Saturday, November 29, 2008

Survey Says... you may have realized from my Cranberry-Orange Smoothie post, I am a lousy housekeeper.  The way I figure it, I spend 50 hours a week away from home at my job, so in lieu of having a spotlessly clean, well-organized household I choose to use my spare time to catch up with my family, play with my two ginormous dogs, cook (and therefore, add to the chaos in my kitchen) or just plain go somewhere other than here.
Occasionally, however, I get this weird feeling.  That strange "nesting" thing that creeps up on you, when suddenly you have this URGE to cleanse your home of unwanted or unnecessary items, stash away the good stuff in a neat and orderly fashion, alphabetize your spice cabinet (I actually do that) and whip out the camera to take pictures to send to your neat-freak mother with a message that reads, "See??? I AM your child!!"
Well, this was one of those days for me.  
Since I wasn't having guests for Thanksgiving, I had been very lax in my daily chores.  The extra countertop we had installed a few years ago became the drop off point - a place where everything that didn't have a home ended up getting dropped off.  It seemed to have happened overnight, but truth be told, it was probably weeks in the making.  Maybe even months.
Then one morning I swigged down a refreshing smoothie, went out and picked up a Dunkin Donuts coffee and decided it was time to clean.  I kept wanting to turn back, but forged ahead through piles of mail, stacks of printed out recipes, the guts of cleaned out purses, wallets and backpacks.  I organized mail into three stacks - keepers, shredders and recyclers - then delved into the mountainous pile of....well, crap.... Apparently it really had been there for a while, because I came across a spider or two that scurried out of the way, probably yelling "There goes the neighborhood!", as well as lots of dust. And where there's dust, there are dust bunnies.  Big ones. Ones that look like THIS.....
It charged at me from nowhere, teeth bared, growling and swiping at me.  It almost got me...or so I thought.  Then I realized, it was just asking to be rescued from the wreckage. I think I'll name him "Snowball".  
"Snowball," I asked my new pet. "Whatever are you standing on? Under your left foot?"
It was this.  Yet another note from...The Stalker.....
Is it just me? Or does J.D Powers and his associates stalk everyone?  It all started a few weeks after we purchased our new car.  J.D. sent me a survey, along with a dollar - an actual $1 bill! - asking for my opinion on something.  I'm not sure what - I pocketed the dollar and "misplaced" the survey.  I really did intend on completing it, but honestly, if I can't even keep my house clean, do I really have time to complete a 16-page survey?

J.D. doesn't take "no" lightly, for a month or so later ANOTHER survey (and another dollar bill!) shows up in my mailbox.  This one I completed....but lost in the shuffle before I could mail it.  Maybe Snowball ate it.  So when I came upon this third one, I almost recycled it in my cleaning frenzy, but then snatched it out of the bin.  Hmmmm....Wonder if J.D. is showering me with yet ANOTHER dollar bill!  I opened the envelope, and to my astonishment, found THIS....
ABE???? Is that YOU????
A real FIVE DOLLAR BILL!  Wow. Suddenly I felt guilty.  J.D. and his buds must be desperate to know about me!  I picture them sitting around a 50-foot long boardroom table "Harrumph-harrumph! Rabble-babble-rabble-babble!  Imperative that we obtain this ONE WOMAN's opinion...our reputation, our whole existence depends on it!  
All those in favor of sending her five bucks?"  
"All those opposed?"
(Crickets chirping....)
Sigh. I actually love surveys.  It amazes me that anyone would want to know what I think! They make me feel so important, whether it's Safecount, eRewards, Survey Monkey.... I get giddy! Suddenly I feel desirable, knowledgeable, important.  I feel loved.  You like me! You really, really like me!  So partly out of guilt for ignoring J.D. and the boys for so long, and partly because they bribed me, I took a moment from my cleaning to finally respond.  Hmmm....Let's see what they want this time, shall we?

Ah yes, guilt me some more.  OK, you wore me down.
First, I found out that I was ill-equipped to comply with their demands....the only writing utensil I could find was a red crayon..... but alas... they apparently can only see black or blue.

Eventually I found the proper writing instrument and set about to discover what enlightening information they were so desperate to obtain.  And do you know what they wanted?  What secrets lurk in the mind of a middle-aged, working mom with dust bunnies the size of squirrels chasing her around?  
Well, after a few questions about my vehicle, they basically wanted to know...what magazines I read, what radio stations I listen to and what television programming I watch.  Like I have time for ANY of that! I mean, I'd NEVER get my housework.... oh. Never mind.  Apparently J.D. and the boys have done their homework.
Anyway, five bucks is five bucks.  Here's a sampling of what they wanted:

Not sure if you can see it, but the column to the left means "no". to the right means "yes".  Note - I pretty much only read food magazines.  I feel so uneducated and uninformed!  But man, can I cook...
This is what I watch on t.v.
 South Park.  How I love South Park.  They are so raunchy, so trashy, so politically incorrect...yet funny!  I figure, I can laugh at myself, so why not laugh at others in the privacy of my own home?  And Ina - I adore her!  I want to move next door to her so she can cook for me.  I'm sending Snowball out to track her down right now.  TMZ? Well, you never know where Benicio Del Toro will turn up.  Oh how I adore Benicio....
Well, long story short, it took me about an hour to complete this 16-page survey, three year old and dust bunny interrupting me constantly.  It all seemed like pretty meaningless stuff to me, but hey, J.D. and the boys are a total of $7 lighter in the pocket, so the least I could do is seal it up and send it off.
Aw, shucks! They're even picking up the postage! 
Exhausted from completing the grueling survey - I mean, this was nothing compared to the CPA exam (which, by the way, I've never taken....and probably never will.  You know how much they'd have to pay me for THAT?! But I hear it's pretty tough...) - I plopped down on the couch, poked at the clicker in search of Ina or Benicio, and gave my three year-old the five bucks to go put the survey in the mailbox.
(Joking! Of course I accompanied her...)
I hope you're happy, J.D.  Now my kitchen will NEVER be clean!

