Saturday, September 29, 2007

As Simple as 1, 2, 3 . . . 2000

I read today at Prevention Magazine that Americans need only do two things to significanly affect their weight issues:

** cut 100 calories a day
**walk an additional 2000 steps a day

I'm going to print out the handy-dandy chart (I love handouts!) and will keep an eye on my pedometer. The 100 calories I think I can manage--isn't that like 2 WW points? But 2000 more steps? With DD and DS holding onto my skirt, that would take all day!

New Bread Variation

This might be might be my favorite Amish Friendship Bread yet: chocolate pudding, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 a bag of Nestle chocolate chunks. It's not too sweet, good texture, perfect for late-night snacking and also for breakfast.

Definitely not WW, though.

But I've done okay with that this week otherwise so I'm not worrying. I lost 3 lbs this week.

I actually had wanted to make four loaves, two chocolate and two almond. I even bought two new bread tins so I could bake all four at once (Did you know two disposable bread tins are only $1 cheaper than a reusable non-stick one? So now I have four reusable bread tins. Doing my part for the environment.) But I couldn't find the white chocolate pudding I bought anywhere. DP looked. I looked. She looked again. I fumed around the kitchen bemoaning "mommy brain." I'd blame it on the kids. Or Yehudi (pronounced ya-hoot-ee). Not sure about the spelling, but he's the little invisible critter that was always blamed for things when I was growing up. I think it comes from the German side of my mom's family. It sounds Yiddish to me, though there is not Jewish family that I know of. Who knows. Anyway, maybe Yehudi took the pudding. Because I can't find it anywhere.

Oh, well. For the record, that variation calls for white chocolate pudding, almond extract (I forget how much), and slivered almonds on top. Yum, yum.

Yehudi can keep the 3 lbs but I want my pudding back!

Am I Speaking Too Soon?

I think we might have eggs!

Yep, a new ingredient. A major food.

We started the egg test last Sunday, first just consuming baked goods with eggs. But beginning Thursday, we've been having scrambled eggs for breakfast.

And NO problems.


Wow. This would be huge.

As would be the nap they are BOTH currently taking now, for the first time in more than 4 weeks since they climbed Mt. Everest, I mean Crib.

Watch out for falling poop because the pigs are flying!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I Struck Out

Setting: our kitchen table, around 5:30
Characters: two children, overtired and hungry; one mom, the same

M: We have a special rice dinner for tonight. Yum. With turkey meatballs.
DD: NOOOoooooooo! Want something else!
M: (dishing it onto the plate) Here it is--you like meatballs and rice.
DS (stuffs onion and rice in his mouth) Onions!
DD: Not on plate. Want something else! Something else!
M: (enthusiastically eating from her bowl) This is what we're having for dinner
DS: More onions. Please. More onions!
DD: NOOOooooooo!
M: You can have cereal.
DD: Something else. No cereal.
M: (giving in) Or you can have oatmeal.
DD and DS: (in unison) OATMEAL!

Fiesta Rice
The adults in the house liked it.

2 lbs spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (we used 1 lb ground turkey and 1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin (used taco seasoning)
4 onions, chopped
4 green bell peppers, chopped (skipped this part)
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (skipped)
4 cups beef broth
2 packages (about 6 oz each) long grain and wild rice mix (used Zatarains, which is seasoned)

Brown sausage in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring to break up. Add garlic and cumin; cook 30 seconds. Add onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos. Cook and stir about 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Place mixture in slow cooker.

Stir in beef broth and rice.

Cover; cook on LOW 4-6 hours or on HIGH 2-3 hours.

The Slow Cooker Bible

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Comfort in a Casserole

I have been musing on babies recently. I have 9--count them, 9!--friends who are pregnant right now, most with second children. I had my second child a minute after having my first and we're not planning on anymore so I'm kinda wistful, a little bit jealous, and a lotta bits relieved at the arrival of so many other people's new babes. My kids, if they could understand, would be relieved too--DD does not like it when I get near a baby, even if she is very curious about babies, notices them everywhere, and plays with her own dolls more. I can't even fathom bringing a little one home now--I tried it with a friend's new baby a few weeks ago and couldn't juggle holding the baby with the toddler crawling up us both. Just like people always tell me they can't imagine having twins! And in both situations you just cope and there are good things and hard things but it becomes normal for you and so you don't notice so much. But the new baby smell, the new clothes, a new little character to learn about . . . even with two kids at home, I won't have that again except if DD lets me borrow somebody for a bit. Mind you, I don't really want another baby but since I don't really remember DD and DS as babies I would love to revisit the experience. You see, they are two now. And we've been to lots of second birthday parties so I'm constantly reminded that all the kids are growing. And I look back and it's a daze, which is part of the reason I journal and am keeping this blog. If I don't remember babyhood, will I remember this period? Our dancing around the living room to Irish music yesterday? How DS says "that be fun" when he wants to do something? How DD asks to be "uppy up?" How DD loves to jump? How DS loves to make music? But I'm not convinced I'd remember another baby's babyhood--or the twins' toddlerhood if there were a baby in the house--even if I could do it all over again a dozen times. But at least then I could be on TLC, right? Now, there's a goal.

