**Monday’s menu: Roasted salmon with teriyaki sauce. Steamed rice. Mashed sweet potatoes. Stir-fried napa cabbage.
**Original plan: Fish. Originally because I’d expected to serve supper to a friend who likes fish (or so I hear), but then plans changed, different friend came over, and the child who despises fish suppered elsewhere, therefore: fish. Remarkably like the original plan, just took a different route to get there.
**In the kitchen: Prepped and cooked immediately after school. Finished the napa cabbage with the juice of one lime. It was good. Ran out of time on the fish, left Kev in charge, drove a truckload of girls to theatre rehearsal.
**The reviews: Mostly good, but the stir-fry was under-appreciated by all the children.
**The verdict: Kev made leftover salmon into sandwiches for school lunches.
**Note to self: Do not gobble delicious dinner moments before going for a run. Or, optionally, cancel run in favour of gobbling delicious dinner. Just don’t try to do both. You will be sorry.
**Tuesday’s menu: Curried lentil-barley stew in crockpot. Bought falafels with pita and hummus.
**Original plan: I knew the crockpot would be involved, but devised no further plan. (This is bad, this lack of planning ahead. Like last week, I quick-jotted an ingredient list and I’m winging it.)
**In the kitchen: Started crockpot first thing in the morning. Smelled fabulous all day. While running errands, passed yummy Middle-Eastern cafe and stopped to buy a dozen fresh-made falafels and some hummus (the owners were having a shouting argument behind the counter while pausing periodically to smile at me, which was a bit unnerving, but hey. The food’s good). Consumption was casual. Kevin got home a few minutes before we burst in from swim lessons; he’d put together falafel sandwiches for himself and Albus, which the pair of them devoured before racing out the door to their first indoor soccer practice. The rest of us ate at a more leisurely pace.
**The reviews: “I don’t like falafel.” “Well, I like falafel, but I don’t feel like eating it right now.” “What it’s called, Mama? it’s a waffle? A fafafal?”
**The verdict: We’ll eat that stew tomorrow. No one touched it but me. And it’s yum.
**Wednesday’s menu: Pasta with pesto. Leftover sweet potatoes revived with cream, maple syrup, and pecans. Bread and cheese.
**Original plan: As above, more or less.
**In the kitchen: Made pasta post-piano lessons. Warmed up sweet potatoes. Toasted pecans. Used half a container of thawed (homemade) pesto, plus a whole whack of fresh-grated parmesan.
**The reviews: Everyone likes pasta with pesto.
**The verdict: Perfect for a quick supper.
**Random kitchen accomplishment: Made four litres of yogurt before breakfast this morning.
**Thursday’s menu: Soup! Squash/bean soup. Curried barley-lentil stew. Leftover rice. Brussel sprouts with pecans. Bread and cheese. (pictured above)
**Original plan: No plan. Needed to use up leftovers.
**In the kitchen: Warmed everything up after school. Spiced up squash/bean soup with cumin and lime (this was a combo of two leftovers languishing in the fridge).
**The reviews: Squash/bean soup surprisingly popular. I ate the stew. Apparently, I am the only one eating this stew. It’s starting to look like a lot of stew.
**The verdict: Not exactly inspired, but passable. Did not tempt me from my supper-hour run, let’s just say.
**Friday’s menu: Bailey’s pick-up, leftovers, and for me, poetry book club.
**Original plan: Where have my plans gone? Must get more organized next week.
**In the kitchen: I did nothing other than unload and store Bailey’s order, and fill a lunch bag with picnic items for soccer girl, who was busy all evening; I also packed an apple and egg for me, after my run.
**The reviews: Heard nothing, saw nothing. Post-soccer and running, I was out the door to my poetry book club where I filled up on snackie goodies (including something known colloquially as an “orgasmatron”). Plus wine, and happy conversation.
**The verdict: My standards sink pretty low by Friday. Good luck to us now that Friday pickups at Bailey’s are over.
**Weekend kitchen accomplishments: Buckwheat pancakes. Four loaves of bread. Three loaves of pumpkin bread. [pained aside: Is that all???? Why did it feel like I spent all of yesterday in the kitchen? Gah!!!!]
