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Last week in suppers: Halloween hangover

**Monday’s menu: Sweet potato chili with cornbread.
**Original plan: I’d scribbled “red sauce” onto a notepad for Monday after discovering a half-basket of soft tomatoes. But then Kevin read this recipe in the Globe and Mail, and it called for tomatoes, too.
**In the kitchen: Soaked and cooked black beans first thing in the morning. Chopped veggies and prepared the chili in the afternoon, while simultaneously carving pumpkins. Easiest cornbread recipe ever.
**At the table: Who’s hungry? Who am I kidding? It’s Halloween. We’re about to gorge on candy!
**The reviews: Only one child out of four loves cornbread. A second child will agree to eat it when it’s smothered in chili. And the littlest only wants bread with jam and honey. Ever.
**The verdict: This recipe is a vegetarian keeper. But I skipped the cinnamon sour cream called for in the original.

**Tuesday’s menu: Beans and rice, tortillas, chips, toppings. Retro broccoli salad.
**Original plan: Can’t read my writing. Does that say Mashed Potato Soup?
**In the kitchen: Lots of leftover black beans, reheated after swim lessons. I baked brown rice in the afternoon and also whipped up the broccoli salad.
**At the table: Very hungry active children devour gigantic servings. Two reject broccoli salad. One demands a tortilla with jam and honey. And then he learns a new word: Protein.
**The verdict: I could eat this broccoli salad all day long.

**Wednesday’s menu: Being fed by Grandpa.
**Original plan: Something in the crockpot.
**The verdict: It’s nice to be fed by someone else (hamburger stew with bread and cheese, and ice cream for dessert.)

**Thursday’s menu: Baked potatoes. Cheese sauce. Brussel sprouts and broccoli. Sweet potato soup.
**Original plan: Lentils. But when I saw big beautiful russet potatoes in the grocery store (shopping while hungry for lunch), I had to have them.
**In the kitchen: Scrubbed and baked potatoes after kids arrived home from school. Made soup. Whipped up cheese sauce. Sauteed veggies. Got a little frantic from the multi-tasking; caved and let little kids watch a movie.
**The reviews: “Don’t worry. That’s not squash soup. I watched Mom puree it. It’s probably carrots.”
**The verdict: Didn’t even need the soup. Baked potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. I love you baked potato.

**Friday’s supper. Gallo pinto (beans fried with rice.) Leftover sweet potato soup. Steamed green beans (the last of the local beans, I am sure.)
**Original plan: Leftovers. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.
**In the kitchen: Fried chopped onions in oil, added cumin and ground coriander seed, and then stirred in leftover rice and beans. Nothing could be better.
**The reviews: I was not home to receive compliments because AppleApple had her soccer marathon, and I went for a short run in preparation for Sunday’s actual marathon.
**The verdict: I love leftovers. Especially on Friday evenings. Who has the energy for anything else at this point in the week?


**Weekend kitchen accomplishments: Four loaves of bread. One batch of waffles (no leftovers.) Really good granola.
**Weekend non-kitchen accomplishment: One marathon.

Last week in suppers: enter chaos, from above

**Monday’s menu: Pasta. Red sauce. Broiled shrimp. Chard stir-fried with onions, peppers, and carrots.
**Original plan: Pasta.
**In the kitchen: Cooked as soon as the kids got home from school. Two of the kids I was feeding were leaving for theatre rehearsal just after 5, and needed to eat early. The red sauce was just waiting in the freezer to be used. I jazzed it up with lemon juice and thyme. The veggies turned out well: sauteed in butter, not over-cooked, and I seasoned simply with salt and the juice of a lemon (we have a lot of citrus in the fruit bowl right now.) Totally over-estimated how many noodles we’d need to feed eight people (two friends stayed for supper.)
**At the table: Eaten in shifts at the island in the kitchen due to major construction going on that required the dining-room table to be moved up against the breakfast bar.
**The verdict: The kids ignored the chard. You may be noticing that I’m not one to force food on a child. They ate a ton of pumpkin bread with peanut butter for dessert, so maybe that counts?

**Tuesday’s menu: Peanut noodles with fried tofu and raw veggies (pictured above.)
**Original plan: Beans and rice. But we had all these leftover noodles.
**In the kitchen: Whipped up peanut dressing on Monday night, post-dance-class/run combo, while putting supper away and doing the dishes. Used recipe on my blog, piped in via my phone. Kev, some while into the process: “Oh, that’s why you keep checking your phone.” Me: “Did you think I was becoming obsessed?” Marinated noodles in dressing overnight. Fried tofu and added veggies the next day, before swim lessons.
**At the table: Initially refused by several children, eventually eaten by all. It’s not like there were options.
**The reviews: All good! Thank heavens. I almost made something extra to go along with it, and Kevin suggested I should keep it simple.
**The verdict: Great use of leftover noodles, but, “Remember not to put that in my lunch for school tomorrow.” (Peanuts)