So, today I made a casserole for one of the aforementioned friends who is on restricted activity hoping to make it to her scheduled c-section next week. And there I was, in the grocery store on an unscheduled visit, trying to remember a recipe suitable to take. While DD had a breakdown because she isn't napping. And I couldn't think of a thing (no wonder, I was carrying her under an arm screaming and sobbing in a football hold searching the aisle for inspirations. It's a wonder DCFS wasn't called. Though, DS was happily driving the little car in front of the car. He didn't even want to leave when we got out to the car. One out of two isn't bad, right?). And there were no magazines touting church suppers or casseroles or the like. So what did I do? I started reading labels--cream of mushroom soup, crackers, bread stuffing--trying to remember some of the meals I got. I am in charge of organizing the meals and in an odd way, for me, it's how I can take part in this communal pregnancy we're having. Otherwise, despite having been pregnant and being able to talk about it and labor, I feel pretty left out of everything right now. This is how I can help out and feel useful and stay in touch with this.

And so I came up with this--"Swiss" Chicken with Stuffing--which I delivered with bagged salad and some iced lemon cookies. I hope it was good. It isn't how we cook normally--it's American comfort food par excellence, and thus not healthy. It was comforting to me, anyway.

One down, eight to go.

**Whoops, just recounted--the number is 10!


4 cups Pepperidge Farm stuffing
1 1/4 cups water, boiling
4 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 chicken breasts
4-6 slices Swiss cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375F.

Spray Pam on 9 x 13 baking dish.

Boil water and mix it with olive oil. Pour this mixture over stuffing.

Place chicken breasts over stuffing mixture. Sprinkle with paprika. Top with slices of Swiss cheese.

Combine milk and mushroom soup. Pour over casserole.

Bake covered for 45 minutes or until cooked through; uncover and bake for 5-10 more minutes until surface bubbles and browns.

adapted from Pepperidge Farms stuffing bag

Monday, September 24, 2007

No Debate on Cupcakes Here

We're making cupcakes today because we have a birthday party tomorrow.

Perfect timing, as a clever article on the "cupcake debate" appeared in the NYTimes yesterday. Good ol' Texas defending the rights of small baked goods with an amendment! Now only if gays and lesbians could receive the same treatment there.

Avoiding a discussion of the so-called obesity epidemic for now, I myself am partial to the cupcake. Paralleling the trend mentioned in the article, I went for years--mainly 5th grade to graduate school--without ever considering the cupcake. But while living in NYC, I did visit the various cupcake bakeries--Cupcake Cafe makes beautiful floral creations in a tiny space near (or in?) Hell's Kitchen; Butterfly Bakery in Midtown has my favorite Lady Baltimore cupcakes. I haven't actually been to Magnolia, but I've drooled over the cookbook. And I have personally made several batches of cupcakes recently, often enlivening cake mix with my own ingredients.

So, in my quest to find the perfect birthday treat for my kids to take along when we go to parties, we made cupcakes today. Using a Gluten-Free Pantry old-fashioned cake and cookie mix, we whipped up a vanilla cake. I used real eggs and vegetable shortening so the texture of the cake came out pretty well.

And then we made frosting. Come to think of it, DD and DS have little concept of frosting. The only time they've been near something was the fondant on their 2nd birthday cake, which was not really a frosting. They loved watching my Kitchen Aid fluff the ingredients. Even more they liked adding colors--DD chose green and DS liked yellow. It was a trial to keep them from eating it all beforehand (and, so, shamefacedly I admit I gave them each a tiny bowl of frosting to sample)--they loved the super sweet stuff.

