Thursday, December 31, 2009

End-of-Year Favorites

Here's an updated list of current likes (and some dislikes), though for the first time many of these remain the same for the kids:


Bud
Book: Animal Orchestra; Olivia; nonfiction about dinosaurs
TV show: Imagination Movers; Fresh Beat Band; Olivia
Movie: Brother Bear
Song: "Hardware Store Song" aka Madonna's "Ray of Light" (which they recognized at the hardware store one day); "Lord of the Dance"; Jai Ho (from Slumdog Millionaire); favorite Christmas carol was "Little Drummer Boy" ("the ox and yamb kept time")
Musician: Smitty the bass player of Imagination Movers
CD: Imagination Movers
Color: blue
Number: 4 (because that's his age); or 88
Food: "snoodles", mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, olives, as well as lychees, strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, apples, mango, "burritos" (i.e. Dorritos), strawberry yogurt, soup, ice cream/popsicles, juice, lemonade, spaghetti sauce with meatballs (unfavorite: beans and anything made of potatoes, including mashed, french-fried, baked, boiled, whatever)
Flavor: strawberry
Animal: penguins, wolves, and dinosaurs
Day of the Week: pajama days because of tv or family days or babysitter days
Ice Cream: strawberry shortcake ice cream bar on a stick or just plain strawberry
Candy: skittles, marshmallows, Pez, cherry tootsie rolls
Restaurant: "Chip" restaurant (Tex-Mex) with Spanish rice
Toy/Thing: Tango, his penguin from the Central Park Zoo; his drums and other musical instruments; Yankees blanket; Hot wheels Dinosaur Racetrack; marble run; plastic marine life animals; pink tutu
Thing to do: "cuddle"; talk about or identify letters (and a few sight words like "pop" or "penguin"); play the drums; dance; set up and run racetrack and marble runs; play hibachi with fake food; make aquariums out of blocks and plastic animals; building fairy houses; having a "deli picnic"; play aquarium; go to school (unfavorite: on certain days, take a bath)
Place to go: any aquarium, Bronx Zoo, "dinosaur museum" (AMNH); "museum with a building within a building" (Met)
Saying/Words: to Sis, "Wait for me!"; "Mommy, come play with me"
Happy thoughts every night: baseball, Mommy, Mama, Sis, Gommie, Pop, NY/Norwalk/Mystic Aquarium, penguins, Kenai/Denahi/Sitka
What he wants to be when he grows up (the list from tonight): fisherman (!), rock star, scuba diver (!), pizzeria man, teacher.

Sis
Book: Christmas stories about Baby Jesus; Clifford books (Magic Tree House was very popular about a month ago)
TV show: Imagination Movers, Olivia, Max and Ruby
Song: anything sung by Mover Dave, and the Imagination Movers's Happy Birthday song
Musician: Imagination Movers
CD: Imagination Movers
Color: pink (and red, in a pinch, "because it's like pink")
Number: 4, her age
Food: CHOCOLATE! chicken fingers, gingerbread cookies, fish balls, cha siao bao (bbq pork buns), khanom toy (custard cups), fried rice, chicken dumplings (like wontons), mango, carrots, cinnamon raisin toast, chocolate yogurt, "anything crunchy", or anything orange such as carrots, mangoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin (unfavorite: basically, Bud's favorites list such as mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers, but also anything that has sauce or cheese or layers. Or beans.)
Flavor: CHOCOLATE
Animal: bunnies! bears
Day of the Week: weekends with Mama, school days
Ice Cream: chocolate
Candy: M&Ms, Tootsie Rolls, Hershey bars
Restaurant: Chinese, especially at the restaurant for the lunch special with soup; Bertucci's (esp the rolls) and "chip" restaurant which both have "crunchy" chicken
Toy/Thing: Shirt, Amy the bunny, fake food, little pieces (like Playmobil or dollhouse bits), new treehouse-like dollhouse
Thing to do: paint and arts and crafts; cook and bake (esp cookies); build fairy houses; talking to Gommie on the computer; having a "deli picnic"; play hibachi with fake food; play camp out; play birthday party; play in the snow
Place to go: "dinosaur museum" (AMNH); "museum with a building within a building" (Met); also Trader Joe's
Saying/Words: To Bud, "Wait for me!"
Happy thoughts every night: Mommy, Mama, Bud, Gommie, Pop, Amy
What she wants to be when she grows up (the list from tonight was her idea): animal doctor, people doctor, mommy, painter in a museum/mural painter, teacher.


Mommy
Book: Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran was so eye-opening, both about life in Iran as well as how to read a novel; all my vegetarian cookbooks
Movie: hmmm, haven't seen a movie since Harry Potter this summer but want to see Young Victoria
TV show: just not watching any tv right now
Song: "Single Ladies" by Beyonce. Reminds me of dancing with Mama
Musician: as always, Indigo Girls
CD: Imagination Movers (I know, it's kids' music but I like it)
Color: purple, rainbow
Number: 12
Food: I love lentils, as always! But also chickpeas and almost any vegetable roasted. And yogurt with marmalade or jam.
Flavor: Chocolate, cardamom, rose; and for savory, sweet curry powder
Animal: sea otters, groundhogs, hedgehogs, cats, koalas, pandas, owls
Day of the Week: Saturday
Flower: rose
Ice Cream: pumpkin
Magazine: Saveur; Archaeology; Brain, Child; Mothering
Restaurant: Bloodroot and Bertucci's (talk about polar opposites)
Toy/Thing: my laptop! breadmaker, iPod
Poet: not currently
Author: I'd like to read the new book by Nafisi and the upcoming book by Karen Mazen Miller
Thing to do: blog, weaving, cake/cookie decorating
Place to go: craft store, bookstore, Starbucks, OSV, I want to go to NYC again soon
Saying/Words: well, it's not my favorite, but I find myself counting "One . . . Two . . . Three" a lot (more than I like!)

Sending Out Lots of Love

  • to CJ, who has been sick but whose mom, Mama Teacher, tells me he is improving
  • to Mr. Teacher, whose back has been problematic. Be careful in the snow!
  • to Miss B, whose daughter K has been ill and dehydrated--I hope she is better and that you get some sleep tonight
  • to church Miss L, who has had another death in her circle of friends, hugs to you and yours, and sleep, too
  • and to all my friends traveling--Miss T, Miss S, Miss D--safe voyage and happy return home!

Snow Over

The snow stopped. The pizza is eaten. The cupcakes are almost gone. It's midday and we're settling into some quieter activities, playing "Imagination Movers" and then maybe having rest time. Mama will be heading home soon. And we have nothing pressing on tap until Saturday morning, when we head into the city for another Christmas.

Some Snow Benefits

Our bowls are quickly filling up--we're getting more than the inch that was predicted--and we've made the first snowman of the year! In fact, we used the bowls, pooling the collected snow in other containers, to shape his body and head. To this we added button eyes, carrot nose, corn cob pipe ("Mom, what is this?"), hat, and scarf. He's in the front yard, ready to greet Mama when she comes home midday. We've ordered pizza, eaten a few more cupcakes, and are taking a breather from running around outside in the rapidly-falling snow that was perfect for our snowball fight. We had fun chasing each other around, looking at individual flakes on our coats, and following each other's tracks. We'll go out again later, I promised.

Fender Bender and Other Disappointments

Well, maybe snow isn't always so great. Mama was in a small car accident today on the highway, the third car in a chain-reaction pile-up, one of four such accidents in about 1/8th of a mile. No one was hurt, as they weren't going near the speed limit. The driver in front of her didn't even know she hit the car. Only her license plate is bent a bit. The cops who came just waved her on. She's at her office now, waiting for it all to clear.

