It’s been a long time

I realized I hadn’t posted anything in a while. Turns out it has been a couple days short of two months. I blame school!

September hit us like a hurricane. New childcare, Eli is in school all day now. Every night we all all beat when it’s time to hit the sack. I hope to get some posts going in the next week or so. I have a few drafts I need to get finished up and out.

The Garage: A multi-use room

The Garage

So like most people my garage is in a constant state of chaos. It is pulled between a place to keep stuff, a workshop, and storing a car. So a bit of background. We have an 1.5 car garage that is about 60 years old. It has the foot print of  a two care garage though with one of those weird garage porch things on the side.  It has been reinforced to keep it from falling apart and the door needs replacing. If I could afford it I would raze the garage and build a new one. It is that bad.

Some of the problem stems from the fact that the garage was designed to hold a car and I want to do more. I want it to be my wood and metal shops, bike storage, canoe storage, garden shed, and hold a car.

Trying to fit it all in is an adventure. There was a time when we could fit a car in with 4 canoes. The canoes (most of them at least) have moved to a rack on the back of the garage, so there is only one inside now. Hopefully the 5 will become 4 and they can all go outside. We recently remodeled the basement and almost all of my tools have moved to the garage. Additionally it has all the other garage stuff like garden tools, lawnmower, oil, windshield washer fluid.

Since it is such a big task, and still a work in progress, I am going to do a multi-post and break each section down. Look for them to come soon.

This article is one in a series of articles entitled: The Garage. To see all the parts so far CLICK HERE.

Spring Time

As the weather warms the grownups in our house are craving baby lettuces a fresh peas. Unfortunately for us, the ground won't yield such treasures for some time. We did plant our peas, lettuce, spinach and kale today, and I personally am dreaming of a wilted baby spinach salad and maybe some lovely lemon cookies for dessert. That dream will have to wait at least until Easter.
We're forever trying to get our kids to enjoy their veggies. Today Eli planted the peas in the little holes we made for them. He also helped with the greens, but their seeds are so small it can be difficult for little hands. In any case, he seems a lot more excited about spinach and kale than ever before and we're all plotting how to enjoy and savor the fruits of the forthcoming season!

The wonders of lentils and rice

I am, at heart, cheap. Sure, call me thrifty, frugal, whatever, but I'm cheap. Sometimes this is a fault. I'll unintentionally end up with someone giving more than I had intended because of my aforementioned “frugality.” Sometimes, however, my cheapness is a boon. The other night I wanted to make brown rice for dinner. Brown rice and ________. I didn't have a clue. Eli is not a big fan of stir-fry, and we don't usually do meat as a main dish, and it just didn't occur to me to make a great saucy/stew concoction. But there was a jar of lentils sitting on top of the stove. And I've been pumping up my use of onion as a vegetable, not just a seasoning, and magic went to work in my kitchen.I sauteed 2 medium onions on med high in 1 1/2 tbsp butter and a little salt, allowing them to brown (browning is key), after they were fairly well cooked I added 3/4 cups brown rice and sauteed until translucent. Then I added 3/4 cups lentils and a few cloves of minced garlic and sauteed about a minute longer. Then I added 3 1/2 cups hot water (I have an electric tea kettle, it's fine to use cold H2O) and 2 teaspoons of Better than Bullion (the amount to make 2 cups of broth). First I grabbed my veggie bullion, but it has tomatoes in it and the acid slows lentils cooking time, so I pulled out a new jar: turkey bullion. Who knew there was such a thing! But it was on clearance at the co-op, so I went for it. Anyway, I brought it all up to a boil, reduced to a simmer, put a lid on it, and let it do it's thing for 35 min. the result: amazing mejadra like lentil-rice pilaf.I served it with broccoli and pickled beets. The rice and lentils is a complete protein and we had orange sections for dessert to make the iron in the broccoli more accessible. The whole family thought it was great. I felt like a queen having fed my family a very healthy, delicious dinner. That's another point for frugality.

