Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunday Dinner and Dark Days 14: Sauerkraut and Sausage

I have a lot of homemade sauerkraut in the freezer!  And it's time to eat down the freezer.

sauerkraut and sausage
garlic mashed potatoes
glazed carrots (honey, butter & marjoram)

We needed the carrots for the color, or else the plate would have been very brown.  Not the color we hunger for in late winter!

Saturday:thaw sauerkraut and sausage in fridge

Sunday morning:slice carrots into coins - place in saucepan on stove
chop potatoes - set in oven on timed bake
combine sauerkraut and sausages - set in oven

Sunday noon:
set table
steam carrots, glaze them
put applesauce in glass bowl

Dark Days ingredients:  organic sausage, homemade sauerkraut, organic potatoes, organic garlic, butter, organic carrots, honey, homemade applesauce

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Genevieve Plans Her Summer Wardrobe

When I mentioned making her some sundresses to play in this summer, she immediately grabbed a quarter-sheet and went to work on her design.

She is her father's daughter:  they must draw it to explain it.

I am teetering on the brink of cutting out a sundress for myself.  I say brink, because I have to take some tedious measurements and do some math to be sure the thing will fit me the way I want it to.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cranberry Applesauce for 150

Rebecca and I agreed to be in charge of a fundraising meal our MYF (Mennonite Youth Fellowship) planned to raise money for a work-and-learn trip this summer.  It was, frankly, a lot of work, but the rush of community spirit and pride at the event itself was deeply gratifying.  Plus, the MYFers worked so willingly and purposefully that I quite believe in teenagers again.

Cooking for crowds is quite a different skill set from other cooking skills:  family meals, company meals, picnics, packed lunches, holiday dinners, parties (did I miss any?).  Following are my notes on quantities and things I want to remember when I have a go at crowd cooking again.

10 9x13 pans of chicken church casserole
1 9x13 pan vegetarian church casserole
mixed green salad with 1 quart vinaigrette - 2 big boxes, plus a few cups spinach
cranberry applesauce from 1 bushel apples and 8 bags of cranberries (with 1 bucket left over)
135 whole wheat dinner rolls, 3 sticks butter, 1 quart strawberry jam
8 9x13 pans Hot Fudge Sundae Cake
2 5-quart pails vanilla ice cream
10 cups toasted walnuts
100 cups decaf coffee
1 quart half-and-half

I don't have the exact number of people that we served.  We planned 150 servings and what I listed here is what we actually used. 

1. We had way more dessert than we needed - 4 cakes and a 5-quart pail of ice cream left over.  Did we serve skimpily or is our church really healthy?

2. The plate was very, very pretty:  shiny greens, garnet-colored sauce, and the casserole with flecks of green (bell pepper) and red (pimento).
3. The coffee took an hour to brew (we had planned for 45 minutes).
4. The served-buffet is so ideal for sticking to planned portions without needing to plate and deliver food to tables.

5.  We forgot to plan for the workers' supper - it's important to have well-fed workers!  Rebecca hurried the casseroles and we served dessert to the workers first while the casseroles finished up.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blue Progress in the Office

Every week, the office is a little closer to done.  The walls are deep grey-blue, with black furniture and cool lights.

I'm learning another side of my husband by seeing what he chooses for his space. I think I could have predicted most of it, but it's still a side of him that I haven't seen since we started sharing living space eons ago.

This blog helps me focus on progress in our home life. I take photos to illustrate posts and I realize, hey, the walls are painted now. Actually, the shelves went up, too, since I uploaded these photos. I don't dwell on the undone, which is my pessimistic nature.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Another Dark Days 13 Because Vegetarian is How We Do It

I know these Dark Days' posts are getting old for you.  They are for me, too.

Look, I enjoy the challenge of limiting myself only to local foods once a week and the meals really are delicious and enjoyable.

However, the challenge of photographing the food in the literal dark days, and then saying something about it on the blog. . . . well, this cook needs some fresh ideas.  (And isn't that why spring follows winter?)

And here, we have another vegetarian meal because I got off track with the theme.  And this vegetarian theme is something that I do easily and, I like to think, well (as opposed to the other  Dark Days' themes: desserts, one-pot, breakfast).

portobello pizzas with garlic, bell peppers, and feta
green salad with shredded carrots, turnips, and radishes - vinaigrette
homemade rosemary noodles with brown butter

Homemade noodles are not like dried semolina pasta.  They are really egg noodles, so they don't fit in very well with the Italian theme here.  Polenta would have been more Italian.

