We have all been sick with the stomach flu, my nemesis. I would rather be sick with almost anything else. As I lay on the sofa, I finally reached the last of the Southern Living magazines my friend Andrea had given me (thank you, Andrea!). I had torn out a few recipes and when I considered what to eat as we moved past the B.R.A.T. diet, I recalled the one below. It is named for the public health nurses who once showed young mothers how to make nutritious meals. I was amused that it was "nursing" my family back to health and strength.
Community Nurse Macaroni & Cheese
Cook until very al dente:
1 box (16 oz) macaroni
Mix together in bowl:
1 c. dry milk
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 c. water
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 pound shredded sharp cheese
3-4 Tbs. melted butter
2 beaten eggs
Combine with macaroni and put in well- greased casserole (about 9x13 size - this is a BIG recipe).
1/2 c. bread or cracker crumbs
Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes (until bubbly and edges are turning tan).
It's an easy mac-n-cheese, but I can tell I'm not myself: normally I would have halved this recipe and still had leftovers. And I totally forgot to put the flour in until it was in the oven for 10 minutes, so I called my friend Rebecca for advice. On her recommendation, I whisked the flour with a bit of milk and tried to shove it down into the baking goop without disturbing the crumbs over much.
Overall, we liked it, but I would have liked more creamy stuff clinging to the macaroni. However, I am not fond of making white sauces, so I might fiddle around with this one to get it more to my liking.
It's already mud season here, with the temps in the 40s. But I send my children out to play for the fresh air and my mental health. (Some of) the results:
I had just washed this little coat a few days prior, and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I could brush the mud off instead of wangling a time to wash it when it wasn't needed and then waiting for it to dry. Brushing worked! Maybe I'm the last mother to find this out. . .
I used a hairbrush to brush Ben's coat. Should I invest in a clothes brush? What is that, anyway? I'm eyeing my pale blue wool winter coat and wondering if its faint smudges would brush out too.
With mostly starchy root vegetables available at market, I decided to grow my own vegetables: bean sprouts! Directions from More with Less.
First soak 1/3 cup mung beans overnight. I want to find local organic alfalfa seeds to sprout - it's on my to-do list, so I'll report back on the results.
Then put the soaked beans in some kind of dishtowel that won't irritate you if it gets stained. Fold the towel loosely over the beans. Put the whole business in a colander, run warm water through it, and set it in a warm dark place to grow.
My warm dark place was inside a stock pot that I store on top of my refrigerator, covered with a beach towel just in case light was peeking in. I know, very attractive. Now write yourself a note because you have to run warm water through the cloth/beans three times a day for three or four days. This is mine:
After day one, hopefully your beans have started sprouting.
In 3-4 days, or when the white sprouted part is at least an inch long, they're done! Put them in the fridge and use them within a few days.
Use them to make Eggs Foo Yung (along with local organic celery, spring onions, ground beef, and eggs). So easy, so delicious, but next time I want to use some of my Christmas ham squirreled away in the freezer instead of ground beef.
Eat with brown rice (organic, not local) and sauce with nothing local (sighhhh - they do grow soy beans around here - is local soy sauce in the future?).
Then have some local apples, roasted while the rice baked, with local butter and non-local brown sugar. With homemade yogurt from local milk. My sister, who stopped by at dinnertime ("really? what time is it??") was very grateful. I'd really like to post a picture of her after Genevieve put barrettes in her hair, but silly me, I promised I wouldn't.
When the weather got cold, I noticed Genevieve had lots of bright tights and no plain skirts. I don't really make clothes for my kids because my theory is that they grow too fast for me to feel the work was justified. But really? I take it back. This skirt was FAST and she has worn it a lot. The pleats look a little funny in the photo, but not in real life.
One problem: little girls' lack of waist. So it does slide down if she is jumping on the trampoline or running to market. See how nice Genevieve is standing in this picture? I bribed her with a piece of gum. She will do anything for gum.
