Sunday, February 28, 2010

Things that Make You Go "Llllll"

"Loom, Mom," he said, "not a 'yoom'."

And so Bud hit another milestone and a little bit more of his young childhood faded away: he is beginning to pronounce "ls."

We were at the "dinosaur museum" yesterday, showing Gommie the Silk Road exhibition, with its silk loom, that we had so enjoyed a month ago with Ma, Gong, and Goo (and, between two viewings, with kids, I think I've seen almost the whole show now!). The kids loved pulling Gommie from the camels to the worms to the musical instruments to the market to the videos to the astrolabe to the water clock. "Gom," Sis would implore, "come here!" Yep, "Gom." Just like I am often now "Mom." But whereas I don't mind at all, Gommie doesn't particularly like the shortening of her name. And sometimes adds the "mie" to the end herself.

Anyway, Gommie didn't enjoy the exhibition as much as she could have on her own, with all the leisure time to look and read and reflect, I think. It's hard to be the grandma sometimes. But she was a sport about wandering around the whole place, seeing dinosaurs and dioramas and the Discovery Room. That was a big thing this trip: Sis loved playing "I Spy" with the baobab tree replica (looking for hidden animals and evidence of animals like honey and dung), while Bud both excavated dinosaur fossils and pieced together a dinosaur model. One part I enjoyed was standing in the turret overlooking snow-covered Central Park and beyond to the midtown skyline. It reminded me of the view of Central Park from the 5th Avenue office where I worked, which was one of my favorite parts of that job.

We didn't stay to close the museum as we had on our last trip, being more tired this time and with no performance in the middle that required restful and rejuvenating sitting in the dark for a long time. But we did get a few treats in the shop--a new T-Rex for Bud and a bag of pink rocks for Sis--and fruit cups in the cafe before heading home.

But the journey wasn't over, for Sis and Bud played caravan in their beds long after bedtime, with their critters backing their things and heading from Baghdad to Xi'an. Though, I don't think there were any camels . . . .

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow Fun

It took us about 20 minutes to get dressed in snow clothes this morning, which meant I wanted us to spend at least that long outside. No worries today; we were all outside for about 2 hours, in both blowing snow and empty (though not clear) skies. We trekked across the yard, threw snowballs, made snow angels, slid down the snow-covered slide and then filled it up again with snow for another run, shoveled the driveway, made "snow boulders" that we then converted into a wonderful, cheerful snowman. And, actually, I think it is my first real, complete, three-sphere snowman ever. Maybe Gommie's too! And of course, exhausted after a nature walk and playing in the "polar bear cave" bush, we went inside with our bowls of snow for--you guessed it--snow cream.

Shapin' Up

Gommie and the kids spent most of the post-snow playtime on the floor of the living room playing with tanagrams, or little colored shapes that can be fitted together to make pictures. It's a toy she gave them a long time ago, after a visit to Sturbridge Village with it's own tanagram/quilt children's activity, but they hadn't ever gotten the hang of it at home. But we pulled it out this morning, after playing in the snow, while I got the soup on. First, Sis and Bud followed the pattern pictures included with the set, but they were soon making their own, much more complicated and abstract pictures, like flowers, snowflakes, and the like. Symmetry and pattern seemed to be of utmost importance as they fought over shapes from the common pile (and now they know the word hexagon and trapezoid!). Every now and then they called me in from the kitchen to look at a particular design before breaking it down and starting over. Sis took a break in the middle, to help me with the soup--she likes to wash the veggies and then drop them in the pot once I've cut them. Gommie took her own break on the floor next to Bud, doing yoga poses to stretch herself out after two nights on an inflatable bed.

