Monday, April 29, 2013

Sunday Snapshots

After a string of super busy weekends (What weekend?) during which Adam was finishing some projects, I finally got everyone out of town and into the woods: 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

5 Meatless Family Favorites Using WIC Ingredients

A few weeks ago I sat in the noisy gym at the Y (during family fun time) listening to a voice mail from one of my WIC counselors asking me to call her back regarding the online session I had just completed.  At my last visit I had been offered the choice between a follow up in office visit or an online session on after which I would just email the office. I took the online choice and all I could think was: SHIT!... because there is nothing like an online, blank, anonymous appearing box to solicit my honest and uncensored opinion on a subject, especially a subject related to food.  And that opinion had NOT been kind.  In my mind the person reading my criticism was not received by the sweet lady I look forward to chatting with every few months but rather the creator of the lack luster content I had found when I clicked through the segments of my Meatless Meals Section I had chosen to complete.

When I finally did speak to her, I swallowed hard, straitened my back and clutched my phone and spoke honestly with her about my impression of the tool I had just tried out.  Why?  Because I believe that access to and education about healthy food for mothers and children is important.  I also believe that the WIC program could make a few small changes to their online program to be much more effective.

(I understand the value of being able to log in and spend a few minutes going through a few pages and watching a few videos rather than commuting to an office.  Not everyone has the advantage of living within walking distance to their WIC office and especially for mom's living in rural areas this option is much more affordable and convenient.)

1.) As I clicked through the pages I was left to wonder:  How did this experience benefit me? How did it benefit my children?  The simple answer was: It did not. That being said - it could and should.  The 2012 - 13 income guidelines for eligibility for a family of four states that the annual income can be up to  $42,643.  It is apparent that the WIC program serves a broad demographic of our society: any woman from a pregnant teen to a graduate student working her doctorate and everything in between - all with their own levels of competency in the kitchen.  A simple survey at the beginning of the educational session assessing socio-economic status, culinary proficiency and social stability could allow the content to be tailored to the user.  This would do wonders for the usefulness of the information provided.

2.) I was eager to read the list of 20 Meatless Meals list that was deemed to save you money at the grocery store, but when I got to Mac and Cheese (for a healthier option: cook whole wheat pasta and add a can of cheddar cheese soup) I felt angry and disappointed.  My kids love Macaroni and Cheese.  We usually have it once a month.  I throw it together and then run off to do my shift at our local food co-op.  The thing is, the WIC program provides milk and cheese: the essential ingredients of a good, made from scratch Mac and Cheese, so why not provide a recipe that utilizes those ingredients?  Why not provide a list of 20 meals that utilize WIC ingredients?

I can to nothing about my first complaint...  except complain directly to those folks who generated the content and that seems like a futile endeavor.

But, I can do something about my second complaint.  I am a mother on the WIC program and there are many recipes that I have sought out precisely because they utilize those items provided by the program. So here are the first 5 of my goal to provide 20 WIC ingredient centered meals. These are some of our favorite Meatless Meals!

Sylvan sneaking a bite of our Made from Scratch Mac and Cheese - to be reheated later that day (by dad) while I am doing my food co-op shift. 

1. Mac and Cheese - Made from Scratch - It is EASY! 

2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni 
  • or any kind of pasta really, my kids dont care what shape they are
  • cook according to the package directions and while they are draining mix, use the pasta pot to make the sauce. (In my world less dishes = better.)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce (if you don't have it, skip it)
dash of paprika
2 cups of milk (WIC item!)
2 cups of shredded Cheddar cheese (WIC item!)

  • pour the drained pasta back into the pot and stir into the sauce 
  • I usually serve this with a side of steamed broccoli (could also be a WIC item).  My kids prefer their Mac and Cheese untainted...  they will not eat the broccoli mixed in, but will on the side... go figure. 

2. Vegetable Fried Rice

3 Tablespoons butter 
  • melt butter in pan and add
4 cups cooked brown rice (WIC item!)
1 package mixed vegetables, cooked according to package directions NOT soggy (WIC item!)
4 Tablespoons soy sauce (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon oregano
  • stir and warm thoroughly (add more ginger and oregano if you like)
  • move rice to edge 
2 Tablespoons butter
2 eggs, beaten lightly (WIC item!)
  • in center of pan add butter, eggs and pepper,  allow eggs to firm up a bit before stirring a few times and then mix the entire content of the pan 
  • My kids love fried rice. I add a dash of sriracha sauce to my plate! 

