Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kittens around the corner

A friend of ours who lives around the corner from us ended up adopting a stray cat that was wandering the neighborhood.  The poor cat was really hungry, but very sweet and she just couldn't resist. (Actually, it was her daughter that couldn't resist! But anyway...)

They took the cat to the vet to have it checked out and discovered that the cat was pregnant and due within about a week! *Surprise!*

Of course, by this time, the daughter was even more in love with the cat and so they took her home to prepare for the birth.

And we waited, and waited, and waited some more.

Finally more than two weeks later, the kittens arrived!!!

We were just as excited as they were to hear that mama had delivered two healthy kittens early last Thursday morning and the kids got to go over to their house to see them before they headed off to summer camp for the day.

I, on the other hand, had to wait until that evening to visit the newly-expanded family and by the time I got there, there were two more kittens!

Mama, with 3, 4, 2, and 1
The first two had arrived early in the morning, but then the second two came out late that afternoon.

We have been having fun for the last week, making nearly daily visits over there to see the kitties.  Last night, we paid them a visit and their eyes are just starting to open.  Mama kitty is doing a very good job of taking care of them and I can't wait until they get a little bit older and bigger so that I can hold them and cuddle them without Mama getting too upset.  :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Homemade Runza Recipe with Pictures

Today I'm providing another public service announcement for Runza-loving Nebraskans who don't happen to live in Nebraska anymore and can't just drive through the Runza drive-thru on a whim.  (My previous public service announcement on how to re-heat frozen Runzas is here.)

Last week, I started thinking about Runzas and how good they are.  And I realized I didn't have any frozen Runzas in my freezer with which to satisfy my craving.  So, I posted a plea on Facebook, asking my Nebraska friends if any of them had an authentic-tasting Runza recipe they could send me.  Within just a few minutes, a lady from my hometown church sent me a recipe and it was vouched-for by another friend who had used her recipe, so I figured I'd better give it a try.

So, this past weekend, I made Runzas from scratch!  It took about 4 hours of total chopping/cooking time (which would definitely be shortened by buying shredded cabbage!) ...but it was totally worth it.  Please keep reading to follow along with my quest to reproduce the incredible Runza.


1 pkg active yeast
7 c flour, divided
1/2 c sugar
1 T salt
3 T butter

Mix together:
1 pkg yeast
2 c warm water (120*F - 130*F)
1/2 c sugar
1 T salt
2 c flour
Add 3 T melted butter and 5 c flour. Knead and let rise 2 hours or until doubled. Push down and let rise 5 minutes.  Divide into 15 balls.  Roll thin.

2 lbs hamburger, browned
2 c finely chopped onions
5 c chopped/shredded cabbage (1 head)
2 T water
Add water to browned hamburger and put onions and cabbage on top of hamburger.  Steam 15 minutes and drain.
1.5 t Worcestershire sauce
1.5 t oregano (or less)
1.5 t black pepper
1 T seasoned salt

Put 2 generous spoonsful of meat on each rolled dough.  Roll up. Let rise a short time (5-10 minutes). Bake at 375*F for 20 minutes. Can be frozen before or after baking depending on your preference.

Seasoned salt:
2 T salt
1 t sugar
1 t paprika
1/4 t turmeric
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t celery salt

The ingredients:
The ingredients
When I went to buy the ingredients for the Runzas, I couldn't find any shredded cabbage, and not having ever cooked with cabbage, I wasn't sure if I would need one head or two heads to get 5 cups of chopped cabbage.  Turns out only one was necessary.  (Will be looking up cabbage recipes to figure out what to do with that other head this week!)

Also, yes, that onion is the same size as the head of cabbage.  I think the tag at the grocery store said they were "Colossal Onions".  I just had to take another picture for scale.

"Colossal" Onion
I figured the chopping of the cabbage would take quite a bit of time, so I started with that.  I cut it up, and cut out the core.

Cut up cabbage
And then chaos ensued.

Cabbage carnage
My original plan was to use the shredding blade on my food processor to get the cabbage pieces small enough, but with my cheap food processor, I ended up with big chunks of cabbage in with the shredded cabbage.  So then I tried just chopping it by hand, but that was going to take forever.  So then I ended up using the chopping blade to get it semi-small.  And I took those pieces and chopped them to the right size by hand.  It took a long time.  Next time, I'll drive to a different store and buy some pre-shredded cabbage!

The onion chopping went much more smoothly.  I got out my mini-chopper to make sure that the onion pieces were finely chopped and I ended up only using half of the colossal onion to make 2 cups of chopped onion.