Feeling Warm Inside

We just had lunch--an incredible vegetable soup, if I do say so myself. And Sis helped!--and the kids are resting upstairs happily with Gommie. I'm sitting in my clean, warm, quiet kitchen, drinking tea and watching the world via the web, with brightness from the heavily-falling snow lighting the room. A friend has been delivered of a new baby girl this morning, which is happy news indeed. And within minutes of my sending out the request for meal volunteers, several playgroup moms had already signed up; such is the care and support in my group of friends. And that is more beautiful than snow and warms me more than soup.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Today's Vegetable Soup
(bearing in mind, it's never the same twice)

1 onion
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
appx. 20 baby carrots, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 turnip, cubed
1-2 cups cooked curly kale
6-8 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
2 1/2 boxes of stock (about 10-12 cups stock)
2 teaspoons salt (give or take)
a few shakes of Penzey's seasoned salt
several grinds black pepper
1/2 box rotini pasta
ABSOLUTELY NO TOMATOES OR BEANS OR VISIBLE SEASONINGS LIKE HERBS

Saute onion in olive oil; add garlic and saute until fragrant. Combine remaining ingredients, except pasta, and cook until desired tenderness. Cook pasta separately and allow kids to add their own (this way the pasta doesn't get mushy). I like mine with a bit of grated cheese.

It's a New Baby

Welcome, new baby girl! And congratulations to Mommy Goose and family. We can't wait to meet the new baby. Bud and Sis have already peppered me with questions, like "What does a new baby do?" and "So, now when they come over, we'll have to put up the baby gate?" Well, not quite yet . . . . but we'll be glad to have you over as soon as you're getting out.

No Knead: An Update

Okay, full confession: that bread was absolutely the worst thing I think I've ever made. I couldn't even swallow it. And so we had to throw away two whole loaves because I didn't think the squirrels should even eat it. I can't imagine what went wrong. Too much yeast? Too little kneading? I know that Rev. M makes a wonderful bread with that recipe. Ours rose just fine but then didn't do anything in the oven except get hard, not even expanding to fill the pan. And the taste was bitter and yeasty. But I had just bought new yeast at the store yesterday. A great disappointment.

But also a cause for much laughter and love as we all just couldn't fathom what had happened but were all being supportive and encouraging. Sis even said to Gommie, when she had remarked that it wasn't my best, that Gommie shouldn't say things like that! Of course, that was after Sis gave her own educated guess at what went wrong, "overproofing!"

The evening was easily salvaged by chicken pot pie and Babysitter, who came, much to the merriment of the kids who liked the fresh troops, so that Gommie, Mama, and I could go out for a delicious dinner at our Indian food place. Nothing like a good meal--mmmmm, malai kofta, dal makhani, chicken tikka masala (I loved Gommie's sauce on my rice), peshwari naan, mango lassi, rasmalai--to erase the day's failures.

Snow Day!

It's a belated Christmas present for Gommie: SNOW!

It started coming down sometime after 2 a.m., I think, and is now really starting to pick up with wind and heavier snowfall. Gommie just keeps looking out the window, exclaiming at the beauty, at the size of the flakes, at the constancy of it. But she doesn't really want to go out. When the kids ventured out onto the porch and into the snow in their pjs and tennis shoes to put out our snow cream bowls, Gommie wouldn't even step onto the porch. I'm not sure she's actually going to enjoy, say, making snow angels! The kids, on the other hand, are rearing to go. They don't care that the snow is now blowing horizontally. So, I'm going to hold back one group and coax the other.

But we have all day to do our usual snow activities--snow cream, hot chocolate, popcorn balls, snowballs, snow angels, shoveling (for fun)--because school has been canceled across the state. So, enjoy your snow day, Connecticut!

And Gommie!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Unkind Words

I've been thinking recently that there are certain words in the English language that can't generally be used without causing grief for the listener. Consider "yet" or "still," as in

  • "Are you looking for a job yet?"
  • "Are you still working on your dissertation?"
  • "Does she still have a lovey?"
  • "Is he walking yet?"
  • "Are you still living at home?"
  • "Are you pregnant yet?"
  • "Are you still on a diet?"
The list of unbearable (and unfortunately, very familiar) examples could go on and on. Of course, "should" and "never" could probably be added to my word list. But there's something about the feigned interest mixed with brazen judgment of "yet" and "still" that really gaul. At least users of "should" and "never" are very clear in their intent.

No Knead: I Get it Now

It's such a rainy, drizzly day that comfort foods such as oatmeal and apples, chicken pot pie, and homemade bread are a must. And so I decided to make my friend Rev. M's Oatmeal and Molasses bread.

