Planning and Organizing

Planning and organizing are, shall we say, not my forte. I get things done primarily by sheer force of will and the ability to stay maniacally focused on whatever I’m doing until it gets done. But I’ve never been much of a list-maker, an ahead of time things-doer, or even any sort of reasonably organized person.

But now that I’ve returned to work, all of that is going to have to change. Because I am now juggling my fitness and running commitments (and it is an important one to me – keeps me from losing my sanity), what has essentially become a full time job as a freelance marketing consultant (you can follow that link to see the bare bones website I spent about an hour on one night), and my duties as a wife and mom – all of which I am currently doing without benefit of regular child care with kids that have not yet returned to school.

You may be wondering how it came to pass that I am working without having bothered to arrange for child care first. You may want to return now to read the first paragraph about the not planning thing.

What happened was, I sort of accidentally fell into this job. I put my profile up on a freelancing site thinking it would take me a few months to find enough work to stay busy. Instead, it only took me about 10 days. I know this is not everyone’s experience and that I am actually really lucky. But the thing with freelancing is, you don’t really like to turn away work because of the fear that clients will go to someone else and then not be around when you need the work. And so you end up taking more on than you normally would.

And then you end up trying to figure out how to squeeze in your daily commitment to exercise, your personal hobbies and interests (such as this blog), talking to your kids and husband, being available for them when they need you, and other little things such as the preparation and consumption of food.

We had Hamburger Helper twice this week, and one day we had frozen Salisbury steaks and Mac and cheese (and were damn glad to have it).

All of which makes me realize that I am going to have to get a lot better about planning and preparing meals ahead of time.

And I also realize that I barely know where to start. Anyone out there got any good tips out there for juggling all this? Any good ideas for weekday meal preparation? I’m making friends with the Google on this topic but am also open to advice.

A Clean House is a Canvas

A clean house is apparently just a canvas for my children to defile. We had a cleaner in this morning and 15 minutes after she left, I had to sweep up a giant pile of dirt. Seriously? I give up. Oh who am I kidding, I gave up on having clean floors a long time before today.

Oh well. Life will go on and my floors will be dirty and that is just the way that it is.

My return to running has been slow. I still feel the ankle is off, though there’s no pain. So for the foreseeable future I will only be running a couple of times a week. I’ll just have to do a lot of cross training instead. I am actually having to stay out of the pool now also, because it was giving me a chemical burn on my scalp. I guess I am just a delicate little flower.

I mentioned in my last blog post that I had returned to working part time. Well, that has been going gangbusters. I think I must have a hard to find skill set (can write, understands technology things) because I have found several great clients who are going to be keeping me busy for the next few weeks. Which is great news for me, not such great news for my kids. Apparently when you are a mom, you can’t just decide “I’m going back to work” without advance planning. Because when you don’t have a babysitter, and your kids are used to having your full attention, it is a hard transition for them when they have to entertain themselves. I hope they will get better at it. But also, I think if I am going to be this busy I need to hire someone to help. Nice problem to have!

Since I’ve been working again, I can see that my old workaholic tendencies are still latent – though to look at my house you would never know I am a type A person. I guess bottom line is that I don’t care about housework unless someone is coming over. I am externally motivated – and anyone who knows me knows that this is true. I’m what my grandfather used to call a springbutt – that kid in school who has all the answers and always has their hand in the air. Volunteers for everything. Gets good grades to validate their own existence. I love any opportunity to measure my worth in another person’s opinion. Runs races to prove to themselves that they are faster than the majority of other people in their age group (or, you know, if I was fast enough I’d be trying to win – I take whatever validation I can find I guess!)

A psychologist would probably say that these are not good things, but the good news is, it does make me good at my job. And motivates me to run, too!

It Starts Young

My kids are involved in Little League, which is an interesting microcosm of society. You get all types of kids and parents, united by a love of baseball. It’s a pretty diverse group as far as childrearing practices, as well. I’m glad we’re doing it.

