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Mr. Rogers’ Tweets

6 Feb

muffins_2

It’s no question that Mr. Fred Rogers was an icon for children.  For that matter, he was probably an icon for many adults, too.  And it’s a strange wonder to think about what Mr. Rogers would post if he were a part of today’s technology addicted world.  Would Mr. Rogers “like” things?  Would he “retweet?”  What would be Mr. Roger’s answer to cyber bullying?  If only we could ask him.

Despite the fact that I used to do web design for a Fortune 500 company (this was many moons ago, folks; we’re talking Front Page fun), I am what many would call, “Old School” when it comes to modern day technology.  Facebook was purposefully not on my radar.  Twitter, Instagram?  Hardly!  Once, I had a Bluetooth.  That lasted about 5 ½ days.  My husband, on the other hand, is very technologically sound and has been able to hook up our HDish-something television to Netflicks, and connect Pandora through our internal and external house speakers, all through his phone.  It’s a quiet house when he deploys, for sure.

When I was little, my mom would let me watch certain shows on TV, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood being one of them.  She recalls how I would giggle and shy-up when Mr. Rogers asked, “Would you like to be my neighbor?” like he was talking to only me through that electronic box.  I was infatuated with the guy; his quiet nature, slow talking cadence, and always-caring demeanor naturally drew me in, as it still does today.  Now, after teaching for 10 years, and seeing such a drastic change – not only in education, but generally in kids these days – there’s a need for Mr. Rogers and his wisdom.

Last Friday, it was rainy, cold, and all around dreary.  The kids were, what teachers would say, “Done.”  Being one that does not normally turn on the tube in class, I surprised my students with a streaming episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  With just the first few jingly notes of his intro, the kids were hooked.  When he asked, “Will you be my neighbor?” Almost every student in the class responded in a quiet, genuine, “Yes.”  When he slowly yet deliberately asked, “Are you growing up?” Again the class, mesmerized, responded.  Just like when I was young, my 5-year old students thought Mr. Rogers was talking to them personally.

To top the cake, at the end of the program, one little girl breathed a huge sigh, and telling no one in particular commented, “Wow.  He is such a helpful guy.”

Yes, he is.

So that got me wondering.  Stepping out of the wonderfully simple, old, syndicated television world into a comparatively loud and crazy one, what would Mr. Rogers do with today’s technology?  What would Mr. Rogers tweet?  Which of his Instagram pictures would get “likes?” How many Facebook “friends” would he have?  I know I would certainly “follow” Mr. Rogers, but would he “follow” me?

This is all too much!  But, for better or worse, it’s a reality that won’t go away.  So rather than fight it, I am slowly deciding to join the social media world with a Mr. Rogers-esque viewpoint:

Share with care, like what’s nice, and always tweet upbeat. 

With that being said (and with its arguably too-long prologue), here’s the point: A friend asked me to publicize my public domains and hashtags, so here they are:

  • Pinterest: 42 Potatoes Entertains @42potatoestable
  • Twitter: 42potatoes @TweetsTheTable
  • Instagram: @42potatoesblog
  • Popular Hashtags: #eatgoodfood, #yum, #vegetarian, #healthyfood, #eatingacrossAmerica #42potatoes

On these sites, you’ll find all cheerful, cheeky, fun, inspiring (if you like to cook), *mostly* healthy pictures, recipes, and personal anecdotes of, and related to, food.  Please visit, please comment, and I hope you, as always, enjoy.

Not knowing if Mr. Rogers cooked, or enjoyed cooking, or dabbled in any culinary arts, I’m sure he would have appreciated any valiant, positive effort.  So here’s my latest, just in time for Valentine’s Day:

Chocolate Strawberry Muffins!  These were a hit at our latest work potluck.  They are super simple (and quick) to make, have all the comfort of a muffin, and the indulgence of a chocolate dipped strawberry.  Disclaimer: Strawberries are currently in season here in Florida (weird, I know), so I completely understand that this recipe would be better suited for May-July in most parts of the U.S.  But, hey – something to look forward to!

For the dry ingredients, whisk 1¾ c all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp cinnamon, and ¼ salt until combined.  For the wet ingredients, cream 6 tbsp room temp butter with ¾ c brown sugar, and then add 1 room temp egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Also add 1 pint of hulled strawberries that have been smushed, smashed, crushed, and almost liquefied – but not liquified – by a fork.  When mixed, add the dry ingredients to the wet in 3 batches.  Fold in ½ c mini bittersweet chocolate chips until combined.  Then scoop into a cupcake-lined muffin tin. Sprinkle the tops with raw sugar and a tiny pinch of sea salt.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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These muffins are what baking is all about– simple, sweet, comforting, and hitting that special place that brings about a smile.  Kind of like what Mr. Rogers does.  In fact, if Mr. Rogers was still around, maybe just maybe, this would be his tweet: Chocolate Strawberry Muffins: enjoy and bring to a neighbor! #yum #BeNice #SnappyToday

Enjoy!

