Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Conversations, Unedfiying but Amusing

Conversation #1
Location: Target walking past the undergarments

My two year old daughter points and shouts as we pass the particularly bright, colorful and skimpy stuff: Mom, you have some of those!!!

After hearing her shout it out a second time, since I tried to ignore the comment and keep moving, I respond: Yes, but not in those shapes or colors.

Two year old: Oh. But they are pwetty!

Conversation #2

Four year old:  Mom, how old are you?

Me: I'm getting really old.

Four year old suddenly looks as though he's about to cry: But Mom, when you get old, you die. If you are old, you're going to die. Who will take care of us?

I reassure him that I'm not planning an imminent demise, and let him know that several people would be willing to take care of him should that unlikely event take place any time soon.

Four year old, still looking sad, but somewhat less upset: Well, I don't think you're old anyway. Your hair isn't gray. When you have gray hair, you are old. And then you will die.

My apologies to all of you who went gray early, the four year old says you're doomed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Strawberry Tapioca

Remember the stuff my husband calls "Pink Stuff" that appears at every potluck? It's made from strawberry jello, cottage cheese and fluff (or something like that -- I've never actually made it). It tastes pretty yummy, although I've always been a bit weirded out by the ingredient list. So when I found a delicious looking recipe for strawberry tapioca in one of my Amish cookbooks, I wanted to try it.

Unfortunately, the recipe, if followed exactly turned out an end result that has earned this dish the name of Oobleck in our house. So, I have rewritten the recipe so that it doesn't quite glue everything in its path together. It's not really all that much like "Pink Stuff" although it resembles it in looks, but it is delicious, doesn't have a weird ingredient list, and is an excellent use of all those strawberries that are currently in season.

Strawberry Tapioca

2 cups strawberries, washed and hulled
1 cup sugar
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup quick cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup whipping cream

Mash strawberries with 1/2 cup of sugar; set aside.

Combine boiling water, tapioca, and salt in a large saucepan. Allow mixture to stand for 5 minutes. Then cook, stirring frequently until tapioca mixture boils. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining sugar, butter, lemon juice and almond extract.

Then stir in strawberries, mixing until well combined. Chill for several hours.  For an almost fat free dessert, you can serve this way. For ultimate creamy deliciousness, whip the cream and stir into the chilled tapioca. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Old School Reading

If one is looking even further back in time for reading suggestions, than the aforementioned I See Sam books of my youth, one could introduce their child to Singing Wheels, which my parents read and loved when they were in school in the 1950s.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Whadda Ya Mean You Don't Eat No Meat?

So the English bishops are bringing back meatless Fridays. A sensible thing to do, in my opinion. When, after having been Catholic for a year or so, we discovered that Fridays were supposed to still be penitential and you were still supposed to abstain from something, we implemented meatless Fridays in our family. Actually, we often have meatless Thursdays as well, so as to have meatless Friday leftovers for lunch.

Knowing that giving up meat was the longstanding practice of the church made going meatless an obvious choice. I think that not only do a whole lot of Catholics not even know we're supposed to still practice some sort of Friday abstinence, but with the variety of possible choices open to everyone, it's hard to know what to give up. If meat goes back to being the standard, the discipline actually becomes easier -- and it is nice knowing that all your fellow church-goers are doing the same thing along with you.

Although, one also should probably remember that even though an excellent pan-seared salmon meets the meatless criteria, it might not actually be penitential.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beginning Readers or the Trouble with Phonics

I've taught three kids to read with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. As one friend of mine noted, however, although it will teach your child to read and contains 100 lessons, the easy part is subject to interpretation.  It's never been exactly easy, and my fourth child to go through the book -- now on lesson 50 -- is making me think there has got to be a better way. At the very least, this child needs a break from this particular book.  He's been alternating between hiding and tears when the reading book comes out.

I don't want him to forget what he has learned though, so I was excited to discover a blast from my past on the web. (I could tell you about the other blast from my past to pop up this week when someone I did not go to high school posted on Facebook that a high school physics teacher I had for one semester was marrying her boyfriend of 40! years -- but that's another story). It really shouldn't surprise me as much as it does that so much great educational stuff is out there free on the web; that so many people have devoted time, effort and money to putting so many resources up.   Sometimes it is surprising though to find things I haven't seen or thought about in 30 years -- like the I See Sam books.

The originals are probably in my parents' basement in Ohio some place, but in the meantime I've printed out several. My son is enjoying the books and unlike the dreaded reading lessons he hides from, he actually asked if I would print out another book this morning.

