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Monday, September 27, 2010

No Menus

I'm taking a break from my menus for a couple weeks. I will try to post other things in the interim. Like the fact that I am knitting again!

After working on Mariam's jacket and hat and finishing the knit/sewn dress, I kind of got the bug again and am making more of an effort to make time for it. It helps that I'm not nearly as exhausted as I was before and that there is some little progress being made on the house so it doesn't require as much attention as it has (though still a ton).

Anyway, I cast on for some of these socks for the Yasmina and Amira. I'm using fingering weight yarn, rather than sport weight, so I changed the number of sts and modified the heel a little. We are doing a kind of rose quartz color for one pair and a rosy/raspberry color for the other pair.

Alexander and Dominic have renewed their interest in learning to knit, so I may be teaching them on some of these fall and winter days.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weekly Recipes: September 25

Creamy Herbed White Beans

This is really, really easy to make and tastes incredibly good. If you don't like mint, use whatever other fresh herb you like.

1 pound dry white beans (I use runner cannelini beans), soaked and cooked with a bay leaf
four cloves garlic, finely minced
handful of mint, finely minced
juice of one lemon
enough good olive oil to make the beans creamy
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Drain the beans, but not too thoroughly, leave some of the bean liquor in the beans. Set pot back on the stove over low heat and stir in the garlic and mint. Stir to warm a bit with the beans. Add the lemon juice and drizzle in the olive oil while stirring the beans to create a creamy consistency. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as you desire. Serve room temperature or cold.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Menu Plan: September 19 - September 25

Breakfasts are still mostly simple, quick things that the boys can make, though I'm doing a little more. We were given another meal last week, so we bumped one of our own freezer meals and had so many leftovers that we bumped another. Those will appear on this week's menu.

Mariam is growing well and at her two week check up had already regained the weight lost at birth plus 10 ounces. She is happy and sleeps very well for a newborn. Alexander and Dominic take turns picking her up and carrying her around.

This is Alexander with her last week.

The highlight from last week was the Tender and Crisp Chicken with Sweet Tomatoes. It was so easy to make, I did a little prep and Rich did the rest. He couldn't get over how good it smelled, even raw, and it was absolutely delicious. We doubled the recipe for our family.

I am excited to be healing well enough to get a few things done, with assistance. I even made up some blackberry lime jam with blackberries we had in the freezer. I'm continuing with my plan of sorting and putting in organized bins just about everything we own. All the children's clothing is sorted by sex and size, with the current clothes in their dressers. I'm working on towels, sheets and blankets now, then on to toys, games, puzzles and things like that. It also allows us to get rid of things we don't use and see the gaps in things that we do need, so we can buy them. Living in a smaller house has taught us what we need and don't need.

Our first week of school went pretty well. I was pleased with how much we got done, less so with how long it was taking. We're still working on getting back in the groove with school, though. This week will go better, plus we add our co-op, which should be fun. Also, I have finally taken to posting our menu plans on the fridge for the children to read. This way, they can get a start on breakfast, if necessary, and it cuts down on the what are we eating type questions.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekly Recipes: September 18

Bolitas with Bacon and Chorizo

1 pound bolitas (or pintos), washed and picked over
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1/2 pound Spanish or smoked Mexican chorizo, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large poblano (also known as pasilla) pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Kosher salt

Put bolitas in a crock pot and cover with half an inch to one inch of water. Cook on high for two hours. Add extra water, only if the beans become uncovered, these shouldn't be too brothy.

In last half hour of cooking, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat to render the fat and crisp up the bacon. When most of the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, add in chorizo, onion and poblano and cook until onion is soft and starting to brown.

Pour all of the meat, vegetables and fat into beans. Turn crock to low and cook for another hour, or until beans are soft. Stir in about a teaspoon of salt, more or less to taste.

Bonus recipe this week:

Instant Chocolate Cake

1/4 cup pastry flour (or all purpose)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add dry ingredients to a large coffee mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add vanilla and mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes on high. The cake may rise over the top of the mug, not to worry. Allow to cool a little, and eat out of the mug with ice cream or whipped cream

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Menu Plan: September 12 - September 18

Breakfasts this week are going to be mostly variations on oatmeal or simple, quick things that the boys can make, because I am still not up to too much standing and cooking. We're also entering the colder time and the molt, so we're getting fewer eggs, so they will be saved for specific dishes, rather than just being used all the time.

It may look like there are a lot of involved meals here, but it's not as complicated as it appears. Many of them are provided from earlier prep or friends who have brought over meals that we have in the freezer. The others have been made in parts or will be made by the oldest members of our family, with a little direction from me.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weekly Recipes: September 11

I thought I had posted this on the blog, but evidently I have not. So, here it is:

Hot Chocolate for a Crowd

Ditch the cocoa mix and make your own. This is the real hot chocolate with the skin. Even the skin is tasty. You don't have to make this on as large a scale, this makes about 16 one cup servings, but come on? Who only drinks one cup?

I use about two thirds regular cocoa and one third black cocoa, which is much darker than dutch process. It is a bit too bitter on its own, but we like a touch of the bitterness and we have found this to be the perfect ratio.

1 3/4 cups cocoa (not the mix, the unsweetened cocoa powder, if you like, use the dutch process for a darker cocoa)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
1 gallon whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional additions:
sweetened whipped vanilla cream
mini-marshmallows (especially homemade ones - see my older notes for a recipe)
crushed candy canes
orange zest
cinnamon (add with sugar and cocoa)
replace hot water with espresso

In a large pot, mix cocoa, sugar and salt. Turn on heat to medium and slowly add hot water, stirring to make a thin paste. Heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to come to a boil. Boil and stir for a minute or two. Add milk and heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to the temperature you'd like to serve. Take off heat and stir in vanilla extract.

