the agenda for Ashley this summer. Can it really be that time already? Seems like we just had Melissa's taken!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why I Love Vermont

I never tire of the landscape and scenery. I took these photos down at the pond on my brother-in-law's property. It is such a serene view, and the pond is nestled in along a nice grove of trees.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Featured in Treasuries

I have so much fun snagging and creating treasuries and get excited when I am featured in someone else's treasury. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that I am currently featured in not one, not two, but THREE treasuries! Holy Spotted Cows! Thank you so much to those who have featured me.

Storybeader, one of my Etsyblogger buds featured my Kitchen Soap in her Treasury ~ Coffee Break.

Ciaffi has featured my Father's Day Special in their treasury ~ Dad.

Lusitania has featured my Sweet Serenity Soap in their treasury ~ Pretty. UPDATE 6/10/08 - So I have been told, this treasury made the front page. I was at work but came home to a lot of hearts, views and convos. HOLY SPOTTED COW!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cupcake Fun

For those of you that know me well, you know I'm no Martha Stewart in the kitchen. Meaning - I don't do all of the fancy "perfect" stuff, I'm a plain jane, K.I.S.S., type of cook. Every once in a while I get inspiration to try something new and "fancy". It just so happens the inspiration for the aboved pictured delicacy was birthed from the Cupcake Pop recipe on the Bakerella website.

Mine certainly are not perfection like hers. What I can say is that they are #1 - too time consuming to reach the end result and #2 - I am wearing cake, frosting, chocolate bark and red candy melts; my kitchen doesn't look much better. They taste good, but the texture put me off. I like my chocolate cake and frosting, just not mixed/mushed together like this. I'll stick with baking cupcakes and leave it at that.

Friday, June 6, 2008


A quick check on the web for one of our local TV stations to see what happened to the doom and gloom prediction for hot and humid weather today...It's been cloudy, raining and cool...
Note the expected low for the day is higher than the current temp.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fun in the Sun..All Things Summer

Inspiration for this blog entry came from the Etstybloggers Team Blog Carnival theme for this week ~ "With gas prices so high alot of families will be doing "staycations" where they do local stuff instead. What outdoor activities are you planning, would like to do, or write of a favorite outdoor activity you did in the past? Maybe an outdoor summer activity you do every summer, all summer. Anything outdoorsy goes."

I have always loved summer. It is my favorite season of the year. I would be happy with 10 months of summer and 2 months of cooler weather that would include ONE day of snow for Christmas.

Growing up my parents were frugal with their spending and we didn't travel very much. Summertime was prime opportunity to get outdoors to work in the garden and keep the lawn trimmed and pristine during the week. Weekends were for fun and relaxation. If we did travel anywhere, it was within 2 hours from home. We did an awful lot of camping. Did I mention we did a LOT OF CAMPING???

To this day my sister and I despise even the thought of camping. We camped from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Perhaps it was the cold damp ground, or the fact that the canvas tent was no match to rain storms and flooding. Perhaps it was the hard ground beneath us or the many nights of sleeping with teeth chattering because it was so cold.

One year we were issued air mattresses to use for the summer. We thought we were moving up in style, by golly! How disppointing it was when those lovely air mattresses started in with a round of whistles and screams in the middle of the night as they quickly went flat. So ended our thoughts of luxury camping for the summer. These days, our thoughts about the ideal camping experience is Motel 6!

While we may gripe and complain today about those camping experiences, at the time we did have a lot of fun and we do carry a lot of fond memories with us. Camping broke up the monotony of everyday life and gave us a chance get away from doing our normal daily chores. Campfires, marshmallow roasts, fishing, swimming, hiking, and lots of summer fun. We met new friends every weekend, and some were gained as summer-long friends.

While my close friends and neighbors all went away for one week of vacation to some luxury location, we took many weekend camping trips and had fun all summer long.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, Repeat....Whoa!

Okay folks, it's time to announce another Fun & Wacky Contest.

TODAY, June 3, is Repeat Day!!!

Repeat Day is an opportunity to do things over and over again. Repeat Day is an opportunity to do things over and over again. (hee, hee)

Hopefully you will choose to repeat things you enjoy doing. Pick a wide array of foods, snacks, and activities, and repeat them today. As a matter of fact, it's perfectly okay to repeat them over and over again today. It's also perfectly okay to avoid doing things you don't like. It's a certainty that you will not enjoy distasteful things the second time around.

I'm seeking photos, funny stories about repetitive habits, silly blog entries, and more that relate to Repeat Day. Come back here and post a comment with the link to your blog post that tells me all about what you chose to repeat, or avoided repeating. Don't wait too long, this is a short-lived, fast moving contest. It starts right now and ends at NOON on Tuesday, June 10, 2008! I will choose one very lucky winner who will get to choose 4 bars of my awesome soap! (Your skin will thank you!) Please keep entries family friendly. Spotted Cow Soaps reserves the right to exclude any questionable entries.

One more twist in this can only enter the contest once. But, since this is Repeat Day, you have the opportunity to earn bonus entries by exercising some repetitive keyboard motions. Simply said, anyone you send to my blog to participate in the contest should mention you sent them over. Every person that mentions your name with their participation in the contest you will earn an extra bonus entry in the contest. The more people you send to participate, the more chances you will earn. Let the Repeat Day fun begin!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Father's Day Special

This year why not give the Special Man in your life a personal gift he'll enjoy. We've bundled up four of our delightful soaps that are sure winners with the guys ~ Rustic Trails, Grandpa's Pipe, Green Mountain Fresh & Naturewalk. We've included a shaving brush and have it all neatly wrapped together and ready for gift giving. You can check it out here.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Chocolate Cupcakes

This afternoon the scavengers were pounding their feet to the kitchen for the cupcakes before they were officially cooled, never mind decorated. I grabbed the chocolate icing and start slapping it on with the spatula...sigh! Too plain and simple, but that didn't seem to bother the masses, they were gone in record time. Gotta get out my copy of The Cake Bible this week and find some new cake recipes to test out.