Monday, February 23, 2015

Creamed Greens for Breakfast

Last year, we went to a wedding near Jennifer's house, so we boldly invited ourselves over for a visit, but she made it into a brunch.  Everything was delicious, but I was especially taken with a kale gravy that she made to go on top of the waffles.  She told me, nonchalantly (probably surprised at my raves), that it was the More with Less recipe.

our typical landscape - on the way to A's house here

I suddenly remembered it last week with deep hunger.  Fortunately, there are two farmers at market who are still growing greens inside, so I got some swiss chard and made breakfast.  It was divine.

A's farmhouse window - just for pretty

This recipe differs from classic creamed vegetables because it has vinegar and sugar in it - that's the influence of the Pennsylvania Dutch, I'm sure.  In fact, in restaurants around here, this is served over green salads as "hot bacon dressing" (if you want to do this, just omit the hearty greens and serve the sauce/dressing over lettuce; see more in my post on eating this dressing over dandelion greens).



We adore a savory gravy over toast, biscuits, or potatoes for breakfast.  I've made creamed mushrooms, creamed eggs, creamed chicken, creamed spinach, and now. . .

Creamed Greens with Bacon

Hard boil 2 eggs (I steam them for perfection and ease every time). Peel, chop, and set aside.

Fry in skillet:
2 slices bacon, chopped (definitely use more bacon if you're in the mood)

As it fries, separately mix and whisk well to pulverize any flour lumps:
4 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. vinegar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water (unless you're using skim milk - then use 1 1/2 cups milk)

Turn heat under skillet to low.  Add milk mixture to bacon and bacon drippings slowly, whisking.  Continue to whisk frequently and cook on low until thickened.

When thick and steamy, add 1-3 cups chopped hearty greens such as spinach, dandelion greens, or swiss chard leaves (add the stems with the bacon) and allow to wilt a bit in the hot sauce.  Mix in the chopped hard-boiled eggs. Serve creamed greens hot on toast or roasted potatoes or biscuits.

Creamed greens reheat beautifully in the microwave so make them ahead if you don't want to face the stove and a recipe in the chilly dark before breakfast; however, creamed anything does not freeze well.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Late Winter Happiness

Here's a catch-up of some of the things we've been doing.  I'm linking up with Leila and Rosie's collection, pretty/happy/funny/real.

Pretty: I showed the children my Pinterest board of simple valentines, and they politely turned away and made their own with no assistance. They did accept my offer of stopping at AC Moore and each picking out a sheet of stickers (of course we used a coupon).

 They each have about 25 kids in their class, and I fretted that they would lose steam after making a few cards and not have anything to take to school the morning of the card exchange.  

Well, as you can see, they made very charming valentines for each kid in their class, and I insisted on taking photos because I wanted to remember their diligence and sweetness.


Ben stuck one of those heart candy stickers on my wool sweater and I went around for several days before I noticed enough to take it off.  Yes, I wear the same sweaters for days in a row, even when I'm not pregnant.
Happy: We observed International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.  The children were happy for obvious reasons.  I think Ben actually put syrup on top of this pile-up after I took the photo.  We didn't have sweets the rest of the day.




Funny: We've had lots of snow and cold for weeks now.  The children routinely wear their snow boots and snowball each other on the way to school.  They routinely sled on the ice and snow in our back yard and the park (it's the city kid version of ice skating when the sun melts the top layer of snow but the serious cold keeps it icy).  

Once, the snow was even wet enough to pack together a snowman; generally, it's been so cold that the snow is just powder (the high temperature today is supposed to be 12 F).  And the highlight of their day was when I gave them each a carrot for the noses and let them eat it.  Boy, I am stingy about snacks.





Real:  This is 29 weeks of pregnancy, dear reader.  Suddenly, my baby belly is big and can only be housed in maternity clothes.  I was wearing the same blue shirt in the blog announcement photos - how far can it stretch?  