And now a second negative: no one is coming to our New Year's Eve Noon party. Which I totally understand. In fact, I can't count it as a total negative because it means everyone will be safe. The kids were excited--we have a bunch of New Year's hats and blowers and we made chocolate cupcakes. I haven't told them yet. No telling how they'll take it. Sometimes they are very even keel. Sometimes not.

At least the snow is pretty.

And we'll still have snow ice cream.

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Update: I just told Sis and Bud that no one could come to the party because of the snow. Sis made a sad face but then opened her eyes wide, "that means we can eat all the cupcakes!" And she ran downstairs. Let the fun begin!

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HERSHEY'S "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" Chocolate Cake
A great basic chocolate cake (fall 08).

Ingredients:

* . 2 cups sugar
* . 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* . 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
* . 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* . 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* . 1 teaspoon salt
* . 2 eggs
* . 1 cup milk
* . 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* . 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* . 1 cup boiling water
* . "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING(recipe follows)


Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

VARIATIONS:
ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.


"PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Hershey's Cocoa box

It's Snowing!

There are 6 pots in our front yard, all lined up to catch the snow, because we hear it isn't going to be but an inch and we want enough snow for ice cream!

It's very pretty and falling fast, coating everything.

Happy New Year's Eve!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Slow Cooker-a-thon

(Hi to Cousin W! Thanks for the Christmas card! I think some of these might fit the bill for being easy meals. Hope you liked the ravioli bake.)

Being known as a slow-cooker enthusiast, I am often asked about slow cooker recipes. Below is a current compendium of ones I've used and liked, with most of the vegetarian ones here at the top. One of my goals as a mom is to provide nightly, healthy, tasty, easy, and interesting meals for my family. Usually, I'm happy if I meet just one of those criteria, or sometimes, even just the meal. The slow cooker makes it easier for me--I can put it together while they're in school or while they happily play independently, which happens most often in the morning. And then dinner is done, by 9 a.m.! Though, if the meal isn't popular, there are always tons of leftovers, which can be a downside. Still, it's usually a triumph. Finally, I try to choose recipes that don't require pre-cooking/searing meat or sauteeing veggies before putting them in the slow cooker . I also try to avoid the "three can dump," but instead choose recipes that combine fresh ingredients, with very little canned soup, flavor packets, or bottled dressing. There are some, however.

As you'll note from the attributions, my favorite cookbooks for slow cooker recipes are Robin Robertson's Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, Beth Hensperger's Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, and Jyl Steinback's The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook. I also like specifically slow-cooker publications by Prevention and Cooking Light magazines.

First are the vegetarian recipes, followed by a lot of chicken and pork (some beef), with miscellaneous dessert and breakfast at the end.

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VEGETARIAN
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Half-Day Ratatouille
**This is the better of the two Ratatouilles

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2" dice
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, sedded and cut into 1/2" dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2" thick rounds
28-oz. can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme (I used Herbes de Provence)
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons pesto

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant to a 3 1/2-4 quart slow cooker.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the onion to the slow cooker along with the bell pepper, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, and their juice, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours, until the vegetables are tender.

Just before serving, stir in the pesto.

Robin Robertson, Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

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Ratatouille

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
1-2 teaspoons salt
2 cups frozen chopped onions, thawed, drained and patted dry (or, geez, real onions)
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 large green bell pepper, cut into ½” pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into ½” pieces
2 medium zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
3 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons nonfat vegetable broth (we used chicken)
1-6 oz can Italian tomato paste with roasted garlic
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray (wipe with canola oil for kiddos). Sprinkle eggplant with salt and let stand in colander 30-60 minutes to drain (we did about 45 min). Press out any excess moisture; rinse eggplant with water and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange eggplant in bottom of cooker. Top with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, and squash. Ad dried basil and minced garlic to broth; pour over vegetables and mix well. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Stir in tomato paste and fresh basil before serving.

Jyl Steinbeck, The Busy Mom’s Slow Cooker Cookbook (serves 6; 2 pts a serving)

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No Hurry Vegetable Curry

1 tablespoon peanut oil (I used canola)
2 large carrots, sliced on a diagonal
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander (see above)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (nope, I never add the spicy stuff)
2 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
15.5 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups homecooked)
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained (I had crushed)
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
salt

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and onion, cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, coriander, and cayenne, stirring to coat.

Transfer to 3 1/2-4 quart slow cooked. Add potatoes, green bearns, chickpeas, tomatoes, and stock; cover, and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Just before serving, stir in peas and coconut milk and season with salt.

from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker
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Orange and Bourbon Baked Beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion chopped
One 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon tamari or other soy sauce
3 cups slow-cooked or two 15.5-ounce cans navy beans or other white
beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup bourbon
¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Ass the onion, cover, and cool until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer the onions to a 3 ½ - 4- quart slow cooker. Add the
tomatoes, molasses, vinegar, mustard, and tamari, stirring to combine. Stir in the beans, bourbon, and orange juice concentrate, cover, and cook on Low for 4 – 6 hours.

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Pesto-Infused White Bean and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4" dice
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3 cups slow-cooked or two15 1/2 oz cans cannellini or other white
beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pesto, homemade or store bought

Heat the oil in a medium size skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the onion to a 4 quart slow cooker. Add the bell pepper, both kinds of tomatoes, the beans, and stock; season with salt and pepper, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Just before serving, stir in the pesto. Taste to adjust the seasonings.

Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker
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Sis's Vegetable Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, minced
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups slow cooked)
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, left undrained
1 medium-size zucchini or yellow summer squash, diced (or both)
any additional vegetables, in this case 1/4-1/2 head of cabbage and a bunch of curly kale (sauteed on stove before adding to the soup)
6 cups stock
sat and black pepper

Pour the oil in the bottom of the 4-6 quart slow cooked. Add onions, celery, carrot, and garlic, cover, and cook on High while you assemble the remaining ingredients.

After they've been prepped, add the green beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, zucchini, and stock to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on Low for 7-8 hours.

adapted from "All-Day Minestrone" in Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

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Lentil and Red Pepper Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, to your taste, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika or pimenton (smoked paprika)
1 large or 2 medium-size red bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
5 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red or white wine vinegar, to your taste

In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring a few times, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat if they begin to brown. Stir in the paprika and allow it to cook for about a minute more. Add the bell pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times, until it jus tbegins to soften. Use a heat-resistant rubber spatula to scrape the vegetables and oil into the slow cooker. Add the lentils and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW until the lentils are completely soft, 7-9 hours.

Season the soup with salt and pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the vinegar, ading more if needed. Serve hot ladled into soup bowls.

Beth Hensperger, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

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Moroccan-Inspired Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 small yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 easpoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
8 oz. green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1 1/2 cups chickpeas (15.5 oz can), drained and rinsed
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, and drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup mixed dried fruit (apricots, apple slices, prunes, raisins,etc.), chopped
1/4 cup imported green olies, drained, halved, and pitted
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic. Cover, and cook until softened, about 5 mintues. Add the ginger, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to bring out the flavors.

Transfer the mixture to a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Add the green beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, stock, and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on Low for 6-8 hours.

About 20 minutes before serving, add the peas and dried fruit.

When ready to serve, stir in the olives and sprinkle with the parsley. Taste to adjust the seasonings and serve hot.

Robin Robertson, Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

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Basic Beans and Two Variations
all from Robin Robertson, Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

1 lb dried white beans, picked over and rinsed
1 large yellow onion, quartered (optional)
2 garlic cloves, crushed (optional)
2 bay leaves (optional)

Soak the beans in enough water to cover plus an inch or two for 8 hours or overnight.

