Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It Only Counts If Someone's Watching

Here is Evan, thowing a fit.


Make sure Mommy is looking...

Eye contact!  Commence crying.

Now act despondent, but very, very cute...

Try again.  Maybe it'll work.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Back in Business

I have found myself in the kitchen a lot more lately.  I've also found myself reading cookbooks again.

Ah, it's good to be back!

I went through quite a dry spell for the last several months in which my family subsisted mostly on yogurt, sourdough bread and quesadillas.  I guess I was tired and uninspired.  Not to mention the difficulties of cooking with a little munchkin crying at my feet (he seems to think that "making supper time" is "cry at mommy time".  Sigh.).  I can now mostly get around this by setting him on the counter to play with sharp knives and glass jars to "help" me or I put him in the highchair right next to me and hand him things to taste and play with.

Also, it just gets boring to keep shuffling the same ol' ingredients around in as many different ways as I can think of.  That's the way it always gets in spring before there is anything in the garden and after I have used up most of the fun stuff from last year's garden.  Especially when I'm limited by not being able to eat wheat.

"Hm, let's see.  What can I make with a pile of sprouting potatoes and onions, some canned tomatoes, and ground venison tonight?"

But now I'm getting to the fun part.  The part where I go out and pick supper in the garden.  I love summer!  I'm still using things stored from last year, but now I have more options!

The above picture turned into some super-yummy soup!

I'm having a love affair with salads.  I really don't have much of a taste for salads in the winter, but come spring I'm craving them!  Fancy --like that yummy asian-inspired salad served over cold rice noodles-- or simple --plain ol' lettuce, carrots and cukes dressed with yogurt and dill-- I can't get enough!

Speaking of dill, I'm having a love affair with that, too.  It grows everywhere like a weed right now, and I find myself pulling it out to make room for other things, but I just have to make something with it.  Dill dressing, dill and tomato soup, dill and chevre dip.... it's marvelous!  And where will all the dill be when it comes time to make pickles?  Dried up and gone to seed, of course.

So I'm cooking again.  This morning I made chocolate creme brulee (can I call it that when I actually leave out the "brulee" part?) with just a hint of cinnamon and cayenne pepper and vanilla.  For a barbecue a few days ago I took a bean salad which involved bacon and basil and was dressed in my Mom's maple vinaigrette

Ah, how I've missed having good food around.  I'm missing the wheat a little, but getting around it.  Except for a great deal of mourning when a lady from church gave us homemade chocolate chip cookies, which is my favoritest ever, and I wanted one sooo bad.  Then I went to make myself some spelt flour chocolate chip cookies and had no eggs!  Drat those lazy chickens! Oh, and on that note, several Amish neighbors of ours have been bringing us cookies and pies, so there's lots of extra wheat-filled sweets in the house.  But we're always out of eggs.  I'm thinking of putting a sign on the door that says "Will take payment for phone usage in EGGS only."

I am still having trouble with the time involved in cooking --where does it all go?-- but at least I'm enjoying it again.  And I have had an awful lot of milk to deal with lately, which often feels like just another thing to get around to, but I'm also getting very used to having ample yogurt, mozzarella, and chevre on hand, so I keep up with it (and the addition of a cream separator to my kitchen equipment has boosted my possibilities enormously!).

My sister was recently horrified to learn that to save time, I frequently cook things in large enough batches to serve it two (or sometimes three!) days in a row.  "Don't you get bored with it?" she gasped.  Well, she's coming to stay with me for a month after the baby's born (yippeee!) so she had better make her peace with this.  Or cook for me.

I'm hoping for the latter, actually.

And my family doesn't care about eating the same thing repeatedly.  They're happy to have food around!

Say, have you ever tried popping popcorn in bacon drippings?  Do.  You won't regret it.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Yesterday I had two laundry baskets overflowing all over my bathroom floor with clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away, and another load in the dryer.  I just hate that.  But not enough, obviously, to do anything about it.  I pretty much looked at that laundry, blinked, and headed to the kitchen to mix up some dough.  'Cause that's the proper way to handle laundry overflow, you know.  Actually, now that I think of it, I took a nap first.

Remember how I used to rave about my laundry line?  How I loved hanging laundry?  Yeah.  Well.  I haven't hung laundry in a long time.  It's partly, I confess, because I seem to have a hundred million things to do and a perpetually fussy baby, and frankly, it's easier to throw it in the dryer (the laundry, not the baby).  But the main reason is that my back aches all the time.  It's that danged Pregnant Pelvic #$&*% Dysfunction.  So I haven't been carrying out my laundry (and I confess that I have a little guilt over the lack of frugality here...).

But this post is not about laundry!  No!  It's about dough!

