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May 13, 2010

So my husband, also known as He Of The Grand Plans, has decided that this summer we will visit  many state parks for hiking, sightseeing, and the like.  Our maiden voyage was a few weekends ago, and it was quite the adventure.  Importantly, we learned valuable lessons.

1.  Do not feed kiwi to E for breakfast, just prior to a long, hilly car trip.

2. ALWAYS pack extra clothes.

3. Our Hero is a master of improvisation.


like a broken record

April 28, 2010

That’s how I feel.  And still, it must be said: I am so frickin’ tired.  I know that it’s probably getting old, but that is my life right now.  And this is my blog.  So there.

I am so frickin’ tired.

I won’t get into the gory details, but let’s suffice it to say this:  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUGH!

Anyway, now that that is out of my system, I’ll share a few pictures from our cold-day trip to the park.  Brrrrr.

delightful dish

April 21, 2010

I’m a huge fan of 101 Cookbooks.  Heidi Swanson has a way with putting flavors together and using whole ingredients, and many of her recipes that I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot) are really something special.  I’ve been cooking a lot lately out of her book, Super Natural Cooking.  The book is full of gems, and here’s one of them: Risotto-Style Barley.

Being a bit of a whole-grain addict, I’ve made “risottos” using pearl barley before, and usually they end up gloppy.  This one did not.  The consistency was perfect (though obviously much more toothsome than a conventional risotto), and the combination of orange, arugula, walnuts, and Parmesan (actually, I used pecorino romano) is bright and rich.  Delicious!

Risotto-Style Barley
From Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson (not word-for-word, I encourage you to get the book!)

3 T. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt, to taste
2 cups pearled barley
1 cup white wine (I used vermouth)
6 cups water
1 orange
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (again, I used pecorino)
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
2 big handfuls arugula
Handful of chopped toasted walnuts (for garnish)

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or pan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, salt, and saute until onion begins to soften.

Add the barley and stir until coated with oil.  Add the white wine and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the barley has absorbed the liquid a bit.  Adjust heat to a gentle, active simmer.

In increments, add water 1 cup at a time, letting barley absorb most of the liquid between additions.  It should take about 40 minutes.  Stir regularly, so barley doesn’t scorch on bottom of pot.  You will know when it is done because the barley will not offer much resistance.  This risotto is better on the brothy side, so don’t worry if there is a bit of unabsorbed liquid in the pot.

Meanwhile, grate the zest of the orange, then peel and segment the orange.  Cut the segments in half, reserving any juices that leak out.  When the barley is tender, stir in the orange zest, segments and juice, parmesan, and sour cream.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be, then stir in the arugula.  Garnish with tasted walnuts before serving.

Seriously, folks, this is really tasty.  It’s another one of those lively dishes that taste like spring, even though the harvest has yet to come!  We can’t wait for our CSA to start here, but in the meantime there’s plenty keeping me busy . . .


April 19, 2010

Sunday morning E woke up at 4am, and was up for the day.  Anyone who knows the barest details of my life of late, knows that I have not slept in approximately 16 months.  And here’s the thing–it’s either evolutionarily-programmed self-preservation or the grace of god–every 9 or 10 days, when I feel like I’m going to wind up in a straitjacket at any moment, I get a little sleep.  It’s almost worse than not sleeping at all.  Just a little bit to keep the cycle going.

Sunday was one of those days before the ever-so-slightly-better respite. I was just barely there.  I forced myself to walk to the park (where Our Hero joined us), and the fresh air helped.  The rest of the day looked pretty much like the picture above.  I knit what’s going to be a slithery snake, E drew pictures, we read books and might have watched a little bit of Mister Rogers(Um, why did they ever take him off the air?  He is amazing.)

I really do think that I understand how sleep deprivation is a torture method.

P.S. My kitchen floor is filthy.


April 16, 2010

So this week I started a big spring cleaning plan.  Why on earth did I think this was a good idea?  Because I am still, it seems, overly idealistic.  I thought that cynicism would have completely overtaken me by thirty, but here I am, somehow imagining that I will have time to clean, declutter, and organize my entire house.

In my defense, it is a good plan. I am really not a “stuff” person, so I am always amazed and a little disgusted when I stop and assess what we’ve amassed.

Preventing me from my big plans?  This gorgeous spring sunshine.  The sun, the sun!  I took this one in lovely glow-y evening light:

And here’s a shot of my little town.

And here are a couple from E and my wanderings, when the sun was calling and we couldn’t say no.