Anyway, my friend Rebecca told me that back in the day, all little girls had suspenders on their skirts that solved this problem. The suspenders could be worn over or under tops. I've since seen this phenonmenon in Eloise Wilkin illustrations. But I'm simply too lazy to put straps on G's skirt. I did put a pocket on it, though, for her little hanky.
On Saturday, I soaked some beans for a few hours, then cooked and seasoned them. I was planning to put corn pone on time-bake while we were at church. But
On Saturday night when I was looking over final plans, I realized that I probably could not do corn pone on time-bake because the beans are supposed to be hot when you dollop the cornbread batter on top; plus, the batter just has baking soda in it and I haven't experimented with the night kitchen method for baking soda baked goods. I considered putting the beans on timed-bake to be hot when we got home and then putting the batter on top, but it has to bake for 30 minutes. That seemed a bit long for my goal.
Too late to change plans entirely, I just defrosted cornbread and we ladled seasoned, juicy beans over cornbread for Sunday dinner. Just fine, and rather plain, to balance the rich 7-Layer Salad. This is a standard of Mennonite potlucks because it must be assembled entirely ahead of time and it's just dang good.
First Genevieve helped me wash and tear spinach for the first layer.
Then I used what I had: defrosted peas, chopped celery, grated carrot, chopped hard boiled eggs, and chopped spring onions. Just so you know, Mom, I do have the "correct" recipe!
The final three layers are a mayonnaise dressing, grated cheese and bacon bits.
Before going to church, I put the beans in the oven in my covered Dutch oven and set the timed baked for 40 minutes at 350, to finish at noon. When we got home, I had hot beans, defrosted corn bread, and a salad in the fridge. All we had to do was set the table. I squeezed in a quick photo.
7-Layer Salad Recipe (from my mother)
1 med head lettuce, dried and torn
1 c. diced celery
1 c. frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 c. diced green pepper ( I usually use grated carrots)
1 c. sweet onion, diced
Layer ingredients, starting with lettuce, in order given in large shallow pan - a glass 9x13 is best.
Spread dressing over top, sealing edges:
1 and 1/2 c. mayo
2 Tbs. sugar
a little glug of vinegar
1 and 1/4 c. grated Swiss
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Cover tightly. Refrigerate at least 8-10 hours. Serves 6-8 as a side dish. A very sturdy salad that keeps well in the fridge. I do substitute vegetables - sometimes I use spinach instead of lettuce - and sometimes I add fresh parsley in addition to the bacon on top. You can add sliced hardboiled eggs to the veggie layers too.
Combine in a large bowl:
6 c. flour (I use 3 c. WW, 1/2 c. cornmeal, and 1.5 c. white flour)
1 Tbs. salt
6 Tbs. baking powder
3 Tbs. sugar
2 c. powdered milk
Mix and store in airtight container.
To use, beat together in bowl:
1 1/4 c. water
2 Tbs. oil
Add 1 1/2 c. pancake mix and mix as briefly as possible - lumps are normal. Fry on hot cast iron griddle from Aunt Elena. Serves 2-4.
The children and I eat ours with peanut butter and syrup. My husband sniffs and gets the butter dish. Occasionally I put applesauce or blueberries in the pancakes, but there is usually protest, so I guess the tradition is established in all its details.
Recent trip to Sal's Boutique (as my sis-in-law calls Salvation Army).
Funky slippers for Genevieve.
Adorable llama slippers from Land's End for Ben.
Cool Vans for Ben.
And, super-bonus, yellow slides for ME!! Shoe shopping is not fun for me. I have big feet, so my shoes are usually mail order, expensive, and rather basic. But I have cute yellow shoes now! And they cost $2.99!! Insane. I'm already dreaming up ensembles. . .
Here, Dr. Genevieve's slippers in action.
