Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ben Attempts Lettuce Cups

I pretended this was a Korean sloppy joe:  rich salty beef  in lettuce cups.  The lettuce I had on hand wasn't very cup-like, so combine that with Ben's rather caveman-like manners and that's why I picked up my camera.

I don't know if this recipe bears a resemblance to something that Koreans eat, but it is wonderful and easy and a change from the usual.  I served it with jasmine rice (with some bulgur thrown in for health) and steamed snow peas; we also sprinkled some cilantro on top of the beef because I was trying to use up a bunch.  I have some Thai basil in the garden which would be excellent here, too.

  We all loved this beef, except for my husband who was away over dinnertime for work.  After I stopped raving about how good it was, I promised him that I will make Korean beef often.

Also, I just adore this kind of cool crunchy salad element with hot rice and a rich meat.  Proof:  lettuce-tomato beef, cabbage and ham salad, and another meal that I see I haven't blogged about. It is meatballs, rice, chopped-what-have-you-Asian-veggies, and lime mayo.  Oh! And Vietnamese rice noodle salad! I will cook and photograph and blog, I promise.

Easy Korean Beef - serves 4; adapted from Jennifer and from here

Fry together:
1 lb. ground beef
3 large garlic cloves, chopped fine

Add 2 tsp. sesame oil if your beef is very lean.  Otherwise add it with the sauce.

Separately, combine:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2" segment of fresh ginger, chopped fine
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 tsp. cornstarch

When beef is browned and broken up, turn heat to low and whisk in the sauce.  Continue to cook over low and stir until sauce is clinging to beef and hot through, several minutes.

Turn off heat and stir in:
3 spring onions, diced

Serve warm or hot on rice or in lettuce cups.

The original recipe called for low-sodium soy sauce.  I don't keep that on hand because I love salt.  But the resulting beef is salty.

I have grassfed beef, so it's very lean.  If your beef is fatty and you mind it, drain the fat from the pan after you saute the beef and garlic.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Front Porch Pots of Flowers and Herbs

The big pot has (deep breath) coleus, pink begonias, white begonias, Thai basil, marigolds, summer savory, and creeping Jenny.  

The two small pots have thyme and begonias.  

I love how they look, pretty and lush.  I snip the herbs and take them to the kitchen, and I coo at my pretty pots when I water them every morning.

The backyard gardening has more mixed results.  I've planted tomato plants again this year, hoping that a year's break means the soil is healthy again. However, one tomato plant already wilted dramatically overnight despite careful watering and care and a little googling makes me worried that our soil still has bacteria or fungus or maybe it's just that omnipresent, ominous black walnut tree in our yard.  I planted two cucumber plants for the first time ever and there are little baby cucumbers under the prickly leaves!  But the raspberries are puny.  But the backyard herbs are pert and the mint from friends is taking off.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sisters in Matching Calico

First Genevieve needed some summer play clothes and she let me choose the pattern and the fabric and when I told her casually-yet-secretly-shrieking-inside that I had matching rick-rack for the calico, she said, "cool."  I sewed that jumpsuit up so fast because I didn't want her to forget that she had given me artistic control.  Then, there seemed to be enough blue calico that I proposed a shirt for Phoebe, and Genevieve was thrilled.  We're going to ride this trend as long as we can, says this proud mama!

Technical notes:  I added an interior elastic waistband to Genevieve's jumpsuit. She didn't care for the bagginess, and the girl on the pattern front was wearing a belt with it.  I sewed a casing with bias tape, and threaded elastic through it.

I used a jumper pattern for Phoebe's shirt, just altering the shoulders straps into ties to match Genevieve's.  The method was fresh in my mind, so it worked just fine.

 The calico is vintage and I've had it in my stash for years, ditto the rick-rack.  It warms my heart to see my girls dressed in the styles of my girlhood.

Genevieve is also wearing the medal I won at the roller rink earlier that day.  Me!  At my age!  My girlhood skating sizzle was still there under my mom-surface! To be fair, there wasn't much competition for skating enthusiastically to "YMCA."

