Saturday, December 16, 2017

Gingerbread Cookies and Snow

I made the gingerbread dough and turned it over to Ben and Genevieve, who fought over it and cut out cookies.  I helped Phoebe cut out a few cookies, too.  Genevieve was so excited to do these cookies, even though she doesn't like them all that much, because she says they are Christmas at our house.  I guess we have traditions now!

This year, I tweaked the recipe just slightly and they got so good!  Plus, the kids did the cookie decorating, too, and landed on a genius flavor combination.  Genevieve made a simple powdered sugar frosting for the cookies and sprinkled crushed candy canes on top. Pow! The spicy cookies plus the sweet frosting plus the sharp peppermint:  so delicious.

Gingerbread cookies and snow - so festive! The children even had a two-hour delay and sledding out of the snow, so they were thrilled.

Gingerbread Cookies - from Colonial Williamsburg, tweaked a bit by me
Stir together in large bowl:
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Stir in:
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup melted shortening
1/2 cup heavy cream (or evaporated milk)
1 cup blackstrap unsulfured molasses
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2-4 drops food-grade lemon essential oil (or 3/4 tsp. lemon extract)

Stir in 1 cup at a time, mixing after each cup:
2 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough should be stiff enough to handle and not too sticky - may add up to 1/2 cup of flour if needed.

Roll to 1/4" thickness on floured surface.  Cut into shapes. Place on silpat-lined baking sheets (or greased). Bake 375 for 10 minutes, just until top springs back when touched.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Phoebe Rocks Her Vintage Sunday Coat and Bonnet

This coat and bonnet on our little Phoebe-bird is so perfect. Rebecca found the coat and bonnet and, wait for it, overall snowpants, while I was pregnant with Phoebe. I remember our delight over the style of the whole thing: the pleats, pearly buttons, blonde fur collar, the bonnet the bonnet the bonnet.

Phoebe was not yet named, was not yet known to be a blonde firecracker with charming manners, but this coat planted a vision in my mind of such a little girl.  And here she is.  I have no more words for how much I love her.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Little Mocha Oreo Cheesecakes

I used my husband's birthday to make little individual cheesecakes.  He does like cheesecake, but I'm not sure how he feels about Oreos.  I can tell you the children love Oreos, but I don't necessarily. However, these little cheesecakes turned out quite delicious.

My in-laws gave us a package of Oreos some time back, and I stuck it in the back of the pantry because why.  Because I don't buy Oreos, and I don't know how to just hand out Oreos to a hungry kid?  Because Oreos are boring?  But if I use Oreos as an ingredient, nay, as a crust for a little mini cheesecake?  Now that's more enticing.

When I was buying my two blocks of cream cheese at market, I mentioned to the friendly girl who tells me about her new puppy that I was planning to make these little cheesecakes.  She immediately remembered her mom making such cheesecakes, but mocha flavor.  I took note.

I can't even link to the recipe I used because I combined several traditional recipes after googling "individual Oreo cheesecakes."  And no way was I going to crush up Oreos and bake them with butter first to make a crust - people, please, I have a toddler who was thrilled to drop whole Oreos in the bottom of the muffin papers, taking bites occasionally while saying in her serious, sweet voice, "We are not eating dem - we are just putting dem in dere."

I divided the cheesecake batter in half.  To one half, I added a hefty teaspoon of instant decaf espresso powder.  To the other half, I added crushed Oreos.  Then I layered each batter on top of the Oreos in the muffin cups. Bake them, chill them, done.

Now I have a whole bag of little candy canes that my children picked off the ground at the park one night in somebody's terribly misbegotten idea of a fun holiday activity for children.  My children know me well enough to know they were never going to eat more than a few, but what in heaven's name do I do with all these boring, plastic-wrapped stupid candy canes? 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

More Aprons for the Shop

I kind of miss my Etsy shop and the random local events where I sewed and sewed and sewed to enjoy my deep love of patchwork and color.
But I honestly do not know how I would have time for that in this season of life.  I don't even feel like I have time for some basics (hello, almost-tidy but rather dirty house).  I am able to sew some fun things for my children, and I knit on the go, but jeepers, that's about it.

So when the museum store manager-friend asked if I could provide more aprons, I said yes because I love color and aprons.  It took me a while, but I got the aprons done just before Thanksgiving, in time for the holiday shopping rush, whew.