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Not Bad for a Monday

26 Jul

Mondays are not usually the most desired day of the week.  It means waking up early, going back to work, and generally looking “forward” to the rest of the week ahead.  Right now, every Monday I tend to look forward to getting involved in the crazy unrealistic antics of the Bachelorette on Monday nights, but aside from that, it’s pretty much a dull day.  That is, unless you are a teacher (summer’s off), or a Coast Guard pilot (have random days off).

Rob and I had a huge Honey-Do list of tasks for Monday, all of which necessary, but nothing to write home about.  You know the things I’m talking about – the “Dos” that pile up – cleaning out the garage, go through the wardrobe, donate to Goodwill, etc.  But when Rob got home from work Monday morning (he had overnight duty the night before), we were in no mood for cleaning.

Last week, my mom was visiting us, and we had the best time.  We hiked, we ate, we shopped, we ate, we cooked, and yes, we ate some more.  There were memorable experiences with snakes, a questionable experience with Sasquatch, a terrifying chipmunk, and a Coast Guard C-130 to start off our time together with a bang.  Despite enduring the wonderful Pacific Northwest travel discrepancies, hopefully, my mom left here with a satiated, warm, and comfortable feeling that I hope all my guests feel when then they depart.  I know I had that feeling, and still do… I miss her.

Needless to say, after exploring Cape Cod, and then playing around Oregon with my mom, the last thing Rob and I wanted to do was pick up a sponge.

The SUN was out (it was a “Yay Oregon!” day), and we had planned to go blueberry picking at some point this summer.  So, agreeing that we would come home and be responsible adults right after picking blueberries, we put on our hats and sunscreen and drove inland to the warm, beautiful farming valley.

When it comes to blueberries, Rob and I differ in our gleaning ways, so to speak.  He is diligent, gentle, simply nudging blueberries with his knuckle and letting the ripe ones fall off into his bucket.  They make the softest little plop, plop, plop, a sound that is both exciting and humble simultaneously.  He finds the biggest berries (like a true man would), and bypasses the ones that aren’t on the verge of bursting.  He has a keen eye and being tall, gets the berries on the top of the bush, the ones gathering the most sun until their little juices are almost starting to bubble – those are the sweetest ones.

I, on the other hand, have my own way of gathering the blue loot.  Drawn to the clumps of berries hanging beneath the leaves and thin branches for dear life (similar to wine grapes hanging off the vine, which is probably why I’m drawn to them), I softly lift up the branch, find the hidden berries, take the bunch with one hand and carefully massage the berries.  The berries that are ripe easily fall out of the clump into my other open hand waiting to catch.  While lacking the delicacy that Rob displays leaves me with a few discarded berries, I find the dark hidden gems, and the efficiency leaves me with a full bucket.

We didn’t chat much during our picking.  We just stood side by side, tasting a berry off each new bush (each bush produces slightly different tasting berries), and every once in a while looked up and exchanged a simple smile.  We were in our own little blueberry world, feeling close to nature (such a clichéd, hippie phrase, but it does explain the feeling), and close to each other.  Blueberry picking was one of the first things Rob took me to experience when I first moved to Oregon, which made the experience that much more meaningful.

Twenty-three pounds of blueberries later, we piled back into the car, sweating, wiping off the occasional little spider or silverfish, and smiling from ear to ear.  But then, it was back home to be the responsible adults we said we would be.  Or so we thought.

By the end of the afternoon, we had walked through one of the most beautiful (and oldest) wineries in Oregon, joined their wine club (after all, who knows where the Coast Guard will send us in two years – we must enjoy as much as we can while we are still living here!), and ate the best house-made gardenburgers I’ve ever had in my life.  Stay tuned: I’m going to be experimenting to get this one down perfectly.

The butter on the bread (or the icing on the cake, whatever your taste may be) that ended our spontaneous outing was the nearly empty Costco we visited to pick up some household necessities, like paper towels and yogurt.  And a cookbook.  And gourmet mushrooms.  And a 5-pound bag of trail mix.  Se le vie.

We were home just in time to feed the cranky puppy (how dare we have fun without him!), and, you guessed it, watch the Bachelorette.

While Rob and I were picking the juicy berries and tasting the intricate wines, both our minds were flooding with ideas and recipes to make the most fabulous use out of our blueberries.  But, with Rob having to go back to the reality called a job, I figured I’d send him off with a comfortable classic, as well as one of his favorites: Blueberry Muffins.  With extra blueberries.  We ate one together this morning, still way too hot from the oven, and he took two more for the road.

Sig is watching me type… I think I’ll make him jealous and have two more now, as well.