I'm still feeling pretty good and after a bit of drastic anemia, I'm taking Floradix in addition to everything else and recovering some energy that I thought had evaporated due to the third trimester.

photo credit to my husband one morning as I mixed up daily bread after a shower

photo credit to A, in her lovely farmhouse one afternoon


I hope you have some late winter happiness, too!  I'm afraid most people are really tired of this deep freeze and the cycle between cold, wind, and snow that we've had.  I'm still enjoying the hibernating, though.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How We Use Our Tomato Condiments

Last summer was officially known as the Tomato Condiment Summer around here.  I went on the search for the perfect ketchup recipe and ended up with a mash-up I was pretty pleased with.  I also made tomato chutney and tomato jam.  The chutney and jam were inspired by seeing a pin on Pinterest for a fried egg on a black-pepper biscuit with cheddar and tomato jam.  Really, I had to eat that.

So, after eating these condiments for a few months, I can tell you that the tomato jam is our favorite, followed closely by the tomato chutney.



I served the tomato chutney with a breakfast egg casserole, and it was amazingly perfect.  I am currently hoarding the rest of it (maybe because it's so delicious and I doubt I will have time and energy to can this summer, the Summer of the Baby? or maybe I just hoard home-canned things).

We've been eating tomato jam on egg sandwiches and cheese sandwiches with sprouts, but also, memorably, spread on savory scones (this is my scone recipe - subtract the rosemary, raisins, and sugar for savory purposes).

In the photo is a basil and manchego scone; that's actual fresh basil leaves that one of the market farmers gave me as he was bundling up a crate of basil.  I was initially stumped about what to do with the fresh basil because my taste buds and ingredients are in winter mode.


Here's also a breakfast favorite:  avocado on toast with either red pepper marmalade or tomato jam.  So simple and so delicious!



The homemade ketchup is only so-so.  My theory is that it's not sweet enough or that it needs a name change so that when we're not expecting Heinz.  I don't know: red sauce, or savory sauce, or retro something?  I really wish I had made more tomato jam than ketchup.  Now I know!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The $3 Trench Coat

I don't really intend to have dressy coats and everyday coats for children (despite the large amount of time we actually wear them due to weather around here).  It seems eminently more practical to have one winter coat per child.  However, Ben and Genevieve both had hand-me-down dressy coats, but then Ben grew smack out of his with his wrists sticking out pathetically.  I thought I'd scan around the internets, that maybe ebay or Old Navy or something would yield a cheap (I was hoping for less than $15) classic pea coat for my dressy little guy.  Nope.

Then I was cruising through one of my favorite thrift stores and found voila! a vintage navy trench coat, double-breasted with a belt in exactly Ben's size for just (yeah, I already told you in the title) three dollars!  

As if that was not enough, the coat has a zip-out lining, so we're hoping it will be a spring and fall coat, too.


Wish I could find a little man's cap to go with it.


  In the meantime, I am sewing a pair of green plaid Sunday pants for him.  Yes, truly, and I will show you pictures when they're done.  The boy likes to dress up and I will aid and abet him as long as he will let me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Filling the Cookie Jar: Sesame Cookies

These sesame cookies are shortbread's quirky cousin, a cookie that seems too plain until you crunch into it and then, yes, it is a happy surprise: almost savory from the sesame seeds, crunchy yet tender, with a definite buttery overtone.


Yet, these cookies are still meek enough to accept many different assignments:

1. plain into the lunchboxes
2. dunked into whatever hot drink you've got in hand
3. spread with lemon curd, or nutella, or a bit of cream cheese and jam
4. complementing a tray of sharp cheese and fruit
5. an elegant pop-up in a dish of pudding or applesauce


and probably, I could add cardamom to these cookies next time and make them really exotic.  The recipe is from Africa, after all!