These portobello pizzas were a hit and really not hard to make, although I did add an extra step to the recipe I used.

4 portobello caps, steps removed, brushed clean
1-1 1/2 cups thick pizza or spaghetti sauce
cheese (I used slices of mild goat feta)
1/4 - 1/2 cup pizza toppings (I used chopped bell peppers from the freezer and chopped garlic)

1. Grease a rimmed baking sheet.  Lay the caps on it.  Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes.  Flip.  Bake another 15 minutes.  Water will run out of the caps and sizzle.  You are drying the caps out a little - skip this step if you don't have time.
2.  With the caps stem-side up, place the pizza toppings on as you would pizza.
3.  Reduce oven heat to 375.  Return pizzas to oven. Bake 10-15 minutes, until heated through. (My pizza sauce was already hot so this didn't take long).
4.  The tomato sauce juiced out onto the already blackened mushroom water.  It looked like a terrible mess, but when I took the pizzas off the sheet, I immediately put water into it.  After supper, it was a breeze to clean (or Mr. Thrift would have grumbled and left the scene).

Then we sat at the table looking at Genevieve's love letter to The Sound of Music and ate fastnachts because it was Fat Tuesday.  The children wanted to know if Easter was tomorrow.  Oh no, children, there are still many dark dregs of winter left and a long wait until the glory of Easter.  Waiting.. . with flashes of spring all along the way.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dark Days 13: Meatless

The storage onions are tired of winter, but at least I can find local onions this winter.  Last winter, they disappeared from market around November.

Overhead as Ben dug seeds out of the crook-neck pumpkin: "Nasty nasty slimey junk."
The Dark Days' people have issued some themes as contests.  The current contest is vegetarian.  No problem - we eat vegetarian most of the time.

I was pleased with the balance of tastes, textures, and nutrition in this menu.  However, the casserole was less than great because I absentmindedly doubled the yogurt.  I've made this casserole before and we like it, but this time it was watery and the squash was puny because it was a bad season for squash.  Plus, I had carefully fiddled with the seeds to have something local and crunchy for the top, but they were just too hard for pleasant texture. 

The bean spread, however, was lovely.  I modeled it on hummus, but used as much local stuff as possible.  I even plucked some parsley out of my back yard that had survived the winter.

Arabian Squash Casserole (from Moosewood)
green salad with honey mustard dressing
homemade tortillas with white bean spread

Dark Days' Ingredients, all local, and where specified, organic:  organic crook-neck pumpkin, homemade yogurt, organic goat's-milk feta, organic onion, organic green and purple lettuce, organic honey, horseradish, organic WW pastry flour, milk, butter, organic white beans, organic parsley, organic garlic

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Sunny Aspen" Lounge Pants

I love to think of a ski resort with a lodge and roaring fireplaces and glamorous furry boots for a dinner out.  And then, to have some sun glittering on the snow while skiing would be nice. 
However, I would never wear these lounge pants to Aspen or anywhere else.  Home pants, baby, home pants. The name came from the fabric selvedge.

They are warmer than the usual lounge pants (but no more flattering), but oddly let in some drafts.

I cut out side-seam pockets to add to them, but realized halfway through sewing them that these pants have no side seams.  Oh. I added a little ribbon to the back so it's easier to know where the roomy side is.

And I discovered that I had two identical patterns in my stash, so one is in the shop.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

Pretty are the hotpads I made recently.  One set for the youth group fundraising auction, one set for the shop.

Happy is the commuter whose cool bike cost just $40.  Why take the bus (he could) when you could be stylin' vintage?

Funny is the boy who uses the camera as a mirror, checking his image after each photo.

And sweet to oblige me when I'm experimenting with the light and camera settings.

Real is the squash that finally fell off the ledge and broke.  I shrugged - the cold storage had worked well and this was the last squash. 

Actually, I spent quite a bit of time hacking the very very tough shell off this thing.  I felt triumphant about wrestling dinner.

Joining Leila and Rosie's collection of everyday contentment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


For the 100th day of school, Genevieve's kindergarten class had a 100s party.  She was required to bring 100 objects, grouped so they could be easily counted.

She was thrilled to root through my buttons. 