One of the things I find gratifying about it is that when observed among their peers, it turns out that I have unusually nice children. Nice manners, and they don’t have as many annoying personality quirks as the other kids I see out there. They also do not often say things that are unkind, or hurtful.

Not to say they are perfect but they try to be good, because they know it is expected. There is some occasional inappropriate behavior, because they are kids and that is what kids do, but for the most part, they know how to behave in public.

This is not the case with all the kids we see. One of our kids is on a team with some little boys who, for lack of a better term, are real hellions. People say boys will be boys, and I think that is true to some degree, but I also think that kids will be as big of a jerk as we allow them to be. They will take as much rope as you’ll give them.

They also model what we do. You can have all the rules around behavior that you want, but if what you model isn’t what is expected from them, they are going to do what they see you do. Which is why you always hear your most embarrassing phrases coming out of your kids mouth.

One of the things we are seeing with these kids is a general air of disrespect. They can’t handle any kind of correction without throwing a fit, and the parents just allow it. If it were me, I would pull my kid out of practice or a game in a heartbeat if they were doing some of this stuff.

They are also rude to other kids on the team, as well as adults. The thing that really got my goat, though, was when one boy teased another by saying, “you run like a girl!”

I was like, oh yeah? You wanna see someone run like a girl? I’ll show you how to run like a girl. A girl that can run you into the ground.

Like I said, it starts young. When I see kids acting like this, I try to use it as a teaching moment with my own kids. We talk about different kinds of behavior and they are learning what not to do by watching their peers.

It amazes me too, how early sexism starts. There is no fundamental difference in physical ability at this age, so where do boys get the idea that girls are inherently inferior at sports? And when stuff like this comes up, why are parents (especially moms!) letting kids get by with these statements?

It blows my mind, and makes me feel like I am lucky to have nice kids. Also makes me glad I am very clear about behavior expectations. I mean, my kids can be naughty too, but they aren’t mean and they take correction fairly well, perhaps because they are used to receiving it!

This is the Good Stuff

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. ~ Ferris Bueller

Last night was my younger son’s “Spring Sing” performance, an end of the year concert and fundraiser that his preschool puts on. It’s very cute – the kids practice all year to go up and sing their little songs. One song had something to do with hippopotamuses (hippopotami?) and Jesus. Another was “This little light of mine.”

It was not fine musicianship, but it was an awesome display of childhood joy at its finest.

I am not going to talk about adoption or our process to become a family very much on this blog. I identify as just a mom, not an adoptive mom – it is something that plays into how our family does things but for the most part we are just a regular family, and I am just a regular mom.

A regular, sarcastic mom. And I will admit that it is hard for me to check my sarcasm (my constant companion, it sometimes seems) at the door. Sarcasm is so easy. It’s so easy to laugh away feelings that can leave me feeling so exposed and raw. We came so close having none of this.

However, when I saw my son file in with his class, standing at the back because he’s one of the tallest, getting a little rambunctious with his friends, and looking around the audience until he saw us – his family – and then breaking into his trademark “huge grin with dimple” it brought tears to my eyes.

I am new to this territory. I have never been a sentimental person, and always one to approach events such as these with tongue planted firmly in cheek. So much easier to make the joke and keep up my defense of not taking things too seriously.

But every once in a while, even I am gobsmacked by just how insanely lucky we are to be doing even these mundane things.

Because we so very nearly missed all of it. THEY so very nearly missed all of it.

You guys – we have come so far, I cannot even tell you. So far since we met that little sickly 15 month baby that was barely on the growth chart, in a baby home on Sakhalin Island, Russia. So far since we met his big brother in another orphanage in the middle of nowhere. So far since we despaired of ever bringing them home. So far since we traveled halfway around the world to finally, after nearly two years of struggle and delays, bring them home and start the hard work of becoming a family.

So far since our early days as a family, when it seemed as though “normal” was an impossible goal.