Drain the beans and place them in a 5 1/2-6 quart slow cooker. Add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves, if using, and enough water to cover (6-8 cups). Cover and cook on High for 8-12 hours, or longer, depending on the type of bean. [I actually cooked them on the stove.]


Mediterranean Beans

1 recipe Basic Beans (above; I used 1/2 a batch)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup pesto
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water to cover until softened, drained, and chopped

Heat oil in skillet, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the pesto and tomatoes. Add the beans. Heat til warm.


French White Bean and Cabbage Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
1 medium-size carrot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 smal head green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed (from the Basic Beans batch, above)
6 cups stock
3/4 teaspoon thyme (I used Herbes de Provence)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garic, cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the cooked vegetables to a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the cabbage, potato, beans, stock, and thyme; season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on Low for 8 hours.

Just before serving, stir in liquid smoke, if using, and parsley. Taste to adjust seasonings. [My note: I accidentally put the liquid smoke in to cook. And it was just fine].


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What a Dal

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into pieces
2 garlic coves, peeled
1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (I used my zester)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (nope)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (probably 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (nope)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (nope)
[2 1/2 teaspoons Penzey's sweet curry spice, to make up for missing spices]
1 1/2 cups dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed (I had 1 cup brown lentils and 1/2 cup red)
1 1/2 cups kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups water
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour the oil into a 4-quart slow cookier and set it on High.

In a food processor, puree the onion, garlic, and ginger and add it to the cooker (I just used my Pampered Chef chopper to mince it all). Cover and cook to mellow the flavor and remove the raw taste while you assemble the other ingredients. Stir in spices and cook, stirring for 30 seconds.

Turn the setting to Low. Add the lentils, kidney beans, and water; cover, and cook for 8 hours. Before serving, season with salt and pper and adjust the other seasonings if necessary.

Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

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White Beans with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1-16 oz dried great northern beans, sorted and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1-2 1/4 oz can sliced ripe olives, drained

Combine all ingredients except tomatoes and olives in 3.5-6 quart slow cooker; mix well. Cover; cook on high setting for 4-5 hours. Stir tomatoes and olives into bean mixture before serving.

Pillsbury Doughboy Slow Cooker Recipes
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All-Day Minestrone

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, minced
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups slow cooked)
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, left undrained
1 medium-size zucchini or yellow summer squash, diced
6 cups stock
sat and black pepper
1/2 cup raw or 1 cup cooked ditalini or other small soup pasta
1/4 cup pesto

Pour the oil in the bottom of the 4-6 quart slow cooked. Add onions, celery, carrot, and garlic, cover, and cook on High while you assemble the reminaing ingredients.

After they've been prepped, add the green beans, chickeas, tomatoes, zucchini, and stock to theslow cooker and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on Low for 7-8 hours.

If using raw pasta, about an hour before you're ready to serve, add it to the slow cooker and cover.

Just before serving, stir in the pesto and already cooked pasta, if using.

Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

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Pesto Lasagna with Spinach Mushrooms

4 cups torn spinach
2 cups cremini mushrooms
½ cup commercial pesto
¾ cup (3 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
¾ cup (3 oz.) shredded provolone cheese
1-15 oz. cartoon fat-free ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup (3 oz.) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1-25.5 oz. bottle fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce
cooking spray
1-8 oz. package precooked lasagna noodles (12 noodles)

Arrange the spinach in a vegetable steamer; steam, covered, 3 minutes or until spinach wilts. Drain, squeeze dry, and coarsely chop. Combine spinach, mushrooms, and pesto in a medium bowl, stirring to combine, set aside.

Combine mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, and beaten egg in a medium bowl, stirring well to combine. Stir in ¼ cup Parmesan, and set aside. Combine the pasta sauce and the tomato sauce in a medium bowl.

Spread 1 cup pasta sauce mixture in the bottom of a 6-quart oval electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over pasta sauce mixture; top with 1 cup cheese mixture and 1 cup spinach mixture. Repeat the layers, ending with spinach mixture. Arrange 3 noodles over spinach mixture; top with remaining 1 cup cheese mixture and 1 cup pasta sauce mixture. Place remaining 3 noodles over sauce mixture; spread remaining sauce mixture over noodles.

Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup Parmesan. Cover with lid, cook on low 5 hours or until done.

Cooking Light

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OMNIVORE

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Smothered Pork Chops and Gravy
--now I omit the mustard, salt, and garlic powder in favor or seasoned salt or dry onion soup mix. Also, I skip the flour/roux-thickening. And we now add 3 onions. Easy.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
6-6 oz. bone in center-cut pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick), trimmed
1-14 oz can fat free, less sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
freshly ground black pepper
(we added one onion, sliced)

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 chops; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place chops in a 4-1/2 quart electric slow cooker. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and chops.
Combine broth, mustard, salt, and garlic powder. Pour broth mixture over chops in slow cooker. Add onion, if desired. Cover with lid, cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting; cook 4 hours or until chops are tender. Remove chops from slow cooker, reserving cooking liquid. Increase to high-heat setting.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with a knife. Combine flour and 1 cup cooking liquid, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Stir flour mixture into cooking liquid in slow cooker. Cook 10 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally (or make gravy the usual way). Serve gravy over chops and mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with pepper, if desired.

(Note: we skipped the flour part, of course)

Cooking Light Slow Cooker Recipes

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Apricot-Glazed Chicken

1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon onion powder
1cup nonfat Catalina salad dressing
1-1.1 oz packet dry onion soup mix
1-10 oz jar apricot preserves

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker; sprinkle with garlic powder and onion powder. Combine salad dressing, onion soup mix, and preserves in a small bowl and mix well. Pour salad dressing mixture over chicken. Cover and cook over low heat for 6-8 hours.

Jyl Steinback, The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook

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Slow-Cook Turkey Chowder

4 slices smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled (I did it in microwave for
4 min between paper towels)
1 lb turkey breast cutlets, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 medium baking potato, about 12 oz, peeled and cut into 1/4" cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2-10 3/4 oz cans low-fat condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cups fat free low sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (I used 1/4 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon dried sage

In a slow cooker, place the bacon, turkey, potato, celery, onion, soup, broth, thyme, and sage. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook on low until the soup is thick and the turkey and vegetables are tender, 8-10 hours.

Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook (1 1/2 cups; 5 points)
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Slow Cooker Kielbasa Bean Soup

58 oz fat-free chicken broth, four 14.5 oz cans
16 oz low-fat sausage, smoked, or reduced-fat kielbasa, cut in half
lengthwise and then sliced
15 oz canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz canned black beans, rinsed and drained
4 medium carrot(s), chopped
3 medium celery, stalks, chopped
1 large onion(s), chopped
1 tsp thyme
14 1/2 oz canned diced tomatoes, undrained

Mix all ingredients, except tomatoes, in a 5 to 6-quart slow cooker (crockpot). Cover and cook on low-heat setting at least 6 hours or until beans are tender.

Stir in tomatoes; cover and cook on high-heat setting until heated through, about 15 minutes more. Yields about 1 heaping cup per serving.

Weight Watchers online

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Chicken Florentine Lasagna

2-10 3/4 oz. cans condensed reduced fat, reduced sodium cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1-10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1-9 oz. package diced cooked chicken (or 2-4 chicken breasts, sauteed)
1-8 oz. carton low-fat sour cream
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup (2 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
9 uncooked lasagna noodles
cooking spray
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Combine first 10 ingredients in a large bowl.

