Saturday, July 25, 2009

Not your Average Lasagne - this one Disapppears!

I was reading here, and I had to try out substituting zucchini for the asparagus in this delightful Asparagus and Ham lasagne.  Asparagus season is long gone here, but the zucchini is beating down a path to my door.

Kolz Kidz Riff on Ham & Cheddar & Zucchini Lasagne

9 uncooked lasagna noodles

2 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 1/2 lb. zuchinni, cut into julienne strips, or half moon slices
1 (8-oz.) pkg. (3 cups) sliced fresh mushrooms
1 lb. cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 3/4 cups)
2 cups milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon chicken-flavor instant bouillon
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
8 oz. (2 cups) shredded Cheddar-mozzarella cheese blend

1. Cook lasagna noodles to desired doneness (al dente - still a little undone) as directed on package.  Hey, don't get discouraged. This is as easy as boiling a big pot of water, putting in 9 large noodles into the boiling water, setting a kitchen timer, and then fishing them out with a pair of tongues a minute before you think you needed to.  Or pick up the big pot and Drain. You can do it. Continue reading. (Cook's note, you may not want to fall for the gimmick of no-cook lasagne noodles, just trust me on this. Or add 1/2 cup of chicken broth to the sauce so your no-cook noodles will cook in the lasagne and be sure and cover well with foil).

2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Then do it again, just to be sure you're not sand blasting some yummy cheesiness stuck to your pan after dinner. Melt margarine in 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and mushrooms; cook and stir 5 to 7 minutes or until zucchini is taking on some color, and softening a bit. Now add the ham and warm through.  Pour into large bowl.. Set aside.

3. In same skillet, combine 1/2 cup of the milk, flour, bouillon, pepper and Dijon mustard; blend well with wire whisk. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups milk; blend well. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is bubbly and thickened. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese until melted. See.. you just mastered a variation of the mother sauce, bechamel. Take a bow. Leave out the dijon another time and add a bit more cheddar and you have your basic cheese sauce suitable for well, most everything.

4. To assemble lasagna, spread 1/2 cup sauce evenly in bottom of sprayed baking dish. Reserve 1/2 cup sauce for topping. Add remaining sauce to ham mixture; mix well.

5. Arrange 3 cooked noodles over sauce in baking dish. Spoon and spread half of ham mixture over noodles; top with 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles and reserved 1/2 cup sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

6. Bake at 350°F. for 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Your tummy will thank you.  Really.  Just try the recipe, and listen carefully.
P.S. - Instead of Ham you can use leftover grilled chicken in this recipe.  Just do these little steps at your next cookout or grill session.  Make way too much grilled chicken, before letting the family eat it all, chill the extras in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator.  When you get around to it the next day, remove meat from the bones, or cube the boneless chicken, and remember this recipe.  See.  Easy Peasy. You're welcome. And remember.. sweet peas go nicely with zucchini, chicken and cheddar lasagne too.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Andybear

My eldest child is turning 12 at the end of the month. Andy is the first child of my infertility - a hard won battle at the end of three years of trying to conceive with medical intervention within our marriage. He was the child who I wept over, so grateful that God granted the wish of my heart. He should have had Clomid flowing through his veins, that son of mine. He weighed 10 lbs. 6 oz., and was the reason I was courageous enough, after months of trying, to finally inject myself with insulin the day before Mothers Day. His was the pregnancy that led to my diagnosis of diabetes. I promised the Lord, upon finding out that I was pregnant (with no fear of miscarriage because who ever has those?) that I would raise him to be a good boy and to serve the Lord and our community with all his heart to the best of my ability.

I've kept my end of the bargain.  Andy's gentle and courageous personality is the better part of his father and I.  I contributed my strong morals, personal courage and Andy's father, my first husband, contributed his  artistic, compassionate heart and voice like an angel.  Andy has made these traits his own, and continues to delight his whole family as his personality and talents unfold.

Yesterday we received by mail the results of the standardized testing for sixth graders.  Andy consistently scored in the high 95-98th percentile in mathematics and averaged 93% in english language arts.  I'm so proud of him. He had a substantial school workload last year as a new middle schooler and he kept his grades up.

Andy has show himself to be well-rounded in his hobbies and interests and how he spends his time. He plays the clarinet and is trying to learn the piano. He plays soccer and basketball at my request. When I began to falter a little in keeping up with all of our domestic chores while pregnant, Andy stepped up. He's 11 and nearly as tall as I am so I thought he might be good at milking.  It's a twice a day position, so I imagined he could help once a day, and make it possible for me to get other remodeling and canning and gardening jobs finished.  Sure enough, I made four batches of black raspberry jam and a couple of strawberry jam this week. Thanks Andy!

As scheduled, when school was out for the summer, I taught him to milk the goats. He took the job on and has diligently fulfilled the 10 minute milking job each morning and night without error or complaint. It took some time for the two dairy goats to get used to him and for him to feel assertive enough to back them down when they tried to bully him. He now notices when their water bucket is getting low and tosses hay in to them. It's nice to see him take on responsibility, as he turns 12.

As I went into the hospital this past Sunday for emergency surgery at the end of this pregnancy, I knew the goats were well taken care of, and that as Grandma watched the children, Andy was milking and filtering the milk. Then they all headed off to church.