Thank you for superheroes

We had pasta with squash and spinach “sauce” tonight. Eli pulled a little chunk of spinach off his pasta and said, “I don't like this.” (Tom put slasa in the mac and cheese yesterday…) We told him to try it and explained that you can't really taste it, and it's really good for him… He needs more convincing. “Spider man eats it” (that's how he gets so strong, duh). So Eli chimed in that his little friend who lives down the street does too. Yep Eli, Spider man and your friend both like it. A few minuets later he looks up, unprompted, “Thank you mama for making such good, healthy noodles.” Then I felt like a superhero. Success.

Oatmeal and chocolate and nuts, oh my!

For some reason, my mom's “Fudge Nut Bars” have stuck in my memory, though she hasn't made them in YEARS. 2 years ago I asked her for the recipe, and she sent it to me. I was fun to learn that it came from my middle school home-ec teacher in 1984: she must have gotten it when my oldest brothers were at good-old Wylie. I didn't make the cookies until now because they make an 11×14 pan of deliciousness. Yipes, thats a lot of cookies. But this weekend I had an excuse: the 8th annual Euchre for Toques party. They were well received. A good thing to keep in mind when you need a whole mess of easy treats but want something a little different than a drop cookie. I made a few modifications. I think next time I'll try only 1 1/2 c. brown sugar, but 1 3/4 definitely works well!Fudge Nut Bars

Filling:
12 oz chocolate chips, or bitter sweet chocolate, chopped
1 T. cocoa (optional)
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (previously listed as 1 cup)
2 T butter
1/2 t salt

Cookie:
14 T butter
1 3/4 C Brown Sugar
2 eggs
2t vanilla
2-1/2 C Flour
3 C oatmeal
3/4 t soda
1 t salt
1C chopped nuts (walnuts are ideal), optional

Preheat oven to 325.
Filling: Melt all ingredients, set aside to cool.
Cookie: Beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, aprox. 3 min. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Separately, mix flour (I used whole wheat), oats, soda and salt. Mix into butter mixture. Press 2/3 of cookie mixture into a large 11 x 14″ greased pan. Pour chocolate mixture over. Add nuts to the remaining cookie mixture and crumble on top of chocolate. Bake 20-25 min. until golden.
Cut once cooled. I like to cut them into 2″ squares, or a little smaller, then cut in half on the diagonal. Yes, I have a thing for triangles.

Frozen Rhubarb

Betsy wrote, “I was wondering, what are your suggestions for using frozen rhubarb? I think frozen has some drawbacks (a bit tougher, etc), but we have a ton from this late summer.
Click “read more” for response.My initial answer: save it for me! I LOVE rhubarb. I seem to be in good company: Nigella Lawson has several rhubarb recipes in each of her cookbooks. I have made her Rhubarb Polenta Cake (How to be a Domestic Goddess) with frozen rhubarb, and while it is not the same as using fresh, it is still pretty spectacular. Really, I have baked more with frozen rhubarb than I have with fresh. It's best not to let it thaw all the way (and if you do, be careful not to stir it too much), and don't use it in recipes where a particular constancy is important (i.e. scones). The freezing helps break down those pesky, tough cell walls, so it can actually help with the consistency of late summer stalks. Frozen rhubarb is good as long as you aren't too attached to it being pretty, and it definitely won't be pink!

As for what to do with it? Try stewing 4 c. rhubarb tossed with a blend of about 1/2 c. sugar (1/3 c. honey) and 1 T. corn starch and a fair shake of cinnamon*** in the oven on 350 or so for 30-45 min (the perfect thing to do if you're also baking dinner), or on the stovetop on a med-low setting. This is delicious with a scoop of ice cream or some granola and yogurt. You could even do an oatmeal-crumb topping. For more of a custard add an egg or 2 to the above recipe and replace the corn starch with double the amount of flour. Whatever you make, do try adding a pinch of cardamom: it is SO divine with rhubarb. A little vanilla wouldn't hurt either.

Thanks for the question; I'm going to have to dig through my freezer and see if I have any rhubarb left and conjure up something reat.. But really, Betsy, do save some for me. Pleeeease!

*** Cinnamon has an amazing ability to combat tartness, thereby reducing the amount of sweetener needed. Great to keep in mind when dealing with rhubarb or cranberries.