And poor patient Ben wearing his heavy-eyed llamas. Among other strange things, his doctor cuts his hair. Pin It
Until now, Darks Day 2010 was easy-peasy. But local things are disappearing from the farmer's market - things that I was counting on to be root-cellared are not even there. Now I am scrabbling to find local vegetables and suddenly I realized something that all locavores probably came to a long time ago:
The food ethnic to my area, Pennsylvania Dutch, is based on what's available in the dead of winter: dairy, meat, and potatoes. This may seem obvious, but suddenly I understood all the PA Dutch specialties. And I realized, looking further, that other areas have an ethnic cuisine to match their off-season stores too. It tickles me to realize that even in our modern shipping era, we are still entangled in the roots of what grows here.
So, here is my rather PA Dutch farm meal (well, minus the meat because my family only eats meat occasionally).
I made a gratin with local cauliflower, local broccoli from the freezer, local organic onions, local milk, homemade bread, local organic cheddar, and local butter.
The cheese sauce. . .
to be spooned over the waiting steamed vegetables (I called this a "cruciferous gratin.")
Gratin done, on the table with a side of Pickled Red Beets. This is a very traditional PA Dutch side dish that I canned this summer. My grandmother got the recipe from her mother and maybe it goes back even further - my grandmother doesn't know. This recipe appears in Simply in Season. You must make Red Beet Eggs with the leftover juice, not only because the eggs are magenta, but because they are so so so good.
Thinking local, I recalled my frozen local cherries and whipped up this super-fast, delicious cobbler from More with Less.
In a greased 8x8 baking dish, put 2.5 cups fruit (cherries, pared sliced apples or peaches); a little juice is fine. I bet the fruit could be partially frozen yet.
In a bowl, mix together with fingers:
1 c. (local) whole wheat pastry flour
1 local egg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar (just right for the sour cherries I used)
1 tsp. baking powder
Sprinkle this mixture over the fruit and drizzle with 1/4 c. melted (local) butter.
Bake for 25 minutes at 375. Good with something cold and creamy (or if you are a PA Dutch farmer type, just pour milk over it).
I do not work on Sundays; I take a Sabbath the way I think God wants people to. So I do pleasant things that refresh me: go to church, nap, read, hike, and visit with family and friends. I do not shop, dine out or do housework (except for Sunday dinner - more on that in a bit).
There was a time, as a teacher, that I felt compelled by my work load to get a lot of schoolwork done on Sundays. I hated Sundays more than any day of the week because I resented never getting a break. Now I love Sundays. And even though my housework is not onerous or overwhelming, I need that break and am usually happy to dive back into it on Monday mornings; and by Saturday, all I want is a long afternoon with a book. It's balanced, see?
In the spirit of celebration with family, we eat a big meal after church. OK, ok, it's also a deep bow to tradition. I make an effort to plate the food nicely in the kitchen or use nice serving dishes on the table; I want my family to know they are important enough to warrant the extra dishes and fuss that is associated with company. Occasionally we light candles or have flowers too.
Even though we have a big meal after church, I actually don't do a lot of cooking on Sundays. Because my children are totally out of patience when church is over, I plan dinner so it's basically ready to go when we walk in the door.
I'd like to explain to you how I do this in a little series called "Sunday Dinner" because it's a different kind of meal planning and preparation. Every Monday (not Sunday!!) I will post on our Sunday dinner. Due to the exigencies of this meal, the photos will probably be less attractive: half-empty serving dishes and partially filled plates. If you are not a Sabbath rester, you could still employ these techniques and recipes for days when you have no time to prepare dinner or want to use the time for something else (I occasionally run errands between 4 and 6pm - the children are rested from their naps and then I give them a big snack to keep them going).
Here is last Sunday's dinner when it was over, as children were being whisked off to naps:
This meal started on Wednesday when I put a chuck roast in the fridge to thaw. On Saturday night, I browned it and put it in my slow cooker crock. I piled it with the rest of the stuff from the recipes (I cobbled together about 3 recipes). Whole baby bella mushrooms, carrot chunks, and sliced onions; red wine, beef stock, some canned tomatoes, dried thyme, pepper and salt. Put the lid on the whole business and put the crock in the fridge.