All Genevieve wants to do these days is count or have someone count with her - the rhythm enchants her.  Now she counts up to 500.  I miss conversations with her. Maybe she'll be satisfied with her mastery when she reaches 1000?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Yoga-Mat Bag

I started doing pilates at home on the bare wood floor.  Then I tried a thick picnic quilt.  Then I borrowed my friend's yoga mat to see if that solved the slippage issue.  Yes, it does!  A valuable tool.  So I haunted ebay until I bought a yoga mat for $10.
I have some fabulous polyester double-knit in my stash, thanks to Rebecca and, I believe, her aunt.  It was perfect for a sturdy, fun yoga-mat bag that could be flung aside on the floor and not show much dirt.

The bottom is the best part and I can't believe I forgot to take a picture! (well, yes I can, there were children yipping and bouncing nearby).  The bottom circle is a patchwork composite of the green and coral. 

I designed this happy bag by myself and, hooray! I'm pleased with all my sewing on it. 

Now I need to get back into the exercise routine - reflux blew that away after Christmas along with some pudge, but I'm feeling somewhat better these days and here comes the pudge as I eat more normally again.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dark Days 12: Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?

Oh yes she can, and make it local too!

Genevieve and I picked cherries last summer and then we sat on the porch with Ben and pitted most of the cherries.  I say most, because we found a fair amount of pits in our pie.

We had some of our own ice cream with the pie, left from breakfast last week and by now thoroughly frozen.

The cherry pie followed a meal of 1000 Island Slaw with Chicken and baked sweet potatoes. 

I adore this coleslaw, and I loved how the flavors all went together in this menu.

I bought local chicken breasts and roasted them.  Ben liked picking the meat off the bones.  Then I made a little pot of stock with the bones, which turned out to be providential because my husband came down with the nasty cold that is everywhere right now.  Real chicken stock fights that junk like nothing else!

(Specifically, Dark Days' ingredients, all local, and where noted, organic:  organic chicken, homemade mayo with local eggs, homecanned pickle relish with local veggies, homemade ketchup with organic tomatoes, organic cabbage, organic scallions, organic sweet potatoes, cherries, organic WW pastry flour, butter)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The French Press Cozy

I was browsing through this library book last weekend and got inspired.  I made a French press cozy out of 2 pieces of a felted sweater.

Sandwiched 3 elastic cord loops between the layers, and picked out three odd buttons from my stash.  I thought the black was a good idea for my black-loving husband who drinks more coffee than I do.

It was fun sewing therapy, even though the cozy looks decidedly homemade.  But it does really keep the coffee warmer longer. 

I still haven't made a cozy for my teapot, although sometimes I design it in my head as I'm falling asleep at night.  Oh, the lovely possibilities!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Taking Up a New Project

I'm bored with knitting dishcloths as my handwork.  I'm not ready to drag around a quilt again.  That pile on the chair is Ben's quilt in progress.  Lack of progress, really.

So (drumroll) I'm going to learn to knit socks.  I bought local yarn and needles.  I've got a tutorial bookmarked, and several friends lined up as tutors.  I'm excited!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Homemade Cough Syrup

We've descended into a round of colds here.  I thought it wasn't too bad until Ben took up coughing at night.  Isn't that the worst?  The bright side is that we had a very low-key weekend with canceled plans, so I got some happy sewing done.

A long time ago (I forget how long), I came across the concept (I forget where) of soothing coughs with hot lemonade.  A doctor friend said, furthermore, that whiskey is the best cough syrup because it relaxes the muscles in the throat.

So I mix a little honey, a little lemon juice, a little hot water, and a splash of whiskey and have my children sip that to soothe a cough in the middle of the night.  I can't tell you measurements because I mix it when I am trying to maintain a kind of sleep-state in hopes that I can return to my warm bed soon.  I can tell you that I mix it in an espresso cup, if that gives you some idea of measurement.

For night time coughing, I also turn on a humidifier.  I used to have a cool-mist humidifier, but buying and maintaining the filters was expensive and bothersome.

For daytime coughs, I  just give the children extra drinks of water or hot tea with honey.

One night as he was climbing into bed, Ben told me he would wake up for some cough syrup that night.  Heaven forfend!  So I told him that if he didn't get to have cough syrup in the middle of the night, he could have tea and honey with breakfast.  Worked like a charm, thank goodness.

And you thought those loops on cargo pants were for hammers.