Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday Supper: Updated with Method

Inspired by this post, I made beans for Saturday supper.  Before we went to a fancy event that morning, I put beans in the crockpot on low with a few garlic cloves, a bit of sage, and some olive oil.  I was betting that we wouldn't be very hungry or energetic at suppertime, but still need something.


I was totally surprised at the success of the supper!  I think it's going to be our standard Saturday supper! Cheap, easy, customizable, delicious.




We had the beans in soup plates with more olive oil and salt.  Then there was good sourdough bread (from the market), thin slices of Parmesan, and sliced tomato.  It was so perfectly, elementally balanced.




On other Saturdays, I could swap out the fresh tomato for a home-canned tomato in the soup plate, or a wedge of fresh crunchy cabbage or even a dish of dried figs.  Something pickled would be delicious here, or even a bit of prosciutto or salami.


The fancy lady even put down her Bible and joined us.

More Details on How I Cooked the Beans:

I do not buy commercially canned beans.  I put 2 cups dry beans in my slow cooker, add 5-6 cups water, and turn it on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours (this varies depending on the time I have and the age of the beans - I don't know how old the dry beans are, but I've read that older ones take longer).  Then I let the whole cooker cool until I have time to portion the beans/liquid into jars and freeze them. This is a habitual task in my kitchen, but I see that I have barely blogged about it!  I will try to remedy that.  (Here are simple black beans, starting with dry beans also).

These supper beans were a variation on the basic method I just described.  I started with the 2 cups dry pinto beans and water, but also added 3 whole garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp. dried sage, and 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil.  A few hours later, I stirred the beans and added some salt.  At the table, we added more salt, pepper, and more olive oil.  The simplicity of the beans meant that they were a great base for whatever accompaniments I had on hand.  It's lovely to mop up the salty bean juices and olive oil with bread. Pin It

Friday, September 26, 2014

Old Cell Phones for Kids

My children are digital natives.  They speak the language of computers and accept their presence as unquestioningly as I accepted telephones and record players when I was a child.  I have deep worries about the way screens seem to absorb us and distract us while real life unspools in front of us.  I want to shield my children from screens for a while as I teach them (hopefully by example!) how to use computers and technology for good purposes in disciplined ways.

One of the teaching things that my husband and I stumbled into began when he cleaned out a drawer of stuff.  Ben asked if he could have the old cell phone.  There was no sim card in it, so my husband handed it over with the charger.  It still plays a few ring tones, takes pictures, and has a few simple games.  Ben adores this little dose of adult screen time.  Then Genevieve got the next old cell phone, which can also make short videos. She adores making little films of her life, filled with kid jokes, inappropriate noises, and strange blurry angles.



Any time they use the phones inappropriately (usually when specifically told to put the phone away, bringing it to the table, or playing on it instead of doing chores), my husband and I confiscate the phones.  One child had a phone removed for three weeks.  That child is a much better listener after that loss of privilege!


No need to buy DS systems or other electronics for kids like their friends and cousins have!  The children love controlling their own little cell phones.  It's a very thrifty way to let kids interact with screens!

What access do your children have to screens and their own personal electronics?  I'm sure this only gets complicated as they get older. Thoughts and advice, please.




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Monday, September 22, 2014

Spiced Grape Butter from the Leftovers

I picked up my half-bushel of Concord grapes at market last week, piling the rest of my produce on top for a big heavy load.  I mentioned my grapes in a chatty way to a market farmer.  We both marveled at the modern juice steamer and agreed we would not make grape juice without it (I borrow one from Rebecca). Then she told me that her daughter takes the leftover grape skins and pips and puts them through a food mill.  She mixes one part sugar with two parts resulting puree, and there's grape butter.

I thought that was something pretty thrifty I could try.  I usually put that stuff left from making juice in the compost.



To my grape butter, I added little pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  These are flavors from a hot spiced grape cider I made last fall which we loved.  And now we love the grape butter, too.

bonus photo of our purple coleus in a clear green vase

So, from that half-bushel of grapes, I got 11 quarts of juice and 3 pints of grape butter.  Not bad for $18 and some time. Pin It

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Uncle John David's Dessert

Aunt Maggie came up from the South bearing beautiful produce from her and Uncle John David's farm.  Ben was in heaven with a huge watermelon and a midget cantaloupe.  That boy loves melons.  Aunt Maggie rolled her eyes:  they had meant to plant full-size cantaloupes, but then, Uncle JD would split the midgets in half, scoop out the seeds, and fill the bowl with vanilla ice cream.




