Monday, January 31, 2011

What To Do with Leftover Steamed Vegetables

I like leftovers because that's what we eat for lunches.  However, sometimes when it's cold and rainy, or I'm feeling especially Susie Homemaker-ish, I like to transform the leftovers.  This soup is my favorite trick for leftover steamed vegetables.

Cream of Pea Soup (in More with Less)

Combine in blender and whirl until smooth:
1 and 1/2 c. thawed frozen peas
2 chicken bouillion cubes
1 thin slice onion
2 Tbs. flour
3 c. milk

Pour into saucepan and heat slowly, stirring frequently.  Do not boil.

I've never actually used peas in this recipe.  I usually have leftover cauliflower or broccoli.  But really, I think any leftover veggie would work. And sometimes I use garlic in place of the onion, or skip the bouillion cubes and use half stock and half milk.  I almost always poke through my herbs and spices and add something. 

The photos here are of cauliflower soup with Old Bay.  And of Genevieve's careful feeding and mothering of her bear, Joey.  I wonder where she got the idea to read at meals. . .

Speaking of pureed soups, sometimes I puree a chunky leftover soup and my family acts as if I've cooked a whole new delicious meal.  Or maybe they just like smooth soups better than chunky.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Thank You Note to Jonathan

Dear Jonathan,

I enjoy reading about your family on your mother's blog.  You get up to some crazy things sometimes!  So when you started your etsy shop, Smashing for Pretty, I was interested because I like you and your family.  But once I looked at the jewelry, I loved it for its own, beautiful simple sake. 

Thank you so much for giving away a necklace - I'm so glad I won!  I wear my necklace almost every day and pretty often, I get compliments on it.  So I tell them about Smashing for Pretty (which is the coolest shop name ever).

I hope that you enjoy your business as long as you have it.  Thanks again for my beautiful necklace!


When I was in high school, I admired a photo of a model wearing a gold  necklace, very similar to my Smashing for Pretty one, with a red scoop neck shirt and a scarf tied around her neck.  Getting this necklace and wearing it with a scarf fulfills a very old longing for me.  So satisfying.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Japanese Inspired Hotpad

Outside yesterday had been a blustery snowstorm.

(This bush, a few months ago)

Inside, I curled up with a Japanese patchwork book and tea.

And then, inspired, I took a greasy old hotpad and appliqued a new top on it, no finished edges anywhere and just a square of denim on the back.  Fast, effective sewing therapy.  Almost as good as spring.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Genevieve Makes Dumplings

I was just about to mix up the dumplings for chicken and dumplings the other night when it occurred to me that Genevieve might like to help. 

Now this is rare.  In theory, I want to invite my children into my work sphere, regularly and gently instructing them in the domestic arts.  In reality, I am usually too short on patience to be kind (I don't want them to associate my work with exasperation) or my work involves sharp knives, fire, and hot water.  Or just water, which my children somehow manage to transform into a Game That Makes Water Fly Around.

But this evening, thank you God, I had enough patience and presence of mind.  So Genevieve mixed up dumplings and even cracked open her first egg.  And then she calmly, while conversing with her brother, dropped globs of dough into the boiling stock. 

It was delicious and she was sweetly accepting, but not surprised, at our compliments.  I think my girl will be a good cook!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shoestring Chic #2: Rosalyn's Suit

A few years ago, I became a Color Me Beautiful believer.  I understood that I was a Spring, and I purged my wardrobe of browns, yellows, creams, and oranges - I got rid of my trusty brown skirt suit.  And then I realized I had nothing to fill the gap.

 A few weeks later, at a women's retreat at church, we had a clothing swap.  Rosalyn brought a beautiful tweed suit, a remarkable tweed that could read as brown or black.  She told me it was her first suit, bought with her first paycheck, at her first professional job at a bank.  I'm so pleased to have a suit with such a heritage.

 I chopped the skirt to knee length.  I've gotten the idea, recently, that the cut of the blazer is not flattering on me, that maybe it needs to be updated or freshened somehow.  I'd like your suggestions, please, on how you think I should wear it.  Is it too formal to wear it as a suit?  Should I belt the blazer?

skirt suit - free
flowered Gap blouse, thrifted: $1
blue Gap cardi, thrifted: $3
amethyst necklace, gift from my husband
pearl string, JCPenney: $7
glass ring, Ten Thousand Villages: $4
tights:  $7
boots: $40

total:  $62

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shaker Lemon Pledge Rubber Pie

Shaker Lemon pie really does taste like Lemon Pledge - Rebecca was right in the comments.  And the texture was rubber because it was, after all, whole lemons sliced thin, mixed with suger and eggs.

  Baked in a double crust.

I cannot recommend it.