Place 3 uncooked lasagna noodles in bottom of a 5-quart electric slow cooker coated with cooking spray, breaking noodles in half as necessary to fit slow cooker. Spread one-third of chicken mixture over noodles, sprinkle with 1/3 cup mozzarella. Layer 3
more noodles, half of remaining chicken mixture, and 1/3 cup mozzarella. Top with remaining noodles and chicken mixture; sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese.

Cover with lid, cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting, cook 5 hours or
until pasta is done.

Cooking Light Slow Cooker Recipes

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"Seven Steak"
1 round roast, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch "steaks" (this is because we bought the wrong roast to make Swiss Steak and needed to use it somehow)
1 box of celery
1 bell pepper
1 onion
salt, pepper
bay leaf
garlic

Finely chop vegetables--the trinity--in food processor. Saute.

Sear steaks on high a few at a time. Deglaze with water between batches and put steaks and drippings in slow cooker.

Add sauteed vegetables to slow cooker. Also add bay leaf, salt, pepper, and minced garlic to taste. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Towards the end, season to taste with all-purpose seasoning, a tad of sugar, more water.

Shred cooked beef with fork. Spoon onto hard rolls. Devour.

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Pecadillo

2 lbs ground round
1 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced green onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-14.5 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup pitted dates, chopped
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed olives
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
4 1/2 cups hot cooked rice

Cook meat, bell pepper, onion, green onions, and garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until meat is browned, stirring to crumble meat. Drain well.

Place meat mixture in slow cooker. Add diced tomatoes and next 10 ingredients (through black pepper); stir well. Cover with lid, cook on high-heat setting 3 hours. Stir in almonds. Serve over rice (Cuba) or in tortillas (Mexico).

Cooking Light Slow Cooker Cookbook
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Garlic Pork Roast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (2 pound) boneless pork roast
salt and pepper to taste
4 sweet potatoes, quartered
1 onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth


Heat oil in large heavy skillet. Season meat with salt and pepper, and brown in oil.
In a slow cooker, layer sweet potatoes, onion and garlic. Place browned roast on top of vegetables, and pour in chicken broth.

Cover, and cook on low setting for 6 hours.

Allrecipes.com
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Smothered Pork Chops and Gravy

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
6-6 oz. bone in center-cut pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick), trimmed
1-14 oz can fat free, less sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
freshly ground black pepper
(we added one onion, sliced)

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 chops; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place chops in a 4-1/2 quart electric slow cooker. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and chops.

Combine broth, mustard, salt, and garlic powder. Pour broth mixture over chops in slow cooker. Add onion, if desired. Cover with lid, cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting; cook 4 hours or until chops are tender. Remove chops from
slow cooker, reserving cooking liquid. Increase to high-heat setting.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with a knife. Combine flour an d1 cup cooking liquid, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Stir flour mixture into cooking liquid in slow cooker. Cook 10 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally (or make gravy the usual way). Serve gravy over chops and mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with pepper, if desired.

Cooking Light Slow Cooker Recipes
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Italian Pot Roast with Artichokes and Potatoes

4 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1-3 lb. Bone in center cut pork loin roast, trimmed and cut in half (can use pork chops on bone)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
9 small red potatoes (about 1 pound), halved
12 kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-14 oz. Cans whole artichoke hearts (5-7 count), drained
oregano sprigs, optional

Combine Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper, rub over surface of roast halves. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add roast halves, cook 8 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove roast halves from pan, place in a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Add onion and garlic to pan. Place over medium heat; saute 5 minutes. Add broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Pour mixture over roast in slow cooker.

Arrange potatoes and olives around roast, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, capers, and dried oregano. Cover with lid, cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce to low-heat setting, and cook 7 hours. Add artichoke hearts, and cook and additional 1 hour.

Place roast on a large platter. Arrange vegetables, olives, and capers aorun droast. Garnish with oregano sprigs, if desired.

Cooking Light Slow Cooker Recipes

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Lemon and Garlic Chicken with Wild Rice

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, lightly pounded
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup wild rice blend
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 ¼ cups water
10 fresh parsley sprigs

Season the chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the garlic and rice. Add the lemon juice to the water and stir. Pour this mixture over the rice and chicken. Stir once to coat. Place the lid on the slow cooker and set on low for 8 hours. To plate, place a serving of the rice on each plate and top with 1 chicken breast. Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs.

Food TV

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Cabbage and Pork Soup

1 lb boneless country-style pork loin ribs, cut into1" pieces
4 cups chopped cabbage (can substitute 16 oz bagcoleslaw blend)
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 slices (2 cups)
2 medium stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium potato, peeled, cut into 1/2 x 1/4" pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 chicken flavor bouillon cubes
4 cups water
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

In 4-5 quart slow cooker, combine all ingredients; mix well. Cover;cook on low setting for about 8 hours.

Pillsobury Doughboy Slow Cooker Recipes
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Dijon Pork Chops

1-10 3/4 oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1/4 cup Dijon style mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 medium potatoes, cut into 1/4" slices (1 2/3 pounds)
1 medium onion, sliced
4 pork loin chops, cut 3/4" thick

In a large bowl combine soup, wine or broth, mustard, thyme, garlic, and pepper. Add potatoes and onion, stirring to coat. Transfer to a 4-5 quart slow cooker. Pace chops on potatoes.

Cover; cook on low heat setting for 7-8 hours or on high heat setting for 3 1/2 hours.

Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes

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Simple Chicken

4 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 package dry Italian dressing mix
1 cup warm water or chicken broth

Place chicken in slow cooker. Sprinkle with dressing mix. Pour water over chicken. Cover. cook on low 8-10 hours.

Prevention Guide Slow Cooker Recipes
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Dill-Lemon Chicken

1 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 teaspon lemon-pepper seasoning
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

Combine sour cream, dill, lemon-pepper, and lemon zest. Spoon 1/4 mixture into slow cooker. Arrange chicken breasts on top in single layer. Pour remaining sauce over chicken. Spread evenly. Cover. Cook on low 3-4 hours.

Prevention Guide Slow Cooker Recipes

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Honey-Mustard Chicken

6 medium sweet potatoes (about 2.5 lb), peeled andquartered
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
2-2.5 lb skinless chicken thighs and/or drumsticks (we used 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
3/4 cup bottled honey-mustard salad dressing (we used cheap store brand)
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

Place sweet potatoes and onion in slow cooker. Place chicken pieces on vegetables. Mix salad dressing and rosemary. Pour over chicken. Cover. Cook on low 7-9 hours. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to serving platter. Whisk cooking liquid until smooth. Spoon over chicken and vegetables.
Makes 6 servings.

Prevention Guide Slow Cooker Recipes

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Salsa Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2lb), trimmed of fat
1 1/2 c thick prepared salsa (medium or hot; we usedmild chunky Pace, of course)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of pure ground red chili pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Coat 6 quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray and arrange chicken in it. Pour salsa over chicken. Cover and cook on high until chicken is tender and cooked through, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. The chicken will make some of its own juice, thinning out salsa a bit.

Stir in cumin, chili powder, and lime juice; cover, and cook another 15 minutes before serving.

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Beef Stroganoff

2 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into thin slices (about 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches long)
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 pound white mushrooms, trimmed and halved (or quartered, if large)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Cooked thin egg noodles, for serving
Chopped fresh dill, for garnish (optional)

In the slow cooker: In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, toss beef, onion, and mushrooms with 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover, and cook on low until meat is tender,
about 8 hours (or on high for 6 hours).

In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, whisk cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water. Ladle 1 cup cooking liquid into measuring cup; whisk to combine. Pour into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil; cook until thickened, about 1 minute. With slow cooker turned off, stir in cornstarch mixture, then sour cream and mustard. Serve beef over noodles; sprinkle with dill, if desired.

