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I am a mom to twin boys, wife to a middle school English teacher and full-time employee of a telecommunications company. I work, read bedtime stories, cook and generally run out of time to do anything else.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Best Snack Ever! Crunchy Chickpeas!

I know, I know.... best ever?  A wee bit of hyperbole for a snowy day?

I think not.

These are awesome.  Sweet or spicy, and definitely crunchy.  And unlike many of the recipes I've seen on the interwebs, these STAY crunchy for days... not that they last that long.

Crunchy yummy goodness.
As a bonus, these are healthy, full of fiber and vegetarian.... and gluten free depending on your seasonings. No guilt, all goodness.  And did I mention delicious?!

I've made multiple batches, and the best came when I started with dried chickpeas*, not canned.  It might be a coincidence that these were the best batches, but it's not much harder to start with dried, and you get the chance to make so many more.... so I'll always start there.

Crunchy Chickpeas
1lb dried chickpeas
10-12 cups water

1.  Rinse dried chickpeas and pick through them, discarding any discolored ones or stones that found their way into the bag.  Place chickpeas in slow cooker, cover with water, then cook on high for five hours until tender.

2.  Drain, and spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet(s) lined with paper towels/cloth.  Rub chickpeas gently to remove liquid, and pick out any skins that come off-- no need to skin them if the skins hold on.
*Suggestion 1:  1lb chickpeas = 2 full cookie sheets.  These need some elbow room.
*Suggestion 2:  Leave the chickpeas in a colander or on a cloth for a few hours/overnight... let evaporation do some of the drying for you

3.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Use the convection setting if you have one.  Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper and spread chickpeas on top in a single layer.  No need for oil or flavors yet... just chickpeas!  Place the cookie sheet in the over and set the timer for ten minutes.

4.  When the timer goes off, shake the pan, then put it back in the oven and set the time for another ten minutes.  Repeat two more times (a total of 40 minutes)

5.  After 40 minutes, the chickpeas should be nicely browned, and if you eat one, it should be crunchy all the way through, and not at all soggy.  If it's still not crunchy, try another five minutes before proceeding.

6.  And now... seasonings!  During one of the ten minute baking rounds, mix up seasonings in a bowl large enough to hold your chickpeas.  Here are some suggestions:

Spicy:  1/2 Tbsp (or more) Sriracha, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp line juice 1/2 tsp sweet paprika, 1/2 tsp salt
Flavorful: 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp each smoked paprika and cumin, 1/2 tsp salt
Sweet: 2 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp salt
Sweet II: 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon sugar, 1 pinch cayenne pepper, 1 pinch salt
Tons of seasoning suggestions on the web... just make sure you dry roast them first following the instructions here to make them crunchy crunchy crunchy!

7.  Pour chickpeas into seasonings and mix until coated, then return the chickpeas to the oven (on the parchment covered cookie sheet) for another five minutes.  With wetter seasonings like the sweet combo above, you may need to make it ten minutes to bake the seasoning onto the chickpeas.  Keep an eye on them to ensure your creation does not burn!

8.  Important last step.... when done, turn off the heat and crack the oven door.  Leave the chickpeas in the oven until cold.  I don't know if this is necessary, but my chickpeas are awesome and I will continue to do it until someone tests it another way and tells me it definitely works :-)

When cool, store in a tightly covered container-- jar, glass bowl, plastic or whatever.  I understand these can be frozen also, but mine never make it that long.

Enjoy the deliciousness!

*chickpeas = garbanzo beans.  Same thing... main ingredient in hummus and falafel.  Sold canned or dried, in the grocery section with beans.  You'll need a larger and/or healthier store to find dried garbanzos.
** Post updated 3/30/14 to reflect that fact that drying these like crazy using tons of paper towels is not necessary is you follow the rest of the directions.  I did my last batch by defrosting cooked chickpeas for a few hours on the counter, then roasting them with nary a paper towel involved.  They came out great!