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Week in Breakfasts (5.23.16)

two kinds of muffins from the freezer
fruit salad

We had been away all day Sunday, so I needed something super easy.  The fruit salad was a last-minute quickie to use up some odds and ends of home-canned pears, banana, orange, and defrosted blueberries.  I had bought a boatload of oranges for Ben's soccer game which was canceled due to rain.

cheesy bacon toasts
sliced oranges

I love these toasts because they are so simple and savory. I probably make them once a week since Jennifer put them on my radar.

defrosted pancakes + peanut butter + syrup
bananas or pears

Sometimes I have a pancake or two left from Saturday breakfast.  I stash them in a bag in the freezer, and when enough have accumulated, I heat them up in the oven in a covered casserole for breakfast.  My kids are confused because it's not Saturday, which cracks me up.

eggs scrambled with spinach and cheese
sliced oranges

I love the flavors of a spinach omelet, but my method is a quick hack for school mornings.  Put some washed spinach leaves in oil in a skillet.  Just when they are starting to wilt, stir, and then crack in some eggs.  Break up the eggs as you stir them around a bit, but I don't disturb them too much because I'm rooting around in the cheese drawer and making toast and waking up children.  Toss in some small chunks of cheese.  Gently give a flip or a stir, but I don't do any vigorous scrambling.  Remove from heat as soon as there are no runny bits left and before it browns.

avocado on toast - some of us had pepper jam, too
sliced oranges

Friday, June 3, 2016

Pretty Weeds

I pulled out a weed, thinking what is that, isn't that pretty all those tiny heart-shaped leaves and then I threw it on the pile of yard junk.  And stopped, stunned.  I discarded something just because I didn't recognize it?  Just because it somehow got the label of "weed"?  And shouldn't I, a novice gardener, embrace the plants that volunteer in my yard and grow enthusiastically with imperfect light and water and furthermore survive (sporadic) eradication efforts?  That kind of tenacity is a gift!

My yard would be boring and dreadfully bare if I was the only one choosing and planting the plants.  I welcome the pretty weeds and I'm going to be the one who decides what I'm pulling out, darn it.

And my mind went right to church politics, which we're having at our church right now. I think I sometimes discard ideas outright just because I don't recognize them - the way I was treating the weeds.  So I would like to think for myself and decide after further inspection which ideas (weeds) are worth keeping around.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mennonite Girl in a Church Basement: A Quilt

I began this quilt three years ago when my Aunt Nancy decided to give me a bag of patches and a mostly-completed quilt top.  It was fabric from her childhood clothes, and she had pieced it when she was a young woman.

I was instantly drawn to the chaos of colors and loose organization.  I unified the quilt by using green perle cotton for handquilting on the front, mint-green backing, and green striped binding.  The name of the quilt refers to Aunt Nancy, the Mennonite girl as she was then, and the mint-green color of many plain Mennonite church cement-block basements back then (I haven't been in one for a while - maybe it's changed).

This is the second quilt I've made where I used three methods of quilting, and I'm really pleased with the texture and interesting creative process.  I don't get bored with it, even on a queen-sized quilt like this (the other quilt was for my mother, and the first time I used the felted ties was on this comforter).

I couldn't wait for the perfect cloudy day to photograph the quilt, so that's why it shows the sunlight and shadows.
Now, I started this quilt just because I loved the fabric so much, but I didn't have a plan for it when it was done.  In fact, it languished for a year because I didn't have a goal for it.

This spring, I knew that it needed to go to my cousin April, Aunt Nancy's youngest daughter.  So I told April I had a late birthday present for her, finished the quilt as I said her name to God over the stitches, and then we visited her in Philadelphia.  She was surprised and delighted and in literal need of a blanket.  Furthermore, she loves folky unique style like this for which I am grateful, because I have a fierce love for things that are not traditionally pretty or trendy. I wanted her to have the quilt because of her mother, but I wanted it to be loved for itself, too.

I am satisfied.  Happy.  And ready to begin another quilt!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Experimenting with Yeast-Raised Coffee Cakes

I mentioned that I was trying these coffee cakes back in the blizzard, but I have no notes and only one photo to show for it. 

The day before breakfast, I make a sweet yeast dough and let it rise once.  Then I spread it or roll it up for a 9x13 pan with some kind of fruity or nut stuff.  It hangs out in the fridge overnight, I bake it the next morning, and sometimes drizzle something over it.  

I love the texture of yeasted baked goods for breakfast over traditional coffee cakes made with baking powder or soda which can seem like eating cake for breakfast.  Too sweet for me!  

These are the combinations (to the best of my faulty memory) I have tried so far:

apple pie filling in the middle with cheddar cheese over top
blueberry/ginger pie filling with lime drizzle on top
raisins and toasted walnuts
Moravian sugar cake - butter, cinnamon and sugar on top
a caramel one from Marion Cunningham's breakfast book
home-canned maraschino cherries (mushy), thickened, with cream cheese drizzle on top

blueberry with lime drizzle
I promise to buckle down and post a real recipe for these coffee cakes.  Just hard to take notes and photos at breakfast around here!


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