Sundays

A nice spring rain is falling outside, and I am thinking about our garden. Yes, I have failed in the past, numerous times. Yes, I will try again. Instead of a green thumb, I have a thumb in my nose and I’m saying, Nah nah, I’m not weeding, I’m not tending! And though we are only in the planning stage, which I love, we will hopefully keep improving upon past gardens and their keeping. After all, there is nowhere to go but up.

Aliyah is at the library, taking a practice ACT exam. She was really stressed about just doing this, so I hope it removes some of the jitters she might have had for the real thing. I’m sure she’ll do well.

I made a big pot of chili for dinner, a perfect accompaniment to a rainy day. Sundays are good for resting, and for thinking about the week ahead. Tomorrow is track practice for the older four, and I’d like to get a good bit of school done in the morning before that. Then Tuesday is half off day at Volunteers in town. I’ll be looking for Easter clothes and summer wear. Sam is doing a project on ‘outfitting the Civil War soldier’, and is thinking of dressing himself, and one of the little boys, one Confederate, one Union.

Wednesday is TeamKID, our children’s program at church.

Thursday is Good News Club, an after school ministry the older four do.

Friday is free so far, but I may invite someone over for dinner. It is so good for our housekeeping to have people over, getting things done that might normally be neglected. There isn’t much time at church to socialize, so this helps with that, too.

Saturday is another track practice, and maybe someone to dinner, if not Friday. My parents haven’t been up for a while; I might invite them.

I must go turn down my soup, and get back to work. Quieter, laid back work, but still work.

Crackle Pop

I just pulled some artisan bread out of the oven. It is a little burnt, but other than that I feel very much like a baker in Rome, or at least a Panera employee. Now, trying a new recipe at this point in my life, for me, is rather like reinventing the wheel. I mean, rolls? I’ve got them down. Bread? Got it down. Pizza crust? Got it down. But cooking and baking can also be considered hobbies for me, so I like to peruse Pinterest now and then for new meal ideas, y buscar los blogs then and again for fun things to try.

Last year on a blog a lady was saying how she had gotten a tortilla press, and how bean tostadas and the like are weekly lunchtime staple meals for them now. I loved the idea of this, always needing some variety to our pb &h laden lunches, but not wanting something else I had to make. This lady said the kids made them. Sweet! So, I start dropping hints like “Do you know how many tortillas we are buying every week?” and putting a tortilla press on my Amazon wish list. Miraculously, Luke buys me one within the month! (I think there were other things he wanted on Amazon and the press brought it up to the right price for free shipping.)

When I received my new tortilla press, I started right away figuring out how to use it. I googled “best homemade tortillas” recipes, and got to work. It went alright, but immediately I experienced what I had read others saying, including this original lady from the blog, that flour tortillas did not turn out that flat. More like flatbread. This did not make for a pleasing taco. Not wanting to believe it true for me, I thought I might not be pressing hard enough, so one night I really gave the lever all I was worth. A few tortillas into my labor, the lever broke off (this is a cast iron press!), causing me to crush my two middle knuckles before I realized what had happened. Yikes! Luke was able to get a replacement lever that has supposedly been ‘updated’, but I have yet to use the press. What to do, since I know I cannot turn out flat flour tortillas with this press?

Last night I was googling “how to get homemade flour tortillas flat” (Note the pattern- Google is one of my hobbies too, obviously) and came upon a blogger saying it had a lot to do with using lard, and rolling it out super thin with a rolling pin. Tacos are on the menu for tonight, and I plan to follow her recipe as closely as I can. And yeah, I have a tortilla press paperweight.

A Recipe Torn Apart (for its own good)

Since Luke wasn’t here for dinner, I decided to try a new recipe tonight- Kevin and Amanda’s Ham and Cheese Gnocchi, made with ham, peas, and potato gnocchi. It was okay, but ever since I made ricotta gnocchi, potato gnocchi just can’t stand up to it. I loved the colors the ham and peas provided; next time I make it I will probably do bacon, asparagus, and ricotta gnocchi. That will be yum!I’m going to post the revised recipe here for my future reference:

Asparagus and Bacon Gnocchi

1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon oil
2 cups diced onion
12 oz cooked bacon, diced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (don’t know yet what I will do with this, since gnocchi doesn’t need cooked)
1  1/2 cups water (ditto)
1 lb. asparagus, chopped and steamed
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 batches of ricotta gnocchi
2 cups shredded cheese (Swiss, Monterey Jack, Gruyere, or Pepper Jack)

Melt the butter and oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened and golden brown. Add the bacon, asparagus, maybe just the chicken broth (but have some water on hand if looks too thin), cream, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste; continue to cook until just simmering.

Add the gnocchi and stir well. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and broil until golden and bubbly, about 3 minutes.

This is what I am going to be working with. Wish me luck.

