Category: Cooking

Not Here

Wish I were sleeping like that right now …

Sunday. I don’t get on the computer with the new Sunday day of rest plan. Or not quite so much. In any case, certainly not enough to blog. Yesterday, we went to my mom’s church and I groused about being stuck in the nursery the entire time, though at least the service is piped in and CJ gets a kick out of the toys. That sums up my church-going experience for the past nine years. Everyone is very friendly and child-positive at the church, but, really, do you want your kids screaming at each other in the pew over a bag of crayons?

I also read at Word on the Street, and that was lovely. We didn’t get home till about 3:30. Then it was time to do homework with Albus in the office. Give him a piece of gum, and he’s good for an hour of hard work. I’ve been impressed by his dedication. It helped to offer computer time on the far end of the study session. Yesterday morning, he declared that this was “the worst day ever!” (He was especially peeved about having to go to my stupid “art” thing; though once there he was easily won over by all the free swag and treats). By yesterday evening, we heard him proclaiming it “the best day ever!” No kidding. Free candy, gum for study time, and computer play. We even practiced piano together. (Okay, that was fun for me, anyway).

Fooey cooked supper with Kevin, and she really stuck it out over the long haul. She chose from a Mexican cookbook, and the menu was completely her own. We dined on: roasted corn soup (with onions and red peppers, pureed); corn on the cob; potato/lima bean/cheese patties fried in oil (YUM!); lettuce salad with tropical fruit and lemon dressing; and for dessert, orange slices with cinnamon and chocolate sprinkles, and hot chocolate made with real chocolate. Not cooking on Sundays feels like a genuine rest for me.

And going to church changes the shape of the entire day, or perhaps more importantly changes my mental map of the day. It forces me not to plan or do much of anything. And if I were at home all morning, I would find plenty that needs doing and therefore need to do it.

Make Room

Cooking with kids: AppleApple’s menu yesterday was vegetarian. She had a hard time narrowing down her menu choices, perhaps because I went to the library and got out some kids’ cookbooks, most featuring foods of different cultures. In the end, she made iced mint tea with mint picked from our backyard patch (not from a recipe). For the main course, she served freshly made pear/applesauce with mashed potatoes, and a Caribbean-flavoured squash soup, with a red and yellow pepper salad on the side. Dessert was canned cherries from Bailey’s and peaches canned by my mom. It was such a local meal!

Fooey’s up next weekend.

And last weekend, Albus’s German sausage hotpot did the body good.

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Day of rest, two Sundays on: all is well. With church in the morning, it’s impossible to make elaborate plans for the day, and that actually works out fabulously if one is ‘re able to let go of the idea of getting other things done. It does mean piling more into Saturday, perhaps; and I am also now planning to use my Tuesdays home with the little kids as baking days; but if the redistribution of tasks results in more days like yesterday, where I had time to play the piano, work on homework with Albus, and doze off (while trying to read a book), I’m sold. 

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Also thinking about how to fit everything in, and reminding myself that a little every day adds up to a lot. As I prioritize my goals for this coming year, I think about the 365 project, and how committing to spend between 5 -30 minutes a day on that has added up to an ongoing master class in photography. The same goes for the triathlon project, which dovetails with my more general goal to be fit both mentally and physically; this morning, instead of mucking around the house this morning, I chose to go to yoga class, and not only feel stretched out and fit, but I enjoyed a burst of acute organizational powers in the forty minutes afterward, sitting in the sunshine at a picnic bench, waiting till it was time to pick up CJ from nursery school. Lots of notes were taken.

The first step to fitting everything in is to set strong priorities. And then make leaps. Put into play whatever needs to happen to make those priorities become a part of the routine. But stay flexible, because if something’s not working, you can always make changes, even drastic ones. Here’s what went onto my “fitting it all in … a little at a time” list of priorities: triathlon project (including swim lessons for me); photography; fiction writing; church; friends. (That list does not include the daily priorities of feeding and caring for my family, which kind of goes without saying, for me).

The Colour Purple

On the beet theme, for this week’s school lunches I’ve made secret chocolate muffins, which are made with 2 cups of cooked beet puree. That recipe can be found in Simply in Season (as Secret Chocolate Cake).

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I am happy to report that we’ve started “cooking with kids” again: today’s child in charge is Albus, with Kevin in charge of him, and the menu features German fare: spaetzle (a boiled homemade egg noodle), sausage hotpot, with cinnamon apple pancakes for dessert. No beets involved.