Then it was time to make the dough.  I've never made dough by adding yeast to a mixture of water, sugar, salt, and flour, but I followed the directions exactly and then added the remaining flour and butter and let the stand mixer do the dirty work.

I love my stand mixer!

Dough, ready to rise
And then I took a break for about an hour and fifteen minutes before I started on the filling.  :)

The filling was pretty easy to cook up.  I browned the ground beef and readied the chopped cabbage and onions.

Cabbage/onions ready to go in
And since it said that the cabbage and onions were supposed to steam for 15 minutes, I figured that meant they were just supposed to sit on top of the ground beef.  So I plopped the whole bowl of cabbage/onion on top and put the cover on.

Prepare to be steamed
Sure enough, after (a little over) 15 minutes, the cabbage looked nicely cooked.

I'm steamed!
Time to add the spices.  The recipe called for "Seasoned Salt", which I assumed probably means Lawry's Seasoned Salt, but I didn't want the MSG from the Lawry's, so I hunted up a recipe for seasoned salt and mixed it up beforehand. (recipe included above)  My homemade blend is in the little jar in the middle.

Spice magic
All stirred up.  Looks promising!

Finished filling
By this point, the dough had been rising for 2 hours, so I got it out of the cold oven where it had been rising and punched it down before I remembered to take a picture.

Dough after rising
Honestly, though, it didn't really deflate at all so this is pretty much what it looked like after it had risen.  I had to go back and look at the "before picture" to make sure it had risen at all because I was expecting much more volume.

At some point during the rising of the dough, I figured out that I don't own a rolling pin, so I had to get creative...

Rolling pin, a.k.a. Pellegrino bottle
The recipe says to divide the dough into 15 balls and roll them thin.  Ok, this is the only part of the recipe I didn't follow exactly, I mean, 15 balls?!  Are you kidding me?  How do you possibly divide a huge mound of dough into 15 equal-sized balls?  Instead, I took the dough, divided it in half (or as close as possible), then divided that half into half (or as close as possible), and then tried to make 4 similarly-sized balls out of that.  This then made 16 dough balls of what turned out to be varying sizes, so maybe I should have just gone with 15 anyway...

Now for the hard part: filling the Runzas.  I was fairly worried about how this was going to turn out.  My favorite Runza is the Cheese Runza, so I put some American cheese in each one, too.

Filling the Runzas

Filled and pinched shut
And placed onto a non-stick baking sheet
The husband took some action shots while I was whining about how long this was taking and how I figured they probably wouldn't even taste right and I had done all this work for nothing.

Come on, stick together, you stupid dough!

How many more do I have to do?!
Finally, I finished them all and figured out a way to get them to all fit on the baking sheet!  Into the oven they went and I anxiously waited to see what would come out.

Pretty maids all in a row
They looked pretty good when I took them out...

Well, they look like Runzas, but how do they taste?
I was so worried, taking that first bite.  Could it be possible to have actually recreated the taste?...

YES! I was stunned.  They tasted just as good - dare I say, even better?! - as an authentic Runza.  I ended up eating one and a half of these marvelous creations and spent the rest of the evening flying high about my accomplishment.

And now we have some Runzas in the freezer, just waiting to satisfy those cravings for The Good Life.  :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Eyes Have It

As you may recall, Fellan seemed to be having some eyesight problems last year and we took him to have his eyes tested by a special eye doctor.  She determined that his eyes weren't working together correctly and prescribed him some prism glasses to use while he was reading or doing school work.

Well, she wanted Fellan to come back for a follow-up visit sometime in June and we just had that appointment on Monday.  Turns out, his eyes are tracking together perfectly now, and he no longer needs to wear his prism glasses.  Which is good, because he hasn't been wearing them for the past month and a half or so.  I guess he had pretty much figured out that he didn't need them anymore!

She did say that he's a bit far-sighted now, so she prescribed him some reading glasses for that.  We'll have to get that prescription filled pretty soon because Fellan cannot be stopped when it comes to reading.  He's become a reading maniac.  And it's so nice to see.  :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's fun to play at the Y-M-C-A!

The summer is upon us and we have been making the most of it.

The kids are in their third week of summer camp this week and they're having a wonderful time.  They have activities scheduled all day long from Monday through Thursday (music, art, cooking, Mad Science, photography, gym games, as well as swimming every day) and every Friday, they have a field trip to a place like Putt Putt Funhouse or Moody Gardens or iT'z.  Summer Camp is all fun all the time!

