Friday, May 08, 2015

Thinking About Food

 From the third book in the Kristin Lavransdatter series, The Cross, by Sigrid Undset:
"Hm. Your mother has else the name of one that looks narrowly to her goods, and is a most notable and thrifty housewife --"

"Not with food," said Naakkve eagerly. "To that every soul can bear witness, very carl and every woman that has served on our manor -- with food is mother the most free-handed woman. In that way she is no otherwise not than when we were rich folk -- never gladder than when she can set on her board some dainty dish -- and she purveys such full measure that each serving-man and woman, down to the swineherd and the bedesfold, get their share of the good things."

 I can relate to Kristin, Naakkve's mother, in this aspect. I, too, very much want to make sure all who are at my table have enough to eat and more. To set a dainty dish to delight the diners brings me great pleasure. The planning and the preparing, as well as the dining and dish work which follows is a joy to me.

Honestly, the cooking and cleaning are two great joys of mine. While others may be overwhelmed with such chores, and I admit, I am too at times, I really do get delight from it. I first learned this joy from my mom.

When I was growing up she babysat lots of kids. Every day for lunch she would fix these toddlers a hot meal.  Not peanut butter and jelly, or a sandwich, although sometimes those were fixed. But hot lunches, like frying them fish and hush puppies, macaroni and cheese (not from a box), spaghetti and garlic bread, corn and green beans. Often these weren't leftovers from our supper the night before, but meals she prepared for their lunch. My mom is now 80 and she still babysits, two toddlers and an infant. Yep, she still fixes these little toddlers a hot lunch. When asked why, she says because they need to eat good food.

It isn't only in the daily cooking of food for my family that brings me joy, but also the cooking for friends and family who visit. To try and prepare as much as possible from scratch, to set dainty dishes on the table, to think about what might bring my guests gastronomical delight is a fun puzzle I like to solve.

Come visit me sometime. Give me the joy of not only your company, but the joy of cooking and cleaning for you.

Time for lunch for the family. Today, much to the joy of my kids it isn't leftovers but steak fajitas with rice.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sandwich or a Spoon?

Food Again.

I just can't get enough.

Although one could argue I have had enough.

The excellent brownies Ellie has been baking.

The scones Abby baked for breakfast.

The yummy turtle pie Rachel baked last week for dessert after dinner.

The Kopp's custard.

The Sobelman's hamburger and fries washed down with a good beer we ate for lunch last week.

But this post isn't about any of that good food. It is about walnuts and cream cheese, green peppers and onions, salt and pepper. It is about all those things mixed together to form a yummy deliciousness.

I first made this for Hannah's 18th birthday tea party. We (and by we I mean Hannah) searched for various recipes to make for the special occasion. This Walnut Tea Sandwich Recipe was one we found and made and loved.

I have been craving this creamy yummy concoction for awhile. I kept thinking it would be great as a dip for vegetables, especially when I'm wanting to cut down on the carbs and sugar I've been stuffing my pie-hole with lately.

Today I finally got around to making it. And now you should to.

Walnut Tea Sandwich Recipe
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup ground toasted walnuts
2 TBSP finely-minced parsley
1 TBSP finely-minced green bell pepper
1 TBSP finely-minced onion
1 teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg (or more to taste)
Salt and white pepper to taste

Mix this all together.
For a sandwich the recipe says to choose the best-quality white or wheat bread. Spread a piece with butter, top with the mixture, add another slice of buttered bread on top. Cut off the crusts and then cut in half diagonally and then cut in half again.

Or simply grab a celery stick and dig in.
Or a green pepper slice.
Or a carrot stick.
Or a spoon.

Fifty percent of those are easier to get the delicious spread to your mouth than the other fifty percent. But you can experiment for yourself.

Quickly now, gather the ingredients, make a sandwich or grab a spoon or celery stick. This is food you'll make again and again.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bacon and Eggs

We just picked up a butchered pig from the meat market. Now my freezer is full of yummy things like, pork roasts and chops, hams and ribs, sausage and bacon!

A member in the congregation who has chickens is being overrun with eggs. Usually her kids and their families have no problem keeping up with the laying hens. However some of the families were away on vacation, and the chickens know it is spring and our busy laying eggs galore. Therefore, she gave us several dozen. We were quite happy to accept.

So for breakfast I made a favorite: bacon and eggs.

I don't remember now where I saw this recipe the first time, a blog? on Face Book? on Pinterest? I don't know. But I do know it is easy and yummy.

Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
Wrap a piece of bacon around the edge.
Crack an egg in each cup.
Add salt and pepper.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, or until the eggs are as done you prefer.