Martha Stewart Everyday Food
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Fiesta Rice

2 lbs spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (we used 1 lb ground turkey and 1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin (used taco seasoning)
4 onions, chopped
4 green bell peppers, chopped (skipped this part)
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (skipped)
4 cups beef broth
2 packages (about 6 oz each) long grain and wild rice mix (used Zatarains, which is seasoned)

Brown sausage in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring to break up. Add garlic and cumin; cook 30 seconds. Add onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos. Cook and stir about 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Place mixture in slow cooker.

Stir in beef broth and rice.

Cover; cook on LOW 4-6 hours or on HIGH 2-3 hours.

The Slow Cooker Bible

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Wild Rice Chicken Soup

4 quarts nonfat chicken broth
4 carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 lbs. chicken breast tenderloins, cut into 1/2” cubes
½ cup uncooked wild rice
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (actually, I used 2 bay leaves and some seasoned salt instead)

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine allingredients in slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on low heat for 6-7 hours.

Jyl Steinback, The Busy Mom’s Slow Cooker Cookbook

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Hamburger Lentil Soup

1 lb. ground beef (we used turkey)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cups lentils, washed and sorted
4 carrots, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
4 cups tomato juice (we used 28 oz diced tomatoes)
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Saute ground meat and onion. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook for 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.

Adapted from Fix it and Forget It Slow Cooker Recipes

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My WW Leader's "Unstuffed" Cabbage

1 head cabbage, shredded
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 lb ground meat (we used turkey)
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
salt, pepper, garlic, other seasonings
(the original recipe--from my WW meetings--calls for a bag of Success brown rice. We just used steamed on the side)

Brown meat and place in slow cooker. Layer vegetables. Pour over tomatoes. Add seasonings to taste.

Serve over rice (or, if you have that bag of rice, cook it in the pot, with extra water as needed).

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Summer Squash Stew
2 lbs bulk Italian turkey sausage (we used 1.5 lb ground turkey and .5 lb sausage)
4-14.5 oz cans diced seasoned tomatoes, undrained
5 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
5 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red onion, finely chopped (we used yellow)
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon dried tomato, basil, and garlic salt-free spice seasoning (didn’t have this; used Lawry’s)
4 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (optional)

Brown sausage in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, stirring to break up meat. Drain. Combine sausage, tomatoes with juice, squash, zucchini, onion, and seasonings in 5-quart slow cooker; mix well. Cover; cook on LOW 3-4 hours.

Sprinkle cheese over strew; cook, uncovered, 15 minutes or until cheese melts.
Note: I actually made this on the stove, not having enough time for 4 hours in the slow cooker. Worked fine.

Makes 6 servings

Slow Cooker Bible

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MISCELLANEOUS
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Applesauce

3 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (we used Ginger Golds)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine apples, sugar, and lemon in slow cooker and toss to mix. Cover and cook on high heat for 3-4 hours. Mash apple mixture until smooth (we skipped this part). Sprinkled with cinnamon and mix well. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.

Note: we cooked the cinnamon in with the apples, having misread the recipe, but I don't think it hurt it any. And it smelled so good.

Jyl Steinback, The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook

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Lemon Pudding Cake

3 eggs separated
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp melted butter
1 ½ cups milk
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1/8 tsp salt

Beat eggs whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Beat egg yolks. Blend in lemon peel, lemon juice, butter, and milk In separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, and salt. Add to egg-lemon
mixture, beating until smooth. Fold in beaten egg whites Spoon into slow cooker. Cover and cook on High 2-3 hours. Serve with spoon from cooker.

Fix it and Forget It

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Creamy Oatmeal with Dried Fruit

1 cup steel-cut oats
2/3 cups dried tart cherries or sweetened dried
cranberries
1/3 cup chopped dried figs
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
4 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup half and half or evaporated milk

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cover and
cook on LOW for
8-9 hours, or overnight, until tender.

Serve the oatmeal straight from the pot with no
embellishment but a
sprinkling of sea salt, a pat of butter, and milk.

Beth Hensperger, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook
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Maple Oatmeal with Dried Fruit and Sweet Spices

1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup raisins or dried cherries, dried blueberries, or sweetened dried cranberries (or mixed fruit bits)
1 teaspoon apple pie spice, or ground cinnamon mixed with a pinch of ground cloves, nutmeg, and allspice (we used 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon--needs more, up to 1 teaspoon)
4 cups water
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or granulated maple sugar, plus extra for serving (doesn't seem to be quite enough--better with syrup than sugar)

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-9 hours, or overnight, until tender.

Stir oatmeal well and scoop into bowls with an oversized spoon. Serve with milk and maple syrup or sugar.

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Weird Week

It's such a strange week, here floating between Christmas and New Year's, and those in turn bookended by school. We didn't do anything of note yesterday, which is, of itself, noteworthy considering the run we had up to Christmas and over Christmas. It's been a long time since there weren't errands and projects and activities. Yesterday, there was none of that. The kids played, mostly dramatic play with their critters but none of the new toys, and I either played, watched, or cooked lunch and dinner. Relaxing and restorative for all, I think. Today and tomorrow are much of the same, with a few added social opportunities, including a playdate and New Year's Eve Noon party. But neither takes extensive preparation compared to Christmas and so we'll get to play more. Then Mama is off on Friday and we'll have a family day here at the house before heading into the city, into the snow, to do family Christmas with Ma, Gong, and Goo, which includes the sights around town. And then Monday is school, the holiday over, 2010 in full swing. Which is almost unfathomable, on a variety of levels.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pajama Day Plus

The kids are still in their pajamas.

And rest time has gone on for a few hours this afternoon, as they catch up on both tv and lazing around.

I had thought perhaps they had outgrown rest time, having skipped it several days during Gommie and Pop's visit. But they haven't. They just delayed it a bit.

Whew.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Souvenir of Your Trip

Since you liked them so much, Gommie and Pop, I send along church Miss L's cookie recipes as an added stocking stuffer! She baked several cookies this year as a tribute to her mom, who was a great baker and died before Miss L's children got to spend much time in the kitchen with her. So I also offer these up as a tribute to her mom.

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Snowballs (Russian Tea Cakes)—One of her mom’s specialties

6 oz shortening and 2 oz butter (or 8 oz butter)

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour

½ tsp salt (optional)

1 cup coarsely ground nuts (pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, etc)

Additional confectioner’s sugar for coating

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Blend shortening and /or butter, sugar, and vanilla.

Stir the flour with salt and beat into shortening.

Stir in nuts.

Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto nonstick baking sheets or roll into 1-inch balls.

Bake at 325 for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden

Remove and cool.

Roll twice in confectioner’s sugar

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Brown Sugar Pinwheel Cookies

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

½ cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

Beat brown sugar and butter in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla and beat until creamy.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt.

Gradually add to sugar mixture.

Divide dough in half and add cocoa to one half.

Roll dough separately on floured waxed paper into 2 rectangles about ¼ inch thick.

Top one with the other and press together with a rolling pin.

Roll up lengthwise, jelly roll fashion.

Trim edges, wrap and chill until firm.

Once chilled, remove from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350.

Cut roll into ¼ inch slices and bake on well greased cookie sheets 12 – 15 minutes

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Magic Cookie Bars—Another of her mom’s specialty

½ cup butter, melted (1 stick)

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

½ cup chocolate chips (3 oz)

½ cup butterscotch chips (3 oz)

1 1/3 cup flaked coconut

1 1/3 cup (15 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Pour melted butter into 13 x 9 inch pan

Layer the next four ingredients evenly: cracker crumbs, nuts, chips, and coconut.

