Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When Life Gives You Sour Milk make Soda Crackers!

Last Friday afternoon we piled into our car, yes even the dogs, for a spontaneous trip with a friend and her family to Polebridge, Montana.  Well, we never quite reached Polebridge.  Just two miles shy of the town, we pulled our chain clad tiny car between to giant banks of snow and waded through fluffy white to the front door of a cabin.
For a time that seemed to stretch longer than the day and a half we actually were there, we stared out of windows catching glimpses of the impressive, towering peaks of Glacier National Park.  We tucked our toes in warm downy slippers, sipped coffee and hot chocolate and spent just enough time sledding, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and riding through the snow on a snowmobile to warrant early bedtimes for everyone underneath layers of blankets.  

It was solidly winter; full of winter fun.  

Not until breakfast with four bright eyed children did we discover we had forgotten milk.  Between the two families we had both forgotten milk.  A half gallon of half and half had made the journey, and we leisurely sipped our coffees and decided to just hush about the missing milk.  It wasn't mentioned again - by anyone. 

We returned to our home with the muddy yard, stuck somewhere between winter and spring, unloaded the car started dinner and laundry.  There it was our forgotten milk, still sitting in the door of the fridge, undeniably sour.  

Time again has stretched.  It seems so long ago that I was sitting still with nothing pressing to do.  Between Ivory's sports class, laundry, late night ceramics, sunny bike rides, grocery store trips, I feel like we might have never left at all, that the stillness was just a momentary thought.  But there it is, the spoiled milk still sitting in the fridge, undeniable proof that just for a little time our life slowed down. 

I have been waiting for spoiled milk.  Ivory and Sylvan and I rolled up our sleeves, mixed and kneaded and rolled out and cut one thin sheet of dough after the other. 

Twisting dough sticks and cutting diamonds and flowers sliding cookie sheet after cookie sheet in and out of the oven.

Our freezer is stocked with flowers, and diamonds and twisted staves perfect for warm soup on chilly days. When life gives you sour milk make soda crackers!

Soda Crackers

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine in a bowl:

2 cups flour 
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

cut in (I use the paddle attachment on my kitchen aid mixer):

2 tablespoons butter 

3/4 cup plus 1/8th cup sour milk (or 7/8 of a cup I suppose...  this is the easiest way to measure it out with my measuring cups)

  • The amount of milk needed may vary a little, so start with 2/3 a cup and add a little at a time. The dough will form a ball if you are using a mixer, remove from the bowl and knead a few times.  It should feel a little tacky but not actually stick to your hands or the surface you are kneading on. 
  • Roll it very thin.  To be quick just move the sheet of dough onto a baking pan and cut into squares, diamonds or triangles with a pizza cutter.  Or, if you have a little time or little hands to keep busy cut them into strips and twist or use your favorite cookie shape!  Anything that makes eating soup fun, right? 
  • Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Next Four Weeks of Family Meals

I recently posted the last few weeks of our family meals...  I thought I would offer a glimpse into the future of our family table. 
Tonight Adam cooked dinner while I cleaned and rearranged the children's toy area.
We had rice, steamed vegetables (cauliflower, mushrooms, peas and carrots) all smothered in peanut sauce.

So, I am just going to list the dishes I have planned starting with tomorrow's dinner (Firday, Febuary 18th):

Beans and Greens Tacos with Goat Cheese (vegetarian)
Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Peanut Sauce (sea food)
Pumpkin Soup (vegetarian)
Egg Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce (pork)

Spaghetti (vegetarian)
Quiche with Zucchini and Caramelized Onions (vegetarian)

Beet, Arugula and Feta Pizza (vegetarian)

Sloppy Joe's with baked Potato Wedges (beef)
Fish Cakes (sea food)
Gorgonzola Linguine with Toasted Walnuts (vegetarian)
Roasted Chicken with Winter Vegetables

