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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yummy Ways to Enjoy those Pumpkins

Every year I buy a few of the smaller sugar pumpkins with good intentions to cut, cook and puree the pulp and roast the seeds.  Then days and weeks pass as I pass them on my porch and ultimately feel pressured to get it done before frost.  Once frost hits them they get soft and start to rot.

Pumpkins were a mainstay in the diet of Native Americans yet in the typical modern lifestyle they are too often only thought about for pumpkin pie during the holidays or for Halloween decorations.  Technically a fruit but served as a vegetable, pumpkins are loaded with B vitamins, essential fatty acids, protein, and zinc.  Carotenoids, what gives them the orange color, are powerful antioxidants that enhance the immune system and enable the body to form vitamin A.  Pumpins and squash are a valuable part of dealing with prostate disorders and diabetes.

To put up a pumpkin:  First wash off any dirt and place the pumpkin on a cutting board.  Use a strong kitchen knife large enough to cut through the hard shell.  Cut the pumpkin in half and using a large metal spoon scrape out all the stringy insides and seeds.  Pull the seeds off the stringy part and put in a separate bowl.  Continue to cut straight down so you end up with vertical strips about 2 - 3 inches wide.  Cut those slices across so you end up with smaller chunks.  Put all these smaller chunks into a big soup pot, add a little water, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer until soft.  Drain and cool till you can touch.  Using your large spoon, scrape the pulp off the shell and put into a strainer to drain off the excess water.  Then transfer to a bowl.  In small batches, puree the pulp in a food processor and measure out 2 cup portions to put into freezer containers and freeze.  Each 2 cup portion is about equal to the typical 15 or 16 oz. can of pumpkin.

Now for ways to get your kids (and/or husband) to eat it!

To roast the seeds:  Wash the seeds with water, lay out on a paper towel and pat dry.  Put them in a bowl and toss them with a bit of oil (about 1 tsp. per cup seeds).  Spread out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt if desired.  Bake at 250 - 300 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, till toasted.

Fresh Pumpkin Soup:
This recipe comes from Taste of Home
Makes 6 servings
Can be on the table in 30 minutes

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
2   14 1/2 oz. cans chicken broth or 29 oz homemade
2 cups pumpkin puree or 1  15 oz. can
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp gound nutmeg
1 cup heavy whipping cream (I used evaporated milk and it turned out fine)

In a large saucepan, saute the onion in the butter until tender.  Remove from the heat and stir in the flour until smooth.  Gradually stir in the chicken broth, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about five minutes or until heated through.
Great with a salad and corn muffins or crusty bread.

A great alternative to the usual vanilla or chocolate flavored pudding for dessert

Pumpkin Pudding
Makes 8 servings
Ready in 5 minutes

1 package (5.1 oz) vanilla instant pudding
1 can (12 oz) fat free evaporated milk
2 cups or 1 (16 oz) can pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Beat together the pudding and the milk.  Refrigerate for 5 minutes.  Mix in the pumpkin and spice.  Regrigerate for another 10 minutes.

A favorite for a healthy breakfast, lunch box or after school snack
Pumpkin Chip Muffins
Makes about 24 standard-sized muffins
Shown are several ways to alter this recipe

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups or 1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil  (or can subsitute 3/4 cup oil and 3/4 cup applesauce)
3 cups all-purpose flour (or can substitute 1 1/2 cup all-purpose and 1 1/2 cup wheat or other type)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or cinnamon chips (or can substitute 1 cup chips and 1 cup oats)

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil (or oil and applesauce) until smooth.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Add dry mixture to the wet pumpkin mixture and mix well.
Fold in the chocolate or cinnamon chips (or chips and oats).
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups about 3/4 way full.  A 1/3 cup measuring cup works great for dipping out each muffin cup portion of batter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 16 - 20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing.  These also freeze well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gift Idea for Teacher Appreciation at Christmas

The holiday season is an ideal time to display our gratitude and appreciation to those special people involved in the lives of our children.

When my own two were young I can remember going on a baking frenzy to arrange cookie plates for everyone and it seemed no matter how many I made there never seemed enough to store away for my own freezer.

Not everyone has the time, skills or interest in holiday baking yet still want something special to give to all the various teachers and instructors.