Top with sweetened condensed milk and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cool in pan about 15 minutes and cut into bars.

Cream cheese brownies

Brownie layer:

4 oz chocolate

¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

½ cup flour

½ cup chopped nuts

Cream cheese topping

4 oz cream cheese, softened

¼ cup sugar

1 egg

1 tbs flour

Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave in large bowl.

Stir in sugar.

Stir in eggs and vanilla.

Mix in flour.

Stir in nuts.

Spread in greased 8 inch square pan.

In another bowl, mix cream cheese, sugar, egg and flour until smooth.

Spoon over brownie mixture. Swirl with knife, if desired.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean.

Cool in pan and cut into squares.

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Italian nut balls—Another of her mom’s specialty

¾ cup sugar

1 tsp salt

¾ cup butter, softened

2 egg yolks, reserve whites

½ tsp vanilla

½ tsp almond extract

2 cups flour

2 egg whites, slightly beaten

1 cup chopped nuts

Your favorite jelly

Mix sugar, salt, butter, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and almond extract on medium until well blended.

Slowly add flour at low speed.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls.

Dip into egg whites.

Roll in chopped nuts.

Place on greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart, and make a deep depression in the center of each.

Bake at 350 for 10 – 12 minutes.

Fill with jelly while still warm.

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Trail mix chocolates

Melt ½ bag chocolate chips in the microwave.

Add trail mix.

Drop spoonfuls onto waxed paper covered baking sheet.

Refrigerate for about an hour, or until set.

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Chocolate dipped peppermint Oreos

Melt ½ bag chocolate chips in microwave.

Dip one end of Oreo in melted chocolate, then in sprinkles, cocoa powder, colored sugar, or our favorite-chocolate instant breakfast powder!

Place on waxed paper covered baking sheets and refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until set.

On My Back

Well, it's official: the holidays laid me flat on my back.

I didn't exactly throw it out again, just could feel it tightening quickly today under the lack of PT, lots of floor and little chair sitting, and stress (not your visit, Gommie, just your departure).

And so I spent most of this afternoon on my back on the couch and then doing all my stretches.

I think I'll come out of it just fine--it is already less tight than it was--but it's a timely reminder, here at the New Year, to get back to PT. And to stay off the floor and little chairs!

Goodbye Gommie Day

Ugh.

Double ugh.

I hate this day.

Which actually seeped over into yesterday substantially.

It's the day Gommie and Pop leave.

There's no use trying not to be sad and no success really at trying not to look sad for the kids. It just is.

They'll be off within an hour.

But until then we're trying to just keep playing and chatting.

Which is why I'm up here, ostensibly to change clothes, but really to release a few tears so the dam doesn't burst before I'm alone again.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Weathering the Weekend

It's 51 F degrees outside and raining. It was supposed to rain all day yesterday but was mainly damp and cloudy. Knowing that we didn't want to spend the whole weekend indoors at home, even with wonderful grandparents as playmates, we headed to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum to attend the winter celebration. The kids were thrilled to show one of their favorite places to Pop (and Gommie, again). We went up in the tall observation tower and saw the snow-covered surrounding landscape and huge casino complex, then toured the exhibits. Hands down, the village with its walk-through diorama is still our favorite. It really does bring the life of the first peoples to light.

Special yesterday was the performance of Tchin, a Native-American folklorist/musician/magician. Even though the kids were on their way to being done with our visit, having had lunch, colored on a winter solstice mural, practiced Inuit strength and agility games (like owl hop on one leg and knuckle pull/tug-o-war and sit down and stand up back to back with a partner), and looked around the gift shop (buying little animal pillows for their beds and a new storybook), we stayed for the show. Which was entertaining and fascinating. I kept thinking the kids would lose interest and get squirmy and, just when I thought our time was up, they'd get interested in his story about the rainbow or how a rabbit wished for snow, or he'd play the courting flute or nose flute (yes, with his nose!!!) and stay still a little bit longer. Though once, when we asked if she were ready to go, Sis protested that we just couldn't leave before it was over. And so they made it to the end and I bought them CDs of the music (for Bud) and storytelling (for Sis), which we listened to half the way home in the pouring rain, until they fell sound asleep, trying to catch up with a serious sleep deficit over the holidays.

The weather is looking up today. In fact, the sun has started to shine and we're heading out tricycling as soon as the kids can manage to get dressed; they are currently and surprisingly distracted with folding their clothes!

The weather, though, is supposed to turn snowy and colder: just in time for Gommie and Pop to leave tomorrow without actually seeing it snow, just in time for us to try to go to NYC again this weekend. I love snow, I do, I'm just sorry that the timing hasn't been ideal so far this year.

But, to quote "Little Bear," where I first heard it:
Whether the weather be cold,
or whether the weather be hot
we'll weather the weather,
whatever the weather,
whether we like it or not!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Tidbits

When they first came downstairs, both kids were fixated on the fact that the cookies were gone. They almost didn't notice the gifts under the tree! Bud was particularly amazed that Santa finished all the cookies. I am, too, because there were 8 gingerbread cookies decorated to the point that you couldn't see the cookies! Over and over, hours after finding the plate of crumbs, Bud and Sis would happily comment on how they couldn't believe Santa ate the cookies!

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When they did notice the gifts, they began circling the tree noticing different things. They pointed out various unwrapped gifts--Bud claimed his Hot Wheels Dinosaur racetrack and assigned (correctly) the dollhouse-like treehouse to Sis. And then they started tearing into the gifts with their names on it. We eventually got them to slow down. And then Bud got the marble run. After that, it was almost impossible to entice him to open any more. Sis, on the other hand, was having so much fun that she was helping the adults catch up when she was almost out of presents to unwrap.

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As Sis looked through the gigantic, spiral-bound, Hershey's chocolate cookbook I gave her, along with another collection of cookie recipes from our favorite cookie queen, Rose Dunnington, she wouldn't let me touch the book. It was hers. "Santa must have given me this because I'm growing up," she said.

At least she'll still need me to buy the chocolate.

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Sis exclaimed every time she opened a present, unprodded in expressing her delight and gratitude. When she opened her Playmobil horse and lady rider duo, one of only two gifts (along with the Pet Shop animals set) for which she specifically asked, she said, "I wanted this my whole life!"

-=-=-=-=-=-

Bud, during the umpteenth straight hour of playing with his Hot Wheels dinosaur racetrack thingie, declared, "this is the best Christmas ever!"

-=-=-=-=-=-

Bud was particularly adept in coercing all the adults to play with him, mainly to help put all the cars back in place once the tricks had been done, so he could start over again. We started thinking of him as our own Tom Sawyer! Pop also called him, "the littlest general."

-=-=-=-=-=-

Sis really helped with Christmas dinner, making the rolls, helping wash the veggies, making sure everyone had silverware and a napkin, serving everyone some of her sweet potatoes, directing Bud to pass around the rolls. And this was after she'd spent some of the morning in her pink "Queen of the Kitchen" apron serving pretend cupcakes to everyone and grilling up shish kebabs!

-=-=-=-=-=-

Pop bravely tried roasted Brussel sprouts, one of only two foods he detests (the other is liver). Gommie said, "Bravely? He's a grown man!" I wouldn't say he liked it but he did swallow it. More than I would do with liver!

-=-=-=-=-=-

Bud and Pop spent most of the day playing together, beginning with the balsam wood airplanes Pop had purchased upon seeing how delighted Buddy was with a plain paper airplane. They threw those around the house for awhile. And when one got banged up, Bud fetched glue while Pop explained that repair was probably as important as learning how to fly. Later, Pop was head car replacer responsible for getting the racetrack ready for the next set of tricks. And he did that for hours.