But they didn't want it on their cupcakes! When the time came (after shocking said cakes in the freezer to cool), I iced one green. But DD screeched and wouldn't have it near her so I handed it to DS, who gamely crumbled the cupcake but ate everything but the cake touching the frosting. DD did enjoy her plain cupcake, calling it a muffin. And then she asked for raisins to put in it!

The plain, unfrosted cupcakes are ready for tomorrow's party with a few in the freezer for the next event. And, well, DP and I polished off one each, but with strawberry jam and black currant jelly instead of green or yellow frosting, anglophiles that we are.


Frosting Recipe

1 lb confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup shortening or margarine
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
rice milk as needed (used about 3 tablespoons)
food coloring (optional)

Mix sugar, shortening and vanilla together until blended. Add rice milk as needed to get the consistency right.

Score 4-0

I hit a Grand Slam!

Four foods, one week--all successful.

Our church festival was this weekend and I made treats for the bake sale. Wanting DD and DS to have something to choose, I made Pumpkin Raisin Bars with a 1-2-3 Gluten mix. Usually, I would have gotten the babes to help but we were short of time and I made them after bed. Then I snuck them to the bake sale table and we proceeded to shop. Our bars were at eye level and toddler reach so they each chose a baggie of Pumpkin Raisin Bars--and loved them!!!

It probably helps that I used real eggs in the mix, as we are now testing for eggs. No problem so far. And the pumpkin option is on the box--I added the raisins because they love them (well, DS does. DD has picked them out everytime, having changed her mind about raisins. She even once said "Pumpkin bar fixed now."). Like most GF baked goods, they were a little chewy (and like most bars, got a little soggy after 24 hours) but they had a better consistency than most (none of the usual graininess) and a great flavor.

At the end of the day, only one baggie had been sold--I wouldn't trust someone else either (even though I provided the box label and what I added to it)--so I purchased back the extra bags. And we had them for dinner. And breakfast. And probably lunch. :)

My team wins!


We had a wonderful weekend--we went to Dinosaur State Park and had a marvelous time seeing the preserved footprints and wandering the maple swamp. And then we had lunch at On the Border. Now, as a Texan, I really like my Tex-Mex food and had been fairly particular. But living in the Northeast, you don't have so many options. And On the Border isn't usually my first choice. But now, when I'm with my kids, it will be.

We identified ourselves to the server as having allergies and immediately she mentioned the special allergy notebook. Within minutes, a manager came to our table with said notebook--a list, broken down by allergen, of all the meals that a person could have. We learned some interesting things--the corn chips are sometimes fried in the same oil as one of the desserts with peanuts and the grilled onions (you know how we love onions) are marinated in soy sauce for about an hour. With this in mind, we were able to choose food for DD and DS that we could be fairly confident would be fine. Coincidentally, except the onions, it was exactly what we would have ordered--chicken fajitas with corn tortillas. They brought us grilled un-marinated onions and extra quacamole, to make up for no cheese or sour cream.

In all the times we've ever been to a restaurant with the kiddos--we go about once a week and we always mention allergies to the server--this is the very first time there has been a special menu, or anything more than passing interest in our food issues. I was so impressed. And I will go back.

Yay for On the Border!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why Food?

I was waxing philosophical last night as I knitted on a scarf for a friend in Chicago--why did I select food as the organizing principle of my blog? I do other things. I am a beginner knitter, crocher, quilter, and cross-stitcher. All of which I took up after I finished my Ph.D. in art history. I could've just told stories about the family without the food hook, like many other mommy blogs (which, of course, this still is).

So, why emphasize food? This would seem to be the root of my weight and body issues, the interest and dedication to food, so why spend my extra time reading, writing, and experimenting with food? In fact, the weight issues existed long before the more methodical interest in food. But it seems like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Know thy "enemy?" Not exactly.

It's part nostalgia, part history, part sociology, part psychology, part politics. Like it or not, I spend a lot of time thinking about food--what groceries to buy, what recipes to try next, what the kids might like, where DP and I can go on date night when the babysitter is here. And so, I like to think, by expanding my interests in food beyond grocery lists and recipe files to include Slow Food and sustainable agriculture, Alice Waters and Alice B. Toklas, ancient Roman recipes and open hearth cooking techniques, I'm learning something about the world and cultures around me, in addition to myself and my origins.

But don't be surprised if I throw in a scarf pattern from time to time!


One Skein Knitted Scarf

Size: appx. 6 x 60"

Materials: 6 oz worsted weight yarn; size 10 knitting needles

Directions: Cast on 22 loosely.