3. Spinach Stuffed Manicotti

1 box manicotti
  • prepare according to directions on box - trust me this is so much easier than the final dish looks
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese (WIC item!)
16 ounces cottage cheese
10 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained (WIC item!)
2 eggs (WIC item)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • combine the mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and spinach in a bowl
  • use a small spoon to stuff the cooked manicotti
  • place stuffed manicotti into a greased 9 X 13 baking dish 
  • top with
1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • top with
1 1/2 cups of Mozzarella cheese (WIC item!)
  • bake for an additional 15 minutes
  • let stand for 15 minutes before serving

4. Beans and Greens Tacos with Goat Cheese

3 Tablespoons oil
1 onion, sliced (WIC item!)
5 (or less) cloves of garlic
  • cook onions until soft, then add
1 bunch of Swiss Chard, cut into strips (WIC item!)
  • cook until bright green, then add
2 cans of canellini beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (WIC item!)
  • cook until warm
  • serve on warmed
Corn tortillas (WIC item!) 
  • and topped with
Crumbled Goat Cheese and Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Don't skimp on the goat cheese.  It brings it all together...  (although I usually use freshly grated Romano cheese on the kid's tortillas.  They don't always go for the goat cheese) 

5. Cucumber and Tofu Salad 

2 cucumbers, cubed (WIC item)
  • salt the cucumbers, place in a colander and rinse after 10 minutes
  • while the cucumbers and sitting prepare the dressing and the tofu
8 ounces tofu, cubed
  • fry the tofu in hot oil until browned
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion (WIC item!)
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2-3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or honey)
salt (to taste)
  • combine the onions, garlic, chili, soy sauce, vinegar and brown sugar and blend well (I use an immersion blender) 
  • combine rinsed cucumbers, fried and slightly cooled tofu and dressing in a bowl, toss and serve
More Recipes Here:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

(Un)Fortunate Crack


I am about ready to scream!!!!! 

I have spent the last 45 minutes trying to get one text box onto an image and I can not figure it out. I have focused on it so intently that my coffee is cold. Cold. I don't have time for this!!!!

And then I accidentally saved it like this:

I can't figure out how to undo it.  Anyway that last bullet point is supposed to say that I added 3 double crochet into each stitch for the bottom half of that corral shape (it appears denser). 

A few months ago I watched this: 

The beautiful math that links coral, crochet and hyperbolic geometry: Margaret Wertheim 

I finally sat down and made myself a "stitch library".  


Well, for years now I have been telling myself that I am going to combine all those craft skills that I love: knitting, crochet, sewing and pottery.  And then I fall short of that goal. I like the ceramic pieces too much on their own...  or I make up some other excuse...  

This sculpture, however, ended up with the most unfortunate (or is it a fortunate?) crack.. it mystifies me really.. it is not along a construction line and showed no evidence of weakness prior to the wood firing.  The surface received the most beautiful glazing from the firing and rather than turning it into a lawn ornament soon to be forgotten I am pushing on. 

Stitch by stitch a structure is forming from the stockpile of yarn next to my bed.

Now how to make this one?

I'm sure it will be a much more pleasant process than trying to figure out how to add a stupid little text box to an image.

 I am warming  up my cup of coffee and moving on.

Today we are prepping the soil for sunchokes.

Friday, April 19, 2013

For the Birds

I took Ivory, her friend and Sylvan to the Mini-Naturalist Program at the Montana Natural History Center.  The topic was birds, nests and eggs.  We held nests, matched eggs to their mamas, went outside, collected nesting materials, watched an osprey pair bring branches to their nest, and then built our own nests. 

Here are Ivory's nests:

They are made of play dough, sticks, leaves, feathers and yarn scraps.

When we got home she added birds.

Lego Birds.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sweet Potato Salad with Chipotle Chili

This is my adaptation of the Sweet Potato Salad with Chipotle Chili Recipe found in the cookbook Best Bite Recipes published by Oklahoma State University Seretean Wellness Center Kitchen. 

5 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces

  • toss in oil, spread out on two cookie sheets and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 - 40 minutes
  • place roasted potatoes in a large bowl and allow to cool while making the dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 Teaspoons cumin
1/2 Teaspoons chili powder
1 diced Chipotle Chili (canned)*
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 Teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Pepper to taste
  • combine the above listed ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together 
  • *if serving this salad to children, I recommend adding the Chipotle pepper after a few servings have been set aside 
1/8 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • pour the dressing over the potatoes, add the onion and parsley and toss well 

Sylvan Snapshots

Ready for Anything. Bring. It. On. 