The original recipe I saw from the place I no longer remember said to crack the eggs into a bowl and whip, then add some to each cup. I did it that way the first couple of times, but pouring the egg mixture into each cup got real messy real quick. As my girls will tell you, I did what I normally do and adjusted the recipe. It is so much easier to simply crack one egg into each muffin cup.

Coming out of the oven, ready to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee. . .

and some fresh strawberries I bought from Aldi.

When you find yourself hungry for bacon and eggs, try this recipe and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Boring Life Update

Tonight is the last Lenten service before Holy Week. I have helped serve four of the last five Lenten suppers. That kept me busy in the kitchen on Wednesdays.

My good friend, Karin, and some of her sons planned to visit us last week for a few days. What they didn't know when they planned that was Karin's uncle would get quite ill, enter hospice, and then die. Since he lived only about thirty minutes away from me, I was her home away from home while she dealt with the responsibilities she had with her uncle. Between February and last week, she was here four different times. We laugh because each time there were different kids with her. I'm glad I am here for her and I enjoyed her, what came to be, every two-week visit.

We had quite the warm first part of March. Several days of 50, maybe even, 60 degree weather. It prompted us to clean up the front porch and put out our rockers. That was the ides of March. It didn't last long. We got a spring snow fall this past Monday. Over Sunday night into Monday morning about eight inches of heavy, wet snow fell. It was so pretty.

I can hear birds singing in the mornings when I awake. And when I'm walking outside during the day. It is lovely.

Monday was Nathan's 15th birthday. He requested cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We took him to Five Guys for supper. He also requested enchiladas, so I made those for Tuesday's dinner. We are having birthday pie (apple, currently baking) and opening gifts this evening after evening service.

For the past several years our congregation has had every Sunday communion during the Easter season. Last week the elders suggested that this year that practice continue after Easter and it become our normal practice. Soli Deo Gloria! I am thrilled that now every Sunday I have an opportunity to receive Christ's Body and Blood.

An update to my reading update post. Since I wrote that, I have read all 7 of the Chronicles of Narnia books. I've also finished Le Morte D'Arthur with Nathan and Abby, as well as Anna Karenina for my book club. This coming Monday my book club will discuss the final chapters of Anna.

I decided to start reading the Kristin Lavransdatter series by Sigrid Undset that so many friends have recommended. For book club we will start reading The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. I'll have to get that book next week sometime. Our first discussion will be the second week of Easter. Finally with Nathan and Abby I decided to take my daughter, Hannah's, advice and read Dante's Inferno next. For Lent David has been preaching on the seven deadly sins - one life-giving Savior. Reading Dante will give us some perspective and wrestle with the ideas.

There you go. A list of what has been happening in my little neck of the woods. Boring to some, busy to others, but our life at this time.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Reading Update

It is now the third month of 2015. Time for an update on my reading challenges.

I self-declared this to be the Year of the Re-Read.
So far I have re-read the following:

J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit (finished January 3)
The Fellowship of the Ring (finished February 6)
The Two Towers (finished February 23)
The Return of the King (finished March 5)

I first read these Tolkien books in 2002 and then again in 2006. It was definitely time to re-read them. Wow, are they good books and I need to not let so many years pass in between re-reads. My daughter Hannah, lover of all things Tolkien, is lobbying hard for me to read The Silmarillion. I told her I'll add it to my list. Maybe, just maybe I can get to it this year. For now, I will continue my re-read list with C.S. Lewis's Narnia books.

For Jane's challenge I listed 10 books and 5 alternates. I have completed one:
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (finished January 11)

Oh, and as part of the Year of the Re-Read, I decided to re-read aloud to my younger three The Series of Unfortunate Events. We have finished book one.
The Bad Beginning (finished February 9)

Isn't that sad that I've only finished one of those? It is difficult to find time for read alouds anymore. We struggle to find time when we are all home and ready to listen and mom is ready to read. Something to work on in the coming days and weeks and months.

I did join the book club which some of my friends, also home-school moms, started. They began in January with Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Wow, do I enjoy this book. It has been interesting, intriguing, fun, and full of characters I want to hug or hit. We only read a certain number of pages each week and then discuss those together via chat. We will finish the book at the end of March. I'm not sure what will be next for book club.

I've also been reading with Nathan and Abby Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur. That is quite interesting as well. But reading it and Tolkien and Tolstoy all at the same time was quite hard. None of the books are hard by themselves, but together it made for a challenging time. That is why I'm picking Narnia for my next re-read. It won't require near the thinking cells I've used the last month. I'm debating on if I should tackle Dante's Inferno with Nathan and Abby next or simply move into Shakespeare and delve into his plays.