Mercy, I get now why "no knead" and bread machines are so popular: kneading that bread for 15+ minutes was a workout. And I'm not convinced we did it right or enough. It was so stiff and hard to work with, never really becoming "elastic" or "soft" (I should note, for the record, I know it is me and not the recipe because I've had this wonderful bread several times). See, I should admit, that "Little Mommy Hungry Homemaker" though I try to be, I don't every actually bake bread from scratch. I've used my bread machine a lot to do the whole thing, or at least for the dough cycle. Or I make yeast-free quick breads. I have only made a bread that required kneading once before by hand, years and years ago, and it didn't turn out well. So, after a few years of loving homemade by bread machine baked goods, I thought it was time to try doing it all by hand. And isn't that a great thing to do with the kids and their grandma? Well, we'll see, I guess. But I'm not hopeful.

Though, on such a day, almost anything warm, when slathered with butter and honey or jam, will be good.

The Heart of the Matter

So, Cheney (read "evil Republican mastermind") can have a heart attack and live?

But many laid off men aren't so lucky . . . .


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gommie is Here!

Gommie arrived around 3 p.m. and it's been happy chaos every since. I think the kids have eaten more candy than on Halloween and played with at least half their toys, all in just a few hours. Everyone is happy and content (well, except maybe the cats who have noted both the increase in noise and the strange new smells) as we try to settle down enough for bedtime. Well, official bedtime, for I expect that they will chat about Gommie for an hour or two. Which means, I'm sure, that Gommie will be asleep before the kids. It's hard to be a grandmother sometimes!

Milestone Celebration

Today, I passed a particular weight loss milestone that has haunted me for awhile--I finally got out of a particular "decade!" Add to that, I'm just a bit away from having lost 5% of my body weight. And I am so excited! So, I promised myself that I would buy a few books as a reward if I got where I am. Of course, ironically, I'm sure I'll be buying cookbooks!

Let the Countdown Begin

By my best estimations, we have less than 4 hours before Gommie arrives, which is way too long for the kids to bear. When I picked them up from school an hour or so ago, despite the excitement of picture day, the teachers all told me--all four of them!--how Sis especially was just about to burst for the fact that Gommie is coming today. So, trying to use up time before Gommie's arrival, I took the kids to lunch at the "crunchy chip" restaurant . . . where we drew a chart tracking Gommie's progress to Connecticut and talked nonstop about Gommie. And now we're home, trying to pass time. We've talked about making a welcome sign, drawing on the chalkboard, and baking her some goodies, but I doubt we'll settle enough for any of those. Too bad it's raining nonstop or we could go outside and run around. So, a long time to wait but a good thing, really.

Meanwhile, I've got some clothes to fold and the last few steps in dinner prep to do. I changed my mind about dinner--not the main part of baked chicken, rice, gravy, and a vegetable (probably cauliflower instead of the family tradition, peas)--but my part, which will be Soupe du Barry. The recipe--which calls for a full bottle of red wine, which Mama just happened to find in the cabinet last night--is from my Twelve Months of Monastery Soups cookbook, which has become one of my current favorites (the author, Brother Victor-Antoine, is at a monastery in upstate NY. But I can just picture my cousin, the monk in France, eating similar foods). There are 4 or 5 other soups in it that I hope to make really soon, having especially liked the chickpea soup I made a few days ago. So, better get to work . . .

-=-=-=-=-=-

Soupe du Barry

1/2 cup olive oil
3 onions, chopped
3 cups precooked red beans or the equivalent in canned beans
1 bottle red wine
4 cups water or stock
1 ham bone (I'll leave this out, use some pork bouillon, or a teensy bit of either bacon salt or liquid smoke)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pour the olive oil into the soup pot and add the onions. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the red beans, wine, water, ham bone, and bay leaf. Bring the soup to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and let the soup simmer for 1 hour.

Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir well and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the soup rest for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and ham bone and serve the soup hot.

Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette, Twelve Months of Monastery Soups

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Gommie's Baked Chicken

3-4 lb. fryer chicken

salt and pepper

1 cup water

Preheat oven to 500°F. Salt and pepper chicken. Sear uncovered in oven for 10-15 minutes. Add 1 cup water, cover, and reduce heat to 350°F. Bake for 1 ½ hours.

Make gravy and serve with rice and peas.