Spinach Stuffed Manicotti (vegetarian)
Chicken Soup with Dumplings
Venison Stew with Cranberries
Pan Fried Hawaiian Pizza (pork)
Pomegranate Pork Loin with Red Cabbage
Taco Soup (chicken)
Baked Sausage with Apples, Potatoes and Onions (pork)
Fireside Winter Salad (vegetarian)
Ginger Plum Baked Chicken with Barley Salad
Tofu Cucumber Salad (vegetarian)
Pork Roast with Ginger Plum Sauce
Chicken and Shrimp with Artichokes and Capers (sea food)
Spinach Soup (pork - it has bacon)
Risotto with Mushrooms, Peas and Cheese
Spaghetti with meatballs (beef or venison)
Sweet Potatoes Quesadillas (vegetarian)
Brussels Sprouts, Chicken and Rice
Pizza Night! (toppings to be decided)
Baked Fish with Tomatoes, Bell Pepper, and Yogurt (sea food)
Pumpkin Soup (vegetarian)
Made from Scratch Mac and Cheese (vegetarian)
Sweet and Sour Pork
Caramelized Onions and Whole Wheat Spaghetti (vegetarian)
Shrimp with Zucchini and Gnocchi (sea food)
Old Fashioned Mushroom Soup (vegetarian)

This menu moves around a bit - adjusting for pot lucks or other events that arise.  This experiment in meal planning has led us to discover new family favorites, such as the Spinach Stuffed Manicotti, that will most stay in our dinner rotation.

Happy Eating Everyone!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

DIY - Stamped Curtains (The Kid's Bedroom)

A little over a month ago I spent hours staring at Joanne's fabric selection.  I had a difficult color pallet to match.  Our bedroom floors are sage.  Adam and I have a two toned yellow bedroom, and Ivory and Sylvan's walls are orange and lilac.  We purchased all paint as partially used cans from Home ReSource.  The result is colorful and fun...  but oh so difficult to match. 
I found a great orange fabric that happens to have a very similar pattern to our dining room drapes, and I was searching for a purple based fabric to hang against the orange walls.  The patters were just so full of bright purple butterflies, flowers and birds... not what I had in mind.  After a while I grabbed an unbleached muslin off of the rack and purchased 5 yards of it with the plan on stamping my own lilac pattern.  
Every window in our house finally has curtains. I finally marked that project off of my list today. 

How to make your own stamped curtain:

what you need: 
fabric paint
a stencil (if you make your own you need card stock, packing tape, exacto knife and cutting mat)
stencil brushes

  • I drew my own stencil on a small piece of card stock (added a more card stock for wider edges since Ivory was going to help me with the project)
  • I taped the front surface with packing tape to protect the paper from moisture

  •  I used an exacto knife and a cutting mat to cut out the negative space of my stencil

  • I marked the center of my pattern with a line, and then placed pins on the bottom edge of my curtain.  Each pin is lines up with the center of the design and is then stamped. 

  •  be careful to keep the bottom side of the stencil clean - helpers make this project slow, but Ivory was very proud to stamp the curtains that are going to be hanging in her room.  How could I deny her that experience?

  •  One panel done!

  • And there the stamped curtain is: hanging against the bright orange wall. 

So, here is our kiddo's bedroom.  The bright orange curtains against the purple wall... Adam built the curtain rods out of walnut board he milled.  They are wonderful! 

The stamped curtain against the orange wall.  Ivory and Sylvan are pulling clothes out of their dress up corner.

The view from my bedroom, mess and all!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cream of Broccoli Soup

aka: a new purpose for broccoli stems

Our food scraps do not go to waste.
A few are given to the dogs, some to the worms and the remainder to the chickens.
In spite have having well deserving recipients of our food scraps, I do make an effort to utilize "the entire plant" in my kitchen.