A personal body care arrangement would be a great idea as it is all ready for gift giving and portrays the message that you have empathy for what they experience with their job.

To check out this gift idea click here

1.  A crowded classroom is a breeding ground for germs on those surface areas commonly touched, such as door knobs, bathroom faucets, toilet handles and light switches. Also great as a room spray to fight airborne germs and freshen stuffy indoor air, this Germ Fighting Air and Surface Spray just may be a mainstay on his/her desk. Contains powerful essential oils, tea tree, thyme and eucalyptus which are known for their antibacterial and antiviral properties. Free from the synthetic fragrances typically found in air sprays, there is the reduced risk of irritating the allergies of sensitive students to chemicals. This spray comes in a 4 oz. size plastic spray bottle.

2.  Frequent hand washing is the first line of defense against catching or spreading germs. Unfortunately, chapped hands are often a result from the continuous cycle of soap, water and the hot air of the hand dryer. Our healing, herbal all-purpose balm can be such a relief for red, chapped skin. Containing no water, this balm is superior to a typical hand lotion. Due to its herbal healing properties this balm can also be used for minor wound care.

Plantain is a common overlooked weed, but it contains amazing medicinal properties which are released in an olive oil infusion. Added to that is coconut oil, which is known for its ability to help skin retain moisture, a wonderful hydrator often used with chronic dry skin. Chamomile essential oil is added for its gentle and popular use in treating inflamed skin conditions. This balm comes in a 2 oz. size white plastic jar.

3.  Maintaining control over a classroom while keeping their attention so they learn something would be enough pressure to keep many of us awake at night. This linen and/or air spray contains nerve calming, sleep inducing essential oils: chamomile, sweet orange, lavender and ylang ylang. Too many things still on the 'to do' list, too many thoughts bouncing around, can easily take their toll and contribute to sleep deprivation. A light spritz onto the bedding just may become an anticipated nightly ritual. This spray comes in a 4 oz. size plastic spray bottle.

4.  A good lip balm is always a good thing to have on hand. Chapped lips are not pleasant, especially when there is the need to talk as frequently as does a teacher. This tubal lip balm utilizes the healing properties of the herb calendula to help heal and protect the delicate skin around the mouth.

5. Last, included in this assortment is a touch of femininity. A solid perfume eliminates the risk of a leaky bottle in a handbag. Listed here is a 1/2 oz. jar of the patchouli and lavender blend, but if the ylang/ylang and vanilla blend or the spice blend is preferred, let me know. Should this gift be for a male teacher just look through the shop and substitute something under a $10 value or I can add two extra lip balms.

Boy Scout leader
Girl Scout leader

Sports coach or instructor
Musical instrument teacher



Sunday School teacher

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Charlie Brown's Workplace Lessons

 It's that time of year again to repost this humorous interpretation of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving". With the short work week the week of the holiday, perhaps you can relate to the Peanuts gang.
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, many people feel the stress as they try to get everything done within the shorter workweeks of November and December.

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer and wrote two articles for the Interpersonal Relationships Examiner with her interpretations of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving".  The first article, "7 Interpersonal relationship lessons from 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'" was touched upon in a prior blog post. (click here)
Kenya also wrote an article titled, "7 Workplace lessons from 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'".

The Peanut's cartoons have valuable messages behind the actions and personalities of the characters.  If watching "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is a yearly tradition in your household, pay close attention to the wisdom Charles M. Schulz weaves throughout his stories.

1.  Holidays create more work for everyone.
Sally complains that holidays just mean more schoolwork to cram into a shorter week.  We often say we have to pay the price for any time off, be it a holiday or personal vacation.

2 When you whisper sweet nothings in your coworker's ear, make sure that no one else is around.
When Peppermint Patty invites herself over to Charlie Brown's house for dinner she checks to see if anyone is listening in on their conversation.  Any workplace can be a setting for gossip and the possibility of bits of overheard dialogue misinterpreted.  Lesson hear is to be careful with personal conduct amidst coworkers.

3.  Teamwork can get impossible jobs done.
Charlie Brown was at a loss as to how to cook a dinner, but with the help of his friends he was able to focus and put together some form of a meal.  A good manager knows to encourage teamwork and delegate assignments to those most capable for that particular project. An employee who is resistant in asking for advice or help when overwhelmed puts himself/herself at risk for burnout and a low performance rating.