On top of that, though, we've also joined the YMCA for the summer.  I guess my expectations must have been really low because I've been completely blown away by how nice it has been to have this membership!

They have bicycle spin classes several times a day (plus Yoga, Zumba, Pilates, etc.) and last week we were able to make it to three of those spin classes before we had to take a break from killing ourselves over the weekend.

But we didn't let our tired bodies prevent us from taking advantage of the pool this weekend.  On Saturday, we rode our bikes to the YMCA (almost 5 miles from our house), spent a couple of hours playing around and swimming in the pool, and then rode back home.

I feel like a kid again - happy to have a summer of freedom! :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012


The kids have two containers in their room that serve as their laundry hampers.  One container is for light-colored clothes and one is for dark-colored clothes.

One day, they were being goofy and they wandered into our room with the lids of those containers on their heads.  The husband thought it would be fun to help them with their creativity, so I now present you with a pictorial series entitled "A Father's Pride".  (Seems fitting since Father's Day is coming up on Sunday!)

Bow Ties

Insect Eyes

Bow Head


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

100KON - Houston Memorial Park Picnic Loop Division

This year's 100 Miles of Nowhere turned out to be quite a bit different than last year's...

For one thing, neither the husband nor I are fit enough to attempt riding 100 miles in one day right now.  So, on Monday before we did the event, I suggested to the husband that maybe it would be a good idea to ride 100 Kilometers of Nowhere instead.  The relief that exuded from him was palpable.  He had been thinking the same thing, but was afraid to suggest it.

Once the elephant had exited from the room, we both started looking forward to our 100KON.

And, instead of doing it on the official weekend this year, we thought we'd to try to beat the heat a little bit, so we did it on Friday, May 4.

Car stocked with drinks, food, ice-cold wet towels, and tools
We didn't advertise the event to all our friends this year because we were in such pathetic shape. We even briefly considered doing the "simultaneous relay" division like a couple of our friends did last year just to save us those last 12.4 miles. (they each rode 50 miles together)  But, we figured we should try to be as true to the race name as possible.

Before the ride, I was fresh and full of energy.  How hard could riding 100k be, anyway?  It should be a breeze!

So happy! ...and so naive
When I turned on my bicycle computer, I realized that my suspicions were true: the last time I rode my road bike was last year's 100MON!  I just had to document that for posterity...

Wow! The last time I rode my road bike was last year's 100MON - should this be considered foreshadowing? Yes, it should be.

I also thought it would be fun to document the pains in my body BEFORE the event...
Sara's pains: left knee hurts, back is sore
Husband's pains: lower-back pain, general nausea

Sound like we're in for a fun ride, doesn't it? Har, dee, har, har.

We got about 20 minutes into the ride before this started happening.

We need to find a new trucking company?
The husband is a petroleum engineer who does mostly drilling work, so his job follows him around 24-7.  I've gotten used to it.  Sort of.

By mile 16.5, the pains included the above, plus...
Sara's pains: right hand numb
Husband's pains: left hand numb, hoping to avoid hospitalization this year (back-story: the week after last year's ride, the husband ended up in the hospital with unexplained abdominal pains for 3 days)

But we soldiered on and eventually made it to our break for lunch at just over the half-way mark.  By this point, it was really getting hot and I was beginning my downhill slide.

The heat, my God, the heat!
I tried to make sure I ate enough and drank enough water and gatorade, but the rest of the afternoon was just a blur of pain.  I didn't have the energy to continue to document my pains at each mile-marker, but by the end, my legs were cramping (which has never happened to me before!) and it was all I could do to finish the 100 kilometers.

It helped that there was quite a bit more of this going on...

What now?!
Oh, you decided not to use the trucking company I found this morning?
After stopping with the husband several times, I decided to ride the remaining few miles by myself, so I left him to finish dealing with the rig on his own.  I figured he'd catch up to me by the end, but by that point, I was riding so slowly, he easily caught me within only a couple of laps.

We finished the 100 kilometers with 0.12 miles to spare!

100 km (62.4 miles)
Of course, the husband was still getting work e-mails and texts, but by that point, I didn't care.  I was done with the worst ride of my life!

You keep working, I'll be over here recovering...
Feeling much better now!

Breaking out the laptop! This must be serious.
So that's the report of our 100KON this year.  We'll be back next year, but next year, I'm taking the training portion of the ride preparation a little more seriously.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I get to proclaim which divisions we won!

Well, I guess I'll claim that I won the "Houston Women's Happy-I-Didn't-Die Division" and the husband once again took first place in the "Most Billable Hours While Riding Division".  Until next year!