If I had four daughters I'm sure I wouldn't be writing this post.  But from a young age I knew I was a guy's girl. 

My mom died before I had any children.  A month before her death she predicted that I would have three sons.  She was close.  I ended up with four. 

As a teacher, I can honestly say that I enjoy working with both boys and girls, but I am known in my school as a bit of a "boy whisperer."  I get the tough guys, the angry boys, the bruisers.  And they love me.  They love me and they come back to visit me year after year, hollering at me in the hall, giving me awkward hugs and still driving their teachers crazy.  And sometimes, when things get really rough, their teachers send them down to visit with me.  I love it.

So here goes.  A list of what I love and hate about boys.  Let's face it, I'm totally in love with boys, but I'm trying to be fair and balanced here.

Boys (usually) have short hair.  I love clean, short hair, faces, ears and necks visible, ready for baseball caps, hoods and stocking caps.

Hate Boys can be smelly.  And they don't really care.

Love Boys love their mamas.  Always.

Boys love their mamas.  Always.  Even when their mama is a drug dealing prostitute who has neglected and abused them.

Love Boy's clothes are simple (minus the sports equipment).  They wear a never-ending cycle of jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts and tennis shoes.  As far as my sons go, give it to them, and they'll wear it, even if their brother's name is embroidered on it or it came off the Lost and Found rack.

Hate Boys do not care how they look.  My six year old recently went an entire day with his pants unbuttoned, fly wide open because they were more comfortable that way.

Love, Love, Love Boys are tough on the outside, tender on the inside (and so are men).  They take things to heart, and it can be difficult to win their trust back once it's broken.  And while they may not show it, boys (and men) really want approval, acceptance and affection.  Give it to them.

At this time of year we are all thinking about eating a more health-conscious diet.  Many people choose to look at that in terms of what unhealthy foods they should eliminate, and I considered writing a blog post featuring my worst food offenders.  But, and I believe this, when you focus on what you should not do you are still putting energy into bad foods.  Think of it this way:  When I say, "Stop eating mayonnaise," you picture mayonnaise.  But when I say, "Eat more greens," you picture eating greens, right?  So in this spirit I decided to come up with a top ten list of my favorite healthy foods.  Incorporating more of these foods into my diet will be easy; I already love them.  And if they kick some unhealthy foods to the curb, so much the better! 

1.  Greens of all sorts  I love kale and spinach in particular.  I always have frozen spinach on hand and toss it into tons of recipes when my children aren't expecting it.  Shhhh.

2.  Canned tomatoes  I love tomato sauces and use them in Italian, Mexican and Indian cooking regularly.  I'll try to add more tomatoes to my soups and stews.

3.  Steel-cut Oatmeal  I am nuts about this stuff.  I even eat it cold.  And some of my other favorite health foods can be added to it.  I think this is something I should try to eat daily.  My whole family loves it....except Sam, who has an issue with all hot cereals.

4.  Nuts  Now I know that nuts are high in fat and calories, but they are very satisfying.  A handful of pistashios in the shell can help get me through the afternoon.  I toss almonds and pecans on top of pastas, into salads and in rice dishes.  They're just good and good for you.

5.  Cherries  I love cherries, dried and fresh.  Full of fiber and vitamins, I have bags of locally grown cherries just waiting for me in the freezer.  I'm going to mix up dried cherries, nuts and bits of dark chocolate for a snack this week.

6.  Fish  I love all kinds of fish, canned and fresh, so does my family.  And the great news is that I tend to prepare fish in healthy ways.  I love opening a can of tuna in olive oil or sardines for a snack Sunday afternoon. 

7.  Soup.  Soups, when not made with cream, are so good for you.  I love bean and pea soups, which require very little meat, but are full of fiber and protein.

8. Beans.  I love beans of every kind, whirred with garlic into a dip, tossed with olive oil and vinegar, added to soups and stews.  I am completely in love with good lentils.  I'm planning on trying out Mark Bittman's Lentils and Rice.