March is here and I've read so far six books plus two that I'm still reading. I really don't know if that is good or bad. But it is what I've accomplished. At this point I admit I'm a teeny bit concerned about meeting my reading challenges. Only a teeny bit for now though. It is only the third month of the year. I have time. Now back to my scheduled reading.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Very Fun Valentine's Festivities

February 14th, 2015 found the whole family awaking at home and walking to church for the spoken daily Matins service. While David stayed at church to prepare for Sunday, the kids and I walked back home and over breakfast we chatted. As I finished putting away laundry, the kids held a conference.

They told me I needed to leave the main floor of the house. Sous la Maison was opening and only staff were allowed on the main floor.

Instead of watching Pride and Prejudice as they suggested and I really would have liked, I took my book-club book up to my room and continued reading in preparation for the up-coming discussion.  Snuggled up under the covers on a mound of pillows with a favorite classical playlist on Spotify filling the air, I settled in to find out what was going to happen to Anna and Vronsky, Levin and Kitty, and Dolly and Oblonsky. Anna Karenina has been a delightful read and I am quite enjoying Tolstoy's novel. It was only appropriate I thought that I finally read of Levin's proposal to Kitty on Valentine's Day. This was the first joy in a very fun-filled Valentine's Day.

I read for about an hour or so before David came home. He and I and Matt and Michele had planned to attend Schell's Bock Fest together. It was going to be cold, although not as bad as last year. We layered silk long johns under shirts and fleece and topped it all with snow pants, scarves, gloves and hats.

We arrived at Schell's Brewery and got our beer and brats and joined all the other crazy people who came out to enjoy the fun on a cold (sub-zero wind chill) Valentine's Day.
What's up with no snow?
Michele and Matt

Enjoying ice-cold beer on an ice-cold day!

We walked around and marveled at the many different hats people were wearing, the size of containers people were using to drink Schell's Bock Beer (always an excellent choice), and frankly to keep warm when we couldn't be around one of the many fire-pits.

We stayed enjoying the fun for about three hours before walking back to the van and heading home.
Wearing the right clothes and drinking beer helped keep us all warm and we are making plans for next year's Bock Fest.

After we got home, David and I were once again banished to the upstairs. Since we were going to be dining out at our annual Valentine's restaurant, we showered and dressed for dinner.

At six pm we were escorted to our table and came that much closer to finding out what the wonderful aromas our nostrils had been inhaling. We eagerly read the menu.

Not long to wait for our first course, Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower Soup.

WOW, was this ever yummy.
I really wanted to have seconds of the soup, but I knew from previous experience that more was yet to come from the staff of Sous la Maison.

Next our salad:
With hear-shaped bacon!
My belly was bursting before the plat principal arrived:
A made up, yet extremely delicious, steak recipe by the staff
 I only ate half my steak because I wanted to eat all of my dessert.
This cheesecake is superb!
Once more the staff at Sous la Maison delighted us with their culinary skills. Our kids are truly a delight and helped to make this very fun Valentine's Day full of festivities another one we will remember.
Ellie, Nathan, Sam, Hannah, and Abby

Monday, January 26, 2015

Let's Talk History

Four years have gone by since I wrote this post. Which makes sense because I teach history on a four year cycle and this year we are once again covering the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and the Renaissance.

We got out our Kings and Queens of England Lapbook and I have begun again to read Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall. If you haven't read this book, find a copy and do so. It is a great read aloud to your children. Engaging and delightful to read, but also quite informative and interesting.

I also discovered, although now I forget from whom, probably Amy, she tells me everything I need to know. It helps to have smart, knowledgable friends, they keep me on track.

Back to discovering. . . H.E. Marshall also wrote this book, The Story of Europe. It covers the history of Europe from the fall of Rome until the Reformation. Having written, Our Island Story, which covers the history of England, its history is not included in The Story of Europe unless it plays an important role in the politics and events of Europe.

It is another very delightful read aloud. One thing I am enjoying more about this book is that she has included the dates of events in the margin. This makes it easier for reading, but also easy to look something up quickly.

In the back there is a nice chronological chart. The first column gives the century, the second column has the events in British history, the third column gives the history of the continent, and the final column gives the chapter in the book where it is covered.

Between these two books, our timeline, learning our Kings and Queens of England poem, as well as memorizing the fifteen pack of tricks in world history, we should learn something by the end of the year.