You could read my old blog, but it would only hint at what we went through. Trial by fire, I guess.

But here we are. They are ours and we are theirs and we are doing this thing. This incredible, amazing thing. This everyday, boring, ridiculous thing.

Every once in a while, God reminds you that these things too, are a miracle.

7 Week Recovery Report

Whew. Today was rough. We all have those days where things just don’t go our way. For us it started with a late wake up, and an early baseball game in the rain and wind. The kids were at each other all day, in and out of trouble, not listening. I decided they were tired so sent them to bed early. Oleg fell asleep in minutes, Max is right behind.

Ahhhhh. Sweet silence.

Small children’s efforts to derail my inner zen notwithstanding, I got in a good workout today. Did about a half hour on the elliptical – going as hard as I could. I dripped all over the machine, so that means I was working hard right? I guess when you go 180 rpm on there with reasonable resistance, “sweat happens.”

Normally, I am not a big fan of the elliptical. So boring. You can get your heart rate up on it though and that is all I needed. I had to skip running – my ankle has been bothering me more this week so I decided to get off it. It seems that the 9 or so miles of run/walking I did this week, combined with the Physical Therapy I’ve been doing for my ankle, was a lot.

Since the ankle is kind of sore, I’m going to try to stay off it until Wednesday and see if it calms down. If it does I will try to do the Inspiring Hope run next weekend. It may end up being an Inspiring Hope walk. I will run on Wednesday just to see how it is doing, then if it seems okay, I’ll sign up.

After elliptical I did my PT exercises. While I was doing the Arm and Leg swings in the Sagittal Plane (the hardest one I have to do) some wiseacre next to me goes, “I guess that exercise must be harder than it looks.”

I thought to myself, “What was your first clue, genius? The fact that I keep practically falling over, or that my face is beet red and I look like someone is poking me in the leg with a red hot poker?”

I was nice, though. I just said “yup,” and kept at it.

I sure will be glad to have running not cause me pain anymore, because I miss being able to do long runs on the weekend. As a friend of mine said to me this week, running is my sanity. It (and this blog) are my “me” things that I do. I like getting in a good workout at the gym, but it is not the same as running outside for an hour for my general outlook. I like getting sweaty out in nature I guess.

I said this was a 7 week recovery report. Guess I better report.

As far as the surgery aspect, things are good. No abdominal pain at all, everything feels pretty normal now. In fact, I’m not sure how much longer I will keep doing these reports because I am not sure how much longer the surgery itself will be a factor with regards to the things I am interested in talking about on this blog. I feel pretty good, can do pretty much everything I want to, and I still feel like long term there shouldn’t be much in the way of negative impact.

The only thing I am still struggling with is the ankle. I had really hoped the bed rest in March and time I’ve spent not running over the last 3 months (pretty much since the Rain Run) would have fixed me up. I certainly didn’t expect to still be having pain 3 months later. I think the PT is helping, and will help more and more as I get stronger, I just feel frustrated that this is the thing holding me back.

On the other hand, maybe it’s good this ankle thing is happening. Since the surgery recovery seems so easy, I’d probably have hurt myself already if there wasn’t something slowing me down, so maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

Happy May Day!

Summer is coming folks! We were expected to get into the 80s today – not sure we made it, but it was certainly nice and warm. I don’t know about you but I am ready for summer. In fact, just for today we pretended that it is already summer time and went to the beach. It was a blast!

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Sadly, the weather won’t last. It’s supposed to rain this weekend. But it does give me hope that we have a summer full of awesome ahead of us.

Since summer is coming, I thought I would do a post on how to get the most out of summer in the Pacific Northwest.

1) Go camping!
It’s not summer without at least one camping trip. Our family’s favorite spots are Cape Disappointment State Park down at the mouth of the Columbia, and Lake Wenatchee, just on the east side if the mountains. If you are camping at the more popular parks, now is the time to make your reservations, as spots are already filling up.