Gommie Hungry

Movie Buff

I'm not so much of a movie lover. I see about one a year in the theater, maybe three at home on video. These days, all either Harry Potter or something set in the 19th century. I go through phases--there was the Chinese foreign language film phase, the old historical/biblical dramas phase. It's more the story than the cinematography. So I don't pay too much attention to movie critics. But this article on Rogert Ebert really touched me. Not because it's the story of a movie critic but the story of a man and his journey through a life-altering battle with cancer. I wonder if he'd think it'd make a good movie?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Science Experiment

I think I'm living in some kind of perverse science experiment over here: how many hours can kids knock off their nighttime sleep total and still function?

Right now, they're at 3 hours less, if "functioning" means only crying or breaking down once every few hours, which I guess it does, but it's hell all the same.

We put them to bed at 7:15 p.m. last night. They stopped talking after 9:00 something. They were up again at 5:30 a.m., instead of closer to 7:00 p.m. That's -3 hours in my book. (I figure they should be getting about 11 hours--my goal is 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.). The night before it had been about -2 hours. Right now, they are in an enforced early rest time, probably one of two today, because they're going to kill each other.

And this has been going on about 2 weeks. I even talked to the doctor about it last week, though she had no real suggestions. I moved dinner earlier, had them outside more, you name it, but nothing is working. They've been so exhausted that they've fallen asleep DURING rest time, which is unheard of, as well as in the car. Which just throws them off more, even if they obviously needed the nap. We've tried putting them to bed early, heading upstairs at 6:30. Maybe we'll have to move it back some more tonight, say upstairs at 6.

But I know they'll talk, probably at least 2 hours, despite numerous interventions (and separating them isn't an option; we don't have another sleepable room). Because tomorrow is super exciting--Gommie arrives.

I just hope they get enough sleep to enjoy her.

Climate Change

Well, apparently it's too warm to snow here in CT and the forecast of 8" of snow on Thursday was vastly exaggerated--it's going to be 4+" of rain!

But, apparently, it is snowing in Texas . . . .

Now, is that bassackwards or what?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Recipes for the Week

Thinking ahead to Gommie's visit always entails thoughts of what to have for dinner. Gommie is pretty much on a "paleo-diet," or South Beach, or whatever you want to call no carbs, all meats and fats (no judgments--it works for her). But it's pretty much the opposite of what I eat, which is no meat, lots of beans and grains, fruits and vegetables (all but the last of which I eat are carbs). And the kids are somewhere in between, but pickier than either of us. Thankfully, Mama eats anything. But this trip, anyway, Gommie, who has recently joined the Pollan bandwagon and is focusing more on organic, local, unprocessed foods, has asked for me to cook what I generally eat, and so I'm looking at a few new recipes for soups (and there are dozens more here that I've wanted to try (much to Mama's dismay, since she thinks I should make recipes I already know). There is still going to be baked chicken with fixings and the kids' signature vegetable soup, plus meals out, but there might also be . . . .


Chickpea Soup a la Provencale
(which I actually made tonight but have saved in the fridge--different but tasty)

2 cups dried chickpeas (I used two cups cooked that I had in the freezer)
1/2 cup olive oil (1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, at the most)
4 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
10 cups water (I used 8 because the chickpeas were cooked, probably could have used 6)
1/2 pound chopped spinach (frozen box)
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons herbs Provencal (1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence)
salt and pepper to taste (approximately 2 teaspoons salt)
1 teaspoon butter or margarine (nope)
fried croutons (nope)

Soak the chickpeas overnight. Rinse them in cold water.

Pour the oil into a soup pot, add the thinly sliced leeks, and saute gently over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the water, chickpeas, spinach, garlic, herbs, and seasonings.

Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low-medium. Cover the pot and cook the soup slowly until the chickpeas are tender (50-60 minutes). Simmer for 15 minutes more. (I sauteed the leeks and garlic, added the other ingredients, and simmered for about an hour.)

When the soup is done, blend in a blender or food mill. Pour the soup back into the pot and reheat it. Serve the soup in hot bowls. Add butter and a few fried croutons to the top of each serving. (I served with crackers and grated cheese.)

Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette, Twelve Months of Monastery Soups

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White Bean and Garlic Soup with Greens

8 oz dried white beans, cannellini or Great Northerns
2-3 teaspoons dried sage or 10 fresh sage leaves
6-7 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt plus more to taste
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch young green chard or other greens
2-4 cups broth
freshly ground black pepper
fresh lemon juice

Rinse the beans and put them in a large soup pot with enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Do not add salt at this point, but add the sage leaves and the peeled whole garlic cloves. Bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Leave the beans to simmer gently, covered, for as long as it takes them to become tender; this will vary with the age and size of the beans, and can take anywhere from 2-4 hours. Add a bit more water if necessary to keep the beans well submerged. When they are almost tender, add salt to taste--at least 1 teaspoon, probably more--and keep simmering until the beans are soft. Ladle out about 1 1/2 cups of the beans and reserve.

Cook the chopped onion in a tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, stirring often, until it is golden brown and tender, 20-30 minutes. Wash the chard or other greens thoroughly, cut away any tough stems, and cut into 1" strips. If you have any tiny spinach leaves, you can leave them whole.

Combine the reserved beans with the caramelized onion and about 2 cups vegetable broth and puree in a blender, or with an immersion blender, until they are smooth and creamy. Add the puree to the beans and their broth in the pot, along with the cut-up greens. Add enough of the vegetable broth to give the soup a good, liquid consistency, so that it pours easily from the soup ladle. Simmer the soup until the greens are tender.

Taste and correct the seasoning with more salt and some black pepper to taste. Add a discreet squeeze of lemon juice--just enough to clarify the flavor of the soup, no so much that it becomes tart. Serve the soup very hot, with olive oil drizzled over the top. If you like, add a generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano or a few croutons.

Anna Thomas, Love Soup

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Red Lentil Soup with a Spicy Sizzle

6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 onions, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed (see Tip)
1/3 cups bulgur
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons
lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoons cayenne pepper



  • Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin; cook for 1 minute. Add broth, lentils, bulgur, tomato paste and bay leaf; bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover and cook over low heat until the lentils and bulgur are very tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.



Ladle about 4 cups of the soup into a food processor and puree. Return the pureed soup to the soup pot and heat through. Stir in lemon juice and season with pepper.

Just before serving, ladle the soup into bowls. Heat the remaining 4 teaspoons oil in a small skillet and stir in paprika and cayenne. Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of the sizzling spice mixture over each bowlful and serve immediately.

Tip: You can replace red lentils with brown lentils; add 1/2 cup water and simmer 40 to 45 minutes.

Eatingwell.com via delish.com

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Lentil and Bulgur Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
6 cups water
1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook carrot, celery, and shallot until tender, about 6 minutes. Add water and lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in bulgur, and cook, partially covered, until bulgur is tender but still slightly chewy, about 5 minutes.

Drizzle with vinegar to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil, and season with pepper.

Martha Stewart Living

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7-Day Forecast

Monday: Happy, with 100% chance of Mommy at preschool presenting Chinese New Year program. It's also Ma's birthday!

Tuesday: Partly happy, partly chaotic, as we prepare for Gommie's visit with last-minute chores and errands. It's also Babysitter's 18th birthday!

Wednesday: Excited and partly impatient, since Gommie doesn't arrive til midday (and that is without the complication of 2-3" snow). Chance of little blogging in the near future. It's also picture day at school, which is a big deal.

Thursday: Fun, because there is up to 8" snow predicted as of today. And if there isn't snow, the grownups are going out for dinner.

Friday: Happy, an at-home day with Gommie after preschool.

Saturday: Mostly fun, with a chance of a trip into the city.

Sunday: Partly sad, because it's Gommie's last full day.

Monday: Mostly sad, as we say goodbye to Gommie.

Happy Birthday!

to Ar-Ma!

Have a great day!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Lentils in a Sauce

1 cup dried lentils, or French lentils
1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated
1 medium, very ripe tomato, grated (I had about 3/4 cup tomato sauce)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley (I didn't have this)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves (I didn't have this)
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoons olive oil

Pick over the lentils and wash them in several changes of cold water.