And as if I didn’t have enough projects started, I found this great fabric at my local fabric store and am going to try to make E an apron for kitchen adventures like these:

She is “chopping” garlic in an apron down to her toes, which I rather enjoy wearing.

So where was I?  Oh yes, in spite of our wayside wanderings, I was able to get some lovely bread made this week.  I’ve been baking bread for a while now, but we only recently stopped buying store-bought bread.  I like to know what’s in my bread.  It’s cheaper (if you buy 100% whole-grain varieties), it tastes better, and it makes the house smell great.  It’s also easy as long as you’re planning on being around the house for a while (making our own bread–one of the little-known benefits of stay-at-home-momhood).

I mainly use the Tassajara Bread Book and Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  I’ve been using the Tassajara book for the past two years (which, to my happy surprise, Soulemama uses too).  It makes soft, sandwich-y whole-grain bread.  The book has a bunch of variations, too.  Every one I’ve tried has been a winner–especially the cinnamon raisin and the oatmeal.  I really recommend buying this book.  The techniques discussed are fantastic and the recipes work.  Here’s a link to the recipe for Tassajara’s basic whole-wheat bread, if you’re not convinced.  I’ve also been mostly pleased with Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I feel I need a little more time to work with the recipes to get exactly the product I like.  I’ve tried two different recipes, and they do produce crusty, chewy, flavorful loaves.  I’ve had a slight problem with the dough consistency, even though I measured ingredients by weight.  Very wet dough will not give the height of a drier dough.  I’ll let you know what further experimentation yields.

And of course, naptime was all too brief.  Later!

catching up

April 9, 2010

Well, it’s clear I’ve been lax.  I’m behind.  But wait!  I have lots of excellent excuses: Our Hero leaving town for five days, leaving E and me to fend for ourselves; illness (thankfully minor); visits from family; and MOLARS FROM HELL.

There may have also been a 30th birthday party.  (Note to crafters and sign-makers: Elmer’s Spray Adhesive is NOT a good substitute for rubber cement.)  Anyway here I am, embarrassing as it is, excuses in hand.

We still have sleepy eyes around the house.  The good news is that E, worst teether in the known universe, only has two left to come through.  I’m not banking on them coming quickly, but let’s just say that when they do, I will be dancing in the streets.  Drinking from the bottle.  Hooting.  Hollering.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on my first sweater!  It’s the Babies and Bears pattern from Cottage Creations.

My friend, due next month (!) picked the pattern and the color.  I was pretty nervous, and I’m definitely not through the woods yet, but I am really enjoying myself and loving the challenge!  I’m planning a basic tomten for E for the fall.  Can’t wait to go yarn shopping!

Am really itching for a bit more time to ruminate with these posts, but I rarely have the time to really sit down and form an organized thought.  There’s so much I want to write, and make, and do.

But in the meantime, we are busy learning about the world, and having fun.


March 23, 2010

I’m sure we haven’t seen the last blustery day around here, but we have been celebrating the sun while it’s here like nobody’s business with walks after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We always see something new and exciting.  E has been saying “croshus” as she makes a beeline for the little violet springtime harbingers.

I was so impressed with how gently (“gen-tuw”) E has been exploring our floral finds, and was expressing this to her (“Oh, E, that’s very nice how gently you’re touching the crocuses.”)–she took my hand to walk away, then doubled back and smooshed them with the toe of her boot.  Chalk it up to experimentation, contrarianism, or toddleritis . . . I tried very hard not to laugh.

When the weather turns springlike, I always want the menu to do likewise, forgetting that it takes a while for the harvest to catch up with the weather.  This quick pasta recipe tastes springy without requiring the purchase of products from Chile and the like, though I did splurge on a bit of fresh dill.  It’s adapted from a recipe I found in Gourmet years and years ago, but have since lost.  I’m not sure how faithful my memory is to the original, so be forewarned.

Orecchiette with Cabbage, Peas, and Dill

1 lb. orecchiette pasta, whole wheat if you can find it
1 T. butter
1 small onion, diced
1/2 head large green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine, vermouth, or stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
bunch baby dill, chopped
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup cream, half-n-half (I used this because I had it kicking around), or good yogurt (I use this most often)
grated pecorino romano cheese, for sprinkling

Boil pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, melt butter in large, deep skillet.  Add onion and saute until translucent.  Stir in cabbage and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add wine, salt, and pepper, cover, and cook until cabbage is cooked but still a little al dente.  Stir in peas, dill, lemon zest, and cream.  Toss with hot cooked pasta.  Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Other recipes we’re loving:

Chicken with Lentils
Pinto Beans (eaten in bowls, in burritos, and refried in quesadillas)