On Sunday morning, as soon as I got up, I put the crock in the slow cooker and turned it on high. When we left for church, I turned it to low. I followed one of the recipes for thickening it when we got home, to my regret. It called for a beurre manie, which is butter and flour rubbed together; it was too much fat. I should have followed my instinct and whisked flour into cold wine or water and then into the hot stew. When I thickened the stew, I also hacked the roast into smaller pieces, added some chopped garlic, more pepper and thyme, and a slug of Worcestershire sauce (to up the salt and flavor at the same time).
Sunday dinner menu: Beef Bourguignon egg noodles (cooked when we got home) peas (freezer; cooked when we got home) pepper cabbage (got out of freezer on Saturday)
I actually did more cooking when we got home from church than I usually do. But that will be evident as this series progresses. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear the whats and whys of your Sundays. . .
Today included one of those mornings where all the details must be worked out ahead of time - clothes laid out, stroller at the door with bag packed, and breakfast ready to go. Hooray for the night kitchen!!
Promptly at 7am, the Baked Oatmeal was ready with no cooking (today!) on my part. We spooned home canned applesauce on top.
Margo's Baked Oatmeal
In blender, mix very well on high:
1 c. milk
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. applesauce or plain yogurt
2/3 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
Grease a 9x9 baking dish.
Dump in 3 c. quick oatmeal (can use part rolled oats and even a little wheat germ).
Pour liquids in on top, mix evenly.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Serve warm with milk, yogurt, applesauce, or saucy fruit.
Sometimes I put in about a cup of frozen blueberries, or one apple cut up and some nuts. Actually, the variations are endless. If you add fruit, especially if it's still frozen, bake a few minutes longer.
I usually make this recipe times 1.5 and bake it in a 9x13 pan because the leftovers are great to stick in the freezer for yet another quick breakfast.
You know how babies' pants sometimes have snaps on the inner seams of pants to make changing diapers easier? What happens when the snaps lose their "snap" and won't stay closed? I confess that I have thrown some pants away. But two things in my brain clicked recently: I have sewing skills! People with few resources would find a way to make this work! (thinking of the Great Depression and 40 year old VW bugs in Mexico)
First I tried a tip an older woman gave me (at my husband's grandfather's funeral, no less, when Ben's overall legs kept popping open). I gently hammered on the little post in the snap, trying to make it fatter so it would stick better in the other side. Didn't work for me.
I checked out the snaps at the fabric store. It's not like replacing a button, apparently - buying presses and what-not. Too fiddly and expensive.
So I sewed Ben's pants' seams shut!! I actually cut out the strip of snaps on his denim overalls - the ones he's wearing in the photo - but on his lined corduroy overalls, I just sewed them closed. I used a denim needle on my machine and went as far as I could, then finished the pants by hand.
I'm so pleased that Ben is getting more wear out of the pants!
First of all, I do not actually call the food in my refrigerator and freezer "leftovers." I call it by its name, because no one wants to eat something called "leftovers." If someone asks what we're having for dinner, I say, "we are having Liberian Pumpkin again."
How I manage the extra-food-which-is-not-called-leftovers:
1. It's lunch for the children and me, and often, packed for my husband. Occasionally we have sandwiches for lunch, but in the main, lunch meat and cheese is expensive and the former is downright unhealthy. Besides, it's faster to heat up servings in the microwave than fiddle with making sandwiches that my daughter sobs over "MOM!!! IT FELL APART!"
2. I freshen up the dish before I serve it again
Ways to freshen a dish: ***reheat it in the oven so the house fills up with its scent again - a scented house is one of the lovely benefits of cooking. ***first saute an onion in the soup pot before dumping in the soup to reheat ***add some minced garlic or snipped parsley at the end ***melt some cheese on top
3. I make dishes or look for recipes that transform previous dishes. The best ideas for this come from the More With Less cookbook. I rarely serve cornbread again, but use it instead in cornbread dressing. See what I did with baked corn here.
4. I serve it with something different, made fresh, this time. Roast beef example here.
5. If something can freeze well and it's enough for another meal, I freeze it. Then I pull this out for a meal that I don't have time to cook for (Sunday dinner, for example). This is my convenience food! Easy, healthy, thrifty.