9.  Yogurt.  I'm not talking about the pre-flavored, saccharine sweet variety.  I'm talking about the velvety smooth, rich, tangy, plain old yogurt.  I don't even mess with the low-fat stuff.  I flavor this with my own jam or local honey.  My whole family is nuts about this stuff.

10.  Eggs.  I love eggs.  From my hair down through my legs.  But really, eggs are cheap and delicious.  You can eat them any time of day, and when they are locally raised and free-range, you can feel great about eating them...and they're healthier for you!  Eggs are also lower in fat than other sources of protein.  I'm going to try to incorporate more eggs entrees into our dinner rotation.

So there.  Ten healthy foods that I love (and probably some that you hate).  Why not make your own list? 

1. It's 2011; I hope to run a few more 5Ks.

2. I make my own sweet pickles.

3. Thankfully I have my velour lounge wear.

4. Cooking and sharing food with your family is one of the best things in life.

5. I am so going to enjoy these quiet winter months.  It's my favorite time of year.

6. I bowl a 57. Seriously

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to some quiet time knitting and watching a movie, tomorrow my plans include stepping out with my Twitter friends and Sunday, I want to get groceries from Horrocks!
Here are two separate recipes that I think complement each other but could just as easily be used separately.  First is one of my favorites, Crispy Roasted Kale.  I can think of plenty of easy variations on this recipe but so far I haven't ventured from the tried and true...it's that good.  I crave bitter greens all winter long and this is a quick and easy sidedish that my kids really like.  The second recipe is a simple, creamy spaghetti with a sauce made from whole milk ricotta.  Both recipes were a balm after all of the heavy eating over the holidays.

Crispy Roasted Kale
This recipe could not be more dead easy.  I love serving these greens with roast pork and mashed potatoes.  The first thing you must do is preheat your oven to a toasty 450 degrees.

You will need:
1 or 2 bunches of kale, rinsed and dried
Olive oil
Coarse salt

Now you need to:

Tear the kale from the stem into palm-sized pieces.  Place them on a cookie sheet or in a metal roasting tin. 

Drizzle them with olive oil.  This time I used a garlic infused olive oil but I have PLENTY of crazy ideas for stuff I'd like to try.*

Toss the kale around.  No need to be too fussy.  Pop it into your hot oven.  Check it every five minutes or so and give it a stir.  It's done when it's a crispy and brown around the edges with some chewy parts.  Sprinkle with coarse salt.

This is where it gets exciting!
-whisk olive oil into Dijon mustard before tossing with the kale.
-substitute smokey sesame oil for the olive oil or, better yet, BACON FAT!
-throw in a chili or a few red pepper flakes
-try tossing in a few whole spices like coriander and cumin
-sprinkle the piping hot kale with parmesan cheese or lemon zest

Linguini with Lemony Ricotta
This is like a simple, lower-fat version of carbonara.  First, put a pot of water on to boil.

You will need:
1 pound of linguini
1 pound of ricotta (get the best stuff you can)
1/4 pound of pancetta, diced (You could skip this and use bacon...or make it vegetarian. Hey, it's your call.)
2 lemons (I used Meyer lemons because that's what I had)
1 clove of garlic, minced
pepper (lots)
a sharp, Italian grating cheese (Really, it doesn't matter to me what I use.  Today it was Locatelli.)
fresh parsley, if you have some

You will need to:
Toss the pancetta into a cool pan over medium heat.  Render out the fat and cook the pancetta until crispy.  Remove from the heat, pour off any excess fat and add the garlic.  Let the residual heat soften the garlic.  When the water boils toss in a handful of salt and the pasta.  In a bowl mix together the ricotta, the zest of both lemons, the juice of both lemons, a bit of grated cheese (maybe a palmful?), a dusting of nutmeg and lots of black pepper. Taste it and adjust the seasoning. 

When the pasta is nearly al dente place the pancetta pan back over the heat.  Drain the pasta, reserving the water.  Toss the pasta with the pancetta and garlic, throwing the ricota mixture in with it.  Add 1-2 cups of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce, tossing the pasta with tongs until it is well-dressed.  Garnish with a bit of torn parsley, a wedge of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, a grinding of pepper, whatever.