Row 1 Knit
Repeat row 1 for pattern, using entire skein.
Bind off and weve in ends.

Adapted from Lion Brand pattern

Going for a Grand Slam

I have been on target with food for the kiddos these last 24 hours--three meals have been great successes. Mainly, because I've stayed away from beans. They have all been new meals so I'm very excited to have added something to my repetoire.

First, dinner last night was Garlic Pork Roast (we use chops). This is basically pork chops with sweet potatoes (which oddly aren't mentioned in the title). And onions. I added lots of extra onions. DS liked it so much that he woke up this morning asking for pork chops and onions.

Secondly, for our playgroup picnic at the park, we made cake--Applesauce Raisin Cake. It was a Namaste bag mix (spice cake, I think) to which I added extra cinnamon. And we used the leftover applesauce from a few weeks ago (that freezes beautifully!) as topping, kind of a "right-side up" cake. DS still insisted it was "upside down," which is his all-time favorite (he's unfortunately off pineapple right now, hence the applesauce substitution). And then, as we were stirring the mix, DD suggested raisins. Wow--color me impressed. So I fetched the raisins, they threw in handfuls, and then they proceeded to dunk whole hands in the batter (not to worry--no real eggs, just No Egg replacer) fishing out the raisins to eat. Baking with toddlers is always entertaining. It took a little extra time to bake but was mightily successful.

Finally, dinner--Wild Chicken Rice Soup. I was iffy that they would like this and had yesterday's pork on deck but that was unncecessary. They loved it. Especially the celery and--you guessed it--onions. But they ate the chicken and even some of the wild rice. And DD kept picking out the carrots to eat first, her favorite.

So, I've got bases loaded, which is a nice change after so many rejected legumes. And since DP is staying late for a work function tonight--I kid you not, there's a visiting swami--I'm going to peruse some magazines for some other ideas. I have back issues of Living Without to go through and I think Eating Well this month had a vegan banana rice pudding. And of course, I have Food TV on . . . root for me, I want to bring this home.


Garlic Pork Roast

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (2 pound) boneless pork roast salt and pepper to taste (we use pork chops)
4 sweet potatoes, quartered
1 onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth

Heat oil in large heavy skillet. Season meatwith salt and pepper, and brown in oil. In a slow cooker, layer sweet potatoes, onion andgarlic. Place browned roast on top of vegetables, andpour in chicken broth. Cover, and cook on low setting for 6 hours.

Wild Rice Chicken Soup

4 quarts nonfat chicken broth
4 carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 lbs. chicken breast tenderloins, cut into 1/2” cubes
½ cup uncooked wild rice
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (actually, I used 2 bay leaves and some seasoned salt instead)

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine allingredients in slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on low heat for 6-7 hours.

Jyl Steinback, The Busy Mom’s Slow Cooker Cookbook

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bread Variations and Information

Our annual church festival is coming up soon and I'm making various versions of Amish Friendship Bread for the bake sale table. So far, we have regular, dried cranberry, lemon poppyseed, and strawberry. I'll also be baking some GF treats, if only to buy them for the kiddos a few minutes later.

I have learned a few things about the bread, either directly or from internet research:
*You can wait a day or two to bake it.
*Each bread recipe (making 2 loaves) uses about 2 cups of starter (perhaps a little less). Or, 1 cup per loaf.
*Liquid egg substitutes work.
*Don't use the starter if it turns pink.
*It will die if you don't feed it.

Regular: I used the standard recipe with chocolate pudding and a handful of raisins.

Dried Cranberry: add 1 cup of dried cranberries (I used orange-flavored craisins).

Lemon Poppyseed: use 2 teaspoons of lemon extract instead of 2 teaspoonsof cinnamon and 2 small packages of lemon pudding instead of 1 box of vanilla; also add 1 tablespoon of poppyseeds.

Strawberry: use 1 package of strawberry jello instead of vanilla pudding and 1 cup of frozen strawberries (defrosted); be sure to include cinnamon


DP says my original, non-starter quick bread is better. Especially with cold cream cheese.

Strawberry Bread

The first quick bread I made for DP—I made it one weekend I visited and left her the loaves. Those frozen strawberries are messy but work really well.
Makes 2 loaves

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped pecans
1 ½ pints strawberries, washed and stemmed (Note: 2-10 oz. packages frozen
strawberries, thawed, may be substituted for fresh.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar; mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix eggs and oil; add to dry ingredients. Stir in pecans. Fold in strawberries until moistened. Pour into 2 greased 9 x 5 x 3 in. loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.


