Thursday, December 29, 2016

Scrappy Trippin' Around the World

Each block looks nutty on its own, but then, I lay them out together and ahhh!  Pools of calm and sparks of energy!  I am hooked.  Good thing, too, because I want to do about 30 more blocks for a queen-sized quilt.  I started this quilt in November, and am only dawdling along.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Some Bread For Christmas

These are three projects made on different days, photographed only in their dough state.  We had the St. Lucia buns for breakfast one Sunday close to St. Lucia Day.  Another day I made French bread to give as gifts with small jars of jam.  And finally, on another Sunday morning, we had Midwinter Buns.  Delicious December!  Down below in the freezer is Grandma's Russian Kulich, waiting for Christmas morning and mugs of hot chocolate.  Today I made marshmallows for the first time ever to float in that hot chocolate.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!  May your plates be full of goodies, your mugs bottomless, and your beloved people close to you.  May our plenty and love overflow to those who need it, in honor of Jesus whose birthday started all this feasting!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Universe Wants Me to Knit

I started another vest for Phoebe, in a cloudy blue grey, but the needles were a half-size larger and it seemed that the vest was just getting too wide and I was running out of yarn.  I despaired.  Stopping by my favorite thrift store, I thought:  what if there was a pair of extra-long size 10.5 knitting needles?  What if?

And you see, there was!  And furthermore, they were 50% off for a total of two bucks.

I ripped the vest back to the beginning, and then I had a nice long knitting session when I accompanied my husband on a business trip to the far reaches of New York State.  I want to give a shout out to Pita Restaurant of Brockport, NY, where I talked falafel with the Lebanese chef.  The food was excellent, he approved of my recipe (what I could remember), and then gave me a small container of "falafel spice - but don't use too much or it will be bitter."

Even with all that driving, I am not quite done with the vest.  But I got the buttonholes on the same side this time!  And I had a lovely break from the kids and all their laundry, meals, and noise.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Little Sister Makes It Fun

How many ways are there to make washing dishes fun?  My kids know of two:  loud music or getting the little sister up on a stool to "help."  Unfortunately, when the big kids tire of the "help" and put her down, Phoebe is offended and crushed. She roars at the top of her lungs. She is starting to want to contribute to the running of the house, too.

Friday, December 9, 2016

In Love with Falafel

I read somewhere online that falafel is to the Middle East what hamburgers are to the USA. And then I was completely confident to make the version of falafel that sounded good to me, because aren't hamburgers endlessly customizable and creative?  Last year I had a restaurant burger that came topped with peanut butter, bacon, cheddar, and jalapenos.  It was bizarrely awesome.

I've never been much attracted to falafel and I've never made it until this summer.  I think I was looking for a new meatless dinner when I decided to try falafel. . . and fell totally in love.  These patties are easy for me because you can make them in stages, serve them at any temperature, and freeze them (making a batch right now to keep on hand for brown-bag lunches).

I have even served them to cautious eaters who liked them.  Falafel is tasty!

They are nutritious and relatively cheap and, like a burger, you top them with whatever you have on hand or strikes your fancy.  So far, we've been keeping it Middle Eastern with lettuce and pita, and in the summer, tomatoes and cucumbers.  I've made a sauce of yogurt, tahini, garlic, and parsley sometimes, too.


Soak 18-24 hours:
1 cup dry chickpeas with water to cover by 3 inches

Drain chickpeas.  Place in food processor with:
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup onion or scallions
handful roughly chopped fresh parsley
handful roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. baking powder
a few dashes of cayenne, optional

Process until finely, evenly ground, but do not make into mush or paste.  There should be green flecks but no pea-sized chunks of chickpeas.  Stir in 4-6 Tbsp. flour - you are aiming for a consistency to squeeze into patties.  If you're not sure, stick your hand in it and squeeze a little patty to see.  Heat a large frying pan over high heat with a generous pool of oil in it.  Make little patties and pan-fry them, turning once, until browned and crispy on both sides.  Fry in batches, adding more oil as necessary.  Serve hot or room temperature (or snitch, cold, out of the fridge).