I recently prepared a few dishes that required the dark green crowns of broccoli, but not the stems.  I felt a little silly when I put the broccoli stems back into the crisper drawer of my fridge, but I had a plan for them. Broccoli stems are a part of the plant that even my husband will push aside and the kids, well, they usually just chomp the greenest of the green parts and leave the rest behind. So,  I felt even sillier as I rummaged through the freezer to retrieve a container filled with chopped up broccoli stems and I set it and the bag of broccoli stems on the counter.  I was going to turn all of these stems into cream of broccoli soup.

I almost apologetically set the bowls of steaming soup on the table, and waited breathlessly for my husband to take the first bite....  he liked it.  The critic of all things broccoli liked it!  The kids liked it.
I liked it...  but then I knew I would.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

2 cups of water
1 onion
3 ribs of celery
4 broccoli stems
1 large carrot

  • chop all of the vegetables and place into a saucepan with water, bring to a boil and simmer until soft (about 15 min)
2 chicken bullion cubes
a dash of nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup of water
2 table spoons flour
  • add the bullion cubes and butter to the saucepan
  • stir the flour into the cup of water and then pour into the sauce pan, stir well
  • simmer for an additional 5 minutes
  • pour the soup into a mixer and blend or use an immersion blender (this is what I do)
1 cup of half and half 
salt and pepper to taste
  • serve with warm fresh whole wheat bread 

"Why no pictures?"you ask.
"Because, I am at this very moment curled up in my bed with a stubbornly awake two year old...  and pictures are an attention grabber, but I can get away with quietly typing away on the key board."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Snapshots

After breakfast and dishes I sat down with these fabrics...  

 to turn them into curtains...

so, our living room looks like this:

Our Sunday Snap shots.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

"I am so excited for Valentine's Day!  That is when we get a lot of chocolate!"
Ivory is running through the house wearing a blanket, coat, shoes and an umbrella: her version of Mary Poppins.
"Oh really?"  I had not even thought of buying chocolate, and I know for certain I have no chocolate hiding anywhere in the house.

I hope that if I just don't mention it, she will forget about all that chocolate she thinks she will be getting.

Instead we have focused on making something for others.
The kids and I baked a pie crust before Adam even crawled out of bed.

And throughout the day we finished the filling, let it cool and now it is tucked away on the bottom shelf of the fridge.

One flakey pie crust with a quick cheese cake filling...  I can't wait until Ivory pulls it out of the fridge and gives it to her dad.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Counting down to Bedtime - My Bedtime (and a Granola Recipe)

The day has been creeping.

The moment I woke up I wanted to pull the covers back over my shoulders.
I am on a string of late nights, and Sylvan is a string of sleepless early morning hours, so while my shelf at the clay studio is crowded with an increasing number of mugs and cups, my body is telling me to just stop and go to bed - I didn't listen and now have a cold.

Last night I didn't crawl into bed until 1:30, Sylvan woke up before I managed to fall asleep, and I watched every hour pass on the clock across the room.  I nursed, changed his diaper, Adam got water, I took Sylvan to the bathroom, when he started screaming: "Pee, Pee!" at the top of his lungs.  I considered trying to convince him to go in his diaper, and decided that that would be counter productive to the potty training effort.

I dragged myself out of bed, got myself and the kids dressed and staggered down the stairs for a quick breakfast before we drove across the Y to Ivory's Rookie Sports Class.  Thank goodness we actually had a quick breakfast on hand - home made granola, dried fruit and honey yogurt.  My entire day has been marking tasks off of my list with the goal of getting closer to bed.  Class done - check.  Lunch done - check. Nap time done - check.  Laundry folded - check.  Dinner in the oven - check.

We are in the gray zone between dinner and bedtime, and I fully intend to crawl into my bed just as soon as the the kiddos are snug in their's.

There is one think I have been intending to do: share the Granola Recipe.