It's related, though, I promise.  Laundry... back pain... dough!  Get it?  No?

Okay.  See I figured out that if I don't eat wheat, my back gets better.  Remarkably better.   Like, I can walk around and do stuff.  Pretty much normally, except for this belly that is starting to get in the way a little.  As long as I don't eat wheat!  Bizarre?  Maybe.  Funny thing is, I don't have to avoid gluten all together, just wheat.  I can eat other gluten grains such as barley, rye, spelt and kamut with no problem whatsoever.  And for whatever reason, this problem only manifests itself during pregnancy (I guess I had blocked it from my memory, but I now recall being off wheat during my pregnancy with Evan), but I can imagine that may change as I get older.  Eventually, it will probably be all the time.  But for now, when I'm pregnant, no wheat for me.  In some ways, it kinda makes me mad.  Generations of wheat overdose has apparently led to  widespread intolerance of it.  I've known a number of people who found relief from joint pain by avoiding wheat (not even all gluten!), and my chiropractor concurs that she, too, has seen it many times.

It's mainly not a big deal to me.  But.  There is one little, okay, very big thing.  I really miss my sourdough bread.  A lot.  I have not yet succeeded in making a wheat-free alternative.  Wheat just works for good, artisan-stlye bread.  Other grains have less and more fragile gluten and simply do not give the rise and structure of wheat doughs.  I am planning to try again with spelt and rye next week and see if I can come up with something acceptable.  But for now, I'm trying to make quick breads and other wheat-free things that I can eat.   The problem is that then I have to bake.

(I make this sound like I eat bread all the time.  Not true.  It's a smallish part of my diet.  I mainly eat a lot of other things, especially animal foods that we produce ourselves --lots of yogurt and cheese!-- and garden produce.  And chocolate, of course.  But I need a little carb content in my life, especially while pregnant and nursing!)

So.  Enough talk.  To the dough!

I mixed up a big batch of kamut dough.  Kamut is an ancient grain similar to wheat, but different.  The flour has a texture almost like cornmeal and a gorgeous golden color.  It's pretty fragile and hard to work with, and also kind of expensive. I prefer to mix it with another grain rather than use it by itself (except for tortillas-- it makes fabulous tortillas by itself!).   I would normally use spelt (also ridiculously expensive!  That's my main complaint about this wheat-free thing!), but I'm out until my co-op order next week.

I had two plans for this dough.  First I flattened out a ball of it...

And slathered it with my home-canned tomato sauce, oregano from the herb garden, pepperoni (from WalMart!) and my goat-milk mozzarella.

Evan helped, see?  He's very good at sitting on my feet or hanging onto my legs and walking everywhere I do.

I rolled the filled dough very carefully (this is so much easier with a wheat dough!) and plopped it into a greased bread pan and sprinkled herbs and cheese on top.   I got this idea from a dear friend of mine who has six kids and some very creative ideas for feeding them.  Pizza bread!  Advantage over regular pizza?  Well... none, really, it's just something different and fun.

While that was rising, I used the rest of the dough to shape some cinnamon raisin bagels.

Except I went to the pantry and discovered that I was out of raisins.  Well, I found some ancient raisins that had been in there who-knows-how-long and they were a little... crunchy.  But they would have to do, because my bagels had to have raisins!

When they were all shaped, I let them rise, too.

Why did I take it into my head to make bagels?  Well... I went to the health-food store to get some sort of non-wheat bread to have in the freezer for "emergencies" and all I could find where gluten-free breads made with rice and soy and such which are, in my opinion, not fit to be called by the name of "bread."  Okay, so I'm a snob.  Anyway, the only thing I could find was this package of spelt bagels that cost over $6 with my discount.  Gack!  But I bought some, and they're terrible.  So I did what I should have done in the first place and made my own.

After the bagels were risen, I put the pizza bread in to bake and started boiling the bagels.

Boiling is what gives them their wonderful chewy exterior.

When the pizza bread was done, we had it for supper while the bagels baked in the oven!

It was dense (because it's not wheat!) but very, very yummy!

I totally forgot to take a picture of the bagels when they were all done, but here's a picture of my bedtime snack--

Half a cinnamon raisin kamut bagel with fresh ricotta, maple syrup, and cinnamon! Yummy!

Worth it. Totally.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Absent Without

Wow, didn't realize I'd been AWOL that long... I guess time gets away from me when I'm short on sleep and long on the to-do list.

My two little guys have been miserably sick lately, but are recovering.  Good thing, too, cuz I need their help around here!  Just look how helpful they are!

And I... need a nap.

Stay tuned, more to come.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Farm Work

We start 'em early around here.


I guess I'm in a photo-snapping mood today.