I spend a lot of time in this spot while the children are at school; here, editing a cookbook

Sesame Seed Cookies - adapted slightly from Extending the Table, Revised Edition (I was one of the proofreaders for this edition); the recipe is from Nigeria

Cream together:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
scant 1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of 1 lemon

Add:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sesame seeds, toasted and cooled

Stir until well blended.  Cover dough tightly and chill for a few hours.  Roll dough out very thinly (1/8") on lightly floured surface.  Cut into shapes.  Bake on ungreased (I used Silpats) baking sheets at 400 F for 10 minutes, until very light brown. Makes 4-5 dozen.

Notes:  You can use all butter or all white flour.  You can use a different extract and skip the zest in order to tweak the flavors - or try adding a spice.

the cookie jar, flanked by pickled lemons and the fancy cheese dome

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Layette: Baby Washcloths

Isn't a layette a quaint, charming concept?  A layette is simply a complete baby wardrobe for a new baby.  Our new baby doesn't need very much because I saved pretty much everything from the first two babies.  My dad very generously allows us to store things in his garage a few blocks away, so over the past two months, I have inched through the sorting of baby paraphernalia one box at a time.

I found three changing pad covers for a contoured changing pad (which was totally worn out and discarded years ago - I'm definitely buying a new one as I don't see any homemade options that work as well).  One of the covers let out that telltale ripple of pops when I tested the elastic - yes, the elastic had expired.  However, the yellow cotton terrycloth was still reasonably plush and soft, so I decided to cut it into baby washcloths.


Now, strictly speaking, a baby can be washed with any washcloth around, but since baby washcloths are adorable and I had the materials in front of me, I indulged my desire for cuteness.


I cut squares with rounded corners so I wouldn't have to miter any 90-degree corners which would create pokey corners that could irritate baby's delicate skin (if we're making baby washcloths, we might as well fall in with the whole "delicate skin" approach).

I made bias tape from cute flowered calico and used a zig-zag stitch to catch both sides as I sewed it on.  Now I have five cute baby washcloths for essentially free because all these materials came from my stash.


And yes, all those flowers mean that we are having a little girl.  Certain children in this family have needed some time to get used to the idea that this baby is a sister, not a brother. Someone has even suggested that maybe the ultrasound was wrong or that the baby might miraculously change into a boy. . . .but I think those wishes are in the past now, and we are all eager to meet our little girl.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Irish Oatmeal Muffins

I'm not even sure I can describe what makes these muffins so great - slightly chewy, a bit sweet, sort of buttery tasting?  It's the same phenomenon that's going on in soaked oatmeal pancakes, so I'm guessing it originates with the soaked oatmeal part.  The muffins certainly don't look promising and delicious, but they are.


I also really like how plain these muffins are.  Sometimes I just want a straightforward thing that doesn't have a spice or an herb or small pieces of something that I have to peer into my cupboards and fridge to find and chop.  Then I can pair these muffins with cheese, or marmalade, or any kind of fruit or yogurt that's on hand.  I think I might even eat these with soup, in the funny Mennonite way that I was raised (is it just Mennonite moms who serve raisin bran muffins with vegetable soup?  Shudder).

Also, as muffins go, these are pretty easy-peasy.  Marion Cunningham doesn't even warn you to stir them together briefly and gently the way you are supposed to handle most muffins and quick breads, so I've made them for breakfast in a rush and they've still turned out great.  We all love them.

Irish Oatmeal Muffins - tweaked a bit from Marion Cunningham in The Breakfast Book

Combine and allow to stand 6 hours or overnight, room temperature:

2 cups buttermilk, kefir, yogurt/milk
1 cup rolled oats

When ready to bake, add the following to the oats mixture:

2 eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (if you don't have dark brown, cut back a little and add a dollop of molasses)
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil or melted butter

Mix wet mixture well.  Separately, stir together:
1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda

Stir into oats mixture until completely combined.  Spoon batter into muffin tins (lined or greased) to 3/4 full.  Bake at 400 for 15-17 minutes, until top is springy when lightly touched.  Makes 20 muffins.  Eat warm, or freeze when cooled.

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