Later in the week I will post more of our family’s favorite camping destinations within a day’s drive of Seattle.

2) Road Trip!
Go somewhere awesome! Living on the West Coast there is just so much to see and do – so many natural wonders to learn about and explore! We have a trip to California planned. Our kids are good travelers so we will be brave and try to drive down. We want to spend a couple of nights at Crater Lake to learn more about volcanoes, then head for the California coast to visit all the sea creatures at the Monterey Bay aquarium. It’s an iconic road trip and educational, too.

3) Take a Beach Day!
In the Seattle area you are never farther than an hour from a beach, and while they may not be the warm, wide sand beaches of your fantasies, they are still great for building sand castles, having picnics, spending family time and enjoying nice weather when it comes to visit. Some of my favorite beaches around Seattle include:

Kayak Point Park near Marysville – this beach has a fishing pier, playground and plenty of picnic spots. It’s about an hour north of Seattle near the Tulalip reservation. A great spot for fishing, playing or spending the day. You can even camp overnight and spend the weekend!

Golden Gardens in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood – after Alki, this may be Seattle’s most popular salt water beach. Always crowded but worth it if you can find a spot – it has a nice wide sand beach, a bath house and lots of picnic spots. Arrive early or visit midweek to beat the crowds.

Maxwelton Beach on South Whidbey Island – this is the beach I grew up with. This is a west facing, sandy beach with some pebbles mixed in. There is a play area, ball field and picnic structure, plus a small general store for picking up those forgotten items. You can stay all day or just a few hours and have a great time.

Alki Beach in West Seattle – as the closest thing Seattle has to a true “beach town” experience (in that there is a town where the beach is) this is by far Seattle’s most popular and crowded beach. Fun for families, teens, large groups and small ones. Bring comfortable shoes and take a walk or run along the waterfront, and take in the iconic view of Seattle across Elliott Bay. Finish your beach day with clam chowder at Dukes, or go more upscale for drinks and dinner at Salty’s.

Picnic Point Park in Mukilteo/Edmonds – this is our family’s favorite beach. It has a nice wide sandy area great for digging and building sand castles, plenty of logs to sit and lean on, and a small grassy picnic area. No play structures, no other amenities, and we don’t miss them. We bring a picnic lunch, some towels and sand toys, and play in the sand all day.

4) Go Hiking!
Because Seattle is located between the mountains and the Sound, we also have tons of great hikes that are within an easy drive. Here are some of our family’s favorite hikes.

Iron Goat Trail – easy to drive to and located on an old railroad bed, this hike is great with kids because it is easy and flat, but also has historical significance to capture the interest of older kids and adults. The trail passes by the site of the Wellington disaster, and the trail goes through some old snow sheds and tunnels. This is one of the first hikes we ever did with our kids and it is still a favorite.

Meadowdale Beach Park – this is a beach day and a hike all in one. The beach comes at the bottom of a 1.25 mile descent through a forest, past a stream and a large grassy play field and through a tunnel. At the end of the trail, a wide sandy beach with lots of driftwood awaits. Bring a picnic lunch and sand toys, and play all day. Save some energy for the 800 foot ascent back to the parking lot. Very popular and has a tiny parking lot, so get there early.

Ebey’s Landing – this hike is in Coupeville on Whidbey Island and includes some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. It has one difficult descent, otherwise is great for kids ages 5 and up.

Mt. Pilchuck – a great choice for more experienced hikers, this rugged mountainous hike has an awesome payoff – at the top of the mountain sits an old fire lookout cabin. From there you can see some the most amazing views Washington state has to offer, and that is saying something. Be prepared for mountain hiking and take a map – unprepared and inexperienced hikers have been known to get themselves lost and in trouble on this seemingly easy hike. Also, this hike is best in the late summer when all snow has melted, and the bugs have died down.

These are some of our family’s favorite summer activities. What’s your favorite summer (or unusually warm spring day) activity?