6. In my opinion, a leftovers buffet is bad. It involves fighting over choice leftovers, unappetizing combinations if you're the last in line, and unbalanced meals. I like to plan meals so they taste good together, but mixing up three days' worth of leftovers rarely makes winning combinations.
7. If I go to the trouble to shop for ingredients, get out my pots and pans, and prep food, it is less trouble to just double the recipe than it is to start over from scratch another time for another meal. You have heard of people who do all their cooking for a month on one day; I'm using their concept, but making it more manageable.
Finally, a picture and a recipe!
A few nights ago I served Liberian Pumpkin. In my trusty More with Less is an idea for transforming leftover pasta and red sauce.
Mix the leftover pasta with an egg and some grated cheese (if it's long pasta, I also chop it up a bit). My pasta is usually already slicked with olive oil, but you could add some melted butter here too. Press this into a greased pie pan, forming a pie crust configuration. Put some more cheese (or cottage cheese) in the bottom of the "crust." Could add some vegetables here too. Then dump the thick sauce into the pie and sprinkle more cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes - until heated well, and cheese is melted.
This is more interesting than just heating up piles of spaghetti. In the case of the Liberian Pumpkin, the homemade noodles stayed so chewy, but glommed onto the cheese in an amazing way. That's what got me thinking about how wonderful leftovers really are.
My sister finally came home from her Christmas journey in South Africa (it's summer there - she spent days on the beach). She was complaining about our weather, even after I reminded her it's warm today - up to 40! She brought us a treasure trove, which doesn't even include the roiboos tea and children's chocolate that I forgot to add to the pile.
The bag was made in the townships. The sandals for Genevieve were made somewhere in South Africa and she is working very hard to figure out to wear them even though my sister reminded her that summer is a long way away. The spices bring back deep sensory memories of curries, chop salad, and brianny (I don't know how to spell the last and the internet was no help). The little round tins of lip stuff are fiendishly difficult to open, but it's worth working at for the earthy, herbaly stuff inside.
Close up of Ben's little beaded animals.
I gave her these.
And the flip side.
She loved them. But all the gifts are secondary to just having her home again. I like my life better with my sis around.
When I was growing up, my mother would occasionally make a platter of shredded cabbage with sliced tomatoes on top. Over that she would sprinkle lemon juice (the bottled kind - this was the 80s after all). We commonly ate this with rice and beans. It was a good contrast in texture and flavor.
But I tweaked the original recipe a bit and now we eat this pretty often, with more than just rice and beans. Local produce is sparse at market these days, but there is plenty of cabbage! And I'm with Erin on the lemons.
In the bottom of the serving bowl, mix together:
zest and juice of one lemon or lime
about 1/4 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp. sugar
glug of olive oil - maybe 1 Tbs. - just enough to take the edge off the citrus
Shred cabbage however finely you have time and patience for to equal between 2 and 4 cups. Sometimes I mince a few garlic cloves too, or add a little parsley; one time my friend added finely chopped arugula.
Toss cabbage (and other stuff) with dressing. This is good if it has a chance to sit for an hour or two. But if you keep it longer than 2 days, the salt draws too much water out of the cabbage and the whole business gets watery and soft. I have seen my husband eating it out of the fridge this way, so perhaps it's still fine.
Another thing of note: sugar is well-used like salt. I add a smidge to things sometimes when I don't know what else to do, and just like salt can, it brightens or mellows flavors. In this salad, it is just softening the citrus a bit, along with the olive oil.
Not a beautiful salad, but very tasty. And the beans & rice goulash we had with it looked like a brown pile, so we just ate it without taking pictures.
I grew up saturated with a certain kind of modern Mennonite quilt: carefully coordinated fabric bought specially for the design, intricate piecing with even more intricate infinitesimal white quilting on top. The colors were peach, Williamsburg blue, mauve, and forest green in the 80s. Now it seems to be pink and green. These are the kinds of quilts that are made and sold at fundraising auctions. Until a few years ago, I thought that's what quilts were.