Put the lentils, onion, tomato, garlic, parsley, cilantro, paprika, cumin, pepper to taste, and 3 cups of water in a medium pot and set on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil without allowing it to boil over. Turn the heat down to low and cover partially. Cook gently for 30 minutes. Add the salt and stir well. Cook, partially covered, another 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Stir in the oil. Serve hot.

Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian

Winter and Spring, All in One Weekend

Yesterday, we headed to a winter festival to enjoy some great foods, ice sculptures, igloo making, and snowboard demos. They weren't doing any of the sports when we arrived, which was just as well, because we wouldn't have gotten Bud away from them--he's been extremely interested in watching a variety of winter Olympic sports. So, the kids climbed in and out of an igloo and learned how they cut the ice blocks, watched artists carve a variety of ice sculptures with chainsaws and other tools, and devoured cider doughnuts and apple cider. We also bought some foods--a few pot pies, some more strawberry jam to supplement our dwindling homemade stash, a bag of local apples and extra caramel dip, some CT honey--and enjoyed all the free samples of cheeses and salsas and snacks. Then we went out to the pasture to watch the athletes, who were, as far as I could tell, a pack of local teenagers, complete with baggy clothes and MP3 players. Now, I'm no judge, having never actually seen any snowboarding in person--and I can't fairly compare them to the Olympic athletes we've been watching--but they seemed to be doing well enough despite challenges from the course, which was decidedly uneven because of the 40+F sunny day. Bud was obsessed with the snowboarders, couldn't leave the demo, kept marveling at how they navigated the course, would grab me as soon as they topped the ramp to make sure I saw the whole thing. Sis watched for awhile and then went with Mama for kettle corn, which was her favorite part.

Today we switched seasons completely, going to a spring festival celebrating the Chinese New Year (which is actually a spring holiday--I'm guessing it's warmer in most of China than here in CT). And right away the kids were excited: the vendors had dancing ribbons--long red silks tied to sticks--which the kids bought with their ang bao (red envelope) money and then took outside in the sunshine and danced around. Such fun. Mama bought some books; I bought a puzzle of the provinces of China (including our family's own Guangdong, which capital used to be called Canton. Mama's family speak Teochew, from the eastern/Chaoshan part of the region. See here for more info on the culture.). And then the show started. And even before the performers came out, the kids were excited because they were given green glow sticks to play with. Then out came the lion dancers! Oh, how thrilled they both were. I can't even explain their awe or excitement watching the 4 lions--two two-people lions, two one-person lions--dance around the auditorium. And then there were ribbon dancers! Could it be any better? Except this was followed by a kung fu demonstration! With swords! Suffice it to say, the kids spent most of the evening at home doing their own lion dances (with Bud's homemade felt-covered cardboard box lion-dancing costume), ribbon dances, and the like. Happy new year, again!

You Can Call Him "Mac"

Bud is having a torrid love affair with macaroni and cheese. He wants it all the time: the organic Annie's, the appallingly orange junk in the blue box that comes in special Pokemon shapes or those long skinny tubes (for the record, I think that stuff is just gross and I won't buy it. But Mama did, once, when they were sick, because of the shapes), whatever they are serving at whatever restaurant we might be at. He's given up pizza, his go-to food, for macaroni and cheese. "Can you make this, Mommy? Please." Of course, Bud, in several different ways. Below are just a few of the ones I might be trying in the coming weeks (plus, first, the one I grew up on).

-=-=-=-=-=-

Gommie's Macaroni and Cheese

1 cup (3 ½ oz.) elbow macaroni

½ lb (8 oz.) Velveeta

¼ cup milk

dash of pepper

1 tablespoon flour

Cook macaroni as directed on package. In saucepan, combine Velveeta, milk, pepper, and flour and stir until melted. Add macaroni. Spread into casserole dish. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.

Gommie Hungry


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Mommy Hungry's Best-Guess Children's Menu Macaroni and Cheese
(I'm thinking this is how at least two of the restaurants we've been to make it)

Boil either elbow macaroni or penne. Meanwhile, make a white sauce, with flour and butter, adding milk, similar to how you would with a roux for gravy, but not as much liquid. Heat through and then add a handful or two of cheddar or some other mild cheese, melting thoroughly. Add salt to taste. Toss warm pasta in warm sauce.

