Friday, June 29, 2012

Tomato Gravy with Cream

I fumbled around with a version of this recipe early in my married years.  Then when I was reading More with Less a few years ago, I saw Brown Tomato Gravy.   (Do you own a More with Less?  It is by far the cookbook I use the most, but I am biased because I am Mennonite and because this was the first cookbook I used). 

Here is my version, which is a method more than a recipe.  I love tomato gravy!

Tomato Gravy with Cream

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large cast-iron skillet.

Dredge in flour:
2-3 firm ripe tomatoes, sliced thickly

Lay floured tomatoes in butter on medium heat.  Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Allow to fry until the flour and butter are forming browned spots.

Flip tomatoes.  Sprinkle with 1-2 Tbsp. brown sugar.  A little more salt.  Allow to fry again until brown spots form. 

Turn the heat down to low.  Pour in some heavy cream, probably not more than a 1/2 cup or even less; sometimes I've used just 2 little glugs.  Break up the tomatoes a bit while the cream bubbles and thickens with the flour.  There will be tomato skin pieces, which don't bother me, but I'm sure some people would skin their tomatoes first.  Serve over toast, biscuits, or hash brown potatoes.

We ate the tomato gravy for breakfast over oven-roasted potatoes which were room temperature.  My husband bought 7 lbs. of new potatoes this past week, so I roasted extra and I'm going to see what inspiration strikes, a la Tamar Adler.

The kids kicked a fuss over this breakfast; they wanted Cheerios.  I ignored them.  They ate heartily at lunch and supper, so everything is all right.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Economy and Grace"

I love this phrase so much - I think it should be the tagline for my life, the thing I try to live up to.  I got it from the subtitle of Tamar Adler's book, An Everlasting Meal.  Rebecca loaned me this book and I'm only a third of the way into it, but I like it a lot. 

Adler gives credit to MFK Fisher's How To Cook A Wolf from 1942.  I somehow missed telling you about Fisher's book back when I read it in the fall.  It's fabulous - stories, advice, recipes, and all written in prose I wish I could emulate (and that hair - I would like to wear my braids on top of my head like MFK Fisher).  Her full name, as I'm sure you want to know, is Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher.

I just read the chapter in Tamar Adler's book where she advocates eating cooked vegetables at room temperature.  She has interesting ideas for vegetables and roundly dismisses the idea that vegetables are best steamed just before the meal and then eaten plain and hot.  She has also convinced me to revisit poached eggs, which I normally don't like.

bookmark by Ben
I'm in need of inspiration these days, so it's nice to read some new ideas and play a little differently in the kitchen.  I'll tell you about our room-temperature breakfast next time - desk-work beckons!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Neatballs, Buns, and Rachel

Rachel and Peter stopped by as I was fixing dinner.  They and their boys are dear friends to our family - and they are moving far away this summer.  I'm sad about it, it's true, even though I can be happy for them in a little part of my selfish heart.

But I appeared to be a kitchen goddess when they dropped in - had an oven full of vegetarian neatballs, baked potatoes, and hamburger buns.  I've decided that I'm bypassing the choice of grocery store sales or nasty cheap buns by making buns myself, so I took advantage of a cool-ish day and an oven supper to make the buns.

I asked my husband to take a picture of Rachel and me; he told us to say "buns" which, we discovered, made us look very strange.

The neatballs, a new recipe to me, were fantastic.  I'm already planning other menus around them and thinking of people I want to share them with.  We ate them with baked potatoes and steamed broccoli.

My children are in love with baked-potato-skin cups, the way we ate baked potatoes when I was a child.  I scrub baking potatoes, poke them once, and bake them for an hour.

Then we cut the potatoes in half, hollow out the skin, and put the fluffy potato on the plate.  Put a pat of butter, salt and pepper in the little potato-skin cup and that is heaven!  Is there a name for this?

 Formerly, I oiled the potatoes and put them on a tray so their skins would be soft and I wouldn't be cooking in foil.  However, I shyly introduced this childhood method of my mother's and we are all hooked.
A serving dish from my late Grandma Weaver

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What To Do With Old Cotton Sweaters

I cut them up and am using them as filling for hotpads.  The only other thing I can think of to do with a stretched-out cotton sweater is make gift bags for bottles.

I also handquilted these hotpads, which was nice, to have a little tiny hand-quilting project.  The butter yellow with the forest green, against the deep oxblood binding is thrilling me.  I am never tired of playing with patchwork!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Water Popsicles for the Children

This was their idea:  fill a paper cup halfway with water, stick a wooden skewer in it, and freeze.  I think the children forgot about them, but I pulled them out when we had some time to kill between church and a picnic.