July 30th is Andy's 12th birthday. In our religion he is eligible to become a member of the Aaronic priesthood and to be ordained a deacon. God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of the human family. It is the priesthood authority by which John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus Christ, teaching faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins (Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-11). Aaronic Priesthood authority includes the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel, which is the gospel of repentance, baptism, and the remission of sins, and the administering of outward ordinances (D&C 84:26-27; 13:1; 107:14, 20).

You're probably wondering what a deacon is, or have a vision of older, stern looking men.  In the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints a deacon is young. Worthy brethren may be ordained deacons when they are at least 12 years old. A deacon follows counsel, sets a good example, and may (1) pass the sacrament, (2) collect fast offerings, (3) care for the poor and needy, (4) be a standing minister appointed to "watch over the church" (D&C 84:111), (5) assist the bishopric, (6) serve as a messenger, (7) participate in quorum instruction, (8) serve in quorum leadership positions, (9) fellowship quorum members and other young men, (10) be baptized and confirmed for the dead, (11) speak in meetings, (12) share the gospel, (13) bear testimony, and (14) care for the meetinghouse and grounds.

That's quite a bit of responsibility at 12, but Andy has his bonus dad Martin to assist him and the rest of his family encouraging him and supporting him in his activities. Which means we'll help care for the meetinghouse and grounds with him. I wield a duster as well as anyone.

As I ponder all the good things Andy does and Andy has become internally, I ponder wanting to fulfill his birthday wish.  Andy received a used Nintendo DS gaming system for his birthday last year. Being the oldest child and the one with the coolest electronics, he shared with his siblings. Despite their caution and his surveillance, the DS has broken. The games are now useless and he sweetly shared them with his sister Sarah who also received a DS from her father for her birthday in May.  He hasn't complained that his sharing with his siblings resulted in the stress fractures on the DS and the  left button  wearing out. I picture his Sims all walking in circles to the right, to the right, to the right. He didn't complain. He made it funny. He merely asked me for glue when the plastic case broke.

Andy's father, my first husband, called a couple of weeks ago to cancel his trip out for Andy's birthday. It's the only week that the children see their father all year long, and they were  emotionally distraught about it. A couple of weeks have passed and their emotions have eased, and my urge to headsmack an ex-husband has subsided. Mostly.

Martin had an idea, after seeing the children cry.  Why don't we pay for a railroad ticket to get their father here for a few days?  We're not a family of much means, but I figured with juggling things a bit and cutting back here and there I could do this. At the price of reducing what I have to spend on Andy's birthday. Martin's factory just ended Friday Furlough's two weeks ago. We're getting by very well, but frugally.

I was then reminded of the trip to Las Vegas that was taken from Chicago just last month. With stops in Utah and other parts for mini-family reunions. By the same father that now cannot afford a railroad trip of 12 hours to see his only children. Two hours after I returned from the hospital from having day surgery, that same ex-husband called me to get sympathy because he didn't feel very well. Which is why he doesn't work full-time, and hasn't for some 9 years now. Because he doesn't feel up to it. We will not be subsidizing his trip from Chicago to NY.  If he really wants to make the trip he can work extra hours, or get a part time job, or do odd jobs or any of the number of things I was considering in how to pay for his trip. The children will see, sooner than I had hoped, their father's sense of entitlement, love of immediate gratification, and lack of sacrifice for his children.  I'm sure none of it is his fault.

I'm off to the local Game Stop franchise to purchase a refurbished Nintendo DS, and an additional game, with the money I might have spent on a railroad ticket for a man who opts to work as little as possible. Our son will play his DS, share with his siblings again, and be rewarded for his hard work and diligence in his labors and responsibilities of this past year.  And who knows, maybe son's good example will someday influence his father to complete his personal growth.

I'm so blessed to have Martin as a husband. He is a good, hard working, fine example of service and diligence to all of our children. He's kind and considerate and praiseworthy. It was his idea to invite my first husband to come and stay with us the summer we married so Reed would  have an opportunity to see his children. Small wonder that Martin retains custody of his children from his first marriage. I'm still amazed by Martin's kindness.

 I feel richly rewarded by having a sweetheart who loves me and tenderly cares for me. I feel richly blessed by having a warm and wonderful son, Andy, who makes us so very proud of him because of his strength of character and his personal choices each day.  Happy 12th Birthday Andrew Reed. I promise not to come to Boy Scout Camp on your birthday and deliver your birthday kiss in front of your troop. Really. Nor call you my beloved Andybear in front of anyone wearing khaki. Pinkie promise.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No Matter how Dark the Friday, Sunday will Come

It was a Friday, that dark day when we learned of the loss of our unborn child. Fittingly, today I re-read this message and was reminded, no matter how dark the Friday, Sunday will come. Please join me in this loving reminder, posted to Youtube, here.

Joseph B. Wirthlin, a widower in his 90s when he gave this talk, knew of what he spoke.  Please enjoy his words: " I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross.
On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth.

Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. Now that Jesus was no more, surely those who followed Him would disperse. On that day they stood triumphant. On that day the veil of the temple was rent in twain.

Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were both overcome with grief and despair. The superb man they had loved and honored hung lifeless upon the cross. On that Friday the Apostles were devastated. Jesus, their Savior—the man who had walked on water and raised the dead—was Himself at the mercy of wicked men. They watched helplessly as He was overcome by His enemies.

On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled. It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God. I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.
But the doom of that day did not endure.

The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind. And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.

Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come.
I felt Sunday dawn today.. misplaced as it may be in the middle of the week. I just want to share some of that with you, for when you find a Friday just smack you upside the head in the middle of another week. XoXo Kel.