Credit to for introducing me to the idea of dry roasting the chickpeas, and for the bones of the Sriracha Lime seasoning combo.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Food stuff and Marshmallow Treats

Like all families, we here at the Unwired Home have our food issues.  For the kids, food is truly fuel.    One of my kids requires a vast amount of protein to keep his mind and body in gear.  Huge amounts- he's a small kid and can out-eat me.  The other kid has a much slower metabolism and is less athletic.  While he wants to eat chocolate at every snack, a piece of fruit with meet his needs; for the high-metabolism child, protein is required in addition to the fruit.  As a family, we are big into 'five-a-day' fruits and veggies, as well as high fiber to deal with a gastrointestinal issue.
In our community, like in yours, there are folks with all kinds of food issues.  Some look like ours-- just preferences and lessons learned.  But some issues may be more critical, and even deadly.   Allergies to nuts, wheat and eggs.  Texture/food color issues.  Picky eaters.
Knowing that one of my kid needs protein, and both need fiber and healthy choices, I adapted the classic Marshmallow Rice Krispie treats recipe to fill a need (and a stomach).  This recipe has a good amount of fiber, is crunchy and gives them a reason to eat cereal, which they both love.

Nutty O's Treats
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup peanut butter
3 cups mini marshmallows
4 cups Os cereal
2 cups puffed rice cereal
3/4 cup peanuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Over medium heat in a large pot (10+ quart size, which helps to contain the mess), melt the butter.  Add the peanut butter and stir until melted.  Add the marshmallows and reduce the heat, stirring until well combined.
Turn off the heat, and stir in the cereal, nuts and chocolate (this is where it gets messy).  Combine as best you can, then pour the whole blob into a 9x12 pan.  Press the blob into the corners to make the bars dense and to fill the whole pan.
Let sit for 30-60 minutes to cool, then turn onto a cutting board and slice into bars.
Substitutions:  Virtually everything in this recipe can be swapped out.  Try sunflower seed butter in place of peanut butter to eliminate an allergen.  Take out the chocolate chips to reduce calories.  Use a GF cereal if you are celiac or wheat-sensitive.  Use high-fiber cereal to amp up the fiber content.

Split Pea Soup

I never thought much of split pea soup until my mom sent me this recipe.  For similar meat-infused soups, I only ever found a grizzled, dried, overly salty ham hock, which never lent the rich, meaty vibe the recipe promised.   This recipe avoids that conundrum by using Andouille sausage blended right into the soup.  Putting meat in the blender has never been high on my to-do list, but with this recipe, it's worth getting over the willies.  Use any Andouille you like-- chicken, pork, etc.  Another highly seasoned sausage like chorizo would work too!

The recipe is easiest with an immersion/stick blender.  Mine is 10+ years old, and was only about $30 when I bought it.  Worth the investment if you plan to make a lot of soups.

Split Pea Soup
1 1/2 cup dried split peas
6 cups chicken broth
2 links Andouille sausage (1/3 - 1/2 lb total), cut into pieces
1  cup frozen peas

1. Rinse dried peas and discard any oddballs.  Pour broth into slow cooker, add sausage and split peas.  Cover, and turn to low for five hours.

2. When done, turn off slow cooker and pour in frozen peas.  Using immersion blender, blend soup until it reaches desired consistency.  If you don't have an immersion blender, allow soup to cook, pour into a standard blender, add frozen peas and blitz a few times.

I find this make about five lunch-sized portions (1 1/2 cups each), more or less.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Brown Sugar Maple Muffins

Wow, are these good?

How do I know?  Well, I bake muffins all the time.  Usually, I set them out to cool, pack them in containers or in the freezer, and never have any myself.  These though.....

Yum.  The kids now have one fewer muffin to eat.

The recipe is great as is (here)- I added 1 cup chopped walnuts for protein, but left the rest alone.  It makes for a lovely, neutral light muffin.  For more body, earthiness and oomph, I would suggest adding 1 tsp of cinnamon to the batter, along with the dry ingredients.  Maybe a little nutmeg too.