Perfect.  They were highly entertained. I was pleased that they weren't ruining a meal with a sugary snack and the drips on their clothes just dried in the heat, leaving no stains behind.

Next time I think we will use our actual popsicle molds, which the kids can fill and freeze themselves (that will thrill them).

filled popsicle molds - cherry yogurt popsicles

 I get tired of saying no to my children when they ask for candy, snacks, gum, etc. etc.  These silly water popsicles allow me to say yes to my children!  How nice.

"If you're done with it, just put it in the garden to water the plants, Ben."

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Cap-Sleeve Silk Blouse

This blouse began when I saw my friend wear a little cap sleeve sweater that tied at the back key-hole instead of buttoned.  I was enchanted.

I got some mysterious polyester out of my stash, laid my own cap-sleeve blouse on top, and traced.  I felt bold and willing to throw away a flop if needed.

It turns out the blouse is cute and the fabric is SILK.  It's good I didn't know I was sewing with silk, or I would have been anxious.

I realized that using ties at the keyhole would have made an unfortunate mashup of elements that looked like a hospital gown.  I was thinking 80s revival, not hospital.  So I added a pretty, clear button.

I bound the neck and arm holes with self-bias, finishing it with handstitching.  That was a lot of delicate stitches!

I thought the blouse was too shapeless (hospital gown fears), so I nipped it in 4 places. Are these tucks? In some patterns, these are elongated things that blend into the line - what are they called?  I thought the blouse called for something more fresh and casual - and it turns out my tuck-things can look like a maternity blouse, too.  Not a good look when you're going to your husband's 20th high-school-class reunion.

Still and all, I felt chic in my skinny jeans and homemade silk blouse. Thanks to my husband for these photos, snapped just before I left for work one morning.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday Contentment

I love digging through my scrap bag and seeing what looks good together.  And the spiral quilting on these hotpads was fun.

I also wrapped a pair of hotpads for a friend - and wrote "brown paper packages. . . " all over the brown paper.  Fun, and rather pretty, I think.

The children are very happy to be building a clubhouse in the backyard with their daddy.  It's almost done- pictures soon!

These last two are both a combination of funny and real.  I bought too much garlic for storage, so now it is shriveling up and rotting.  The basement has an odd garlic smell.  From each bulb, I can extract only 1 or 2 cloves that are useful.  Lesson learned - like manna - don't be greedy and think it's never coming again!

I used some of the garlic when I made oven risotto.  I'm always looking for a shortcut or an easy way, but I should not have used brown rice in the time I allotted for the risotto.  It was not creamy and tender, but it was still flavorful.  However, I'm not going to be having the oven on for over an hour until cool weather hits again.  It's supposed to approach 100 here today.

Linking up with Leila and Rosie's collection today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Sack of Peas

Our friends called and asked if we wanted to come pick peas as their children were tired of picking and hulling.  We jumped on it.  We loved  picking peas with Jeanne on their lovely farm.

We came home with a grocery sack of peas.  It took us hours to hull them. 

I would like to report that we told jokes and stories, shared our hearts, and drank deeply of familial happiness, but this was not the case.  The kids quickly devolved into silliness that was irritating to the adults, who threatened and fumed and saw that huge sack of peas at the side.  The children's speed was about 1 pea-pod per hour.

Okay, I'm exaggerating, but it was not a great start to the preserving season.

Plus, I resentfully blanched and froze those peas on my sacred Sabbath afternoon.  There are 8 boxes of peas in our freezer.  I don't need to eat them or look at them until winter.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Keeping House in 5-Minute Slots

Before kids, I had long stretches of time for projects. (What did I do with all of it?  What?). 

Now my time is broken into fragments with family life.  What works for me is to use the little time slots for little jobs, such as:
1.  Fill the Brita water filter in the fridge.
2.  Put away dishes that have air-dried in the drainer.
3.  Fold laundry.  I sort the clean clothes and put them in a basket in the appropriate bedroom, so this is a task that can be done piecemeal.
4.  Open mail, tossing unneeded stuff in the recycling bin in the hall.
5.  Fold and straighten the quilt and blanket on the sofas.
6.  Empty the kitchen compost bucket into the backyard composter.
7.  Remove receipts from my wallet, recording or recycling as needed.
8.  Shake the sand out of the rug by the back door and tidy up the shoe rack there.

Sometimes I have a hard time switching off the 5-minute-slot mentality, and I find myself frittering away a long stretch of time that could be used for a project.

What do you do with your 5-minute slots?