Food Writing 101

That is probably too ambitious a title for this post as I am in no way an expert in the genre of food writing, an accomplished writer myself, nor even a prolific and well-rounded food writing reader.

But I know what I like.

I read the NYTimes food section weekly, for escapism and inspiration. The same with Saveur and Gourmet--these are recipes that I almost never cook but always clip and ingredients I often can't afford or even identify. I'm not what you would call a "foodie." First, I won't eat raw tomatoes. Salsa, ketchup, tomato sauce--fine. Slices of beefsteak, little round cherry--no way. Nor do I particularly like seafood. I like my mom's fried fish and shrimp straight from the Gulf, and cod or scrod or any other bland fish. But otherwise, no thank you. Especially sushi. And mind you, I've been taken for sushi in NYC with a Japanese native so I've seen the real thing. I'm assured I'm missing out; probably, but I'll live. And I can't eat spicy. I know, I'm from Texas, but I just can't stand the heat. There are other things I won't eat, but I will read about (or watch) almost anything--"Iron Chef" was long a favorite, and, while I would never have even tried most of the dishes, DP would have tasted most of them.

Another indication I'm not exactly a foodie: I love Taste of Home magazine. It's the ultimate in comfort food reading. My mom didn't even cook that way--I remember begging her to make hamburger helper when I was a kid--but she always had to cook from scratch! But somehow reading about a 3-can casserole and a Jello salad evokes nostalgia for my childhood. Maybe it resembles the food I ate at the school cafeteria (I wasn't a big sandwich lover and so I usually got a hot lunch).

Right now, I've got two editions of the Best of Food Writing in my car, for when the kiddos fall asleep. By my bed, I am reading A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove by Laura Schenone. Downstairs in the living room are all my magazines, the above mentioned titles plus Cooking Light, Weight Watchers Magazine, and Everyday Food, which is the one I most consistently use (and which has the least amount of actual writing). On my bookshelf are my beloved copies of Laurie Colwin's writings, a history of cookbooks, Humble Pie, plus a variety of other food writing books. And, bookmarked on my compter is, my favorite website after the NYTimes. I read it regularly, plus some of the blogs of its individual contributors.

But there is no way I can keep up. The sheer volume of food writing is astounding. Indeed, a fabulous article by Molly O'Neill in the Columbia Journalism Review (excerpted in the Best of Food Writing) recounts how the genre has developed and expanded, from early how-tos for social climbing housewives in the late 19th century to middle class virtual hedonism in the late 20th century. I like both, thus Taste of Home and Saveur, and, while I won't be able to contribute much to the genre in the way of exoticism or literature, I can share some good stories and some good food.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Choose Your Favorite Apple Aphorism

Okay, another apple post: we made apple pie with a Gluten-Free Pantry crust yesterday. Not exactly a success. 20 tablespoons of vegetable shortening (because we couldn't use any butter) made it a very greasy dough that we couldn't roll out. Unfortunately, the box didn't say "reserve some mix to flour your rolling pin" and I didn't have any other GF mix in the house. And I was out of wax paper. So we "pat-patted" it into my pie plate, getting it all over the floor and everybody.

They loved the apple-cinnamon mixture, though. And ate it even after we dumped the top crust on, finding cracks to pull the apples out of.

The pie itself came out okay, very crunchy. It probably would've been okay if we could've actually rolled it; ours looked more like a cobbler or biscuit topping. They both ate a big piece as soon as it cooled off (rapidly in the freezer), very proud of their pie, if not that enamored of the crust and just eating the apples. So, I'll probably try it again.

I just want to make them a glorious apple pie like the ones on the cover of all the magazines right now (I think Eating Well's is my favorite pic). And if you want to read a great homage to pie, try Humble Pie, which will make you yearn for a slice and reach for your rolling pin.

Oh, Soy!

Well, our soy test this week didn't go as well as hoped. After 7 days of soy milk for breakfast, DS had breakouts on one arm and the back of one knee. It could've been the bear-shaped graham crackers he inhaled before anyone could stop him at the playgroup (asked about them, he said "Good!"), but I kinda doubt it (so, if you're reading this, J, it's not your fault; well, it wasn't anyway, because I should've been watching him). But the reaction took 5 days to show up and was only present after we introduced soy milk. Last week, we were doing lechithin and soy as an ingredient in other things (like soybean oil) without any problems. So maybe it's just a sensitivity to soy in large quantities. Who knows. But for now, we're getting rid of the soy milk but allowing the emulsifier, which does expand the number of things we can have by quite a bit.