Crumb Central

I got tired yesterday. Or, woke tired. Saturday was productive: I made yogurt (4 litres of yogurt!), and baked a batch of bread. I also made almond milk from scratch. But yesterday I felt weary of kitchen work. So I baked a rhubarb crisp for supper (dessert) and left it at that. Our fridge is full of homemade. Our house is in disarray, and thank heavens for my crocs (which I wear as slippers) because the floor is crumb central. (“You don’t have to work all the time, you know,” Kevin told me yesterday, as I was confessing an overwhelming desire to do NOTHING AT ALL.) Yesterday evening, the whole family went into a fugue state: Fooey went off to sleep, CJ puttered with Little People, Albus played piano in order to figure out a song on the guitar with Kevin (and Kevin was amazed by everything Albus knew about music–his ear, his rhythm, his understanding of musical theory; I just knew putting in all those years of early childhood music, and this past year of piano lessons, would be worth it! yay! I truly believe in giving kids the rudiments, so they can take them and develop on them; I’m so excited by Albus’s new enthusiasm); and AppleApple and I worked on her school project (that child has an extremely organized mind!). Time passed. Soon, it was 9:30 and we were like … um, responsible parents, bedtime, sheesh. So, children all put to bed, Kevin and I collapsed in the living-room with a beer, and I said, you won’t believe this, but I swear I spent a lot of time tidying this room today. He said, you won’t believe this, but so did I. It was a puzzle/games disaster, and mixed-up puzzle/game pieces are just endlessly frustrating to sort. The things I found under the couch. But the kids had a fun morning playing restaurant (at least, it was fun till they called me to be their customer, and I showed up and went, AAAAAGHGHG! Mommy has to leave the restaurant right now or she will make you start cleaning all this up!). Anyway, by the time Kevin and I wandered to the kitchen, post-beer, it was past 11. I did not try very hard to set my internal alarm for early morning yoga. And my internal alarm did not go off. Here’s the thing about the early mornings: I love them. But I have to go to bed early. There is no compromising on this. My body makes darn sure of it. So, if I have to choose between quiet early morning and hanging out with my husband, I generally choose the latter. I’ll get a wee bit of exercise right about now (though hardly a zen moment) as I walk to school to pick up the kids.
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PS That photo above is my boys this morning: my biggest and my littlest. One off to work, the other off to nursery school … leaving me alone in a quiet house for a couple of blissful hours.

Kitchen Day

Carrot Bars (adapted from Simply in Season)

Beat together 1 cup of butter, 1 cup of white sugar, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. When creamed, add 1 cup of vegetable (canola) oil and beat till combined.

Add 3 cups of shredded carrot (or more), 2 beaten eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well.

Sift together separately: 4 cups of flour (I used all white, but my guess is that you could substitute some whole wheat); 4 teaspoons baking powder; 1 teaspoon salt. Stir into wet mixture.

Spread on a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes (in my oven, it took 23 minutes to reach buttery soft goodness). Remove from oven, cut into squares while still in the pan and hot, and let cool on the tray before removing to storage containers. In keeping with my no-pre-packaged snack plan, I’ve made up three containers with eight bars in each in preparation for piano and swimming outings (those have gone into the freezer). I also have a full container for eating and lunch boxes sitting on the counter.

This was a good use for those extra carrots languishing in the bottom of our veggie drawer; AppleApple took the last and rubberiest to her horse camp this afternoon.

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Today, I woke up early to go for a run with a friend. We got soaked and the rain was cold, so we did not go quite as far as usual. When I returned, I fed the kids “dessert as breakfast”: leftover rhubarb crisp, served with milk over top. Kevin informed me that my clock was off due to waking so early, and all day I’ve tuned in to CBC Radio in the Maritimes, because it runs an hour ahead of CBC Radio here.
It has been a wonderfully productive kitchen day. Started by making 1. the above carrot bars (with help from AppleApple on the carrot-peeling-and-grating, and CJ on the sifter; whenever we start to bake together, he runs to wash his hands, and then shouts: “Where my napkin, Mama? I want my napkin!” Translation: apron). Then, helpers bored and dispersing, I whipped together 2. Really Good Granola, which, judging by anecdotal feedback, just might be the most popular recipe on this blog. While that was baking, I made 3. my traditional Sunday waffles, with three bags of leftovers frozen for breakfasts this week. Because making waffles is a brainless activity involving time rather than focus, I took the opportunity to attempt 4. yogurt. By this point in the morning, let it be known that I was a touch irritable. Do not interrupt your loving mother while she is trying to do something finicky and brand-new! (It is safe to report that my children rarely–perhaps even never–take note of such advice).
To make the yogurt, I used this recipe, and this one, too, kinda. If it works, I’ll detail my method in another post. The jars are currently sitting in a cooler (in this case, it’s a heater, with boiling water in a container to keep it warmish). I will let you know. Between snapping at children who wandered between me and stove, I had to remind myself that I will make mistakes and operate less-efficiently the first time around, and that it will get easier as it becomes more familiar (like bread-baking, something I can do with my eyes closed; almost).
I still haven’t solved how to make yogurt without creating plastic bag waste (in Canada, our milk is sold in 4 litre quantities divided between three thick plastic bags, which completely amazed and baffled me at age ten when my family moved back to Canada–milk in bags? This is definitely less wasteful than milk in solid plastic containers. But where can I buy milk in returnable glass jars? Without, as mentioned in an earlier post, having to forgo sending my children to university?). That was a long aside. I’ve totally lost all track of where this began. Oh, the final cooking venture of the day is 5. tomato sauce for supper tonight, made up fresh using tomatoes frozen last summer; a batch big enough to put some away for another meal this week or next.

