TheMomOfAllTrades

Mom of all trades- Master of very little

There was love, all around…

on February 15, 2013

But I never heard it ringing.  Who would over the noise of three boys?  Valentine’s Day is, as most of us know, nothing more than a Hallmark holiday.  I tend to sway more toward the hearts and crafts of the  day, rather than the unrealistically high expectations. Does the husband run out to buy me diamond jewelry?  Absolutely not.  Do we go out to a romantic dinner, eat over candlelight, share a bottle of wine and whisper sweet nothings to each other?  Yeah… no.  We’d be lucky to eat dinner together, at a reasonable hour, and forget whispering… you wouldn’t hear anything over that ever-present dull roar of our house known as H, the 5-year-old, and L, the 16-month-old.  This year, we didn’t even eat together and were mostly just ships passing through most of the day.  We did each make it to the gym though, which is, right now, a great way of showing our love for ourselves, each other and our boys.  Our journeys to get healthy will last much longer and are better for us all than the beautiful roses that he brought me (not to diminish the husband’s lovely gesture).  So, while romance is not totally dead in our house, it is certainly not all about coinciding with a particular day.

Pretty, and definitely unexpected, flowers

Pretty, and definitely unexpected, flowers

I did, however, have fun with the crafty heart-filled and heartfelt part of the day.  H and I (read: H is in kindergarten, so mostly I) made Valentine’s treats for his class.  Now, in this day of allergies everywhere you look and uber health consciousness, I wasn’t all too keen on sending loads of candy home with already wired 5 and 6-year-olds.  Through my browsing on Pinterest (don’t lie- you’ve lost hours of time there too) I found a bunch of cute ideas, but most did involve candy or food of some sort.  Just before deciding that I’d have to concede to sending candy or just buying little paper Valentine’s emblazoned with superheroes, I figured I’d take a quick stroll through the Dollar Store and see if inspiration struck.  First I considered glowsticks with cute little “punny” sayings (I’m GLOW happy we’re friends.  You make my day BRIGHTER.) and then I realized that a lot of kids, at that age, still have a tendency to put things in their mouths.  Can we say YUCK?

I was starting to head back to the front of the store, where they had boxes of cards when I noticed that I was in the school supply aisle.  Crayons?  Nah.  Call me a Crayola snob, but Dollar Store crayons aren’t always reliable.  Markers?  Horrible visions of children with drawn on mustaches and tattoos whirled in my head.  Pencils?  Hmmm… Throw in a fun little eraser and you’ve got a valentine treat that any grade-schooler can appreciate.  There’s got to be some sort of cheesy joke to put on a card accompanying a pencil, right?  Right?  Write!  Got it!  Please tell me I’m not the only person who gets excited when I think of a fun project.  And so, for $4, I purchased enough pencils and erasers for his whole class (he has 24 in his class, perfect when pencils and erasers came in packs of 12).  I knew that I had some Avery labels in shipping size in my desk and red cardstock, though construction paper would have been fine too.  For an extra $1, I bought a 25 count pack of Valentine’s cellophane treat bags, but they certainly weren’t necessary. If you, like me, have rolls of pretty ribbon lying around for every holiday imaginable, you too could be making valentines for less that $5.

Our supplies

Our supplies

And so, with my loot in hand I headed home to get started.  In Kindergarten they are just starting with the basics of computer skills and I imagine typing would not be the most fun activity to partake of with H, so I just used a Word program to make some labels for our gifts.  I started with an easy clip art heart and added a few small words of friendship and voila, step one was complete.  Hot off the presses, I took the labels to H and had him sign his name to each one.  We did have a few extra, just in case (letters are just HARD sometimes).  H then helped me put one eraser and one pencil in each bag, we tied them shut with a small piece of our fun Valentine’s Day ribbon and then, after the boys went to bed (which is when I get my best work done), I finished up our cards.  I stuck the labels to some red cardstock and cut each rectangle out with different pairs of decorative edge scissors that I have.  The last step was another H friendly one and we used some solid colored heart stickers that we had used on his Valentine box to stick each card to a bag.  Easy, fun, cheap and heartfelt.  What could be better?

