Monday, November 7, 2016

The Meal Plan: Different These Days

The Meal Plan these days looks a little different.  It's simpler.  There's more repetition and less lengthy recipes.  More trips to the market for a fewer number of items.  A chicken roasted with potatoes on Wednesday means chicken soup on Thursday and a thermos of soup on Friday for lunch for a few.  I've rediscovered tortellini and gnocchi.  We eat lentils though not as many for now.  Butternut squash over rice is back as a seasonal mainstay.  Naomi despairs.  However she has made peace with it after I warned the table that we were going to be seeing a lot of it over the next few months.  And she can't help but taste it's sweet, satisfying flavor.  I serve more polenta and roast vegetables.  I turn to the back of boxes for recipes and search less on the internet.  I'm buying more salted butter.  And when I make bread I use less yeast and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator.  I learned this method from a neighbor after I tasted her "traditional german" bread.  There is batch cooking when possible.

Here's my latest back of the bag recipe found on the back of Bob's Red Mill shredded unsweetened coconut and adapted slightly.    

Munch Bars

1/4 cup of butter
40 large marshmallows
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbs brown flaxseeds
2 tbs cocoa powder

melt butter and marshmallows.  add vanilla.  remove from heat and add remaining ingredients, mix well.  press into greased 9x9 pan and chill.  Cut into squares and serve.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Summer's End

Recently I spent a few moments going through the heap of papers piled high on our china cupboard.  I emptied the drawer of its contents - dozens of halfway drawings and penciled scribbles.  Little mounts of scissor clippings with crumpled and chewed up paper.  I put most of them in the recycling bin.  For a winter stint Naomi drew and designed napkins which were small rectangles colored in various ways.  I kept a sheet of those.  Not much time has passed and the heap of papers has mounted again.  Naomi brought home a crow's nest made out of a paper plate with these foam eggs that I keep kicking around the floor.  And yesterday she brought home a small book that she made at school with a tiny drawing on each of the first few pages.  She told me I may not like it.  I told her that I certainly did and wondered why she might think I wouldn't.  Maybe because of the complaints I registered about her bird's nest and eggs?

Verity keeps squirting my nice handsoap into the bath water.  And then she squirts the hand lotion in there as well.  This tries my patience very much.  If you can read between the lines I think you would agree that this is not worth yelling about.  I told her it was my soap and my lotion.  And she disagreed.  Don't get into an argument with your 3 year old.

But, DO go into Lush next time you can and buy a bath bomb for your child or yourself.  Cheap thrills.  It cures all ills, truly I tell you.

The first morning I had to myself, with Abel, after school drop offs, I made cookies while he slept.  I added one too many scoops of sugar accidentally and burnt two batches.  Today I'm trying again with a recipe for Saffron-Vanilla Snickerdoodles I found on Heidy Swanson's beautiful blog.

I told Naomi to make sure she brought back her book to school so she could finish it.  And she told me that she needed to finish it at home.  Why can't she finish it at school?  It seemed like the perfect piece of work to pick back up during the next "choice time."  Hurry up, keep moving, on to the next, grumble grumble.  But this one I'll keep.

Last day of summer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Making Soup and Missing People

This evening I stepped into the kitchen not sure what to make for dinner, but I knew enough to start by chopping an onion.  As I stood chopping I knew it would be a soup and I had in my brain a visit I recently paid to my upstairs neighbor's kitchen where I saw on her stove a wonderfully aromatic and beautifully bubbling soup.  It looked so delicious and tempting and I was perhaps most struck by the size of her saucepan.  It was small.  When I usually make a soup I pull out my big dutch oven and I have leftovers on my mind and second portions and a bit for Abel to puree and so on.  My big American way of doing things, I can see now.  But hers looked so perfectly small and portioned.  Just the right amount.  So Swiss, I can see now.  No worrying about how far it would stretch and how many meals I could squeeze out of it -only the task of preparing something nice for the day's last meal.

My chopped onion turned into a very adapted version of The New York Times' North African Bean Stew with Barley and Winter Squash.  This is the third time I have made this dish and the second time I have severely altered it as dictated by my pantry.  

Being extremely nostalgic this week adds a heavy dose of meaning and emotion to whatever task I complete, including making dinner, being a parent, and the other general duties of a functioning human being.  I'm holding tightly on to this, what is it, sadness?  Grief?  It feels bigger and more encompassing that those two words.  Whatever it is, it's all mine.  It's comforting and even cozy knowing that It belongs to me and nobody else.  This is a line or a thought from Michael Rosen's Sad Book which is a wonderfully satisfying read and like the recipe it's something my sister shared with me.

On Saturday my neighbors with the small batch soup, who we lived beside, or underneath rather, for four years moved away.  I miss them.  Our house feels so quiet without their footsteps overhead to remind us that literally we are not alone and that life is best lived in the company of others.  

This week also marks the ninth year of my mother's passing.  It pains me so much to admit it has been that long since our circle has been broken.  I know she would be so happy with our life's work... kids, dreaming big dreams, constantly trying to lasso the moon.  But acknowledging this is like giving yourself a pat on the back.  Great job, Melissa.  Keep it up.  So completely unsatisfying.   Really this kind of reassurance can only be given by a mom.