One other change... Every muffin recipe baked in my home prior to this one was put into the oven in standard metal muffin tins, lined with decorative cupcake papers.  Cute, but the cheap liners allow oil to seep through, so the design is never as adorable after you bake as before.  And I once had individual silicone muffin cups, but the fluting did not allow the baked goods to release cleanly.

Enter silicone muffin pans.

*Cue angels singing*

Fantastic.  No need to grease the pans, the the muffins nearly jumped out of their little muffin holes when cooked.

I highly recommend them-- I have a set similar to the link above, although I bought them at a garage sale for $5.  :-)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Design on a Dime meets Pinterest

For a lot of reasons, I've been exercising the DIY part of my brain lately.  I've always liked to do 'stuff' myself.  My father did a lot of his own work around the house-- I distinctly remember helping him tile the entry way in our house.  He did a lot of his own electrical work too, and taught me how to wire switches and fixtures.  Doing it yourself is gratifying, cheaper, and often faster than calling a professional.

Add to that a ton of years watching DIY shows like Design On A Dime, reading blogs on design and now, browsing on Pinterest.  It's a slippery slope.

Below are photos of my new dining room.  Same house as before, but the dining room was a small space near the kitchen.  Convenient, but too small.  We removed the leaves from the DR table to fit it in the space, which meant we needed to put the leaves back in to use it.  Big PITA.

So when I finished the new desk (future blog post-- the wonder of homemade chalk paint), it went into the small dining room, and became the centerpiece of the new study.   The dining room furniture went into the large living room, which became the new dining room.  The chair/ottoman from the living room went into the study, the sofa was sold, and I bought a beautiful credenza for the dining room from Craigslist.  Keeping up?

From a few yards back, no flash- this is the true wall color, but the photo came out very dull
With flash- the wall color is grey, not green, but this photo has more depth and life

So the images above are clearly of the new dining room.  The lamp is the DIY project in question... when you take a room not designed to be a dining room (and with poor lighting in general) and make it a dining room, you are unlikely to have the electrics in place to hang a fixture over the table.  Ikea makes this great cantilevered lamp, which we ended up getting from Freecycle.  Mr. Unwired had to do a bit of engineering to replace a broken piece, which he did and it's awesome.  My job was to repair and jazz up the lampshade, which was torn and boring.  Which is the rest of this post.
The lamp

The view from a dining room chair
What you're seeing is a generic, boring rice paper lamp shade, wearing the Sunday comics.  Pinterest didn't warn me about the nuances of this project, so I'll share what I learned.

First, cut your paper into strips.  I used one Washington Post Sunday comics section (4 pages, 8 sides), sliced up by a shredder.  Consider cutting them about 1/2" to 3/4" wide, not 1/4 inch like mine.  Wider will give you more coverage and be way easier to work with.

Next, hang your lamp shade over a work surface, in arms reach.

After that, prepare glue in a shallow bowl.  I used regular white glue, diluted 50% with water.  Dip the paper into the glue, then run it through your fingers to strip the extra glue back into the bowl. You want the paper to be wet, but not soggy.

Lay each strip, one by one onto the paper lampshade.  This is where the advice 'use paper 1/2" to 3/4" comes from.'  With the shredded comics, this took upwards of two hours, executed in 30 minute intervals.  It's a very zen project as my hands were covered in glue so I couldn't play with my phone or do anything other than paper mache the lampshade....  And I am a bit obsessive, so the focus of this project was nice.  But two hours seems excessive in the long run.  Your mileage may vary.