What got done this weekend?
Kitchen drudgery: baked four loaves of bread; transformed shrivelled plums into a sauce; whirled and froze five meals’ worth of pesto; roasted and pureed tomatoes as a base for tomato soup and lasagna later this week; baked cookie squares with new baking soda (going on the theory that bad soda caused my treat fail last weekend).
Plus laundry. That’s what comes of having four children and a family involved in multiple sports activities. Also, I’m mildly obsessive compulsive about hanging it to dry.
Soccer tryouts for this child, Saturday and Sunday morning. Lucky me, I got to take her and start both days with a long run on a beautiful autumn trail beside a river.
Vegging and movie-watching. These kids, both afternoons, the same (fairly awful) movie: Cats and Dogs. Plus Kevin and I got out on our own last night and saw a (fairly good) movie: Crazy Stupid Love.
Work on the new garden beds for next spring.
Which leads us to the question: What didn’t get done this weekend?
Harvesting and drying herbs.
Taking the kids to the Harry Potter matinee uptown today.
Signing up for a marathon in November. But I’ve got the registration window open on my browser, so maybe I’ll get up the guts to do it before the day is over.
Sleep. Two late nights + two early mornings = happy social life (and I need a nap.)
Cleaning and tidying. As you can see. (Are those MY socks on the table???? Oh crumbs, they are. Guess I can’t blame the kids for everything).
I’ve spent the day in the kitchen. I can’t decide if this is a fine and lovely thing, for which I am appreciative, or if it’s a bit of a waste, and I should have been outside in the sunshine, or off to church this morning, or participating in one of the many community events going on today …
Instead, I woke up, started the laundry, hung a load from last night on the line outside, and turned on the radio, which is my constant companion on kitchen days. Then I began. I started by mixing and kneading a batch of bread and setting it to rise on the counter. I chopped and stewed plums and pears, which had been going to mush on the counter. In another pot, I sauteed onions, garlic, and herbs, and on a baking sheet arranged whole, cored tomatoes. I fired up the BBQ to about 375, and roasted the tomatoes with the sauteed veggies for several hours. I heated milk and washed jars and made yogurt. I mixed up cookie dough and baked the worst cookies ever. (And I followed the recipe. I have no explanation, except that maybe the kitchen is politely telling me to scram).
And I hung a second load of laundry on the line.
Could that be all? I started before 9am, and it is now nearly 4pm. For my efforts, I have arrayed before me: 2 jars of plum-pearsauce; 4 loaves of bread; several litres of roasted tomato sauce; 6 jars of yogurt; and a batch of barely edible cookies. The week ahead, and its necessary meals, remains unplanned. I am, therefore, going to throw on my running gear and go for a looooooooong run in today’s remaining sunshine. Fooey and Kevin are in charge of supper: pita pizzas on the BBQ using that roasted tomato sauce (I scraped the roasted ingredients into a pot and macerated them using a hand blender).
As the school year begins again, my mind returns to the necessity of producing weekday suppers, frequently to be eaten at a ridiculously early hour, or immediately upon arriving home, due to after-school and evening activities. And so this blog will also return to a reprised version of The Week in Suppers. First edition coming tomorrow. Look for (mostly) vegetarian meal ideas, as our family attempts to go vegetarian for a month. Stay tuned.
Yesterday, I got a taste of summer. A whiff. A tingle of this is summer. (See above).
Today, I am getting prepared. There are four more days of school, and then we shall hurtle headlong into the beach, overnight camp, strawberry picking, food preservation, swimming, and a multitude of mini-adventures … such is the hope.
So, I started today in the kitchen (can I return happily to the kitchen after losing all interest this past month? Well, I can try). I baked a batch of bread; didn’t take long, actually. I did dishes. The living-room is moderately tidy. Piles of papers have been sorted and recycled (more remain; and more are on their way home from school, no doubt).
AppleApple helped me make a giant (messy) poster of ideas for summer activities: our categories are Plans (dates for things we’ve already signed up for); Away (ie. zoo, beach, Children’s Museum); and At Home (ie. canning and freezing, making magazines/comics, playing with friends).