Now only eggs, dairy, wheat, nuts, and various fruits to go . . .

. . . that we know of.

With Apologies to MasterCard

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 hours
Eating time: Worthless

It reminds me of something I read in a food writing anthology recently (more about my love of the genre later) about a woman on the prairie in the 19th century who regularly cooked for a horde of farm laborers. She was taken out of her house screaming, "And they ate it all in 15 minutes!"

I get it. But at least her eaters actually ate. Mine can turn up their noses at dinner in seconds.

There's never any telling what will fly and what won't, though I should have known that Hamburger (or for DS "hamgurmer") Lentil Soup wouldn't work for DD, who abhors legumes. But it had ground turkey which is a staple. She managed to pick every single little lentil off her spoon before eating the bite. Which means of course that eating time wasn't "worthless" at all. Not that I think she actually got a meal's worth of food.

Good thing I liked it.


Hamburger Lentil Soup

1 lb. ground beef (we used turkey)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cups lentils, washed and sorted
4 carrots, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
4 cups tomato juice (we used 28 oz diced tomatoes)
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Saute ground meat and onion. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook for 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.

Adapted from Fix it and Forget It Slow Cooker Recipes

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Tree Falls in Connecticut

We arrived home today to police tape and emergency vehicles on our street. And inches away from the car we almost never leave on the street (except today because we had company) was half a 40' tree. It was a beautiful day in the Nutmeg State but the tree was rotten and fell into the power lines, cutting off power to the block for hours and almost demolishing our car.

All while we enjoyed a local farm's fall array of pumpkins and squash. We didn't do any PYO this time, as we still have bushels of apples from our last farm foray. But the kids enjoyed wandering the pumpkins and drinking cider from little plastic apples. I picked up a great wicker pie plate holder that I can't wait to try out. I love my apple pie recipe, which comes from a dear college friend. I'm going to need to adapt it for the babes but think I found the right vegetable shortening for the pie crust mix from Gluten Free Pantry. I'll let you know how it turns out (I would've made it with the babes this afternoon but power didn't come back on until long after bedtime).

Until then, there's firewood in the front yard and apples ready for baking.


Patricia’s Apple Pie
Now this is my signature apple pie, made for all holidays. And as Grandma always used to say, “Apple pie without cheese is like a hug without a squeeze!” DP didn’t believe until she tried it (now there's always a hunk of cheddar in the house during apple season).

¾ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon nutmeg
6 sliced, peeled apples
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
pie crust (I use store bought) and crumb topping

Peel and slice apples, soaking in water and lemon juice to prevent browning. Heat oven to 425°F. Mix sugar, flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir in apples. Cover with crumb topping. Cover edge of pie with aluminum foil, shiny side out. Bake 40-50 minutes, removing foil for last 10 minutes.

Crumb Topping

1 cup flour
½ cup firm margarine
½ cup packed, crumbly brown sugar

Mix with fork and sprinkle on top of pie.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Lesson for Today

You know how you are supposed to throw flour on a grease fire?

Well, they never mention that the flour will also catch fire.

It does eventually burn out.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's That Time Again

After a week of eating out with my mom, it's time to be more sensible and healthy (read: back on Weight Watchers). Our leader focused on dreams and outcomes this week, giving us the following recipe for a Dreamsicle smoothie (I wonder if you can freeze it?).

1 WW vanilla smoothie packet
1 can diet orange soda

Combine in blender and enjoy.

I give two other (non-WW) recipes for a dreamsicle/creamsicle, which is one of my favorite ice cream desserts:

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie

2 frozen orange juice bars
½ cups cold milk
1 cup vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
¾ cup cold orange juice

Blend the juice bars, milk, ice cream and orange juice in a blender. Can substitute frozen orange juice for orange juice bars.

Alternate: Orange Freeze (much easier)

2 scoops orange sherbet
1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Slow Food

While I certainly admire the concept of the Slow Food movement, the closest I get these days is my slow cooker. And I love my slow cooker! My neighbor down the street loves her pressure cooker, which is the exact opposite kitchen appliance, and we get into friendly arguments over which is better. It's all about how you like to do things: she thinks about dinner 30 minutes before it should be on the table and there is no way my kids want me in the kitchen at that time. But, they don't mind if I cook dinner, or really assemble it with DP (who does all the meat--I can't do meat, especially at 6 a.m.), during breakfast. And this way I have help!