Mommy Hungry

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Miss K's Nana's Macaroni and Cheese

Boil 1 lb. elbow mac.
Drain and add in 8 oz. bag shredded cheddar, 16 oz. small curd cottage cheese and salt and pepper to taste (can add cubes of ham if desired). Pour into a 9x13 dish and pour about 1/2 cup milk in to cover bottom. Layer 6-12 slices of yellow american cheese on top. Bake unitl bubbly in middle then broil to brown the top.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Two recipes from a 2006 NYTimes article on mac and cheese:

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ pound elbow pasta, uncooked.

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

2. In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

3. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.


Crusty Macaroni and Cheese

3 tablespoons butter
12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
12 ounces American cheese or cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 pound elbow pasta, boiled in salted water until just tender, drained, and rinsed under cold water
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Salt
2/3 cup whole milk.

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Use one tablespoon butter to thickly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Combine grated cheeses and set aside two heaping cups for topping.

2. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, cheeses, cayenne (if using) and salt to taste. Place in prepared pan and evenly pour milk over surface. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top, dot with remaining butter and bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until crusty on top and bottom.

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Martha Stewart's Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

as referenced in a Bitten blog post about a variety of good mac and cheeses


Yield Serves 12

Ingredients
  • 6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
  • 5 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
Method
  • 1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  • 2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
  • 3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.
  • 4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
  • 5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

And on the Seventh Day . . . .

We ate the special seventh-day soup, with seven vegetables yesterday: for us, American broccoli, Chinese broccoli, fresh bamboo shoots, celery, Chinese "celery," Napa cabbage, young leeks (though they looked like green onions). Plus a little soy sauce, Maggi, and pork bouillon (okay, so not strictly vegetarian). We also had noodles and a bit of a thin egg omelet. I'm told the vegetables have special meanings and that those are some of the ideal ones to use (I know she used parsnips and turnips one year too), but that in a pinch it just has to be seven vegetables.

And the kids ate the whole thing! More than one bowl each! With all that greenery! We couldn't believe it. Mama had put a bit of each vegetable on a plate to discuss the concept with the kids--this special ritual observation on the seventh day of the Chinese new year which, and this is my guess about the practicality of it, is a way to purge and purify the body after all the gorging you do those first few days!!!--and they each started grabbing different vegetables to try. My goodness, will they eat anything with soy sauce on it? Okay, sure, it's a good soup, but Sis usually limits eating her colors to "beige" or orange and Bud prefers fruit to anything else.

I'm now convinced that if I just say that all my beans, which they avoid like the plague, were Chinese--like Peking pintos or Beijing black eyes or something--that the kids would eat them. How do you think kidney or black beans would go with soy sauce?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Recipes from Friends

As you know, I love recipes. And I collect them from friends all the time. Here are a few, though, that I haven't shared with you before, mainly because I haven't made them myself or even had them yet. And so I post them here, so you can try them, and to remind me to do so, too!

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Quinoa, Breakfast
2 cups whole or low-fat milk
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
3 Tablespoons light-brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup pistachio meats
¼ cup dried cranberries or
sour cherries
[Original recipe called for fresh blueberries instead of nuts and dried fruit.]
Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until three-quarters of the milk has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Stir in sugar, salt and cinnamon. Cook, covered, over low heat, until almost all the milk has been absorbed, about 8 minutes.
Stir in nuts and dried fruit.
Yum.

Rev. M

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Curried Lentil Dip from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
1 C. red lentils
2 ½ C. water
1T. vegetable oil
1C. diced onions
1 ½ C. peeled, cored and diced apples
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ C. raisins
1 t. curry powder
1 t. garam masala
¼ C. coconut milk
2T. fresh lemon juice
½ t. salt
Bring lentils and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Lower heat and simmer till very soft and most of the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and sauté onions, apples and garlic with a dash of salt for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add raisins, curry powder and garam masala and continue to sauté for about 10 minutes, until all is tender.
In food processor or blender, puree the cooked lentils and the sautéed mixture with the coconut milk and lemon juice. Add salt and adjust flavors.
Serve room temperature or chilled. Makes 4 cups in about 30 minutes. Serve with crudités, or rice crackers, or chunks of mango and pineapple.
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Mushroom Barley Soup