There are many choices for beginning readers, of course. Bob books, CHC Little Stories for Little Folks, etc. We have those too. But if you want to go old school and/or free -- the Sam books are a fun way to start.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Home Improvements

When we bought a 99 year old house a few years ago, I somehow thought it would be more or less renovated eventually.  What was I thinking?  It's 102 years old now and though quite livable nothing is every really finished around here.  Or if one thing gets finished, some child whacks a hole in the plaster.

Mostly, I vacillate between dreaming up projects and bugging my husband about why he doesn't take them on in all his spare time. I'm not nearly as handy as I like to pretend that I am. Painting on a little shellac on some trim now and then probably doesn't qualify.

Recently, our home improvements have actually been outside -- building new garden beds, moving plants, planting new plants  and all that. But I really hope that the summer can bring about some other projects -- the installation of a new dishwasher, fixing windows (for heat retention and lead abatement purposes), and maybe, just maybe, we could get around to giving the kids some closet doors.  If I get really motivated, I might even get around to painting our laundry room or something -- although the window and door trim has never been put up.

Or maybe...

Maybe I'll just sit back and ignore all the stuff that could be done, it sounds like too much work.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Cooking with Jordana

And these are just the cookbooks I keep in the kitchen...

If you came to my house, you would see that I have a lot of cookbooks. Although I do look up recipes on the internet, not infrequently, I still prefer a well-edited cookbook.  Naturally, amongst the all the books I have, there are those I turn to almost weekly and those I use less often, but can't bear to part with either.  Here are my current favorites. What are yours?

1.  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day
I love bread, but I've been a yeast-o-phobe for years. I couldn't even make good bread in a bread machine consistently.  Then I found these books and I bake stuff all the time. You can find the basic bread recipe on-line, but there are so many wonderful recipes in these books -- broccoli cheese bread, whole wheat brioche (which I used as the base for the hot cross buns), pizza dough, naan, pita bread, Volkorn Brot, panettone. I've liked everything I have made.

2. 660 Curries
I cook Indian food almost every week and I have several good cookbooks, but this is my new favorite.  My husband got it for my birthday a year or two ago and I turn to it more often than any of my other Indian cookbooks. Favorite recipes include: chana masala, mattar paneer (my oldest son's very favorite Indian dish of all), aloo ghobi, and lentils with garlic and bay leaves.

3. America's Test Kitchen: Family Cookbook
You won't find any more thoroughly tested recipes than those from America's Test Kitchen. Though I occasionally complain that some of their recipes are fiddly or a bit too complicated, they always turn out very, very well. There are so many recipes in the book, from exotic to comfort foods and I always pleased. I love their recipe from Indian-spiced Lentils (again with the Indian food, I know!), German apple pancake, tuna noodle casserole, Mexican rice and many others.

4. Ken Hom's Foolproof Chinese Cooking
My husband grew up as a missionary's kid in Taiwan, so he has fairly high standards for Chinese food. He always seems to enjoy the things I've made from this book and although I tend to stick to the same favorites, everyone gobbles them down. I love the simplicity of the fried rice (although I add a few extra vegetables to it),  the kung po chicken is always a favorite (okay, I add some carrots to this one too) and the broccoli and green bean recipes are absolutely awesome.

5. Marcia Adams' cookbooks: Cooking from Quilt Country, New Recipes from Quilt Country, and Heirloom Recipes
I got one or two of these cookbooks from my husband's grandmother.  I can't remember where I picked up the third, but I love them all. Maybe because I grew up in the heart of Ohio Amish country or maybe because the recipes are just fantastic and hearty.  The pies are especially wonderful, although I have to admit that I didn't exactly love the sauerkraut chess pie all that much.  I make the cornbread muffins from the Heirloom recipe book almost weekly and the strawberry tapioca pudding makes my children cheer.

6. The Barefoot Contessa cookbooks
Although I grew up cooking and messing around in the kitchen, I think these books were part of my growing into a much better cook. It doesn't hurt that she uses a pound of butter in most of the baking recipes, of course. Yum.  The pan seared salmon and lentils in the French book? So simple and so delicious.

7. Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
Especially in the winter, I cook a lot of soup. I love soup and always have.  However, growing up, good soup came from restaurants and at home soup came from a can. I never knew as a child that you could make soup -- let alone broth.  What a revelation that was when I finally, as a teenager, figured out that soup didn't have to come out of a can and be reconstituted.  When you love soup, what could be better than a cookbook of soups?  Not much.  And this one is full of delicious, simple, often vegetarian soups.  Perfect for Lent or Friday meals -- especially when paired with a loaf of crusty bread made from the cookbook at the top of the list.

So, those are some of my go-to cookbooks. As I asked before, what are yours?

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