Is this a faux pas to take a photo of food remnants?  We all left the rubbery bits on our plates.  And then I threw away the magazine page with the recipe and moved on.  Better treats to come!

P.S. I'm taking photos nearly every day for Shoestring Chic this Wednesday, in hopes of liking the ones I share.  Am I really that vain?  Or is my house just impossibly dim?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Purple Coat, Green Coat

The purple puffy down coat that was supposed to last Genevieve for two winters:  $4 at the thrift store. It had a few splits in the fabric, was showing its age, but working just fine for hogging in the snow.  But then the zipper broke and, having been warned by Rebecca, I knew I would need to have it professionally replaced:  $25.   This is the same weighing I have had to do several times regarding repairs on the ancient car, versus expensive new car.  Out the coat went.

And here is the replacement, $17 at the kids' consignment shop, so I came out ahead!  It has a special interior pocket labeled "valuables" - for, you know, cherry chapstick.  A beautifully sturdy down coat that should last through next winter, but oh dear, the light color means it constantly looks grubby and the down takes special laundering.  Lesson learned.

I suit up the children in snow pants, coats, mittens, and boots and send them out.  I tell them if they are out long enough to get roses in their cheeks, they can have hot chocolate when they come in.  No more five minute outside play stints!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Mother and Her Bean Soup

I asked my mom some questions about the bean soup recipe I scribbled down from her.  I gave you a recipe; what she told me when I asked years ago was more like, "some carrots, some beans, enough water."  And then, just for fun, I asked my mom some more kitchen questions.

Margo: How did your bean soup recipe come to be?  I thought it was from Grandma.

Mom: I didn't like my mom's. It wasn't very tasty - beans and milk with bread. Came from Ohio, I think. I adapted mine from an Amish cookbook after tasting it in restaurants and I looked around until I found a recipe that came close to it.

Mom's Bean SoupSoak 2 c. dried navy beans in 2.5 quarts water.
Add 1 smoked ham hock.
Boil for at least an hour.  Beans should be starting to get soft.

1 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
1-2 potatoes, diced [I omit these if I'm going to freeze the soup]
1 cup canned tomatoes with juice [I usually use 2 c.]
salt and pepper to taste [and maybe some Worcestershire sauce and cayenne]

My mother is much more attractive than bean soup - let's look at her.  This a spring Sunday evening, eating s'mores and messing around.

Margo: What would you serve with this soup to make it a meal?
Mom:  Crusty bread, cheese, pickles, or pickled red beets (something sour)

Margo: What's your favorite soup to make?
Mom: Probably potato soup.  Potatoes are my favorite food, the soup is thick and nourishing,  and I love the flavor of potato, celery, onion and sometimes hardboiled eggs.

My parents with their grandchildren.

Margo:  Describe your cooking style.
Mom:  Hmmmmm. . . probably no-frills, nourishing, hearty, maybe just plain-old, down-home, family-style cookin'.  I love to make old family favorites.  I like to make comfort food.  I probably make soup every week - I keep it on hand in the winter.

Two Naomi Ruths!

Margo:  Is there a cooking goal you haven't achieved yet?
Mom:  At this stage in life?  No. I like what I make and am open to new recipes that sound good, but I'm satisfied with how I cook.

****Shoestring Chic #2:  next Wednesday, January 26!  You get dressed every day, right?  Just take a few photos, blog about it, and share with us next Wednesday.*********

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reading in Four Books

I usually stick to one book, but not only am I dipping into four books right now, they are startlingly distinct:

Marital Bliss with a Kiss of Reality by Michelle Beachy and Christy Smucker
(parts make me cringe, but I like the stories)

Merry Hall by Beverly Nichols
 (a twee British guy who cracks me up with his whimsical stories about renovating his old estate)

Mad Hungry:  Feeding Men and Boys by Lucinda Scala Quinn
(LOVE this book - Quinn is right on)

Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
(current Sunday School text - makes fascinating class discussions)

What are you reading? Enjoying it?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snow Day

My husband's early morning meeting, the one he asked me to make breakfast for, was postponed until next week. I was secretly relieved - I get nervous and doubt myself when I cook for his colleagues.  This breakfast needed to be warm finger food carried downtown by my husband.  I made Cinnamon Raisin Twists (from Recipes from the Old Mill) which rise overnight in the fridge.  Normally, I don't glaze them, but I was baking to impress here, so I drizzled the twists with lemon glaze.  I am counting this as my successful test run. 

We ate some for breakfast - perfect with a cup of mocha (half coffee, half hot chocolate).

Then we all walked to market together and came home with mums in addition to groceries.  Genevieve asked why.  I told her to cheer us up and give us something pretty to look at. 