"Help!  I can't get up!"

Planting Seeds for Summer Plants in the Dining Room

Friday, April 12, 2013

18 eggs

While Sylvan napped Ivory cut the butter into pieces and dropped them into the mixer.

Yup - she is making the icing for Adam's birthday cake in a velvety unitard.  It is An Almond Torte.  A ridiculous cake really - 18 eggs, a pound of butter, cocoa, espresso, chocolate covered coffee beans.  We creamed yolks, whipped egg whites and baked the tree layers early, early in the morning.  (I tried to get up early enough to do it alone, but instead I had two enthusiastic helpers for the whole process.)

Adam's other gifts: a Stag Horn Fern and an Orchid
I miss Adam....  and creating an elaborate cake is one way to make the missing him fun.  I can't get away with making a cake as elaborate as this when he is walking in and out of our kitchen, opening the fridge, and snooping around.  How often do I get to make an entire dinner that states it is better if made a day ahead?  The day before he comes home - that's when - and it happens to be his birthday. 

Ivory put the finishing touch on the fire pit.  And then we waited..  or rather she waited, Sylvan napped and I folded the laundry and washed the dishes. 

After Adam walked through the door Ivory allowed him just enough time to take a shower, and me just enough time to make pot of coffee (decaf of course, there is enough espresso in the icing) and then came the long awaited moment: 

Happy Birthday!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"I made that Mama!" aka Our New (DIY) Fire Pit ... shhh... It is a Surprise!

"Hugh.  That Heavy!"

Sylvan sighs and steps out of my path.
He follows me, barely a step behind, from the stack of cinder blocks to the freshly leveled earth underneath the maple tree.

"Hugh.  That Heavy!"
I grab a second block.
"Hugh.  That Heavy!"
With each block I lift, he sighs, and walks directly behind me, following my steps.
"One More?"

"Hugh.  That Heavy."

Our house came with piles of stuff - not junk exactly - just stuff: bricks, cinder blocks, landscaping rock, pine boards, steel rods, 5 gallon buckets.....

"Hugh.  That Heavy."

Adam's birthday is on Friday.

I finally thought of a birthday present.

Sure, he has a long list of tools he wants/needs, but I don't dare pick those out for him...  not to mention that the tools remaining on his wish list are pricey.  Those purchases can not be clandestine operations.

But, he also keeps mentioning that he wishes he had a place to burn his pieces of scrap wood.

"Hugh.  That Heavy."

We are building a fire pit.
A temporary, deconstruct-able, in the place I someday want a cob pizza oven, good enough for cooking, made from the piles of stuff in our yard fire pit.

"One more?"

"Hugh.  That Heavy."

"All done?"

We shift to the neatly stacked pile of red bricks.  I hand Sylvan a brick and grab two.  We walk back and forth.  He lines the bricks along the top edge.  We walk back and forth.  I am following him, just a step behind.

"I make that Mama."

For the final touch I grab the two matching oven racks (match each other, but not our oven) I found wedged between our stove and the kitchen cabinets.  We place them on top - perfect.

Sylvan inspects the result closely: "All done. I on my motorcycle. Bye bye."

Materials Used: 16 cinder blocks (one on it's side for ventilation), 46 red bricks, 2 oven racks

Expense:  Either $0 or the cost of our house...  however you choose to look at it

Time:  1 hour and a few minutes...  The time it takes to listen to Pea Green Boat  (In case you were wondering where Ivory was during this project)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Snapshots (Crazy Cooking Marathon)

Sunday Cooking Marathon: aka Adam starts his Field Season
Rainy day walk through the neighborhood.
Look Ma: NO FEET!!!!
Today I washed, chopped, cooked and transformed:

5 lbs of Carrots
1 bunch of Kale
1 head of Cabbage
3 Onions
6 potatoes
1 lb of Sprouts
1 lb of Tofu
1 lb frozen Spinach
1 lb frozen Green Beans
3 Cucumbers
2 cups Walnuts
2 cups Raisins 
1 lb Shrimp
1 lb Ground Beef
1 lb Italian Sausage
1/2 bunch of Cilantro
1/2 bunch of Parsley 


Tofu Cucumber Salad
Moroccan Carrot Slaw 
Moroccan Chicken Salad with Green Beans

and tonight's dinner:

Spicy Shrimp with Cucumber Salad, Cilantro and Flat Bread

These dishes, along with a few more ingredients and some other odds and ends, are all of the lunches and dinners that Adam is taking with him on his first BIG planting project of the season.  There is enough for him, for us and a few lunches tucked away for the upcoming weeks.