Then Ben's face just lit up.  So, yes, I put cream on my shopping list and made vanilla ice cream, and yes, the boy and his daddy had their cantaloupe bowls filled with vanilla ice cream.



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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Building Things and Selling Flowers

Ben keeps building boats.  He sometimes goes directly from his morning bed to the yard, where I'm sure the neighbors hear the hammering and think a contractor has begun work at the usual hour of 7am.  

First the boats were flat, and they did not float well in our friends' pond.  Now they "have sides."  I tried to tell him about how Noah coated the Ark with pitch, but I'm not sure he heard me; what's the modern-day, average- family equivalent of pitch, anyway? 


The children also work on their Calico Critter houses. I save lids (which can't be reycled) for the creative reuse store, but more often than not, Ben raids the stash to make things for his Critters.  I also flatten cardboard and chipboard to be recycled, and that stash is constantly raided and the scissors constantly dulled for the Critter houses.




These houses are ugly by Pinterest standards, but I know the ingenuity and care that went into them, so I enjoy looking at them.  I get tired, sometimes, of the prettified images of life on Pinterest (and some blogs).  It's so easy to think my life is ugly when, in fact, I am living my life with all its attendant dirt, disorder, and unsightliness that doesn't photograph well.  Maybe I need a break from my Pinterest feed. . . 





Genevieve loves to set up shop, whether it's selling things she's gathered or made.  We are frequently invited to a store and commanded to buy something with real money.  Oh, that girl!  




I bought this sweet bouquet for a dollar.  (A real dollar that she lost in a broken vending machine at the pool with a shrug, until her daddy marched her up to the counter and made her ask for it back because "this is not a game!  This is money!")



I've been feeding these interests with targeted library books and some tools.  I've bought them nails and a hand drill.  I wonder what they will get into next. . . 

(linking up with Leila and Rosie's pretty/happy/funny/real)
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Multipurpose Doorstop

It's always tricky and time-consuming to manage airflow in an old house in the summer.  Our old house does not have air conditioning (nor do I want it - although other people in this family might) and many of its windows stick; in fact, I broke a pane of glass in a shower of dangerous shards this spring trying to force a window open.  So, keeping our laundry room door open to the cool morning and evening air coming in the back screen door is essential.  However, that dumb door (again, old house quirks) doesn't like to stay open.
I finally figured out, duh, I need a door stop.  I recalled a very charming one from my childhood, a brick covered with a knitted duck.  Our neighbor salvaged a brick from our chimney when it was taken down, and made the doorstop.


So I started with a brick.  I thought of making a little fabric bag for it, but then I had an even faster solution:  a basket I already had on hand.



Ta-da!  The basket keeps the brick enclosed and not crumbling anywhere or scraping toes or walls. The basket handle makes it easy to grab and move. When the doorstop is no longer needed this winter, the brick can go back to the garden and the basket can go back to the cupboard. Truly, this simple solution just makes me so pleased. Pin It

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cardamom Balls for the Lunchboxes

Blink, and summer is over and I'm packing lunches again.  Honestly, I don't love packing lunches.  And right now, I've got my hands full with competing freelance projects and canning, so I need easy easy easy and quick.

Cardamom Balls save the day!




I love the flavor of these because I adore cardamom, but also, the honey and walnuts put me in mind of baklava.  Except I'm sure that baklava is very time consuming to make, so right now, I'm sticking with the Cardamom Balls.  Also?  They don't heat up my kitchen because they're no-bake! And they're nutritious!  They really have saved many of my days recently.





Cardamom Balls - passed on to me by Sharon from church, who got it from Audrey, who is the daughter of friends from church; Sharon brought Cardamom Balls to several church events and I begged for the recipe, lost it, and begged again

Mix together:
1 cup rolled oats
3 Tbsp. tahini (could sub in ground sesame seeds with a little peanut butter as needed)
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup grated coconut
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2-3/4 cup honey (start with lesser amount, use more for texture)

I'm never very exact with these measurements.  The main thing you are aiming for is a texture that can be made into balls or pressed into bars (8x8 pan, approximately).  Store in fridge to maintain texture and freshness.  Excellent with a glass of milk or black coffee.  Totally lunchbox-approved.




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