Simply Blueberry Muffins (makes 12 muffins) 

  • 2 c fresh, organic blueberries
  • 1 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c sugar (I use organic cane sugar) 
  • 8 oz. thick greek yogurt 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • Raw sugar, for sprinkling on top 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and grease and lightly flour a standard muffin tin. 

In a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), cream together the yogurt and sugar.  Once sugar starts to dissolve, add the vanilla extract, and mix until incorporated. 

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together, reserving the blueberries and lemon zest.  In thirds, add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until just incorporated.  Add in the lemon zest, and mix until (once again) just incorporated.  Gently fold in the blueberries with a spatula, being careful not to break the berries.  

Evenly scoop the batter into the muffin tin, and top the batter with a sprinkle of raw sugar.  Bake until golden, and a toothpick comes out clean.  

Let cool (or not) and Enjoy!

When it Rains…

13 Jan

Growing up, my family moved around a lot.  We primarily stuck around the central and southwest regions of the U.S., and while I wasn’t totally thrilled each time another move came around, I look back now and am thankful for all those new places to live.  I had to learn how to make friends, and got to experience a lot of regional culture.

But one thing I never really experienced is hard-core RAIN.  Cold, wet, dropping out of the sky – rain.  When we lived in Houston, the occasional thunderstorm would drench us and intensify the already palpable humidity, but would be over within the half hour.  Colorado’s climate would change every 5-minutes, and, in the what seemed to be miraculous moments it rained in Arizona, we would dance around like fools in the muddy puddles.  There were even times in California (usually when it was one of those 80 degree days in December) when I would pray for rain, or some sort of “seasonal” weather.  Well, I guess the old adage is true – be careful what you wish for!

There is no other word to describe today’s rain, but unbelievable.  The sky, which has been dark for days, finally opened up and unleashed a fury of water.  At one point it looked like a waterfall from the sky.  Even the kids, and the native Oregonians at our school who have been around wet weather since birth, stopped their teaching and learning to just look out the window, or open the door, and just stare.  I closed my eyes for a moment and could hear giant slaps of water – like some gold miner in the sky was tossing buckets of leftover river water over his shoulder.  Opening my eyes, I followed the sound to what looked exactly like what I had imagined.  There were random isolated patches of slightly violent thrown water from the sky, which would have left anyone completely drenched were they to find themselves under that unfortunate pocket of clouds.  Again, unbelievable.

And maybe it was the weather, but strange things kept happening all day: Every single one of my fourth graders missed the exact same problem in the exact same way showing the exact same incorrect problem solving.  One of my Kindergartners flat out forgot how to hold a pencil, when, just moments earlier she clearly and correctly wrote her name on her paper.  She got the most blank look on her face when I asked her to pick up her pencil to write the number “15” (this was probably the strangest and most frustrating teaching experience I’ve ever had).  On top of that, the second graders were unusually quiet in the cafeteria at lunchtime (sounds silly, but this was probably the most strange thing of all!).

So, chalking up the day’s weirdness to the unreal weather, I left work today remembering the yummy, comforting sweet treat I had waiting for me at home: Brown Butter Bran Muffins.  Can a bran muffin be comforting?  Yes.  Can it even be yummy?  Absolutely!  And I’ve found a way to keep it so light and sweet it will convert even the strongest bran hater.

I use greek yogurt as my fat base, substituting the enormous amounts of both butter and eggs usually found in decent bran muffins.  Mixed with honey, only a bit of browned butter (caramelized butter goes a long way in the flavor department, and the little specks look great in the batter), and dark brown sugar, these muffins offer great sweet depth of flavor, without the guilty unhealthy feeling (or the dense food-baby we are all familiar with after indulging).

I enjoyed my muffins, feeling warmed against the cold, wet rain, and let go of the question-mark-over-the-head day.  Tomorrow will be different, I expect, but even if it’s crazy raining again, I’ll have a yummy, healthy bran-filled breakfast treat to look forward to.

Brown Butter Bran Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

  • 1/2 c all purpose flour, plus more for dusting muffin tin
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c oat bran
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 + 1/8 c dark brown sugar
  • 8 oz. greek yogurt (I use the honey flavor)
  • 2 tbsp good honey
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing muffin tin
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a greased and lightly floured muffin tin.

In a small fry pan, melt the butter until the milk solids start to brown.  When it starts to smell like roasting nuts, turn off the heat and let cool.

Whisk the dry ingredients together, minus the sugar.  In a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) mix the sugar and yogurt.  When incorporated, add the cooled butter, honey and vanilla extract.  Mix until just combined.

In thirds, add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until incorporated each time (and then, if no one is looking, lick the paddle – it’s divine in its raw form!).

Using an ice cream scoop, equally scoop the batter into the muffin tin and bake until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

These muffins are great served warm with jams, chutneys, and my favorite: almond butter.

Enjoy!

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