Almond Honey Granola

  • preheat oven to 250 degrees 
2 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups rolled oats
1 cup almond slivers, chopped small
1 cup coconut
1 cup wheat germ
  • combine in a large mixing bowl
1/2 cup water
1 cup oil
1 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons salt

  • blend in separate bowl and pour over the mixture of dried ingredients, mix thoroughly
  • spread out on two cookie sheets and bake for 1 hour
  • cool, store in covered container
  • serve with chopped dried apricots or raisins and yogurt 
Post done - check!

Sunday Snapshots

I was hoping to post these Sunday night...

Whole Wheat Oat Bread and Cherry Poppy Seed Danishes in the making.

Christmas Stockings for Adam and I

Story Time

A few snap shots of our day.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sylvan is Two

Some days are just hard: full of worry and stress.

Sometimes, those days full of worry and stress happen to coincide with important days - Sylvan's birthday - to be precise.  

We opened Sylvan's first birthday present before breakfast.  

Slam dunk! 

Adam fixed us all french toast and then we mulled over what to do.  I had not planned our usual birthday pot luck because, well, it was Thursday and Adam was supposed to be working until five and I had class at six.  My plan had been that we would have cake between Adam's work and my ceramic class, but our was wide open, too open, but we were going to make the best of the day. 

We picked up and headed downtown to take dizzying ride after ride on the carousel. 

When we ran out of tokens we strolled on.  

We ducked into Taco Del Sol (you know it is a celebration when the Wests actually eat out), where both Sylvan and Ivory love the bean and cheese burritos.  Sylvan napped, Ivory wrapped her gift,  Adam worked in the shop and I put the finishing touches on a document.  The Fedex guy finally arrived with Sylvan's present.  Who knew it would take a week and a half to get here?  As soon as he woke from his nap he unwrapped the gift Adam and I had anxiously waiting for all day.  A giant wooden train track. 

Sylvan blew out his candles, and enthusiastically ate the chocolate off of his slice of the Boston cream pie.

Somewhere between my seized chocolate glaze, the kid's spoiled dinners, not getting out of the door to my ceramics class, and all the gown up worries that dominated Adam and my conversation I got lost, stuck, standing rooted in the kitchen with tears running down my face. Sad and tired, feeling something like a bad mom and failure.  Just a door frame away my little two year old and his helpful big sister were wrestling a new pieces of rail road into an empire across the dining room floor.

I grabbed my dinner and walked out of the door.  Late, but still going to my ceramics class.

I returned home to wet haired, clean children, giddy, bouncing off the walls.  The box the train set arrived in functioning as a living room slide.

Some days have worry and stress, but are also brimming with love and laughter.

Sylvan is two and the four of us fell into bed with more than enough love to go around.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Day Unlike Any Other

Sylvan had been running around grinning, in a wonderful mood, dishing out hugs and kisses and just before I stepped out of the door, Ivory came down and I gave her a hug and a kiss as well.

I touched up the little cups I had worked on the night before and then spent the next seven hours working on ten mugs.  Putting on layers of Shellack, wiping away the surface, creating texture and adding a slip trailed grid. I stared at the finished mugs in front of me. I had been handling them so long - looking at them for so long - that I could no longer tell if I liked them.  All I knew is that I wanted to go home.

When I walked through the front door, Sylvan was napping. Ivory and Adam and I sat around the dining room table while she mixed color after color, testing each result until her splotch filled papers covered the table.

Much too soon, I got back into the car and drove to the Missoula Community Food Co-op.  Hours later I finally walked through the front door and I was home.  Sylvan greeted me with: "Mama home! Mama home!" Both the kids with wet hair and already in pajamas.

We snuggled, read books, I tucked Ivory into her bed and then, just three feet away from her, I curled up  in Sylvan's toddler bed hugging his little body.  He was excited: bouncing, wiggling, rolling, standing up and laying back down.  He finally asked for his blanket and then flung his arms around my head and hugged me tight. "I love you, " he said, rolling over onto his tummy and finally laying still.