I have numerous slow cooker cookbooks but it all boils down, for the most part, to meat, vegetables, and sauce. Unless we're doing applesauce or queso or dessert. Or the beans DD dreads. No one else I know uses one--my mom didn't have one, my playgroup mommies do own them (does everyone get one as a wedding present? we got ours as a reward from the company DP worked for in Chicago. Well, there were points and a catalog and that was the thing we liked best) and express interest in using them but don't seem to--but somebody must because the recipes are everywhere. Cooking Light published an independent volume with recipes, the Prevention Guide regularly puts out a slow cooker edition, even Rachael Ray had them on her cover this month. Maybe it's all because of the Fix It and Forget It phenomenon, which popularized slow cooking. Again.

Anyway, the following recipe, which was a real hit with the kiddos (they adore apricot preserves), is in no way about Slow Food, what with all the dry onion soup mix and bottled salad dressing, except it took 8 hours to cook. It's from my favorite slow cooker book of the moment, Jyl Steinback's The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook. And it might sound gross and overly sweet but it really does come out very well.

Apricot-Glazed Chicken

1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon onion powder
1cup nonfat Catalina salad dressing
1-1.1 oz packet dry onion soup mix
1-10 oz jar apricot preserves

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker; sprinkle with garlic powder and onion powder. Combine salad dressing, onion soup mix, and preserves in a small bowl and mix well. Pour salad dressing mixture over chicken. Cover and cook over low heat for 6-8 hours.

Jyl Steinback, The Busy Mom’s Slow Cooker Cookbook

Apples, Apples Everywhere

So, we went to a PYO orchard last week before my mom arrived and romped around the orchards picking more apples than we'd ever need. And those were just the ones that actually made it into the bags! Our goal was to make our own applesauce or apple butter with my mom. You know, family fun. An experience. We came home with pounds and pounds of Ginger Golds and Paula Reds.

Oh, and Asian pears. An aside about these pears: DP is Chinese and gets a little--um, what's the word?--obnoxious about how the Chinese are superior to mere Anglos like me (last count, depending on whom you ask, I'm English, French, German, Welsh, and Scottish. See why it's just easier to say I'm a Texan?). Anyway, this orchard had Asian pears. These are round, juicy, crisps, actually very superior pears. And the kids loved them more than the apples. Which made her very happy. And obnoxious. It's cute, actually. But I don't know how to make anything with Asian pears except eating them cold out of the fridge, so back to the apples . . .

While my mom was here, we started our applesauce project. The lady at the checkout counter had told us that Ginger Golds made great applesauce. We filled a great big pot with water so the kids could "wash" the apples. They ended up more wet than the apples, as did the cat who was curious about the whole procedure. Grammie and DP peeled and cut the apples while I measured the other ingredients. DS repeatedly swiped whole apples and took several bites, while DD preferred the already cut pieces. Turned out we had about 3 times the number of apples we needed but, since we have a large slow cooker, we just made them all. The kids love applesauce.

We left for church and came home to a house redolent with the smell of fall. Oh, it was amazing. And delicious too. I think the adults ate more than the kids, who were surprised that it didn't look like store-bought jar applesauce. Too dark, too chunky. Even if it was better. They didn't eat much, while we planned pouring cream on bowls of it, or filling pie crusts with it.

Try it yourself, from Jyl Steinback's The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook:

3 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (we used Ginger Golds)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine apples, sugar, and lemon in slow cooker and toss to mix. Cover and cook on high heat for 3-4 hours. Mash apple mixture until smooth (we skipped this part). Sprinkled with cinnamon and mix well. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.

Note: we cooked the cinnamon in with the apples, having misread the recipe, but I don't think it hurt it any. And it smelled so good.

The Best Hot Dog Ever

All jokes aside, I'm not really that in to hot dogs. They're good, like at a ball game or park. I have had some excellent ones. There was a vendor at the World Trade Center who would grill them; I always took visitors there for the view and the hot dog. Chicago as a city worships the hot dog, with celery salt, tomato slices, and other oddities--but they are tasty. But I don't seek them out. I'm more of a chicken finger gal. But DP loves her hot dogs. Good ones, mediocre ones, though not bad ones (she shuns the microwaved hot dog). She likes all the toppings and loved when we lived in Chicago with a hot dog shack on every corner. But then she is from NYC, home of the hot dog cart on every corner . . .