Healthy Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

These are about as Asian as my grandmother’s spaghetti is Italian, but they are equally as delicious and for the same reason – they both contain copious amounts of ketchup (which are, as we all know, a key ingredient in both Italian and Asian foods…right?).

This is a popular recipe at our house, because our kids love any food that they get to put together themselves. It’s also healthy – low in calories, fat and cholesterol, high in protein and actually tastes better with more veggies inside. The fresh pickled veggies add a nice zing and some crunch.

Healthy Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion chopped
1 package ground turkey

The Sauce
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
Sri Racha sauce (optional to taste)

Hoisin
2 Tablespoon peanut butter
1 Tablespoon honey
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Serve With:

Romaine or Bibb lettuce

Cooked Brown rice

Pickled Veggies
1 small carrot julienned
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar

Instructions:

Sauté your chopped onions and garlic over low to medium heat until they become translucent.

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Translucent onions (not brown, just starting to be soft):

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Add the turkey to the hot pan and brown, using your spatula to chop it up until it is nice and crumbly.

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If you don’t keep hoisin on hand, now is the time to make your own using the ingredients listed above. It makes extra – put some on the table to serve and refrigerate the remainder.

Once your turkey is browned, then you add The Sauce.

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I just shoot the hoisin, ginger, soy sauce, ketchup, vinegar and Sri Racha directly into the pan, but you could also mix it up in a bowl and then add it. Whichever way you go, mix well, and simmer the entire mixture on low heat for an additional 10 – 15 minutes.

The finished product:

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To Serve

While the turkey simmers, wash and pat dry your lettuce leaves and arrange them on a serving plate.

In a small glass or ceramic serving bowl, prepare the pickled veggies by tossing the ingredients lightly together. Place on the table.

When meat has finished cooking, place in a serving bowl on table.

Also have soy sauce, hoisin and Sri Racha available on the table for those who want a bit more sauce in their sauce.

To eat, each person takes a lettuce leaf and puts the fillings of their choice (meat, vegetables, rice) inside, plus any additional sauce to taste. Wrap the lettuce leaf around the fillings like a burrito, and eat.

This serves 4 – 6, and is a great, healthy weeknight dinner.

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Enjoy!

Happy Easter!

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Whew! Easter is hard. But the eggs have been dyed and hunted, spring outfits worn, and church attended. All that is left is dinner, and I haven’t done anything about that. I’ll have to go to the grocery store and hope for some inspiration. Perhaps a divine light will shine down from the meat aisle to give me some guidance.

I’ll probably end up going with lamb though. I thought about ham but I don’t like the religious significance of it at Easter time. The reason it’s a tradition to eat it at religious holidays is because historically it was a way for Christians to separate themselves from Jews. It bothers me to focus on that at Easter. But lamb is a nice symbol of springtime, plus a reference to the Lamb of God.

I realize this is probably overthinking things a bit. One meat is as good as another, right?

That’s what I do on Easter though – I overthink things. Unlike Christmas, this is the holiday in the Christian religion that is about faith. The historical fact of Jesus’ birth and life is not in dispute, but his death and resurrection, and the idea that in him we will have everlasting life is the part that requires faith. So, for me it usually brings some reflection. I sometimes wish I had that sort of faith that never questions, but I do. I question. I believe, because I CHOOSE to believe. And yet, I question.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Easter, but I struggle with it. I struggle with the way it moves around the calendar so it’s hard to get organized. I struggle because of the questions. And I struggle because I don’t get why it is such a Hallmark holiday. The idea that kids are getting gifts on Easter blows my mind because for me, it was never about that. It was just eggs and candy – and church if I was at my grandmothers house. I’ve never really thought of it as a gift giving holiday.

So we went with the traditions – eggs, candy and church, plus some Legos in the Easter basket. Unfortunately, a certain 7 year old boy decided to complain that the Easter Bunny didn’t bring the right Legos, rather than being grateful for having received Legos in the first place. So, I decided it was time to enlighten him as to the true nature of the bunny. He’s 7, after all, and has already figured out about Santa Claus (who never visited in Russia and so it never made sense to really try to instill a belief in something he already knew not to be true).