And so I could indulge my fancy of marching these limonata bottles down the center of the table.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Dhal and Rice

Saturday:make dhal (double batch - froze half for later)

Sunday morning:
make decaf chai with cardamom
put brown rice in oven on timed bake
set out tomato chutney and peaches

Sunday noon:
warm up dhal
warm up chai
set table
get out yogurt

dhal and brown rice
home canned tomato chutney


We love dhal, curried split peas from India. The recipe I use comes from More with Less and I usually double it because it freezes so beautifully.

Bring to boil:
1 c. dry split peas
2.5 c. water
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne
scant tsp. salt

Lower heat, cover partially and simmer for 30 minutes until peas are beginning to disintegrate.

Meanwhile, saute in Dutch oven:
3 Tbs. butter or ghee
1 large onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (I was distracted and chopped it this time - just has a different look)
1 tsp. whole cumin seed
10 whole cloves
5 black peppercorns

Fry gently until onions are well browned, 10-12 minutes.  Add cooked peas and liquid to the onions and stir well.  Turn off heat.  Set aside until near mealtime and then reheat. Eat over rice.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reading the Laura and Mary Books

The full set of The Little House books has been on the bookshelf since before the children were born.  They have taken them out of the box, stacked them, looked at the pictures, and "read" aloud.  Finally, the day after Christmas, I started reading The Little House in the Big Woods to Genevieve. 

She loves it.

Ben tries to love it too.

My parents read these books to me as a child; I read them to myself again a few times, and then, memorably, as a newlywed in the Deep South in the process of becoming a homemaker.  Now I am thrilled to be reading them through my children's eyes. 

Not surprisingly, I am more focused on Ma, as recalled by Laura.  I am awed by Ma's iron strength cloaked in manners and femininity.  I know how Pa's restlessness is going to drag the family around in the upcoming books.  I know the deprivations coming.  Yet she is capable, firm, cheerful, and polite in the face of it all. . . as seen and remembered by Laura.  What did a pioneer woman like Ma hide from her family?  Maybe I'm too modern when I imagine that she had something to hide, some bitterness or fear to submerge.  In general, I am inspired by Ma as I face my own challenges which do not include marauders, panthers, malaria, and starvation.  Brava, Ma!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Miso Soup, Homestyle

I am fascinated by ethnic food and if it doesn't look too complicated, I try to replicate it at home.  My miso soup has evolved over the years, through restaurant tastes and browsing cookbooks.  This has been our standard recipe for a while now, and I usually keep all the ingredients on hand.  I do use miso, tofu and scallions for other recipes as well.

1 bowl:

hunk of miso (fermented soybean paste)
pinch of bonito dashi granules (fish stock bouillion)
dried wakame seaweed

Add boiling water and mix to dissolve miso.  Wakame will rehydrate so prettily.

Add :
tofu cubes
cooked soba (buckwheat noodles)
sprinkle of chopped scallion

This is lunch for us sometimes.  It's not as quick as it might look because each bowl has to be assembled and the counter is littered with the ingredients, but we all love it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shoestring Chic: #1

A straightforward teaching getup:

1.  pearls - bought when I was 18 (so yes, more than 10 years old)
2.  scarf - cast off from my grandmother, but owned since college anyway
3.  green lambswool sweater - $22 Land's End clearance (and almost 10 years old!); this is the sweater I want to cut into a cardigan.  I have all the supplies, just not the confidence yet.  I've been reading bloggers who refashion sweaters to work up my nerve.
4.  silk long sleeved tee, under the sweater - older than 10 years
5.  black wool skirt which I shortened to knee length - cast off from Aunt Mim
6.  black tights - $7
7.  black shoes - $26 on sale from Maryland Square (it's expensive to have big feet! good, leather shoes in my size usually run at least $100, so these were a super bargain).

total: $55

If you want to play along, read the back story here, the "rules" here. Add your link below and check out what everyone is wearing!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sonja's Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

Once upon a time, I was a high school English teacher.  Occasionally my students brought me gifts and one time, my exceptionally smart student, Leah, brought me some delicious blueberry muffins.  My long-standing policy when I eat something delicious is to ask for the recipe.  Leah got it from her new Swedish sister-in-law, and now I have Leah's hand copied recipe in my box. 

Around here, we like muffins for breakfast.  I have made these the night kitchen method, used frozen or defrosted blueberries, and even made them with sour cherries.

Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins - makes 12

Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers or  grease the muffin tin cups.

Combine in a mixing bowl:
1/2 c. WW flour
1/4 c. white flour
1/2 c. oat bran or wheat germ
1 c. quick oats or rolled oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
dash cinnamon

Add and stir just until combined:
1/3 c. oil
1/2 c. water
1 egg
1 c. blueberries

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.  So good we eat them as is.