6-8 servings

1/2 cup raw barley
6 1/2 cups stock
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 Tbs
soy sauce (I used only 3)
3-4 Tbs sherry
3 Tbs butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup chopped onion
1 lb sliced mushrooms ( I used more)
pepper to taste

cook barley in 1 1/2 cups stock until tender (about 20-25 min)
add rest of stock, soy sauce and sherry
saute onion and garlic and when soft add mushrooms and salt
when tender add mushroom/onion mixture into barley pot
add pepper
simmer
20 minutes over lowest heat

Miss N

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Greek Rice Pudding

1 cup rice
1 qt milk
2 beaten eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
nutmeg

Cook rice, milk and sugar together until rice is
tender. While piping hot, fold in beaten eggs. Add
cinnamon. Mix thoroughly, till you can't see egg.
Transfer to
baking dish or shallow bowl. Sprinkle
with nutmeg.

Miss J. R.

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Miss B's Caesar Salad Dressing


2 Cloves fresh garlic minced
1 1/2 cups mayo
1/4 cup fresh parmesen cheese
2 Tbsp fresh, lemon juice
2 Teaspoons worchestershire sauce
2 Teaspoons Djon mustard
(I added some anchovie paste...don't know how much)

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Miss A's Cinnamon Buns

sifted flour
2 Tbl sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 stick butter - melted
3/4 C milk added to melted butter
1 1/2 yeast cakes dissolved in 1/4 C warm water
Mix all of above thoroughly. Let rise in bowl, covered in cloth, until double in bulk (2+ hours)
Roll dough into long strips 3 inches wide
Sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar (and raisins)(and nuts)(or not)
Roll up strips and cut into 1 1/2" pieces
Spread heavy iron frying pan (Aunt Maud used 2 frying pans - I don't know how she did it) with 1/2 C butter covered with light brown sugar, sprinkled with cinnamon. Place pieces in pan, cut side down, close together. Let rise again.
Bake at 375 for 20 - 25 minutes.
Not exactly heart healthy, but damn good for the soul.
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Gourmet Mushroom Risotto
6 cups chicken broth, divided
3 tblps. olive oil
1 lb white mushroom, thinly sliced
1 lb portobello mushrooms , thinly sliced
3 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tblps, finely chopped chives
4 tblps butter
1 cup cream
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In saucepan, warm the broth over low heat
warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in large pot over med.heat, stir in the muchrooms, and cook until soft, about 3-4 min. Remove mushrooms and their liquid and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and stir in the shallots, cook 1 min. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 min. When rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in the wine, stirring constantly untill the the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir untill the broth is absorbed. continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuosly, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15/20 min.
Stir in the cream, remove from heat, stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, parmesan, season w/ salt and pepper to taste.

Miss O at church

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CHEDDAR CORN CHOWDER (this serves 10 to 12)
8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions
4 tblsps unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups med.diced white boiling potatoes(about 2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels (fresh 10 ears) or (frozen 3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese grated.
In large stockpot over med.high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 6 min.. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to med. add the onions and butter to pot, and cookfor 15 min, untill onions are translucent.
Stir in the flour, salt....... pepper and turmeric and cook 3 min. Add the checken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 min, until the potatoes are tender. Add the corn to the soup, then add the 1/2&1/2 and cheddar, Cook for 8 more minutes, until the cheese is melted, season to taste with salt and pepper.
serve hot with a garnish of bacon.
Enjoy
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Miss J's Stuffed Bread


1.5 pound loaf:

1 1/8 cup water
3 cup bread flour
1 1/2 tbsp dry milk
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp yeast

I have a dough setting on my machine and this is
what I use. When the bread
is done, I roll it out as thin as I can get it in an
oblong shape. Then
layer on approx. 1 lb baked ham, 1 pound provolone
(I used swiss the other
day), 1/2 pound of American. Alternate the layers.
I don't think I use
quite the full amounts because I find it is too
much, but you can decide how
much stuffing you like.

Stretch the edges up to middle and seal ends
(moisten, pat, seal). Bake
seam side down. Make shallow cuts in the top.
450 for
20 minutes.

Miss J. G.