Previously, I had used the "Kitchen Gaiety" apron pattern of charming provenance, but I knew that in order to turn out aprons more quickly, I needed a simplified pattern.  I was pleased with this retro Simplicity pattern, with one caveat:  the small is quite small or else Genevieve, at 12, is the size of a small 1940s lady. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Turkey Banh Mi

My aunt sent home some turkey from the Thanksgiving gathering we missed (and two turkey carcasses!  I made and canned stock, thanks Aunt Elena).  I saw this recipe for Turkey Banh Mi by Alison Ashton in the newspaper, and I suddenly knew where some turkey scraps were going.

You all, I love turkey sandwiches to begin with, but this sandwich is something amazing.  I didn't actually follow all Ashton's suggestions because I had a faint memory that the veggies on the sandwich were pickled, and doing some research landed me on the The Kitchn's extremely useful post.  The resulting banh mi was so excellent that I just made it over and over until I used up my ingredients, but I'm going to put Ashton's sauce recipe at the end of this post because it sounds good and I'm sure I'd like to experiment with banh mi again.

How I built my banh mi:
French bread (hollow it out a little or else be prepared to press down firmly when you attempt to get it in your mouth)
generous squirts sriracha
sliced cucumber
Do chua (recipe below)
generous chopped cilantro
chopped scallions
cold, cooked turkey shreds

We ate our sandwiches with hot and sour soup, even though they really hit all the food groups.  Everyone loved them.  I confess to hiding the various components in the fridge so I could have banh mi every day for lunch until the turkey was gone.  But I shared the idea and recipes with you!  I'm generous like that.

Do Chua, adapted slightly from Andrea Nguyen
Cut in large matchsticks:
1 large carrot
1 lb. 2" diameter daikon radishes

Mix in bowl with:
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar

Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes until there's a puddle under the veggies and you can bend the matchsticks (alternatively, if you stay with the veggies and massage them you can speed up the process - depends on how you like to spend your time).  Drain off the liquid, pressing the matchsticks gently. 

In container that is between a quart and a half-gallon, combine:
1 cup warm water
1 1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

When the sugar is dissolved, add the drained matchstick veggies. Cover and store in fridge.  Marinate at least 1 hour before using, and use up in 2 weeks.

Alison Ashton's Thanksgiving Banh Mi Sauce 
2 Tbsp. smooth cranberry sauce
1Tbsp. warm water
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
minced serrano chile (I would use sriracha)
1 grated garlic clove
juice of 1 lime (I would add the zest, too)
Marinate the turkey for the banh mi in this sauce at least 15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Phoebe Pounds Cabbage

My dad couldn't resist the huge heads of cabbage from Uncle Merv in Thanksgiving week.  My basement is now highly insulated as part of our new boiler installation, so I didn't know where to ferment cabbage into sauerkraut.  But with cabbage so cheap (ok, my dad wouldn't let me pay him back, but I think it was something ridiculous like $1.50) and labor so willing, I had to experiment. It's a feat to find real work for toddlers (they're not easily fobbed off with fake chores!) that is actually helpful with minimal potential for breakage, bodily harm, and disaster.

I borrowed a mandoline from a neighbor and sliced two heads.  Phoebe took up the meat mallet with proud purpose to pound the cabbage to release its juices. Another key to having a toddler helper:  act like it's normal and don't over-praise because then you will mark their helpfulness as somehow abnormal. I want to encourage all the helpers!  We all eat food in this house and by gum, we can all pitch in.

I lugged the crock up to the balcony - I'm going to try fermenting outside!  The crock is in a sheltered spot and will get strong morning sun.  So far the weather has been fairly mild, so we'll see how the bacteria like being outside in the fresh air to make sauerkraut.

Friday, November 24, 2017

An Unexpected Thanksgiving

I've been through colds with my children before, but never have I seen them sink so dramatically from robust health into pneumonia (Ben) and prolonged fever and coughing that stumps the doctors, even after labs and bloodwork (Genevieve). Phoebe continues to cough and cry.  I continue in health, thank God, because someone has to make tempting snacks and tea and new bribes for forcing liquids at all hours, piling up the little dishes and cups in the sink and washing washing washing laundry and dishes. And don't forget the myriad runs to various medical establishments (my husband had to go on a 2-day business trip in there, too) and food stores to coax the healthy color back into the sickies' faces again.

We realized the necessity of canceling all Thanksgiving plans with extended family on Wednesday afternoon.  Sitting with Genevieve in the hospital lab, I quickly sketched a menu that I thought could work to make Thanksgiving at home traditional and doable. I flew down to market, forgetting its holiday hours, and got there in time to see it shuttered.  I begged the meat stand to quickly sell me something, anything, and got a chicken just before he drove off.  There was just one produce stand with all its boxes packed, but Laura dug through her boxes in full sympathy and good cheer to find what I needed. 