4.  Whistle while you work.
Snoopy and Woodstock find a little time amidst the workload of dinner preparations to play a game.  Any type of career choice eventually loses its novelty and becomes just a job.  Try to find ways to make the work more enjoyable and stimulating.

5.  You don't want to be the one who acts up at the office party.
Peppermint Patty is not happy with the Thanksgiving meal and vocally lets everyone around her know about it.  Even within the aggressive, competitive environment of the business world, there is a fine line between confidence and just being rude.  It is acceptable to speak your mind but timing is everything and nothing can ruin a party setting faster than a clueless guest who makes those around him/her uncomfortable. 

6.  Some people cannot work outside of their element.
When made aware of her behavior, Peppermint Patty sums it up by exclaiming that she just can't function outside of a baseball game environment.  Employers look for well-rounded people who are capable of multitasking and able to handle the stress of the unexpected.  Problem solving and dealing with people successfully makes for a very valuable employee.

7.  Delegate the hard jobs whenever you can.
Peppermint Patty isn't totally clueless about her behavior but she has issues with admitting her mistakes and offering an apology.  It takes confidence and courage to be the better person and face up to our mistakes by making peace with the offended person(s).  Getting others to do our dirty work for us is frowned upon, even if that person has the authority to delegate the job to someone else.

Thank you to Kenya for helping us watch this favorite show with a new perspective!
Perhaps your input will put a smile on the faces of those who feel overworked or unappreciated in their field of work.
Enjoy your holiday with all the food, family, friends and football. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Charlie Brown's Relationship Lessons

Some of the greatest lessons in life of how to handle ourselves in our relationships are often learned during childhood.  The Peanut's cartoons have valuable messages behind the actions and personalities of the characters.  If watching "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is a yearly tradition in your household, pay close attention to the wisdom Charles M. Schulz weaves throughout his stories.

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer and wrote an article for the Interpersonal Relationships Examiner titled "7 Interpersonal Relationship lessons from 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'".
Enjoy her humorous take on relationship scenarios familiar to many of us.

1.  A liar will lie to you all year round. 
When Lucy tries to convince Charlie Brown to kick the football and land flat on his face, she did what she always does, which is lie.  Thanksgiving is a season of tradition and giving thanks but the message here is that such behavior is the same no matter what the day of year, festive or not.

2.  Some women do go for the smart guys.
Sally has a thing for Linus which is heartwarming and dedicated.  Despite certain cultural stereotypes about what makes for an attractive man,  attraction is a very individual thing.  If the chemistry is there, go ahead and brag about your prize guy.

3.  If you invite yourself to someone's house for dinner, make sure that they can cook.
Peppermint Patty invited herself to Charlie Brown's house for Thanksgiving dinner with the assumption he'll have a spread fit for the holiday.  She soon learns to never assume anything and if you assume wrong, deal with the consequences.

4.  Your sibling will tell you the truth.
Though sibling rivalry may be common, when it comes right down to it, you can usually depend on your family.  When Charlie Brown wonders how he ended up with three uninvited dinner guests, his sister Sally is very honest with him without skirting around the truth.  While other people may worry about hurting feelings if the truth be told, siblings often get to the point.

5.  Sometimes women really do talk too much.
Linus asks Charlie Brown why he just didn't tell Peppermint Patty that he had other dinner plans.  Charlie Brown stated that with Peppermint Patty he just can't get a word in the conversation.
We can all relate to that scenario. 

6.  A good friend will always tell you when you're being a jerk.
We all should have a friend like Marcie.  She put Peppermint Patty in her place when she reminded her that she had no right criticizing Charlie Brown when he did nothing wrong.  Marcie told her she had no right to be rude by pushing the limits of social courtesy.  There is a lesson here for assertiveness training in quiet personalities dealing with people like Peppermint Patty.

7.  Grandparents always save the day.
Everyone should have some sort of support system to fall back upon in a pinch.  Charlie Brown was at a loss as to how to handle his guests, so he called his grandmother for advice.  As grandparents often do, they save the day.

Kenya also wrote an article titled, "7 Workplace lessons from 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'".

Thank you to Kenya for helping us watch this favorite show with a new perspective!
Enjoy your holiday with all the food, family, friends and football.