Anyway, the other day I accidentally left my cooler of lunch for the kids at home during one of our outings. Good grief, what were we going to eat? As luck would have it, the tiny cafe at the museum sold hot dogs. Hot dogs without any of the fillers that my kids can't eat. Sure, the lady with the son who had celiac and was also reading the label noted, they had nitrates, but what is a cooler-less mom to do? So we had hot dogs. All three of us. And they couldn't have been happier! First, it was the kind of food everyone was eating, including Mommy. And they do love hot dogs (even the uncured turkey dogs I buy from the natural food store). So now we've eaten hot dogs all over Connecticut--at the orchard where we picked our own apples, at the zoo, at the mall. Without any allergic reactions. It's fantastic. They're having a great time being like everyone else. And even if it's a mediocre hot dog, it's the best food ever.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I'll be back

After days of posting really regularly, I've been a little overwhelmed here. While the babes are sleeping at night in their big kid beds (well, they go down okay, but they've been waking up 5-10 times a night. Each. Separately.), they are not napping at all. Which makes for a really long day. On good days, after hysterical playing and then exhaustion during "rest time" which leads not to sleep but to injury, I put them into the car and they're asleep before I'm off the block--I've gotten a lot of crocheting and reading done that way. In fact, today, I finished Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's Pulitzer Prize-winning history A Midwife's Tale, about 18th-century midwife (and ancestor of Clara Barton) Martha Ballard. It was a wonderful journey through one woman's remarkable life as well as a social history of New England, about which I know little (my Ph.D. is Victorian England not colonial US). But I'm too tired to try to encapsulate it cleverly here.

For the next few days my mom will be here. So there should be some great recipe posts. Or none at all. The twins do wear a person out, despite her best intentions to cook.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Family Affair

We have wonderful neighbors, the kind of neighbors you imagine people those 1950s and 1960s tv shows--generous, friendly, caring, always fully stocked with cups of sugar, and ready to keep an eye on your kids--but also down-to-earth, hysterically funny, and dedicated fans of Desperate Housewives. We've only been in the neighborhood for a few years while these families remember the births of babies now entering later grade school. They've all grown up together, kids and parents. But despite our being the new moms on the block--mind you, we're the only lesbians for at least, well, a block (there are "family" families both east and west by about a block), and no one seems to care (except a couple of the kids who are just curious--is DP a boy? where's the daddy? It's good practice for us)--they've always included us in such get-togethers. Which has always meant a great deal to us.

Actually, they're the kind of neighbors I grew up with. We had a gang of about 6 families, all with kids within 3-5 years of each other. We'd run between all the backyards from after school to after dinner. And on weekends, our parents would congregate in a yard for a crawfish boil or a barbecue (this was Texas, not Connecticut, so the food was different). We rode carpools to school together, went on field trips and also vacations, later attended weddings and now, unfortunately, even some funerals. But it's been 30 years and, even though the families have dispersed to new neighborhoods, the old one still exists for us all psychically. To have found such a place for my own children is the very reason we gave up NYC for the 'burbs. Yards with picket fences and the friendly neighbors on the other side.

Today was the Labor Day picnic. And we had a wonderful time! For the first time, the kiddos weren't particularly clingy (and neither were we)--they had a field day jumping on the trampoline, even with the older, bouncier boys. They also liked exploring a different swingset, complete with horse glider and monkey bars. And managed to eat a whole pile of things--corn, chicken drumsticks, hamburgers, corn chips, salsa, cherry tomatoes. Though, not surprisingly, they didn't eat my baked beans. DD has a thing about beans right now. Ick.

But I include the recipe here anyway. It's my mom's recipe and my favorite way to eat baked beans. Perfect for any picnic. And perhaps, one of these years, we'll host.

Baked Beans
Often served with BBQ, this oh-so-sweet side dish is bubbling goodness! Mom’s note (10/01): “Not all recipes have bell pepper. Friend of D-- and E--served this and Pop really liked it.”

4 slices bacon
½ cup chopped onion
2-1 lb. can Pork and Beans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon ketchup
chopped bell pepper

Cook bacon until crisp, drain and crumble. In 2 tablespoons of drippings cook onion and bell pepper unil tender but not brown. Add with bacon to beans and other, mixing well. Put in 1 ½ quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 350°F for 40-45 minutes.