I love the scale of the lamp in the room, and the light it gives is perfect. It's nicely filtered nicely through the paper shade and the comics, and it makes me smile every time I pass by.  While I did this project to hide the tears in the lampshade (which it did perfectly), it ended up beatifying the space and making the large room more intimate. Time to invite folks for dinner!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Classic Movies for every modern child

Mr. Unwired and I have been hosting movie night for our kids for over a year now.  For background, our kids are media deprived-- they don't have their own electronics beside e-readers, and they rarely are allowed to borrow ours.  No TV or Wii on school days, and little computer time unless for school.

Sad, isn't it?

So deprived.

Instead, they read, do puzzles, shoot each other (and us) with nerf guns, play card games, and fight, just like my brother and I did.  We lived.  And so will they.

But there came a point when we realized that their cultural education was lacking.  The media (mostly movies) they saw at camp or at their friends was G-rated dreck.  When the kids watched TV at home, they mostly saw science programming.  The kids weren't seeing any of the good stuff we watched as kids.

There are a ton of classics that are tame by modern standards, and a lot of fun to watch.  This way, we like movie night too!

Listed below are the movies through which we selected to warp our childrens brains educate our children, sharing the good stuff we watched as kids, and then some.  Most of these we streamed from Amazon or Netflix, and many are available free from the local library.

For a decent content review, check IMDB's parental reviews.  Many movies have a catalog of each bad word, sexual innuendo and aggressive moment.  If one isn't there, I can tell you that the movies we've watched might have some bad words (my kids know not to repeat them), mild violence (no spurting blood or gunfights) and a few sexual situations that are over the boys heads.

Classic Movies for every modern child:
Dr. Doolittle
Three Amigos
Young Frankenstein (pacing is slow, but funny)
Spaceballs (more bad words than I recalled, but really funny)
Batman (the original 1966 version.  Very campy!)
Big (loved this one!)
Rookie of the Year
James and the Giant Peach
Bugs Life
Monsters Inc
Muppet Movie (I sang the entire movie, much to my kids chagrin)
Muppets Take Manhattan
Despicable Me
Hugo (beautiful!)
Back to the Future (kids loved this one!)
Ghostbusters (couldn't find streaming- we bought the DVD for $3 and have watched it many times)
Addams Family (a little too dark)
Puss In Boots
Wizard of Oz
Toy Story (and sequels)
Iron Giant
Finding Nemo
Night at the Opera (Marx Brothers- humor was not inappropriate, but mature.  Kids still enjoyed it)
Night at the Museum 1 and 2 (excellent)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
The Incredibles
Home Alone
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Mrs. Doubtfire
A Bugs Life
Robots (one of the best we've seen!)

On our list to see:
Lion King
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
How to Train Your Dragon
Chicken Run

Add your own to the comments below!  We're always looking for more great movies to share.
Post updated 1/25/14

Mexican Pizza

My goals, of late, have not included blogging.  But when I go to the office, a certain co-worker notes that he's looking for more recipes.  He's gluten-free, so here's one for Tim!

Mexican Pizza.  We eat a lot of mexican food in our house.  What's not to like.... easy to prepare, easy to adjust for various tastes and dietary issues, and always delicious. 

I make a rolled taco dish that's delicious (here).  If you put them in a dish and covered them with salsa and cheese, you'd have enchiladas.  And in this variation, I make them open-face, and call them pizza.

I'm ready for my cheese!

Mexican Pizza
serves 4

4 flour tortillas (12" size or so)-- substitute 8 corn tortillas for a GF variation
8 oz refried beans (1/2 can)
8 oz canelli beans (1/2 can- can substitute another variety you like)
8 oz cooked meat-- left-over rotisserie chicken, ground beef, chorizo, vegetarian or skip all together
8 oz shredded cheese (mexican blend or your favorite)

Heat over to 425 degrees.  Lay tortillas onto baking sheets.  Divide the refried beans and spread over the tortillas.  Top with whole beans, then meat, then cheese.  Bake 10 minutes or until the tortillas get crunchy and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and any other mexican sides.

Note:  The extra 1/2 can refried beans will keep in your freezer.  Simply put it in freezer-safe container, and don't forget about it!