-=-=-=-=-=-

There was a decorative wooden nutcracker under the tree because everytime for the last month that the kids saw one in the stores we had to stop and work the mechanism. We even played the music from the ballet at home, trying to explain the story, which didn't much interest them. But Bud loved the nutcracker (a traditional soldier/drum major-type one), to the point that he kept coming into the kitchen to ask for food to crack. We had to keep explaining that it wasn't for real food. Though, I think Mama would have liked help shelling her delicious but time-consuming roasted chestnuts.

-=-=-=-=-=-

We wore Gommie and Pop out. Even with extra coffee, afternoon cookies, and a few naps, they were ready to call it a day before bedtime. But by then, really, they'd put in about a 12-hour Christmas day.

-=-=-=-=-=-

The cats are tired, too, and eventually just holed up somewhere and didn't appear for hours.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Finally, Mama just fell asleep, with a cat on her lap. It's time for bed. Good night!

Christmas Dinner

What we're working on:
  • Ham (Smithfield city), in the oven
  • chestnuts, roasted, in their with the ham
  • Wild Mushroom and Lentil Shepherd's Pie a la Cooking Light--the lentils are cooking, the potatoes are in process (Mama's doing it because she fears my knife skills sometimes and we're trying to make this an ER-free visit, because Sis and Bud have been one time each the last two years, plus that visit to Texas!!!)
  • roasted veggies--carrots and Brussel sprouts--stay tuned to see if Pop even tries one of those (which, along with liver, is about the only thing he never eats)
  • rolls, which Sis helped me form and butter, are proofing in the increasingly warm kitchen
  • mac and cheese, needing almost no advance prep
  • sweet potatoes, to go in microwave at last bit
  • strawberry jello, setting in fridge right now
  • Chocolate Lava Cakes, a la Ghiradelli, for Sis, the filling of which is in the fridge setting
  • Panettone and various cookies, leftover over from nibbling all day
-=-=-=-=-=-
Wild Mushroom and Lentil Shepherd's Pie

Topping:
1 1/2 lbs cubed peeled Yukon gold potato
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
dash of ground red pepper

Filling
1 cup dried petite green lentils
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups organic vegetable broth, divided
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
4-4 oz packages presliced exotic mushroom blend (such as shiitake, cremini, and oyster)
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon white truffle oil (right. it works without it)
chopped chives, optional

To prepare topping, lace potato and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cook 20 minutes or until very tender; drain. Return potato to pan. Add buttermilk, 1/2 teaspoons salt, black pepper, nutmeg, and red pepper to potato. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375F.

To prepare filling, combine lentils, water, 1/2 teaspoons salt, and bay leaf in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain and set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup vegetable broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Set flour mixture aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms; cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 2 cups broth. Add sherry, soy sauce, tomato paste, thyme, and lentils to mushroom mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir in flour mixture, and cook until mixture thickens (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly with a whisk.

Spoon lentil mixture into a 2 quart casserole; top with potato mxiture, spreading evenly. Bake at 375F for 25 minutes or until potatoes are golden. Drizzle truffle oil over potatoes. Garnish with chives.

Cooking Light (235 for 1/8th casserole)
-=-=-=-=-=-

Chocolate Lava Cakes
1 1/2 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
2 eggs
1/4 cup(s) heavy cream
8 tablespoon(s) (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup(s) sugar
1/2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
1/4 cup(s) cake flour

To make centers, melt 2 ounces of chocolate (1/2 a baking bar) and cream in double boiler. Whisk gently to blend. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm. Form into 6 balls; refrigerate until needed.

To make cake, heat oven to 400°F. Spray six 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups with cooking spray. Melt 4 ounces of chocolate (1 baking bar) and butter in double boiler; whisk gently to blend. With an electric mixer, whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla on high speed about 5 minutes or until thick and light. Fold melted chocolate mixture and flour into egg mixture just until combined. Spoon cake batter into ramekins. Place a chocolate ball in the middle of each ramekin.

Bake about 15 minutes or until cake is firm to the touch. Let it sit out of the oven for about 5 minutes. Run a small, sharp knife around inside of each ramekin, place a plate on top, invert and remove ramekin. Garnish with raspberries and a dollop of whipped cream.

Ghiradelli.com

Christmas Gift!

Santa Claus has been here: the cookies are down to a few crumbs and the milk is all gone; we believe that the carrots in the yard were eaten by the reindeer, but we haven't ventured out to check for sure.

Christmas came to us in the form of little pattering feet bursting into our room just before 7 a.m. And Gommie and Pop were here instantly, having been waiting outside for awhile because there were no lights on. Letting us sleep in (instead of calling around 6:30 to be let in before the kids woke up) was one of the best presents.

And there were lots. And lots. And lots. In fact, noting them here might just embarrass me with riches and put the lie to our attempts to be less materialistic. So, instead I'll give you the current scenario: Pop is on the couch reading a new history book (Transformation of America, I think), and Gommie was playing su-doku in her new calendar when she was finally coerced by Bud and Sis to play, again. They have Bud's Hot Wheels Dinosaur race track thingie spread out all over the living room floor, using it to create a play narrative involving the polar set Aunt Banana and Uncle Soccer gave Bud (which they instantly divvied up--Sis got the bears and the boat; Bud claimed the penguins and huskies) and the shark set Mama bought, plus the new dollhouse-like tree set where the Playmobil horses live and toys from the basement. This was preceded by Sis playing Playmobil Vet with her Pet Shop animals set and Bud building a complex marble run, while I leafed through my new cookbooks, including Farmer John's Cookbook (a CSA book!), A Love Affair with Southern Cooking, and The Roasted Vegetable Cookbook, Mama took time out to play with her DS, and Pop and Gommie had started their books and puzzles. Meanwhile, Hermione slept somewhere, having no doubt been up all night stalking the various presents, and Albus sniffed everything and also chased around his new feathered mice toys (in fact he just bounded up here with one in his mouth, prompting me to include the feline goings-on here too). We also spoke to Aunt Banana as well as Ma, checking in on their holidays (Aunt B had to work last night and so was going to nap before driving to Houston to be with Uncle Soccer, who is with his mom at my folks' house! They'll do Christmas later. We understand not to call them yet because they are still asleep!). Thanks for the fabulous presents, Aunt B and Uncle S; I think you'll note that most of the onces mentioned above were your great picks.

Whew! And it's only 10:30. But there's always a lot to do on Christmas. We had scrambled eggs, panettone, stollen, and rum cake for breakfast. And then started the rolls to rise for lunch. I had totally forgotten to actually make the jello, as opposed to just buying the boxes, and so did that. And I need to check my Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie recipe, which is my lunch, as opposed to the Smithfield ham Mama will be baking.

So, after this little blogging break, I'm heading back downstairs to watch the kids play and do some things in the kitchen.

A Very Merry Literary Christmas!

"Merry Christmas to all . . . . "

and

"Bless us, every one!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Having Trouble with That Very Last Minute Gift?

Try making a gift to one of these, from a list of charities compiled by Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning NYTimes columnist and author of Half the Sky.

Or, read Motherlode today and its guest post on a completely different kind of gift. The post ends with this Sufi poem by Hazrat Inayat Khan, a great antidote to the gifti-ness of Christmas:

I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong
I asked for wisdom and God gave me problems to solve
I asked for prosperity and God gave me a brain and brawn to work
I asked for courage and God gave me dangers to overcome
I asked for love and God gave me people to help
I asked for favors and God gave me opportunities
I received nothing I wanted
I received everything I needed.