  Should I apologize for bringing you into this mire?  No, I'm glad you shared.  Really?  Yes, really.  Alright, thanks.  Sorry anyway.  
Since you have the link to the Stew I made, I'll give you my version with all the changes I had to make.  But the leeks really do make it incredible.

NYT's North African Bean Stew Editorialized

Chop an onion, enter your zen place, you are an empty bowl now, and then saute it.  Add a handful of chopped cilantro stems.  Saute some more.  Add all your spices including a couple tablespoons of sweet paprika.  A cinnamon stick.  A couple of teaspoons of cumin, coriander, tumeric.  One teaspoon of cardamon and freshly grated nutmeg.  Add a few tablespoons of tomato paste.  Stir it into a delicious sludge.  

Add your vegetable broth and then some additional water until your pot is extremely full and about to spill over.  Add another teaspoon or so of salt and bring to a boil.  Add your barley, bring back to a boil and cook for 15 minutes uncovered.  Then add your chopped winter squash and 1/2 of red lentils.  Tonight I used potatoes.  Cook another 15 minutes or so.  Add your beans.  Tonight I used chickpeas but you can use a variety of options.  Taste and adjust.  Serve with chopped cilantro on top and some yogurt.  And if you don't have barley on hand, which I didn't tonight, serve it over rice. 



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Accounting for Easter

Here we are in April with snow on the ground.  I'm sticking to my guns that this past March was the mildest I can remember.  I don't do statistically weather research or I'm sure this could be confirmed.  We are doing okay.  Abel is six months old and Verity turns three and a half tomorrow.  We will be celebrating this occasion with cupcakes and musical chairs.  Naomi is happily and finally five.  Kindergarten is on the horizon.

We hosted on Easter this year.  The lamb did not taste as nearly as good as the rub we made for it.  The couscous with peas and mint was a subtle victory.  The roasted beet salad was present and the beehive cake was pretty to look at.  As was this baby boy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Saint Helen

Tonight Verity reminded me of Helen Keller before Annie arrived.  I'm able to articulate that after reading to the girls the moving biography by Deborah Hopkinson, Annie and Helen.  What an amazing pair.  You really must read it.  I'm on my way to request "The Story of My Life," Helen Keller's autobiography.  She is my hero and inspiration this week as I try to remember what really matters in this life.

My sister forwarded me this blog post and it gave me such a chuckle as I have similar curiosities regarding social media and the perplexities that go with this whole moDERN world we live in.  Oh Helen, what do you think?

Monday, January 4, 2016

January Musings

This holiday season I finally threw the DIY garland party I had wanted to throw since I flipped through last December's Domino magazine.  It felt triumphant to invite people into my home, ready or not, and see them walk away with something beautiful.  

Now it's January and I'm brushing myself off, craving Heidi's winter salads and wondering what I want January to look like.  We had a very, very simple fall.  I didn't send Naomi to school this year and Verity enjoyed the company of her big sister, along with one morning a week in the company Miss Emily, a warm and lovely lady who welcomes little children into her house for a playschool.  

Baby Abel joined us and keeping him alive and well was about the only task we took on.  Still, we have a relatively blank calendar in front of us.  It looks so nice and clean, but I think I might be adding a couple more to do's so that we can survive these cold winter months and grow weary of each other with a few gaps in between.  We'll see.  The month seems filled with possibilities, even if only to consider them.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dark Bark Secrets

Last night I made a "test batch" of the holiday bark that I've made the past couple years.  I want to give some away but I also want to eat it every day this coming week.  Just a little bit here and there -after lunch, during rest time, (Naomi asks me what I'm eating, "nuts" is my reply.) and most importantly when Eric is with the girls during bedtime routine, Abel is somewhere and I'm in the kitchen gobbling down whatever I've told them they can't have.  This is when being an adult really pays off -overeating and stuff.  Because like the girls I've been staging an oatmeal protest at breakfast, much to Eric's dismay.  And unlike them I can get away with it.  So I make up for lost time in the kitchen when I should be helping but instead I'm standing by the sink pretending to wash dishes.  And now that I have a trusty candy thermometer, I finally cook the sugar and butter and honey long enough where it turns out like a brittle.  

Salted Honey and Chocolate Bark

12oz. saltine or Ritz crackers
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp. baking soda
6oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup dried tart cherries or sweetened dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. coffee beans, crushed
1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
2 tbsp. roasted cacao nibs
2 tsp. flaky sea salt (use less if you have only kosher)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using your hands coarsely crumble crackers onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Toast until golden brown about 8 minutes.  Let crackers cool.
Meanwhile, heat sugar, honey, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occassionally, until butter is melted.  Fit saucepan with thermometer and whisking with frequency bring to 300 degrees, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture with bubble vigorously).  Quickly pour mixture over crackers, spreading to coat evenly.  Let cool completely.  
Drizzle chocolate over cooled crackers; immediately top with cherries, coffee beans, hazelnuts, and cacao nibs and sprinkle with salt.  At this point I gently press it all down to help it stick together, but you don't have to.  Chill until hardened.  Break bark into pieces.  It can be made 3 days in advance.  And it also keeps really well in the freezer.  

*Bon Appetit December 2013

Abel looking.