There's just something about these roses from the giant bush that has been in the yard probably for as long as this old farmhouse has been here, an old radio that Nathan picked up at a yard sale (and it works better than any other we have around), and a bunch of flea-market bottles. 

It just seems so fitting for my old, Michigan farmhouse.

Where's Evan?

Betcha can't guess...

...what Evan's favorite game is now?

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Firstborn

This kid. I tell ya what.

Books and food, food and books-- that's about all he lives for right now.

He absolutely devours books and documentaries about science.  Mostly oceanology, marine biology, aerospace, and astronomy.  Also, Calvin and Hobbes.  And every school reader I have on hand has been read multiple times.

We joke that some day he'll jump out of a plane into the ocean, wearing a diving suit, of course.

Hm... I wonder if that's been done?

I'm quite thankful that he can read so well (and, um, shocked, a little), because he's so much more self-entertaining now.  He's also starting to become quite a know-it-all.

Having a school-age child is a new frontier for me, for sure.  When I think of the concept of "mothering", I always picture babies and toddlers and pre-schoolers.  Even though I know it, somehow it just doesn't enter into my mental picture that these little guys grow up.  Quite rapidly, though it doesn't seem like it while in the midst of the baby/toddler/pre-schooler time.

All of a sudden, Jonah is moving out of being a "little kid" and becoming, well, a "big kid", I guess.  His budding logic skills make him a dogged negotiator (and make me... crazy).  His persistence is exhausting.  His capabilities are fast expanding, but never quite meet up to his enthusiasm and ideas.  There is just so much he wants to do!  And it's all beckoning to him through all these books, and here he is, stuck in the "longest" part of his life, waiting to begin.  It's hard, being 6.

I try to explain to him that this is the part of his life where he gets to learn all that he's going to need to know when he becomes a deep sea diver/airplane pilot/ship captain/whateverelseitistoday, and of course, I provide examples.  That he can't move on to all these projects he plans until he learns the basic skills and and learns to work hard cheerfully at everything he's given to do.  I've also found myself using his ambitions somewhat advantageously.  In the past he has expressed a desire to wear glasses because Mommy and Daddy both do, and of course, I hope he doesn't have to, so I've been very careful in my treatment of that topic.  The other day, he told me he was worried that if he wears glasses, he won't be able to wear goggles when he goes diving in the ocean.  Of course, there are ways to get around this, but I didn't tell him that!  No, rather, I pointed out that this is why he needs to make sure to rest his eyes when he's reading a lot.  Ah, motivation!  Guess what he always remembers to do now? [I read a study about a doctor who once helped school children avoid myopia by having them read an eyechart at a certain distance a couple times every day.  Just that regular rest of the eyes helped keep them from needing glasses.  It's been hard to remember to have Jonah do this, though.]

He absorbs every bit of information and sometimes regurgitates it in hilarious ways.  Yesterday, he had some sort of military situation going on with his toys on the floor.  He told me he had defeated the Moabites, and was currently fighting the Canaanites and would soon move on to the Ammonites.  He made it clear that the "nite" on the end is "knight" in his mind.  Canaan-knights-- Knights of Canaan.

And then there's the food.  We rode out a loooong picky phase, and I'm sure that was mainly rooted in slowed growth.  Now, he eats everything in sight.  In fact, I get really tired of answering the "when are we gonna eat?" questions that come every ten minutes all day, whether we've just eaten or not.  I get growth spurts, but this is ridiculous.  He just wants to eat nonstop.  Food is served here no less than five times per day, and yet he's always afraid he's going to starve.  I know boredom plays into this, so I've adopted the habit of handing out a job at every request for food, legitimate or not.  "Here, kid, work up a real appetite."

Wouldn't want him to grow too fast, now would we?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Do You Get Tired of Hearing About Spring?

If so, um, too bad.  It's my favorite topic right now.  It's been so wet and cold for so long now that I just can't get enough of the sun now.

To the point of pain, actually.  Ah, sunburn, my old friend.

We've just been hammered lately by severe thunderstorms, including one on Sunday that may be the most violent I've ever seen.  It was actually a little frightening.  Many of my perennials were laid completely flat by the wind.  One elderberry was just giant, and is now laying all over the ground and I need to find some way to prop it up.  

Some of the plants, like the little tomatoes that I put out a few weeks ago, are on the verge of drowning from all the rain. Others, like those hostas in that photo, are loving the rain to the point of becoming dinosaur food.  I've never seen that plant get that big!

So the hostas like it, but I'm starting to feel a little rot starting to set in.  I'm thankful for the few days of sunshine to dry me out!

Today the ground is finally dried out a little, just enough to put some plants in the ground, so that's how we spent the morning.

And now... nap time.  Then back to work.