And I reminded him that when one is receiving gifts, it is better to say thank you than to complain about the gifts one has received. That is, if one wants to continue receiving gifts. Even Moms Easter bunnies like to hear a little gratitude once in a while.

With our priorities realigned, we had a better outcome with today’s church attendance than the last time we went. We made it all the way to the sermon before the wiggles took over and the boys asked to go to the nursery. Which I thought was pretty good for 5 and 7 year old boys.

Even before Easter we were getting a lot of questions about God, and Jesus and what all that is about, and since as a questioner I obviously don’t have all the answers, I guess it is time to get serious about finding a church home for our family. And while we have liked the churches we have tried, none of them yet have felt like home.

Many of the families we know go to the same big church in town, but we have resisted going there, partly because of not wanting to follow the crowd. Also because it’s a longer drive. I mean, we would have to drive 10 minutes to get there, vs. 5 minutes to go to the other churches we tried.

You may laugh, but we are seriously not morning people, especially not Sunday morning people, and so that extra 5 minutes makes a huge difference between whether we will show up or not.

However, there is something to be said for a church where you already know a lot of people and so it probably is where we are going to end up. We liked the church we tried today, but we just didn’t know anyone so it didn’t feel quite right. Plus, they do Sunday school after the church service which means you have to hang around for a long time. That’s not gonna work. If we’re gonna do this, we need to be efficient about it.

Plus, the kids have said they want to go where their friends go, and honestly I feel the same way.

After church we went out for donuts, and later today the boys are going out for some batting practice, and I am going to go walk and run at the track. That will be my first outdoor run since my surgery so I am looking forward to that.

From our family to yours, Happy Easter!.

All Pie’d Out

Tonight was the annual Book Fair and also the Pie and Cider Fundraiser for my older son’s elementary school. It also happened that I made Chicken Pot Pie for dinner. Naturally, in addition to dinner I did have to sample the dessert pies (apple and pumpkin) at the fundraiser. And now, much as I love pie, I can officially say I am all pie’d out for the night.

Of all the pies, I will say mine had the best crust. Pie crust can be tricky to make, but over the last couple of years I have figured out a basically foolproof recipe. People argue over whether a butter crust or an oil or lard crust is better. Butter crusts are supposed to be more flavorful and flakier, while oil/lard is easier to work with and crispier. My pie crust secret is not to choose between the two types of crust, but to combine the benefits of both – I do this by using butter AND oil in my crust. It always turns out really well.

Here is the recipe.

Chicken Pot Pie with Perfect Pie Crust.

Perfect Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, chilled
4 Tablespoons oil
1/2 cup ice water

Chicken Filling

2 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 small onion, chopped small
2 small peeled potatoes cut in 1/2 inch cubes
Flour to make a roux
Chicken broth
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
Salt, pepper and sage to taste
1/4 teaspoon thyme

Making the crust:

The crust must be made first and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

To make the dough for the crust, combine the flour and salt in a bowl (such as the bowl of a large stand mixer). Stir well.

Slice chilled butter into 1/4″ cubes

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Add cubed butter to the flour and salt mixture.

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Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour, until the butter is in consistent pea-sized lumps.

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Use a mixer on slow speed to incorporate oil to the flour and butter mixture, then very slowly add chilled water. When dough balls up, turn off the mixer. It is very important not to overwork this dough. Visible chunks of butter are good – they will make the crust flaky.

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Remove dough to a floured board. With floured hands, lightly pat together the dough. Do not knead. Roll the dough ball into a cylindrical shape and cut in half. Roll both halves into a ball, sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

At this point you can also freeze this dough for future use.

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To make the filling:

Cube 2 cups of cooked chicken in 1/2″ cubes and set aside.

Finely chop a small onion. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large sauté pan on medium low heat, and sauté the onions until translucent. Do not allow to brown.