(Oh dear, I only have time for a short post - I've got the can of worms in my hand).
Well, in short, I checked out The Quilts of Gee's Bend as recommended by Leila. I had heard of Gee's Bend before, from USPS stamps, but never seen the quilts or the women up close.
I am utterly amazed. The quilts of Gee's Bend are amazing. Shifting definitions and ideas in my head. Already narrowing my eyes at my stash and my future quilt plans. Fingering Kim's quilt with fresh vision and desire. Wishing I could go talk to the ladies of Gee's Bend and feeling shy.
This winter, I had been asking myself in irritation why I can't find a shorter project to sew than quilts; I even dabbled in painting and wallhangings. But I adore the play of color and texture in quilts and then you get to USE THEM - other projects just don't satisfy. I have been re-inspired by The Quilts of Gee's Bend.
I didn't intend to start making dinner at 5pm. But by 5:35, we were sitting down to dinner and I was quite proud of myself. My husband said, "if this is Dark Days' eating, I hope the days get even darker." Awwww.
All ingredients are from my county and organic with the exception of the cheese and broccoli - not organic.
I should point out that before this speedy supper, I made Liberian Pumpkin and roasted broccoli numerous times; nothing like a new recipe to slow down supper.
So. Here's how I did it.
Brown some local, spicy sausage, 1-2 cups (if your sausage is regular, you can add some kind of hot peppers later or at the table). Set aside.
Peel and whack up some squash - I used butternut - about 3-4 cups. Depends on how much squash you want left over (as soon as I hauled out the squash, my daughter asking hopefully if I was making pie - yes, my darling, later this week). Put in pan with some oil (or the leftover sausage grease if you're in a rush - ahem). While that's sauteing, chop up 1-2 onions and add.
Cook and stir for maybe 10 minutes. When the squash is softening slightly and the onions are looking translucent, pour in 1 cup of something - wine, water, stock - add the browned sausage, and cover. Check it - depending on the size of the squash pieces, it could need 10-20 minutes to be soft enough. I like it when some squash has turned to mush and spread around, giving it a saucy quality; obviously this takes longer.
Meanwhile, I was roasting broccoli and putting pasta water on to boil. I put a few tablespoons of salt in my pasta water which gives the pasta a wonderful briny taste. Here is my gorgeous local (not like last time!) pasta made by an Amish man named David Stoltzfus - so local that the label only says "local free-range organic eggs and organic flour."
The Liberian Pumpkin recipe comes from Simply in Season with some minor modifications by me; they suggest eating it on rice which doesn't appeal to me. We also sprinkle ours with cheese (parmigiano reggiano if we're not eating local - tonight a local sharp cheddar).
With a bit more time, I would have made a green salad with a sharp viniagrette; I like Liberian Pumpkin with something brisk and vinegary.
Liberian Pumpkin (ingredients in a nutshell)
1-2 c. browned sausage (spicy, or add hot sauce or dried hot peppers)
3-4 c. chopped winter squash
1-2 c. chopped onion
1 c. stock, wine, or water
serve on pasta, top with cheese
A good recipe from Nigella! Well, I did combine it with a bagel recipe I already use from Recipes from the Old Mill. This recipe only takes 2 hours, start to finish, which includes some hands-off rising and baking time; I made the bagels Friday and froze them. Usually I knead in poppy seeds, but this time I used toasted sesame seeds for a subtle, nutty crunch. We spread the bagels with local chevre and homemade strawberry jam.
And some people had cafe au lait and others had Ovaltine, but it all had the same effect: fortified for a frigid walk to church (16 degrees!).
I am a wife and mother of two. I am a stay-at-home mom, part time cookbook editor, a Mennonite, and a city dweller. I like to make things (see the blog categories below). This blog is a record of what I make and the ways I try to be thrifty. Welcome!
"Thrift is the really romantic thing; economy is more romantic than extravagance...thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic because it is waste...if a man could undertake to make use of all the things in his dustbin, he would be a broader genius than Shakespeare."