**Wednesday’s menu: Beans and rice. Green beans.
**Original plan: Borscht. But beans and rice was easier.
**In the kitchen: Soaked and cooked beans in the morning. Baked rice before leaving to pick up the girls for piano lessons. Chopped tomatoes and steamed beans upon arrival home.
**At the table: Everyone was very hungry and appreciative. But we have no table to sit around, at present, so the meal felt haphazard. The kids sat at the counter and I filled their plates at the stove and served them. Kevin and I sat side by side at the part of the dining-room table that is accessible.
**The verdict: I miss gathering around the table. But this is temporary.

**Thursday’s menu: Squash with orzo. Broccoli with cheese sauce.
**Original plan: Tofu and veggie stir-fry. But I wanted to try this Squash Orzo recipe that was supposed to be an easier version of risotto, and which I knew everyone would hate. Don’t ask why.
**In the kitchen: This is not an easier version of risotto. It took just as much standing around and stirring. Plus peeling and chopping a squash is hard work. Is there an easier way? But it smelled delicious: cubes of squash cooking with onions and garlic and white wine. Finished by stirring cooked orzo into the squash mixture and adding a pile of parmesan.
**At the table: As predicted, no child would touch the squash with orzo. But I made a ton of orzo, and did not mix it all with the squash, so they could have it with cheese sauce and broccoli instead. Some refused even the cheese sauce. I am getting worried about their veggie and protein intake.
**The reviews: “But you know I hate squash, Mommy!”
**The verdict: Even I didn’t love this meal. Kevin thought it was delicious, but I’m not sure it’s worth the work.

**Friday’s supper: Leftovers, plus dessert.
**Original plan: Yup.
**In the kitchen: Steamed a pot of rice to go with the leftover beans. While Kev took the kids skating, I rented carshare car for an hour and headed out to Herrles, which closes for the season on Monday, to buy veggies and pumpkins. Plus dessert. No Bailey’s pickup, so Herrles stood in for Bailey’s.
**At the table: AppleApple and I ate hastily, then dashed off to soccer (I went for a run.)
**The reviews: Everyone loved the pumpkin pie. But now that Herrles will be closed, along with Bailey’s, I’m at a loss of how to replace my super-easy Friday suppers.
**The verdict: It’s a changing season. Get ready for snow. A very old woman in front of me at the Herrles checkout turned and said, “It’s sad, isn’t it,” and I knew just what she meant.


**Weekend kitchen accomplishments: Lentil soup simmering on the stove less than hour after returning home late Sunday afternoon from a cross-border trip to Ohio, where we spent time with family and said goodbye to my grandpa. This feels like a genuine accomplishment. I’m also working on turning over-ripe pears and bruised apples into sauce. Smells pretty good in here, even if the house is basically a total disaster. (If you drop in for a visit, don’t look down. Or around. Think construction materials on dining-room floor, plus drywall dust, plus bags of travel laundry, plus piles of school work, plus games and toys, plus yet-to-be-carved pumpkins, plus dishes abandoned on Saturday morning, plus this list could go on and on and on ….)

The progress of porch

These photos chronicle several days’ work on the porch. Yesterday, the work was invisible, but important, as the room and the porch got wired for electricity. This morning, when I got home from a lovely early yoga class, there were several men on the upper deck. They will be working on cladding the wood and doing the decking. And the roofers may be here today, too (hard to tell who all is out there; it’s a crowd this morning). Additionally, the electrician is back to wire the floor of my office for heat.

Am I saying “my office” way too often?

I’m now going to head up to “my office,” to use those quotation marks to slightly different effect. Playroom is ascendant right now, office is marginal. The floor is littered with toys. The kids have been using my computer and printer without asking. I feel like it’s hardly mine. But I’m working on a small side project and it just needs to get done; doesn’t matter where; doesn’t have to be pretty.

Isn’t it funny how the closer one gets to something, the harder it is wait? This is true in races, too. The last 500 metres are often the worst of the whole race, and it feels next-to-impossible to take those steps. My coping method is to pretend that I still have another ten kilometres to run. Can I do another ten kilometres? I ask myself, and the answer is always, Yes. Weirdly, the steps come more easily when the finish line is out of the picture. So I’m still saying “Christmas,” when I imagine moving into my office.

Last Week in Suppers: Almost October

**Monday’s menu: Roasted tomato soup. Cheese melts (aka giant croutons). Quinoa and couscous salad.
**Original plan: Thanks for the suggestion, Nath.
**In the kitchen: Roasted tomatoes and prepared soup on Sunday. Made quinoa salad early Monday morning. Good thing, because we had no water all day due to construction mishap.
**The reviews: “I don’t like tomatoes.”
**The verdict: Soup was under-seasoned (my bad). But I could live off the quinoa salad. What did I do before knowing it existed?