This cooking madness was fueled by one pot of coffee.  It was possible by the many, many weekends of practice I have had cooking all of the weeks meals on a Sunday with my own mother when I was a girl. Thanks Mom!  I do have to say it was a lot more fun when there were two in the kitchen.  The kids were allowed to skip naps and watch one movie (Thumbelina).  And when I thought I might just go crazy we took a nice long walk though the glistening streets of our neighborhood.  

Adam is still working away in the shop, scrambling to wrap up details on a rather large project.
I have a few little things left on my list to pack: cheese, butter?, half and half and coffee.  Those will wait until morning. 

I think  after all of this I will make a cup of tea, pull out my knitting, watch a movie and wait for my guy to come inside. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Taking a Break

This week we have awoken to beautiful skies, a bright sun, and a day full of possibilities.

It is Spring Break.

We are taking a break too. 

We are avoiding our usual routine, and all the places filled with crowds of people - well - on their spring breaks.  We are avoiding the YMCA, the Children's Museum, the library.  We are home.  We are outside. We are in the sunshine.  

The garlic I planted last fall is greening the brown surface of the garden bed.   Still invisible rows of radish, spinach, and calendula are nestled in between the green. 

Today I dug my hoe across the surface of my giant "raised bed".  It really is a filled in foundation of a shed. (Visible in the old picture I found of our house.)  I am thinking, planning, dreaming and sketching out the succession of plants I hope to grow this year.  I pounded stakes into the ground and strung yarn from post to post, marking a path.  
Last year, I planted row after row, but left inadequate space in between, and the kiddos trampled half of my second and third plantings of beets in their eagerness to pick snow peas. 
Ivory walked the path, over and over, around and around, stepping over a few mounds of violets I left growing just for her. 

"See Sylvan, you put the onions in the ground like this," I overhear Ivory telling her brother. 

 I had given them a hand full of onion sets, an empty row and let them plant it on their own while I placed chard and kale seeds in alternating spaces. 

"Mama, why are worms so little and cute?"

Sylvan pounds the stakes labeled with name and date of planting into the ground.  

"Help you. Help you. Bean on it."  

Sylvan calls all seeds beans.  

I raided the compost pile. 

I filled bottoms of the burlap bags we picked up from Black Coffee Roasting Company on a bike ride earlier this week. We are going to try to grow potatoes in bags under our silver maple.  

Tomorrow we are going to plant a few starts.  I have been clearing a space for them in a sunny window.  We might go grab a few more burlap bags...  we might take a walk..  we might do nothing at all.

We have a few more days before we get back to our usual routine. 

We are on Spring Break. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

March is over.

March is over.  March is OVER! 

The last weekend finally wrapped up a few of the months activities, and of course, it was also Easter. 

Three weeks ago I watched the flames fade into the lightening sky.  The wood kiln crackled and popped.  And then we waited. 

The door was finally un-bricked and all the ceramic wares were still warm to the touch.

We unloaded  scraped and stacked.  I frantically wrapped sculptures, mugs, cups and bowl into pieces of newspaper.  I still had to drive home, pick up the kids, shop for the Easter goodies (last minute - of course) and drive down the Bitterroot valley to our weekend destination. 

I checked my email when I got home and found out the results of another of March's projects - the winners of the Second Annual Bathing Beauties Bead Challenge.   Check them out.  The first place winner is AMAZING!

I packed the car. Loaded up the kids, the dogs and two stores later finally drove out of town. I missed my turn which added an extra half hour to our drive.  I hoped that would let my little man sleep just long enough.... but Sylvan only had a mini nap and screamed inconsolably upon our arrival until he found a friend. 

Then the Easter activities could begin:

The sunset was amazing!

Ivory had her first sleep over!  She spent the night inside with her friend and her family while Sylvan, Adam and I slept outside in a wall tent. 

We chatted over cups of coffee and mimosas while a tray of danishes, scrambled eggs and three pounds of bacon slowly disappeared.  And then, of course, we had an Easter "egg" hunt. 

Jelly beans, suckers, caramels, black licorice, a bar of chocolate and beads. 

The kiddos strung their beads into necklaces in the warm spring sun.

I let out a breath.

March is over.

more pictures of our weekend here.

Sunday Snapshots

"Getting Work Done!"

Sun kissed cheeks. 
The sun was so bright on our after dinner walk.

For a few short moments the mountains were tinged with rose.