H did a pretty darn good job writing on so many labels

H did a pretty darn good job writing on so many labels

Our finished treats

Our finished treats

Speaking of love, I did make a nice meal the night before Valentine’s day, to show my boys some love, and also to show that healthy and hearty can go hand in hand.  If you are trying to lose weight, or even if you just try to be mindful or what you eat, venison should definitely be in your freezer.  Now, in some states, you can’t legally buy or sell venison so, if you don’t hunt, you should definitely befriend (or marry) a hunter.  My husband and brother are stellar outdoorsmen and can often be found hunting or fishing in their spare time.  My brother, who certainly spent a fair amount of time in a tree stand this year, used his trusty bow to bring down at least 7 deer this season ( I may or may not have lost count).  My niece and nephew even each got their firsts, with crossbows, no less.  My brother did so well that he even donated a few so that families in need could partake of the spoils of his hunt.  My husband, though he hasn’t been at it nearly as long as my brother, brought down his first buck this year as well.  So, as you can imagine, we all have pretty well stocked freezers.  Venison is one of the most nutritious proteins you will find, as deer are very lean animals.  With practically no fat, it can be substituted for beef in almost any recipe for a much lower calorie and fat count.

Simmering stew (photo courtesy of the husband, after I ran out the door to get to the gym)

Simmering stew (photo courtesy of the husband, after I ran out the door to get to the gym)

There is nothing better than a nice hot, comforting bowl of soup or stew on a dreary winter day, so while trying to decide on dinner, I saw that I had all the makings for beef stew, except beef.  Beef stew isn’t always a great choice for dieters, as stew cubes are not always the best cut and some can be downright fatty.  Spotting a few backstraps in the freezer. I pulled one out and forged on with my idea of “Hunter Stew”.  Normally I would brown the meat and put it in the crockpot for a few hours and then add all of my veggies in, but my meat took a little longer to defrost than I had intended, so I just threw everything in the pot early in the evening.  The stew was delicious, but I would definitely advise a longer cooking time, especially if you’re using venison from a buck right after the rut (when the deer do nothing but run around), as your meat may be a bit tough if not cooked very quickly or very slowly.  I used all of the normal stew veggies, but cut down on the white flesh potatoes in favor of a couple of sweet potatoes.  Not only are they a little better for you, but they added a really nice sweet earthiness to balance the savory of the meat.  Always use red skinned potatoes in soups and stew that are cooked for a while, as they hold up better.  They will hold their shape and texture, as opposed to Idaho or Russet potatoes that will turn into mashed potato soup.  Your sweet potatoes will break down a little more than the red, but they add nicely to the broth and overall flavor that way.  If you give this recipe a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Doesn't that look warm and delicious?

Doesn’t that look warm and delicious?

Hunter Stew

Venison backstrap, 16 oz., cubed

2-3 cloves garlic, depending on size and taste

2 red potatoes, peeled, cubed

2 sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed

½ large sweet onion, chopped

2 large stalks celery, chopped

½ sweet red pepper, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 1/2 cups water

Reduced sodium brown gravy mix (optional)

In a large pot, sprayed with a bit of non-stick cooking spray (or 1/4 tsp. of oil, the calories are minimal) add venison to brown, with a bit of salt and pepper. While the meat is browning, grate your garlic into the pot and give a good stir.  Once venison is browned, add about 1 cup of the water and stir to help start your broth.  *If using a crockpot to finish cooking, pour meat and “gravy” into crockpot and add all remaining ingredients in.  Add your onions, celery, carrots and peppers and let cook until your onions are clear.  Add both types of potatoes and combine the gravy mix with the remaining water and pour into pot.  Cover and let simmer for at least an hour (longer, if possible). Enjoy!

Serves about 6.  Each serving contains approximately 225 calories, 3 grams of fat, 250 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 26 g protein and almost your complete daily needs of Vitamins A and C.

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with love!  See you next time!

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