Cranberries Glorious Cranberries

I just love the sight of freshly rinsed cranberries....

There's something about these ruby berries that make me happy.  Although I live in Massachusetts, the commercial cranberry bogs are not exactly in my back yard.  Still, I remember seeing small wild bogs here and there when I was younger.  And several years a go I visited friends in Plymouth whose back yard abutted a small cranberry bog.  The color was amazing when they began to ripen.

For the first time, I made homemade cranberry sauce (Cranberry Sauce I from Allrecipes) for Thanksgiving.  I had never in my life had "real" cranberries at Thanksgiving, although I use them quite often in breads, muffins, desserts and even smoothies.  In this recipe, fresh cranberries are simmered away in orange juice and sugar...
 ...And after the berries have cooked down, the sauce thickens up as it cools.  I made mine ahead of time, so the cranberries were brilliant red and gelatinous after chilling in the fridge.  

They looked even prettier in my pink depression glass serving dish...

Even though we only had a mini-Thanksgiving at our house, after gorging ourselves at my sister's house, my first batch of homemade cranberry sauce made the day.  I have to admit, it was a bit too orangey for me, so next time maybe I'll try a combination of water and orange juice.  But this was easy, beautiful and delicious.

Now I'm off to search my recipe collection for ideas as to what I should do with the other five bags of cranberries! :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

(Originally posted on at   (I was a bit "L" happy when I started this!)

The past few weekends I've sort of started a tradition of making smoothies on Sunday morning.
It started one Sunday when I woke up with a sore throat, happened to come across a fruit smoothie recipe on-line and decided my throat could use a nice, frothy treat - especially one that would provide a nice dose of vitamin C. Those first couple of weeks I meticulously measured ingredients, following someone else's recipe, but I think I've evolved. Let's face it, I'm not making any outrageously unique smoothie combinations, just following my basic formula - Two or three fruits, splash of something, dollop of yogurt, sweetener if necessary and a whir of the blender and you've got breakfast or a healthy snack. I've been through several berry drinks, chocolate-peanut butter and even a pumpkin smoothie.

This week I had cranberries on my mind - not only because Thanksgiving was fast approaching, but I have 6 bags of Ocean Spray beauties in my fridge and freezer, courtesy of Big Y's sale last week ($1 EACH!!!). I should have bought more. I was concerned about the tartness of these ruby berries until I glanced into my arsenal of frozen foods and found my secret ingredient to my new favorite Sunday morning smoothie (well, this week anyway...)

For 1 serving, you will need:
1 half banana
1/2 cup chopped frozen mango (aka secret ingredient)
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tbsp. honey (optional, but you'll probably want it)

Mango and Honey missed the cast photo. They send their deepest regrets and hope their fans will understand.
Oh, and those fresh bananas? They were stand-ins. I prefer to use ...

Ah! Here's Mango! Chop the banana into big chunks and toss into the blender with the frozen mango chunks.

Now, fresh cranberries MUST be rinsed and picked over...chances are you'll find some that need to be de-stemmed, like this little booger....
Sorry... please forget I said "booger" while referring to something that's going to be in breakfast in about 30 seconds.
OK, dump the rinsed, picked over, de-stemmed, boogerless cranberries into the blender, to which you had previously added the chopped (preferably frozen) banana and frozen chunks of mango.

And I'm using the same measuring cup to measure out 1/2 cup of orange juice. Of course, I rinsed it and ran it through the dishwasher first so as not to contaminate the orange juice with cranberry molecules.... Oh wait, they're going to be forever united in just a few moments.  Anyway, just so you know, OF COURSE we don't rinse things unless absolutely necessary! And sometimes not even then....
OK, three guesses as to what we do with the orange juice...

...CORRECT! Then add a couple dollops of yogurt - I'm guessing about 1/2 cup.

Hello Honey! Nice of you to join us!

Now, honey you can use or not use - it's up to you. Unlike a typical orange-cranberry concoction, secret ingredient mango adds lots of rich sweetness, possibly enough to offset the tart cranberries. Maybe. But I doubt it.  If you're not sure, blend up the fruit and yogurt, taste and decide then if you need or want the extra sweetness, which of course can be honey, sugar, Splenda...whatever you like to use.

Here they are, ready to ride........................ I really think mango brings out the best in cranberries.  Look at those colors!


And here's what it looks like when it's just abut done.  Make sure you blend it well to pulverize those cranberry seeds.

Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Then go tackle THIS.....

(I'm think gonna need another smoothie....)

:-) Christine