Ladle up and serve. Become your family's hero.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Seven Quick Takes: September 10

1. Now that we have a new little one at home, we are busy adoring her and making photographic records. I caught this the other day. She and Rich were sleeping so soundly, almost exact mirror images of each other.

2. We were discussing at the dinner table the other day how life was created perfect and it was the result of the Fall that sickness, disease and death entered the world. Elijah made a comment that I would have healed from surgery much more easily if it weren't for that, and I said that I never would have needed it in the first place, that if it weren't for the Fall, all life would be perfect. Amira replied that, yes, summer was much better. She didn't get why we all laughed.

3. Jerome has been putting out quite a few zingers, too. At another dinner conversation, he said something about growing up to be a man and that he would probably marry Amira. He's had some bad luck in love lately, so I think he thought he'd stick with someone he knew had to love him. We all explained why this was not possible.

He's also made some humorous observations about his new sister. For instance, while watching me change her diaper recently, he told us that she didn't have a p*nis yet.

While watching Rich change her clothes, he asked why we left part of her electrical cord on her.

4. Even Yasmina is getting in on the randomizer act. When she first saw me nursing Mariam, she said that the baby was eating me.

Since she also doesn't want to be left out of bossing her siblings, she told them all not to talk with their mouths during a recent meal.

5. We recently learned that locust bean tree leaves are not poisonous. Which is a good thing, since Elijah and Jerome decided to play turtles in the pasture and ate three leaves off the trees each. The pods are poisonous, which was too close a call for me. If you have these infernal trees in your yard, don't let anyone eat the pods.

6. I never thought that with parents like me and Rich, we would ever have shy children. Amira can be a little shy, though she warms up quickly enough once she feels comfortable with a new person. Yasmina, however, has none of this. She will interrupt anyone at any time to express her opinions on any given subject. She broke into a conversation Rich and I were having with some friends we had over for dinner on Monday to tell them about how she went in the pool when she had her swimsuit on. Our girls' personalities are one of the minefields we are navigating. There is this balance of wanting them to feel good about how they look, talk, laugh, think and not wanting them to put their value in any of those things solely. This really resonated with me.

7. Our first term of school starts next week. We normally begin on September 1, but we had some other, more pressing things going on then. So, our terms are going to be a little different this year. We've also joined a co-op for the first time. I'm not sure how we're going to like all of it, but I really wanted to meet other homeschooling families in the area, and it seems harder to get connected with them here than it was back home.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Menu Plan: September 5 - September 11

I meant to post this early last week, or at least in a seven quick takes post, but never got around to it. It's been a busy and tiring time here, though we've been taking it fairly easy.

I finished four projects two weeks ago. First, I finished these two, the jacket on the 22nd of August and the hat on the 24th.

Then, I finished this, which has only needed the sewing for a long, long time, on the 25th.

Then I finished this on the morning of the 26th:

Mariam Beatrix was born at 8:08 a.m., via c-section, weighed exactly eight pounds and was exactly 21 inches long. She and I are both doing very well, though, of course, that is relative to having a repeat deep abdominal surgery in which they sawed me in half. My in-laws were here for a week and a half to help us out, and Rich has three more days of his two week's leave before I'm on my own during the day.

She is just one of the reasons I've been so quiet on the blog. I had a much more exhausting pregnancy this time, though all was well and healthy. I've been meaning to post all about our house projects, my crafting, the farm and the pregnancy, not to mention some more frugality posts, but just couldn't get motivated enough to think clearly and put words together. It's only because it kept me on track with our meals and grocery shopping and budgeting that I've even been menu planning.

I put several meals in the freezer and bought lots of things that would be easy for the children and Rich to put together quickly, and a new set of friends from church sent us home with two meals to put in our freezer right before the baby was born. We've probably overextended our use of favors from another family in town, who have watched our children on numerous occasions and painted our bedroom for us, but they are still offering to fetch and carry for us at any time we need it. Both these families honestly offered to be our emergency back up plan should I go into labor before the surgery was scheduled and we had an emergency trip to the hospital. Another family in the neighborhood has offered to take the older children to play with theirs once all the help is gone. Even the guys that work for Rich put together some cards and gifts to send to us.

One thing we've learned is that out here in the country, where our houses are no closer than a quarter mile, people think of each other as neighbors and friends in a way that they didn't in town. Folks we only see a few times a year have offered to help us, so even though we don't have the church family and years long friendships we had back "home" to come through, we have support and people who care.

I also learned that at least a few people know and think of us in this town. When Rich went to the farmer's market without us last week, everyone there asked about us and about the baby. The folks at the Grocery Outlet all wanted to see pictures when I went in (she was asleep in the car with Rich and the other children). That was nice, because it is easy to feel a little isolated and faceless in a new place, even one as small as this.

Needless to say, our meal plans will be a little eclectic over the next few weeks and definitely subject to change. Rich is taking care of meals almost all the time now, and will probably still handle dinners when he's back at work (along with his usual Saturday and Sunday morning breakfast duties), but the older boys will be taking care of breakfast and lunch most days until I am recovered enough to stand long enough to prepare meals again and am cleared to lift the pots and pans that hold enough food for this family. At the least, I will have a cadre of sous-chefs from Alexander to Jerome, who will help with the kitchen tasks and the heavy lifting. I am thankful that they are so capable and willing to help.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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