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Cube 2 small potatoes in 1/2 inch cubes, and sauté with the onions.

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When onions and potatoes start to soften sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour to make a paste (technically, this paste is a roux).

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To the roux, add broth over low heat to make a thick gravy.

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When gravy has thickened, add in frozen vegetables. Mix well and reduce heat to low as you assemble the pie.

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Assembling the pie:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove one ball of pastry dough from the refrigerator and place on a floured board.

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Using a floured pastry roller, begin to roll out the dough ball until it is large enough to fit your pie plate (recipe easily fits a 9″ plate when rolled to about 1/8″).

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Drape the first crust over the pie plate. Roll out the second dough ball in the same way and set aside while you fill the pie.

Spread the cubed chicken evenly over the bottom crust in the pie plate. Over the top of that, pour and evenly spread the vegetable/gravy filling. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, sage and thyme to taste.

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Drape the top crust over the top of the filling. Fold back the crust 1/3 at a time to expose the bottom crust edge and brush it with water using a pastry brush. Fold the top crust back down to cover and repeat two more times, press the edges together to seal the pie.

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Cut off the excess crust – you can set this aside to roll out and make apple dumplings if you have enough left over. Use a fork to make a decorative edge. Poke some holes in the top and place in a 350 degree oven.

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Bake for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

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Serves 4 – 6 people who like pie.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Gems

It’s a cold, rainy Friday here at our house and this kind of weather makes me want to do something to make myself feel better. I miss the sun already. Although I will say I am cheered somewhat by the fact that snow has started falling in the mountain passes. Maybe we will have an early ski season? Trying to stay positive!

Hey, speaking of staying positive, it is a scientific fact that cookies can improve mood, especially if they contain chocolate. I can’t point you to any official research on the subject, but I can tell you that I have personally tested and proven this hypothesis many times. However, in my observation it’s dose dependent. If I am feeling down and eat one or two cookies, I feel happier after. If I eat an entire batch, then I am more depressed and considering bulimia as a viable life choice.

(Just kidding, this blog neither practices nor endorses bulimia).

It is said that emotional eating = no bueno. However, I am pretty sure that whoever said this does not live in Seattle. If you live in Seattle and you know you are at the front end of a 6 month stretch of no sun, you do what you gotta do. So, I am going to have some damn cookies. However, in the interest of not undoing all my hard work, I need something sort of healthy(ish) that still tastes good and feels satisfying. Everyone in the family has to like them, since I don’t want to have to eat them all myself.

Here is a recipe that fits the bill. It contains no flour, no butter and only 7 ingredients, so it is super simple to make. The dough also keeps pretty well for a few days in the refrigerator, so if you’re like me and can’t leave cookies alone, you can just make a few at a time so you avoid eating the whole batch in one sitting.

Hopefully this time I listed all the ingredients! There are only supposed to be seven, so I think we are okay this time.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Gems

1/2 cup peanut butter (can be crunchy or creamy)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/4 cup instant oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the peanut butter, brown sugar and egg in a medium size bowl (I mix them in the bowl of a stand mixer).

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In a small bowl, stir together the oatmeal and baking soda, then add to the peanut butter mixture. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Stir chocolate chips in by hand.

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Scoop a spoonful of dough (should be a 1″ to 1-1/2″ lump) and roll into a ball between your hands. My lovely assistant here demonstrates the proper technique – it’s more of a cradle and pat, than a true roll.

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Place about 2″ apart on a nonstick cookie sheet.

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Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until bottoms are slightly golden.

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These cookies are about 100 calories each, fairly high in protein and low in cholesterol due to using peanut butter instead of butter. Just don’t be like some people I know and eat the whole batch. Remember it’s not so much about what you eat but how often and how much.

So go ahead and enjoy yourself. Winter IS coming, after all.

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This is Max and Oleg, Eatandrunmom’s official cookie testers, and they have approved this message.