Leftover cookies

Food

No, this is not about what to do with too many holiday cookies. These cookies are made with leftovers. Yes, cookies made from leftovers. Friday night I finally remembered to plan ahead and put together the batter for yeast waffles. Saturday morning I realized we didn't have any syrup, and I didn't feel like making any, so I opened a can of crushed pineapple. We didn't use all the pineapple on our waffles, so I started to think of how to use the rest. Yes, it's delicious in smoothies, but 'tis the season to bake cookies so I pulled out a great Fannie Farmer recipe for Pineapple Cookies. Alas, I only had 1/2 cup of pineapple, not the requisite 1 cup. Bummer. Or not. There has been a jar of cooked cranberries (the beginning of cranberry sauce) in our fridge for quite some time and I needed to do something with them. So I filled out the rest of the cup with the cranberries and a little honey, altered the spices in the cookie (inspired by Dorie Greenspan) and came up with quite a delicious concoction. As the Fannie Farmer says, these cookies are “thick, soft, cakelike.”
Cranberry Cookies (approx. 40)

1 stick room temp butter
1 c loosely packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t almond extract (or an additional 1/2 t of vanilla)
1 c cranberry relish
2 c flour
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t powdered ginger
1/2 t chinese five spice
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 c pecans or walnuts, chopped
If you really want a cranberry cookie try adding 1/2 c dried cranberries.

Preheat oven to 350, grease cookie sheets. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Cream butter and sugar. Scrape down and add egg and extracts, beat until light and fluffy. Add dry mixture to the cranberry mixture. Stir in nuts and optional dried cranberries (or maybe some chopped crystalized ginger?). Drop by spoonfuls into prepared cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake about 12 min until matte. Transfer to racks to cool.

'Tis the Season for hot, cheap soup.

Even better, ones made in crock-pots (slow cookers) that are ready to eat when you walk in from work. I made this lentil-vegetable soup for the family the other night, and liked it enough to bring it into the work “Holiday Potluck.”
6 c water
1/2 c red lentils
1/2 c bulgar wheat
4 carrots, 1/4-1/2 inch slice
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp (smoked) paprika
*1/4 tsp cayenne pepper *I just shook it in, so I'm only guessing on the amount
*1/2 tsp cumin
*1/2-1 tsp salt
2 tsp Better Than Bullion (or enough bullion to make 2 cups, or replace 2 cups of water w/stock).

Combine above ingredients in crock pot. Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 7-8 hours.
Add below items and cook for 15 min, or until heated through.
1/2 c cooked white beans (or increase lentils by 1/4 c and water by 1/2 c)
1 c frozen spinach
1/2 c chopped parsley
Finish w/lemon juice or soy sauce, if desired. (Also, the acid in the lemon juice will stop the lentils from further cooking, so that's helpful if keeping the crock pot on.)
Enjoy!

Thanksgiving

This is the one holiday that it is about a meal, but somehow the entire long weekend became an endless meal only interrupted by sleep. We started on Thanksgiving with a waffle brunch, and then a lackluster turkey dinner at Leon's. Friday evening we had a nice traditional dinner. My mother did the usual fare, but some things were new. Bridgit made a pecan pie with apples and cut the sugar in half. The apples gave it sweetness without the gooey sugar layer that pecan pie usually has. My mother also did a sweet potato mash covered with sugar and nuts.

We had people over for breakfast on Saturday and we had some amazing food. We pretty much made it our Thanksgiving meal. Bridgit made a Cranberry Spice Bundt which was amazing. The most amazing thing to me was that she actually almost followed the recipe. The only thing she changed was some whole wheat flour in place half the regular flour. She also made a pumpkin fondue thing that was spectacular. The only problem was that one of the pumpkins tipped over in the oven and poured goo out and made a bunch of smoke. Holly made quiche florentine which had more stuff and less eggs then most quiche.

Then to wrap it all up we used the turkey carcass to make a turkey soup and had it for dinner tonight.

Now I need another long weekend to sleep off all the food.

Oh, and Amelia is now eating real food. Real food means rice cereal and sweet potatoes.

From Amelia Rose