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Fooey spent all morning outside with Kevin, working on her own garden patch. Today is cold. That was some hard work. She came inside for some waffles and playtime, and is back outdoors again. “What would you like to do today?” I asked her this morning. “Look for Pooh Bear, and play.” “Anything else?” “Nope. I guess playing is what I do.”

AppleApple spent all morning working on a magazine she plans to produce, inspired by the “newspapers” that I made many years ago, and which one of my brothers printed and bound in hard cover for posterity, as Christmas gifts, a couple of years ago. AppleApple found the “book” on our shelf and was entranced. We are still working out what computer program she could use to most easily produce the magazine (ie. with the least assistance from her parents). Today, she took a number of photographs for the first edition, brainstormed story ideas, and interviewed every family member on subjects such as: “What is your favourite toy?” (Published interviews will not include CJ, who was taking too long to reply, and being too silly). If you live in the neighbourhood, you might just receive a hand-delivered copy of her first edition sometime in the next several weeks. If you live far away and would like a copy mailed to you, please drop me a line. This is assuming her project comes to fruition … but the child is very determined …

Albus has had a friend day; in fact, he’s had a friend weekend. He was also treated to a 3-D movie last night (the latest Shrek), and returned home with these glasses, of which he is very proud. (I will not post the photo of Kevin in the same glasses, shirtless and wearing his pants like a hip-hopping teenager, which was what he was wearing–minus the glasses–when Albus arrived home and Kevin went outside to chat with the mother who was dropping him off. Now you want to see the photo. But I’m keeping it for future blackmailing purposes).

New Routine

A new Monday, a new routine. I got up early and went to a yoga class, and was home in time to pluck CJ out of his crib. Which was fortunate timing because he’d just started to howl (and to refuse everyone else’s offer of help) upon being informed by a friendly sister that I was at “hot yoga.”

“Mama, no go a hot yoga!” he yelled at me.
“I’m already back!” I said, not quite believing it myself. Starting today, I shall attempt for two weeks to get up early. Two weeks seems a reasonably ambitious goal for a woman who has been a night owl for the better part of two decades. Even infants and toddlers could not make me like getting up early (though I did what I had to do). Maybe getting up early without infants and toddlers will do the trick.
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The oven was on all weekend. Four loaves of ordinary sandwich bread thrown together on Saturday; plus one secret chocolate cake for my mom’s birthday party yesterday (using up the last of the beets, which imparted to the cake a rootier flavour than usual; not actually that sad to see the last of them after a winter of seasonal eating). Sunday, I whipped up four quiches (with spring asparagus and spinach!) for the birthday lunch; and in a late afternoon session, made granola, then chocolate chip cookie bars. My weekend discovery: baking and cooking have become second nature, and no longer require the thinking and planning they once did. I bake bread like I’m reciting the times tables. I peel potatoes and measure spices and gauge what’s lacking in the soup instinctively, which allows me to do it even when I’m exhausted, or less than inspired, or distracted, or engrossed in a radio show. Thank goodness for the radio. CBC radio one, to be specific. My beloved kitchen companion.
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A new week, new routine. CJ will attend an extra morning at nursery school. Our new babysitter will fetch the kids from school on Friday afternoons. I will yoga in the early morning. And soccer will dominate our evenings, and Saturday mornings. I am brainstorming picnic food, consume-in-transit food, make-in-advance food. Tonight’s menu: Wendy’s BIG pasta salad; and roll-up sandwiches on tortillas which the kids will customize to their liking, and bring along to AppleApple’s first soccer practice. (Planned toppings: egg salad, tuna salad, spinach, cheese, peppers and cukes).
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One last tidbit: Soccer in the park started on Saturday, and despite the rain–and, worse, the ominous rumblings of thunder in the distance–we had a good turn-out, and a great practice and game. Most fun–and unexpected–was seeing Fooey participate, fling herself into the gang, elbow her way out of a crowd, and kick the ball all the way down the field to the net. Next up, sending CJ out on the field, too. Hey, he’s got a good solid boot on him.
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P.S. Photos added after text. The first was taken in our backyard, which is beyond paradise right now. This is its peak flowering season. Be alert for fairies. The second photo is from the party, taken by AppleApple (she took a ton of photos, and many of them were strikingly composed). This is her gift for her grandma: a doll that she sewed herself, inside a bag that she also sewed herself. These projects are entirely of her doing, from inspiration to completion. I don’t even help her thread the needle.
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