1. The soaking chickpeas can absolutely sit longer on the counter if you can't get to them.
2. The ground-up falafel mixture can be refrigerated for several days before frying.
3. Cooked falafel freezes just fine.  Apparently people have also frozen uncooked falafel as well, but I haven't experimented with that.
4.  Do you like how I didn't even mention the December holiday in this post!?  I confine Christmas (I named it!) to the margins of my December life and that's how I stay sane and happy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Two New Handtowels

I have room in my kitchen drawer beside the trivets, hotpads, and matches for two hanging handtowels.  I can have one on the oven handle, and two in waiting.  And two of them were getting really shabby from hard use!

So I made two new ones and enjoyed myself immensely.  I haven't made hanging hand towels since I let my etsy shop idle down, but I always enjoy a practical project.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sunday Dinner: Lemon Baked Beefsteak

Remember the easiest roast beef ever?  This recipe is from a different friend (and probably a vintage source based on its name), but it's the same concept and ease.  And so delicious.

Lemon Baked Beefsteak

Season all sides of a 3 lb. beef chuck roast with:
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Lay in roasting pan just bigger than the roast.  Top with:
1 thinly sliced lemon
2 sliced onions

Combine and pour over:
1 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water or red wine

Cover with lid.  Bake at 350F for 3 hours.  Shred meat with two forks and stir.  Return to oven uncovered for 30 minutes.  Alternatively, omit 1/4 cup water/wine and cook on High in slow cooker for 5 hours.  You can serve the beef with a slotted spoon, or serve it juicily over mashed potatoes, or thicken the juices to be more sauce-like and clinging to the beef.

It would be easy to tweak this recipe any number of ways - use prepared barbecue sauce instead of the ketchup and Worcestershire and eat the beef in buns.  Maybe experiment with swapping out some of the ketchup for red wine and adding an herb like rosemary or thyme. Do you have other ideas?

I put it in the slow cooker this Sunday, so I could bake potatoes in the oven.  Then I made a quick coleslaw when we got home from church.  Too bad the Christmas cookies weren't iced yet, or we would have had dessert as well.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"People, Look East"

 "Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.  People, look east and sing today: Love, the Guest, is on the way." - traditional French carol

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stretching Ground Beef

I've learned to stretch ground beef a bit with no complaints from my family.  I sub in cooked brown lentils for part of the ground beef when it's in a flavorful sauce - such as sloppy joe, spaghetti, or here in the picture, Korean beef.  Here I had doubled the recipe and just eyeballed the amount of cooked lentils to equal another pound of ground beef (I'm guessing 2 cups).  I added the cooked lentils when the beef was mostly cooked.

Bonus tip:  use a potato masher to chop and stir ground beef as it fries because it's much easier than trying to break it up with the side of a spoon.  I also mashed at the lentils a bit, which made them even less discernible in the dish.

However, I'm not trying to hide the beef-stretcher from my family.  They all know that the local organic beef I buy is expensive (but not when you consider our health and the environment!).

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Goodbye, Mullet; Hello, Pixie

 I just up and cut it off this morning while the turkey was roasting. I set Phoebe in her high chair in front of a Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star video on Youtube, and vacuumed her off when I was done.

By the way, I think I have my 15-lb turkey method nailed down:  dry brine (2 Tbsp. kosher salt, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. poultry herbs) for 24 hours, bake 425 covered for 1 hour, then 3 hours on 300 (or until nearly done) and uncover last 30 minutes.  My meat thermometer was dead in the drawer when I wanted to test the turkey, but it was delicious and easy, so I'm saving the details.  I'm not scared of cooking big pieces of meat anymore, but I don't do it often enough to remember.

Monday, November 21, 2016

On a November Sunday Afternoon

Genevieve was bored (which drives me crazy - the one day they don't have any chores at all, and are encouraged to relax and play!).  She asked if she could bake cookies, which was perfect because the cookie jar was just emptied recently from the last batch she made.  I love it when items on my to-do list are taken care of by other people!