I must have fallen asleep.  When I finally uncurled my limbs, walked out of the room and down the stairs, I glanced at our kitchen clock. It was almost midnight.  I brushed my teeth and felt a little guilty for never having made my routine move from Sylvan's to Ivory's bed.

Most days are like any other day, but this day had never happened before.  I have never not seen Sylvan during the course of our day.  While I felt a little grumpy about the day, he didn't seem to mind at all.   He was just excited to see me home.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Our Family Dinner Table - The Past Three Months

Every few weeks I sit down with cooking books spread across the table and leaf through the pages.  I have been planning our dinners approximately three weeks into the future.  I starting this project in November.  "Why?", you might ask.  Well to be completely honest it is because we have food stamps.  In spite of careful shopping I still managed to run low on food stamps by end of the month and it was an unnecessary worry in my life.  We manage to eat varied  mostly organic, fresh, made from scratch meals every single day sitting around the same dinner table (unless Adam is working out of town) sharing our day with family and sometimes friends as well.

There are a few patterns that  have developed over the course of this experiment that I try to utilize to make the process simpler:

  • soup and fresh baked bread once a week
  • 2 or 3 vegetarian meals per week
  • seafood once a week
  • a salad centered meal once a week 
  • pizza night every other weekend (from scratch of course) 
  • all breads and crackers with the exception of tortillas are made from scratch
Here are the meals we have had since November 4th:

Nov. 4th - pot luck, bring cornbread
Nov. 5th - Spaghetti with mushrooms and cream sauce
Nov. 6th - Crispy Kale and Rice
Nov. 7th- Spinach Salad with strawberries, mandarin oranges, beet, carrot and walnuts with raspberry dressing along with Mushroom and Rice stuffed Winter Squash
Nov. 8th - goat roast, bring a potato casserole 
Nov. 9th - Spinach and Bacon Salad, Parmesan Encrusted Salmon with Honey Mustard Sauce
Nov. 10th - all sick, no dinner, only broth
Nov. 11th - Mac and Cheese with Hot Dogs (freeze half for hunting trip)
Nov. 12th - Pizza with Roasted Beets, Kale and Feta
Nov. 13th - Pork Roast with Carrots and Jerusalem Artichokes
Nov. 14th - Butter Head Salad and Venison back straps
Nov. 15th - Quiche with Kale, Onion and Mushrooms
Nov. 16th - Curry with Shrimp
Nov. 18th - Kale, White Bean and Sausage Soup
Nov. 19th - (at the Cabin) Hashbrown Casserole
Nov. 20th - (at the Cabin) Mac and Cheese Casserole
Nov. 21st - (at the Cabin) Lentil Stew
Nov. 22nd - (at the Cabin) Thanksgiving! Roasted Chicken with onions, potatoes, carrots; steamed broccoli; stuffing casserole; left over mac and cheese; apple pie; pumpkin pie 
Nov. 23rd - left overs
Nov. 24th - Spaghetti with meatballs
Nov. 25th - Chicken Soup with Dumplings (stock make from roasted chicken and left over thanksgiving vegetables
Nov. 26th - Leftover Lentil Stew
Nov. 27th - Pineapple Chicken with Rice (for Adam at work)
                 - Roasted Beet and Orange Salad (for the kids and I)
Nov. 28th - Risotto with Mushrooms, Peas and Rice (fail - tried to use brown rice)
Nov. 29th - baked chicken legs with potato wedges and carrots
Nov. 30th - Rice Noodles with Peanut Sauce
Dec 1st - Sweet and Sour Pork with Rice (make double and freeze half)
Dec 2nd - French Onion Soup with Fresh Bread
Dec 3rd - Baked Winter Squash with Barley, Kale and Sun Dried Tomato Suffing
Dec 5th - New England Clam Chowder with homemade soda cracker
Dec 6th - Spinach Salad with Oranges and Roasted Beets, Venison Roast
Dec 8th - Spaghetti and Meatballs
Dec 9th - Shrimp Soup
Dec 10th - Sushi
Dec 11th - Tofu and Cucumber Salad
Dec 12th - Pot Luck - Kale White Bean and Sausage Soup
Dec 13th - Mac and Cheese 
Dec 14th - Herbed Seafood Pasta
Dec 15th - Leftovers
Dec 16th - Argentine Stew
Dec 17th - Lentil Soup (frozen) with Biscuits
Dec 18th - Spring Rolls with Shrimp
Dec 19th - Somen Noodles with Zucchini (not a favorite)
Dec 20th - Pot Pie (use up leftover Argentine Stew)
Dec 21st - Sloppy Joes (bake buns and bread)
Dec 22nd - Carrot Soup
Dec 23rd - Pork Fried Rice
                 Pot luck - Sweet Potato Casserole, ham, cardamon bread
Dec 25th - Tofu Cucumber Salad
Dec 26th - Spinach Stuffed Manacotti
Dec 27th - Pizza Night 
Dec 28th - Quiche with summer squash, ham and onion
Dec 29th - Mac and Cheese with Ham (per Ivory's request)
Dec 30st - Pot Luck - Pork Fried Rice, Tofu and Cucumber Salad
Jan 1st - Fish with Rice and Carrots
Jan 2nd - Pumpkin Soup
Jan 3rd - Spaghetti and Meatballs
Jan 5th - Sweet Potato Quesadillas 
Jan 6th - Chili with Cornbread
Jan 7th - Gnocci with Cream Sauce, Spinach and Mushrooms
Jan 8th - Mac and Cheese with Ham
Jan 9th -  Spinach, Rice and Kale Casserole
Jan 10th - Mushroom, Onion, Quiche
Jan 11th - Apple Cabbage Slaw, Spicy Shrimp with Yogurt
Jan 12th - Baked chicken legs, salad and cabbage slaw
Jan 13th - Potato Soup with Bacon
Jan 14th - Cauliflower Primavera
Jan 15th - Roasted Brussels sprouts, chicken and rice
Jan 16th - Egg Rolls, Peanut rice noodles
Jan 17th - Clam Chowder with Soda Crackers (homemade)
Jan 18th - Pizza Night (make double the pizza dough and freeze)
Jan 19th - Baked Fish with Rice
Jan 20th - Lentil Sausage Soup
Jan 21st - Winter Vegetables Quesadillas
Jan 22nd - Herbed Barley Salad and pulled pork
Jan 23rd - Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions and Spinach
Jan 24th - White Bean and Chicken Chili
Jan 25th - Spinach Salad with Poached Eggs, Potatoes and Chorizo 
Jan 26th - Fritatta (use up Spinach Salad leftovers)
Jan 27th - Ground Hog Day Party (no dinner) 
Jan 28th - Dampf Nudeln
Jan 29th - Shrimp Bisque
Jan 30th - Spaghetti Squash with Pasta Sauce (lots of veggies and Mushrooms)
Jan 31st - Curried Lentils with Paneer, Mac and Cheese (we ended up eating the Lentils for lunch the following two days..  mac and cheese resulted from a food compromise between Ivory and I)
Feb 1st - Chili  Night @ a Friend's House - made Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Feb 2nd - Pizza Night (toppings included turkey, chorizo, caramelized onions, spinach and mushrooms.. no more cheese only for the kids)


Feb 3rd - Soup and Sauna @ a Friend's House - make fresh bread

Feb 4th - Parmesan Encrusted Salmon with Honey Mustard Sauce

We also cook breakfast every morning...  lunch is usually leftovers or fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese and bread, hard boiled eggs, etc... If we are somewhere else for lunch (the children's museum for example) we always pack a lunch.  

I could keep going, but I will not.  Our dinners are planned through Ferbuary 24th, but the sun is up, the kids are up and the Sunday mound of unwashed laundry is beckoning me and I have some fresh bread to bake for tonight's get together.  I'm bored with this and so are you most likely.