Good Eats

Tonight we had Chicken Pot Pie and Fried Potatoes. This was an exercise in self denial, as it is Deep Dish Pizza Night at our local pizza shop, Two Cousins. Usually I come home from Bright Lights and the last thing I want to do is fix dinner, but it worked out okay since today I prepped a lot of the meal before I left. Must remember to do that every week! It would save us a whopping $32!
We had a good meal last night, too, in spite of the power being out since 4:00 that afternoon. Last Sunday we thought we might have guests, and Luke picked up two cans of chicken from GFS for it. We only ended up using one on Sunday, so we opened the second can last night and Luke cooked it on one of his camping stoves. Kinda fun, really. He made some smart comment about having to work all day and then come home and slave over a hot stove…I love this man.
I got to thinking how much simpler life would, of necessity, have to be if we didn’t have electricity. It seems really inviting at this time of my life. But, it only took a half hour or so of no power for the kids to start getting on each other’s nerves and asking if they could do a, or b, or c, and me answering that a, b, and c require electricity. We’d have a big adjustment to make if it ever became the norm.
When I make chili, it is different every time. This is fun, until I happen upon a version I really like and want to make it again. Luke keeps coming home from the store with nonperishables like beans, oats, wheat, and rice, and I thought Thursday that I would make some chili with the kidney beans. That, and I was feeling especially inspired after leafing through the Rancho Gordo Cookbook. Too bad I don’t have any beautiful beans like in all those recipes. Luke really wanted us to plant most of our garden in beans this year, but we didn’t get to it in time. He did get a tray of tomato plants, some lettuce and cayenne pepper plants, and some red onions. The onion tops and the top of two tomato plants are gone, the lettuce I cut last night and tasted it- terrible, and the peppers look sickly. I can freely blame the weather this year; even though we were extremely late in getting these plants in, rains and frost would have been working against us no matter what.
Seems I blog about food a lot. I was reminded of one post when a blogger I read mentioned making chickpea cookies. Then when I went back and read that old post, I remembered posting about cabbage rolls. Good times.

Pancakes For Breakfast For Dinner

We’re doing something fun for science this year- a book called Science Through Children’s Literature, by Carol and John Butzow. I saw it at the library this summer and was intrigued by its approach. As I am a lover of picture books, it sounds wonderful to integrate a science curriculum into what we are already reading. Books like Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel are not just entertaining, they can teach us many things about machines, energy, and change, for example.
Our first unit is on nutrition, and the core picture book is Gregory The Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat. It is a cute read about Gregory the goat, whose food tastes differ from those of his parents. Other supplemental books for the unit include Eating Through The Alphabet by Ehlert, Bread and Jam for Frances by Hoban, and Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola. What a treat, literally, to enjoy all these authors this week. We read Pancakes this morning, and I decided we should try the pancake recipe for dinner that appeared in DePaola’s “first wordless picture book” that “speaks for itself”. They were really good! I don’t usually stray far from my box of pancake mix, as homemade ones never turn out light and fluffy for me. But this sounded fun, and I am glad they turned out. Maybe I have a new standby recipe.

Pancakes
2 cups flour
2 t baking powder
3 T butter, melted
3 T sugar
1 t salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk

Sift all dry ingredients into a bowl. Beat eggs lightly. Pour eggs and milk into the flour mix. Mix with a large spoon only long enough to blend. Batter should be lumpy. Stir in the melted butter. Cook on a hot griddle.
From Pancakes For Breakfast by Tomie DePaola

White Chili

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 t cumin
1 t seasoned salt
1 T chili powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t cayenne pepper
Place all above ingredients in bottom of large crockpot. Cook on low until chicken is done, 2-3 hours. Remove chicken, cut into bite size pieces, and discard juices from crockpot. Return chicken to crockpot and add the following:
48 oz. chicken broth or stock
big jar great northern beans
two large onions, diced
several tomatoes, diced
more garlic to taste
1 jalapeno, diced
colored peppers, diced
more cumin to taste
Cook on high until vegetables are soft. Add 8-10 oz. shredded monterey jack cheese to pot and stir until melted.
Serve with tortilla strips and sour cream.

*I made this last night and, while it was good and the kids ate it (bonus!), it still needed something. I think I will add canned diced green chiles next time to give it a little more kick.

From the Fields Family Cookbook

Banana Bread

6-8 ripe bananas, peeled
1/2 c melted butter
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 t vanilla
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 t cinnamon
heavy pinch nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
3 c flour
1/2 c chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips, optional
Combine wet ingredients. Combine dry ingredients and add to wet. Pour into two loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes, or until knife comes out clean.
Inspired by Smitten Kitchen

Taco Salad

1 lb. ground beef
taco seasoning
15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, diced
4 tomatoes, diced, or tub of fresh salsa
1 head of lettuce, chopped
4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
nacho chips, crushed
8 oz. thousand island dressing

Brown ground beef, add seasoning. Add kidney beans, heat through. Toss remaining ingredients, add meat mixture and toss some more.

Contributed by Leigh Ann in the Family Cookbook

Blueberry Muffins

1/2 c maple syrup
1/2 c oil
1 egg
1 c yogurt or milk
1 t vanilla
2 c flour
1 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
pinch nutmeg
1 cup blueberries

Mix together first five ingredients (wet). Combine remaining dry ingredients except blueberries, add to wet mixture. Fold in blueberries. Use 1/3 c measure to scoop batter into muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes, or until no longer gooey.