Kevin is in the middle of painting us a chalkboard wall: for messages, reminders, planning, and scribbles. Photos to come. (Inspired by this friend).
I am defrosting the freezers. One down, two to go.
And the kids have spent hours together in the backyard, even though it isn’t particularly warm or sunny out. The sidewalk is being chalked. A rung on the climber has been broken. The potatoes are thriving. Wouldn’t it be great to have a treehouse? A trampoline? Another tier of garden beds? Chickens? A dog? I’m looking around and seeing lots of potential.
Monday supper. Bailey’s pick-up, so it’s a smorgasbord of local food. I always order with this supper in mind: bread, buns, pretzels, cheese curds, sandwich meat, greens, and today there were tomatoes, too. For dessert: butter tarts with pecans. Kevin did the pick-up and used the rejigged new/used stroller, which apparently runs quite well now. I took four kids to swim lessons, so we figured it came out even, especially because I’m still getting into the pool with CJ. Here’s hoping he makes the transition (our second attempt at the transition lessons).
Tuesday supper. Black beans, hamburger, rice, taco shells, tortillas, guacamole, green salad, cheese, crema, hot sauce. And of course birthday cake for dessert. All the kids got the day off school, and we had lunch at the gelato shop uptown. I made one of my standard “meals for a crowd”: set up the food buffet-style, with options for everyone. Kevin made the cake, with help from Fooey and Albus.
Wednesday supper. Coconut sweet potato soup in the crockpot. Wow, this was good. Well, I thought so, and Kevin did too, and AppleApple heartily agreed, and Albus gave it a ho-hum but edible rating. The two youngest refused. I’d make this again.
Coconut Sweet Potato Soup (crockpot version)
Peel and chop three or four large sweet potatoes and two apples and put into the crockpot. Carrots could be substituted or added (we have an excess of carrots right now). Add 10 cups of chicken stock, or veggie stock, or water. Add one can of coconut milk. In a small amount of olive oil, saute 2 large onions, chopped, and 2 tbsp ginger root, along with 1 tbsp of mild curry powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper to taste. Scrape into the crockpot. Simmer on low all day. Blend with an immersion blender, adding a couple of stalks of cilantro (I used frozen; optional). The juice of one lemon or lime can be stirred in just before serving (also optional).
Thursday supper. Pasta with red sauce, and salad. This is my quiet day. I had some friends over in the morning and the little kids played and played. Albus went to a friend’s house after school, and AppleApple walked home with a friend. Kevin and I finished off the day with a kundalini yoga class. It’s always stressful getting everything done and peeling off a crying CJ from my leg, but once I’m in that calm, dark studio space, it feels entirely worth it.
Friday supper. A crockpot recipe called “Mexican beans and rice.” It didn’t strike me as being very Mexican, however. “Mexican,” more like it. Basically, it was a black bean vegetarian chili with some leftover rice stirred in. Passable, but forgettable. Skating is now over, so the big kids walked home from school together (well, almost; Albus walked AppleApple most of the way, then ran back to his friends’ house to play, which he hadn’t okayed with me. We’re working on this independence thing. I was happy he was playing with friends, and AppleApple did pass along the plan to me, but the rule is that he needs to call upon arrival anywhere. A rule he has yet to put into practice. “You should just call me,” he says; which, of course, I do.) AppleApple had her last goalie camp of the session, and Albus had his last soccer skills, so we ate early and quickly. I enjoyed reading with the little ones, got them tucked in early, and met the babysitter secretively at the door. With all the peeling off of CJ I’m having to do lately, I wasn’t too keen to leave him with a new sitter; but decided instead, whether or not it was ethical, to let him drift off to sleep believing his mama to be somewhere nearby, ready if he needed me. But in reality, I was headed out for another kundalini class, and then on to a birthday party with Kevin. It all worked out. Home shortly after midnight.
Saturday supper. We ate at a friends’ house, so I did not have to cook even one thing today. Kevin made the birthday cake that we took along. These are banana bran muffins, which I made on Sunday, in a baking binge of epic proportion. Saturday was a wonderful day off. I went for a morning run, and then a yoga class. We had a few drinks with dinner, and then I went out again to meet up with friends after the kids were in bed. I was pretty tired by the end of it all, and was summoned home just after midnight due to an hysterical CJ, who had woken and was not happy to discover it was merely daddy on-call. Glad that happened tonight, and not last night. Yeesh.