She chose snickerdoodles, which oddly I have never made before.  But I think they'll go into regular rotation at our house, with a little less sugar.  I always use some all-purpose whole wheat flour in baked goods and reduce the sugar which allows me to consider them a reasonable snack.

Meanwhile, I stayed out of the kitchen and started a new quilt. I can't tell if I like it yet. It's a scrappy trip around the world, and I've loved looking at those finished quilts, but the two blocks I've worked on so far just look strange.  I'm going to persevere because often patchwork transforms into something magical, and I have so many scraps that I'm eager for a quilt to eat up.

The block's looks will improve when it's ironed.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Little Knitted Vest

As I explained last year, I do not enjoy shoving baby arms (todder arms now!) into sleeves.  Especially two sets of long sleeves.  So I prefer to keep Phoebe warm with vests over long-sleeved shirts.
I found a sweet vest pattern that is knitted on straight needles (easy) but has no seams to sew up afterwards (also easy).  I managed to mis-count my rows, however, so that I ended up with a buttonhole on each side of the yoke.  The yarn is too chunky to just shove a small button through a gap somewhere, so I puzzled and puzzled over what to do.  I'm quite pleased with my solution of a kilt pin through the yoke.

I knit this vest on regular-length knitting needles and constantly had to push push push to get the volume of stitches to stay on the needles.  So I bought a new, extra-long pair of needles, because, yes, I love this red vest so much that I have started another.  This one is a cloudy blue-grey which should make Phoebe's blue eyes even bluer.

For both vests, I bought two 90-yard skeins of Loops & Threads Cozy Wool which is 50% acrylic, 50% wool and comes cheap from Michael's with coupons.

 Again with the blurry photos.  Because she has work to do!  Lots of work taking apart this place and getting into things and getting things out and strewing things around!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Supper (Slinging Hash)

I made supper tonight, a menu I've made for years now because it's simple, tasty, and cheap.  It's not thrilling or trendy, but it's getting my people fed without much brainwork on my part and that is what I call "slinging hash."

barbecued sweet potatoes and beans (recipe here, towards the end of the post)
baked corn
coleslaw (sometimes it's green salad or steamed broccoli)

And then Ben pushed Phoebe around in a meat lug contraption while Genevieve washed dishes while I ironed.  Meat lugs come from my dad, from his business connections in food services, and are used by butchers.  But meat lugs are jealously guarded and labeled in my extended family because Dad can't get them anymore, and we need them for laundry baskets, suitcases, baby pools, storage bins, and vacation organizers.  At every extended family gathering, someone carries in a meat lug full of something.   I use my two meat lugs mostly for laundry. One of them has a crack in the bottom that I have hopelessly taped with duct tape.  Guess I will only have one family heirloom meat lug to pass down to my kids!

UPDATED with recipe!
Baked Corn  - based on Mennonite Country-Style's recipe

Mix in greased baking dish (approximately 2-quart or 8x8 pan)
3-4 cups corn, frozen and thawed, any liquid drained and reserved
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. flour

Separately, whisk together:
2 eggs
1 cup milk (if the corn has liquid on it, use it here in place of part of the milk)

Pour over mixture in baking dish.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, depending on how shallow your baking dish is.  It's not a fussy casserole and can even bake at a higher or lower temperature.  When it's set in the middle, it's done.  Can also add 1/2 cup shredded cheese to top close to end of baking time.  Can also put this in the slow cooker on low for 4 hours, but reduce to 1 egg and use a very scant cup milk.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Just Ponytails

Finally she has some hair long enough for ponytails!  I just love to see little girls in ponytails or pigtails.  I rarely get to do Genevieve's hair anymore, so I'm thrilled to have a little girl growing hair.  Phoebe is 18 months old now.

 Phoebe is in the hilarious stage of asking for something and bursting into tears when it comes to pass.  I can't now recall what this sobbing was about, but recently, I had to put a band-aid on her finger and she cried when I put it on.  Then, five minutes later, she picked it off and brought it to me, sobbing because it was off.  And when it went into the trash can, she visited the trash can a few times to cry "ban-aid." We just love talking with her.