Surprise! Raisins on Pizza

I was very in touch with my intution when I put raisins on pizza.  I just thought it would be good.  Only after the pizza was in the oven did I realize that the flavors mirrored a good salad.  Well, duh.

The blueprint, in layers:

whole wheat pizza crust
1 cup very garlicky white sauce (I made it earlier and it had cooled down)
chopped, raw beet greens - no need to steam first - let the oven do the work!
about a 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
scattering of thin onion rings
about 2 Tbsp. raisins

When I make pizza for supper, I make two.  One is a traditional tomato sauce base, the other is an experiment - with pesto, ricotta, cottage cheese, and now white sauce.  My family is usually less enthused about my experimental pizza.  However, this time, they were big fans.  I will be doing this again.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Goals for the Children

 I want my children to be equipped with a good work ethic and the skills to live a pleasant, responsible life when they leave home (which seems imminent some days! how quickly they grow!). 

I've noticed, too, that when they have free play time all day, they can get a little crazy and naughty.  So I want to deliberately teach them some more chores this summer, thinking that the school year will be too scheduled to allow for much instruction.  I like this balance of work and play for them.  And I've noticed that friends with older children reap the reward of real help around the house, too.

I might make a new chore chart for these things, or maybe just post the lists where the adults can refer to them. 
What the 6-year-old can do with minimal assistance:
1.  make her bed
2.  sort, fold and put away laundry
3.  iron hankies and napkins
4.  dry dishes
5.  set the table, pour water
6.  wash the bathroom floor
7.  shake rugs
8.  put away toys
9.  dust/wipe the steps

Goals for the 6-year old to learn:
1. clean sinks
2. spray and clean mirrors/windows
3. use sewing machine [I need to find an owner's manual for her machine first]
4. vacuum a room
5. dust a room
6. sweep a sidewalk
7. wipe a counter or table - wringing a cloth
8. organize an area such as a drawer or desk of art supplies

What the 4-year-old can do with minimal assistance:
1.  make his bed
2.  set the table
3.  put away toys
4.  dust baseboards
5.  put away the trashcans
6.  sort laundry

Goals for the 4-year-old
1.  dust/wipe the steps
2.  fold laundry
3.  sweep a sidewalk

So these chores will be put in the day whenever it seems reasonable.  The other structure we have is a one-hour quiet time some time after lunch.  The children are required to be on a bed or sofa with books, no toys.  They may sleep or read or daydream, but they must indubitably be quiet.

I hope this makes a good summer for us!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Vision of Red-Eye Gravy

Do you know what red-eye gravy is?  It's one of those iconic Southern dishes that I thought sounded great. . . until I read that it's hot coffee dumped into ham drippings.  Maybe it's good, but I'm not tempted to try it anymore. 

However, I wanted to make something delicious that lived up to the catchy name in my mind. 
My Incorrect, But Delicious, Version of Red-Eye Gravy

Fry together in skillet:
1-2 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped

Add and stir until browned:
2 Tbsp. flour

Pour in, while stirring, over low heat:
1 1/4 cups tomato juice

Stir continuously, except for when you add:
1 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses
a little hot sauce

Stir and stir until thickened, several minutes (if you warm up the tomato juice first, this makes it faster).  Taste.  When I was done, I couldn't identify "molasses" and "spicy" per se, but the gravy was rich and bright.  It's possible you may need to add salt (although be careful as some tomato juice and some bacon would be salty enough).

Serve over hot, split biscuits or crispy fried potatoes for an excellent breakfast on a cool morning.  Eat a biscuit and honey for dessert.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Eccentric Lime Room

The children's room is not "done", but I have pictures. 

To do yet:  move the freezer (long story) to the basement, create a desk space for each child, and get a nicer box for the dress-up clothes.  We had a delay with the electrician getting the proper outlet in the basement, but finally the freezer can go down and join the big freezer this week.

G's dresser top
I averted my camera from the messy desk pile and the freezer in the photos - let's dwell on pleasanter things. 

Below is a little clock made from a vintage children's book - the children are supposed to learn to tell time and stay in their room until 7 am at least.  The Bambi growth chart is from my little yellow room when I was a girl.

There are five windows in this room, all on the east wall, so it's a very bright, airy room. 

The bulletin board, hung at their height.

I've kept the mini-blinds on the windows for now because it's expensive to cover five windows and the light doesn't seem to be affecting the children's sleep.

Ben made his bed, the bottom, by himself.

Genevieve and Ben love their room.  They play in it a lot, so I briskly moved a bunch of toys up to the room.

The green room sees a lot of action. 

I'm working on taking pictures of my room to show you next.