For years, I have wished to cook an entire Thanksgiving feast with everything exactly to my taste, recipes researched, rejected, and chosen with care, ingredients gathered for weeks ahead, and linens fussed over and prepped.  And here I was, thrown into my own feast in less than 24 hours with lethargic children coughing in the other room. 

So I am thankful for things I was not expecting to be thankful for this season: for skilled doctors who use their diagnostic tools well, sympathetic nurses, supportive parents and family who jump in with childcare and errands, the relative health and incremental recovery of my children, an abundance of food from kind market sellers, and all the big things that underpin our lives that I can take for granted.

What are you thankful for this season?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ben, Tucked Up in Blankets

He's home sick from school today with a nasty cold.  The weather is mild - the air smells fresh and the sun is going in and out of the clouds.  My husband suggested that Ben read on the balcony to blow the germs out of his lungs.  So, with hot tea and a good book, chosen, I am sure, for his interest and not for the irony, he got himself snug on the balcony loveseat.

He's not the only who's coughing and complaining in our family just now.  I have escaped the pestilence (so far! knock on wood!).  I tell them all to force clear liquids, even in they're not thirsty, to get lots of sleep, and wash their hands before touching anything other people touch.  At night, they use humidifiers and homemade cough syrup (it's worth clicking on that link just to see 3-year-old Ben!). 

When I was growing up, Mom would have us take Vitamin C to help our immune systems.  What's the modern equivalent?  What do you give your people to boost their immunity in the season of lots of people inside sharing germs with each other?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

How I Put Up My Hair

When I posted pictures of my sea-green dress, you all zeroed in on my hair and asked how I put it up.  Some of you even went so far as to ask for a tutorial.  Listen, I am a teacher by nature and I love teaching, but online tutorials are not the same as teaching and I'm a little out of my element.

But I scheduled my annual hair cut for next week, which forced me to decide if I was going to attempt a tutorial for you or not.  I enlisted Genevieve to hold my phone as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and put up my hair, and we went for it. You can imagine that Ben's trombone practice in the background is the soundtrack, ok?

So that this feels more like teaching to me, please tell me if you tried to follow my directions and, better yet, if you have a blog, post a photo and link in the comments.  Or, instead, tell us all how you get your hair up and off your face. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I Made Myself a Pair of Socks

Phoebe is modeling my socks - more interesting than my modeling, I assure you.

I am really curious to wear my own knitted socks.  The people I have made socks for (my kids) love them, and I like wool socks in the winter, so will I like my own handmade socks?  It's starting to get cold enough to think of long underwear and wool socks.  I'll report back!
Balloon's from Genevieve's birthday
I got the yarn for these socks at A.C. Moore.  It's self-striping, and I love the colors.  I used Wise Hilda's Basic Ribbed Socks, although I forgot the ribbing along the top of one foot.  Oh well. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Dinner: Honey-Baked Chicken and Braised Broccoli

I read about Anna's birthday feast, but my library didn't have the same Susan Herrmann Loomis cookbook she used so I settled for In a French Kitchen.  I glanced through it quickly Saturday night - the prose includes everyday details of French kitchens (fascinating!) and the recipes seem very doable.  My eye landed on Braised Broccoli and with no trouble at all, I added it to our Sunday dinner.

honey-baked chicken (More with Less)
baked potatoes
braised broccoli (In a French Kitchen)

thaw chicken

Sunday morning:
scrub potatoes, put in oven on timed bake
cut up chicken, mix sauce, put in oven on timed bake
cut up broccoli/onions/garlic and put in pan with lid

Sunday noon:
set table
cook broccoli

This was an excellent, easy Sunday dinner.  I'll be doing this one again!

Braised Broccoli
Put in wide shallow skillet with lid:
about 1 lb. broccoli, cut in bite-sized pieces, tender stems included
3 Tbsp. minced sweet onion or scallions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup water

Sprinkle over:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
fresh-ground pepper

Cover and cook on med-high for 10 minutes.  Lift lid and stir. Continue to cook without lid, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and contents are sizzling, hopefully even getting a little browned, maybe 5 minutes.  Serve hot or room temperature.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Portraits of a 12-Year-Old

For God created her inmost being;
God knit her together in my womb.
I praise God because she is fearfully and wonderfully made;
God's works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Her frame was not hidden from God
when God made her in the secret place,

when she was woven together in the depths of the earth.
God's eyes saw her unformed body;
All the days ordained for her were written in God's book
before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16 but I changed the voice/pronouns

And that's a Bonnie Butter marble cake from Betty Crocker's cookbook that she made entirely herself and tinted the yellow part pink.  It was delicious.


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