**Tuesday’s menu (pictured above): Red beans. Steamed rice. Cabbage salad. Tortillas. Etc.
**Original plan: Chili in crockpot. But this is even easier. And certain fussy eaters don’t like their flavours all mixed up.
**In the kitchen: Soaked and cooked beans while I was home all morning. Whipped up cabbage salad and baked rice during interlude between playgroup and kids getting home from school. Left beans on stove, rice in oven, dashed to swim lessons.
**The reviews: Five stars, man. Or six. All around the table.
**The verdict: Good meal to make in advance. We ran in from swim lessons, set the table, and tucked into the still-warm rice and beans.

**Wednesday’s menu: Ratatouille. Noodles.
**Original plan: Vegetarian lasagna, in response to a request. Turns out kid doesn’t want vegetarian lasagna, he wants the carnivore version. So, he’s going to make it himself, perhaps this Sunday, for “cooking with kids.” (We’re letting the kids cook with meat, if they so choose).
**In the kitchen: Lots of chopping pre-breakfast, toss in crockpot. Smells fabulous. Makes use of languishing eggplant and zucchini and green beans.
**The reviews: Sisterly advice: “If you don’t like the look of something, just swallow it whole.” Motherly advice: “There’s lots of yummy veggies in it, like eggplant.” Albus: “Are you trying to help?”
**The verdict: Meh. Ho-hum.

**Thursday’s menu: Cod roasted on a bed of roasted vegetables (eggplant, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, cilantro). Pesto. Mashed potatoes. Gallo pinto (fried beans and rice).
**Original plan: Fish and potatoes. Thumbed through Joy of Cooking and discovered a use for my eggplant and zucchini, too.
**In the kitchen: Super-easy prep, though peeling potatoes is time-consuming. These were our potatoes, too! Grown in our lawn. (Does that make them sound good, or kind of suspect?)
**The reviews: Some of us don’t like fish; the gallo pinto was a last-minute addition for them (protein!). Those of us who do like fish thought this meal was heavenly. We used the pesto like tartar sauce.
**The verdict: Not vegetarian. But really freaking good.

**Friday’s menu: Food from Bailey’s pickup, plus heated up leftovers.
**In the kitchen: The only work is unloading the massive Bailey’s order, and putting it all away. We buy the bulk of our food from Bailey’s, which supplies us with the ingredients for a 100-mile diet.
**The verdict: Great conversation around the table. Always the sign of a good supper.


**Weekend kitchen accomplishments: Four loaves of bread. Big batch of fresh tomato sauce; extra for freezing. Granola. Fruit custard bars for school lunches (this version’s fruit: stewed plums, plus a banana someone peeled but neglected to eat earlier in the afternoon). Also made a (non-vegetarian) lasagna for Sunday’s supper; Albus was sick for the latter part of the week, and I didn’t want to subject us to any lingering germs with a “cooking with kids” venture.
** Still needs to be made: Yogurt. Will attempt it this afternoon while looking after two little boys.

Do you have a house elf?

I am craving a solution to two tiny domestic mysteries: we’ve got a ghost in the house. A ghost, or a tricky house elf, or an invisible door that leads to a pit of no return into which random objects are being tossed. First, it was Fooey’s brand-new blue water bottle. She remembers carrying it into the house after piano lessons, and she remembers setting it down beside her shoes in the front hall. While I can’t corroborate her story, I remember seeing it in the truck beside her when I strapped her in just before we left piano lessons. How could it have gotten lost between piano lessons and home? But, it is gone. She set it beside her shoes in the front hallway, and we haven’t seen it since.

Next, AppleApple remembers removing her lunch box from her school bag last Wednesday and setting it down … well, she doesn’t know where, exactly. She’s a drifting sort of child. Suffice it to say, we haven’t seen it since. Disappeared. I have searched the lost and found at school, she’s searched her classroom (just in case her memory was in error), and we’ve combed every surface, cupboard, and drawer in the house. The bag was a junkie grocery store special, but it was full of lovely reusable containers and a thermos. Gone.


These small mysteries are bothering me out of all proportion to the value of what’s been lost. It’s their inexplicable nature. I can’t come up with a reasonable theory. And I do like reasonable theories. They’re so comforting. For now, we’re blaming the house elf. We’ve even started referring to the house elf, on occasion. I heard AppleApple calling for the house elf to point her toward a misplaced something the other day (that item got found).


What I meant to write about was the progress on the porch. The footings are in, and some lumber is now being attached and giant screws are being drilled into brick. These photos were taken this morning. My plan is to take a photo every morning, so we can watch our porch grow. That’s my office there. Can you see it? I almost can.

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