Banana Bran Muffins (makes 24)
In a large bowl, soak 2 cups of wheat bran in the following mixture: 2 eggs, beaten, 2 cups of milk, and 1/2 cup of honey. Let sit for 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, sift together 2 cups of flour (whole wheat is fine), 2 tbsp baking powder, and 1 tsp salt. Add 1 cup of mashed banana to the wet mixture (approximately 2 bananas). Gently combine the wet and the dry, stirring just enough to dampen the flour. Muffins do not respond well to over-mixing. Err on the side of under-mixing. Spoon into greased muffin tins, and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
Sunday supper. Fooey’s meal choice: she wanted to make an “Albus Special,” which is mashed potatoes and gravy and meat all mixed together on a plate. We compromised, not having a hunk of meat on hand, and Fooey made the potatoes, Kevin grilled sausages and a piece of steak, and I made a mushroom gravy that was delectable, if not exactly child-friendly. I spent the day baking. I simply couldn’t help myself. I made waffles (with extras to freeze), baked bread and pitas, and those yummy banana bran muffins, and a batch of chocolate chip cookie bars from my own recipe on this blog, which felt just a little over the top even to me. All good. But not quite a day of rest. Or, I guess, my version thereof.
Mushroom Gravy (makes a little over a cup; double the recipe if you want more)
Saute in 4 tbsp of butter, one chopped onion, one clove of garlic, and several chopped celery stalks. Add and saute 3-4 cups of chopped mushrooms, and 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp thyme, pepper to taste. When the veggies are soft, add 4 tbsp flour and cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, until the raw taste is gone. Add 1 tsp tamari sauce (optional), and 3 tbsp white wine (highly recommended). Cook off the alcohol, then add 1 cup of milk, and simmer gently, stirring often, as the sauce thickens. More milk could be added in 1/4 cup amounts if the sauce is too thick.
Best thing about stepping away from writing week was coming downstairs and appreciating the simple pleasure of doing the dishes. That’s a hard thing to appreciate most of the time, but it’s such a satisfying task: the kitchen is messy, you do some work, and it’s clean again. I like that kind of reward: immediate, requiring only elbow-grease.
My happy place is the kitchen. To relax, I bake. So, this weekend, I baked hermit squares, and homemade breakfast pitas. The breakfast pitas were an exciting discovery. The recipe is insanely simple (yeast, flour, water, salt, honey, and BUTTER). Since this was a first try, I made them without any additions, but may try adding some dried fruit and sweet spices, to amp up the breakfasting pleasure. They freeze easily, and can be popped into the toaster and topped with honey and peanut butter. And since breakfast pitas happen to be one of the last must-buy non-local prepared foods in our cupboards (along with rice crackers, almond milk, and some pasta), I’m pleased to find such an easy and tasty replacement. We’re trying them out with hamburgers for tonight’s Albus-designed supper of hamburgers and homemade french fries. (Albus-designed and Kevin-executed, it must be said).
Our family is edging toward food-weirdness, I realize. Or let’s call it eccentricity. We no longer buy cereal except for special occasions (I make big batches of granola instead). I bake almost all of our bread. I’m adding breakfast pitas to that, starting now. We have glass jars of homemade yogurt lining the fridge. I freeze huge batches of chicken stock for future soups. After-school treats are homemade bars or cookies or popcorn. My favourite snack, currently, is pickled beets and turnips–also homemade (my other favourite snack, kim chi, I’ve not been able to replicate to satisfaction).
Well, we don’t make cheese or butter, but then again we don’t have a cow. Don’t worry by-law officers, no plans for a backyard dairy.
Often, I open the fridge and it looks kinda bare. But the emptiness is deceiving. It’s just that the raw ingredients are stored elsewhere, waiting to be made into meal. I like the way we eat. I love the way it tastes, and, the preparation is my favourite part. A good weekend afternoon, at least in part, is spent with the radio on, measuring and pouring and kneading and filling the house with good smells, while putting away food to feed my family for the coming week.