Merry Christmas Eve!

From visiting the penguins at the aquarium this morning to making gingerbread cookies this afternoon, from eating a spread of Italian meats and cheeses (smoked mozzarella! fresh mozzarella! provolone! sopressata--two kinds, hot and sweet! mortadella! capicola! ham! turkey!) with bread for dinner to going to evening candlelight service at church, from decorating said cookies for Santa (and leaving those with pictures and some milk) to throwing oatmeal and carrots on the snow for the reindeer tonight, plus talking to both sides of the family who aren't with us tonight, we have had a very full and fulfilling Christmas Eve.

After the kids were finally in bed, around 8:30 p.m., the adults got to work helping Santa make the the Christmas magic. You know, putting together the big toys, wrapping the last of the stuff (or for Mama and I, all of it), stuffing stockings, eating nibbles of said cookies and carrots, taking away the notes for Santa. And we ate more cheese! Camembert with fig paste and candied walnuts, Stilton and membrillo, Istara, Saint Andre, a funny cantaloupe-looking cheese, 5 year aged cheddar, cabernet paste, pickle, crackers, olives.

Gommie and Pop left after the big stuff was done. Now Mama and I are just finishing up loose ends, swearing we'll get an earlier start next year, all the while kinda enjoying the growing excitement. Plus, watching the cats dig their new mouse toys out of their stocking and bat them around the house.

Waiting til tomorrow is a hard concept for us all!

GINGERBREAD!!!!!


I have FINALLY made the gingerbread cookie dough that I have been hoping to make for weeks, if not longer. I have dreams of decorating perfectly-formed men, women, houses, and snowflakes, inspired by my various cookie books and Wilton decorating materials. Of course, it won't turn out anything like that, as the kids and I mangle the soft dough, forming crooked figures, and then slapdashedly decorate the cookies this afternoon in the midst of the rest of the holiday hubbub. Then we'll munch on the bits, take a few to church, and give the best one to Santa. While not the dream, it's still pretty good.

Happy Anniversary!

A year ago tonight, Mama and I got married in an intimate, casual cake-filled service at church with the kids, our folks, our church friends, and Mama Teacher and family. It was a stressful time, around the wedding, for a variety of reasons, but the marriage is great. I love you, Mama! Here's to many more happy anniversaries . . . .

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One More Meal Together

There were royal icing, sprinkles, gum drops, Tootsie Rolls, Necco Wafers, and a dozen other ingredients all over my kitchen when Mama and I left the kids with Gommie and Pop this evening. They were decorating the graham cracker gingerbread houses I had pieced together earlier today (which was followed by my disgruntled phonecall to Kraft/Nabisco who say they had manufacturing problems, but seem to have intentionally shrunk the size of their Honey Maid graham crackers, which are now too crumbly and taste like cardboard to be good for anything, much less constructing delicate gingerbread houses. So I called and got my money back!). Including one hexagonally-based lighthouse. And they were all having a ball!

Mama and I had our own kind of ball, celebrating my 39th birthday and our first wedding anniversary at a fondue restaurant. And it was perfectly charming, especially because we got one of the secluded booths aways from all the rowdy celebrants elsewhere and there were cards on the table when we got there, one for my birthday and one for our anniversary (we'd made reservations). Our server was attentive and informative without being suffocating or officious. And we just got to eat some fun food: a Riesling spritzer with lemon and elderflower and a blackberry-sage lemonade; hunks of bread and crudites dipped in a blue-cheese tinged Wisconsin fondue; vegetables and surf and turf boiled in a coq au vin-inspired burgundy/garlic/mushroom/spices broth; and, best of all, pound cake, Rice Krispies, brownies, strawberries, cheesecake, and marshmallows dipped in our own selected dark chocolate-Grand Marnier combo! All that we kinda cooked or prepared ourselves in a big pewter pot with these handy-dandy colored-coded sticks. And the waiter comped the dessert as a gift! (and thanks, Miss D, for the gift card!)

After our indulgent two-plus hour meal, we drove home leisurely, reminiscing about other great or interesting meals: tea at Fortnum & Mason and the Palmer House and the British Tea Shoppe and Polly's in Marlborough and Betty's in York and Alice's Tea Cup and Silver Tips; ice cream at Wilson's in Door County and another old-fashioned parlor in some small town in WI that I can't recall (frozen custard too), the dairy farm in CT, Edie's (NYC), Margie's (Chicago); amazing locales such as the cafeteria-crypt at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields and the Cheshire Cheese, rebuilt after the fire of 1666 and Randall's Ordinary, a 17th-century inn, and City Tavern in Philly; and just fun or good meals at Berghoff's in Chicago (German), all the places in Andersonville in Chicago from the Middle Eastern to Japanese to Swedish to lesbian hangouts!, Davis Street Fish Market and the Cajun places and BBQ joints in Evanston, everywhere we went in New Orleans, Ethiopian at Lalibela, Vegetarian at Bloodroot; and all the small or nameless places on our travels that stick with us because of the fried pickles or lemon fish or Beef Wellington or fried cheese curds or shrimp po'-boys or Grape Nut Pudding or microbrewed root beer or samosas or shabu-shabu. That's not all we've enjoyed or even all we remembered tonight, just all I can recall right now. But it was fun to add a new experience to the list and to reminisce about almost 16 years of meals together.

And many more . . . . I can't wait to see where we go next!

(many thanks to Gommie and Pop for making the night possible with the free babysitting!)

More on the Santa Question

Several new posts on Room for Debate about Santa and children.

I just don't have time to read them now because I'm busy getting ready for Christmas!

I Stink and She Hates Me, Part 2

I made a mistake.

But I wasn't the first person to realize it.

Sis did, as soon as she saw my friend take away the play kitchen.

My friend must have, as soon as she realized Sis was upset.

Mama did, when I told her it was gone.

Sigh.

I was hasty. Thoughtless. Perhaps insensitive, though not heartless and cruel. I had made my decision based on observable facts: the kids didn't play with the toy kitchen and, when I said maybe we should give it away, they didn't care.

But nothing is that straightforward.

And I was wrong.

Even though Sis didn't play with that kitchen the way I expected her to, she was nonetheless attached to it. Even though she didn't seem to say anything when I said we would give it away, she really did care. I just didn't know.

Now I do.

I'm sorry, Sis. I messed up.

And, thanks to the understanding and kindness of my friend (whose daughter I hope likes the new tea set, a kind of consolation for the returned kitchen, though I'm not sure the recipient ever knew) and the sensitivity of Mama who fixed it all when I was too upset and embarrassed and indecisive to see my way to a solution, the play kitchen has come back today.

And I imagine it won't be leaving for a really long time. Even if they still don't play with it.

Am I giving in to a spoiled child or healing a bit of heartache by fixing a mistake I made? Is it better to be consistent with what you say you're going to do, or be flexible and change? Is this a lesson in selfishness and materialism or love? A focus on stuff or people? What have I taught them? What did they learn? I don't think I'll ever know for sure.

Live and learn.

Because you see, Gommie once got rid of something of mine, my first blankie, that I probably didn't play with anymore but still cherished without her knowing about it. It's water under the bridge in the sense that I'm not hurt or angry, that I forgive her, but it was still one of those childhood moments that affects my own parenting. I had long sworn internally that I wouldn't do something like that. But I did. Gommie and I talked about it briefly this morning when she said she was surprised that we had asked for the kitchen back, considering that it was out of the house and ostensibly over with. And so I asked her if she had the chance to retrieve my blankie from the trash when I realized it had been thrown away would she have? And she said yes.

Which is what we've done. Lesson learned.