Friday, May 28, 2010

My Week in Pictures

Prosphora I baked

Freeing up much needed counter space

Hand-did Kamut Fettucine
K.F. in a basket

I learned how to clean and filet catfish

B. goes for a morning walk with the girls

The Chain Grocery OR the Farmers' Market and Long Time Ago

Last week, I got caught at the end of the day sans plan for dinner.  The boys mentioned that they had missed out on the cinnamon rolls at school-breakfast (I know, I should be all, up and rearin' to go in the morning, but I'm not.  Also.  School breakfast is under a buck.  Probably as sugary and trans-fatty as they get, but there it is.  It is a bit bizarre that I do not buy processed food for my family, but I don't make bag lunches or breakfast everyday.  What can I say?)  I wanted to make up for the loss, so I immediately agreed to breakfast dinner featuring Cook's Illustrated, Quick Cinnamon Rolls with Buttermilk Icing.  The first snag: no butter.  Second: no brown sugar.  No problem, I live point-nuthin' from the grocery store.  Zip-zip, I was in, got a few things.  To be exact: brown sugar, butter, 1 pint of buttermilk, 1 pint of strawberries, one box of veggie sausages.  $13.87.

This really bugs me.  $13.87 for hardly anything.  As I am handing over the cash, I remember my grandparents.  In 1948, when my grandparents married, there were no jobs.  Their rent was $50.00 a month, her beautiful green Oldsmobile was $50 a month, and if you spent $50 dollars on food at the store, you could eat for a month(they did not because that was way more money than they had).  He was lucky enough to get a job as a Oil Rig Engineer Trainee working for Haliburton outside of Shreveport, Louisiana.  Trainees dug ditches.  They were paid 85¢ an hour.  He had to work at least 80 hours before they would give him his pay.  Remember I said lucky to get a job?  At the end of 12 months, there was a balloon payment due on her car.  They had to sell it.

Eventually, a position opened back in their home town and he took it.  They moved back and bought a tiny duplex.  The payment like to have killed them.  Their mortgage was $85 a month.  They were able to rent out the other side and that helped.  His new job paid $185 a month.  It was the most money he'd ever made in his life.

On the weekends, they would go to the football game at the high school, the highlight of the week.  One of the men that worked with Granddaddy was a poor, black man.  Granddaddy was fond of Clarence and he knew that he would enjoy the football games, but he couldn't afford the ticket.  Even if Clarence could have afforded the ticket, he wouldn't have been allowed to sit in the stands because of the segregation laws in place at the time.  So together with Gram they devised a plan to help him see the games, without having to buy a ticket.

With the help of Pearlie, their maid, they cooked up 200 hotdogs and made some fragrant and delicious chili.  Then they would go down to the game and sit where the breeze would pick up the scent of the chili and carry its perfume all over the stands.  Hotdogs with chili sold for a quarter a piece.  They sold out before the game started.  The next week, they made up 1000 dogs and an even bigger pot of Pearlie's delicious chili.  Again they sat where the breeze would catch the scent of the chili and again, they were a wild success.  This time they sold out before halftime.  The next week, they made up 2000 hotdogs and as much of Pearlie's scrumptious, heavenly chili as they could carry.  Again they sat in their favorite breezy spot.  By now, Gram, Grandaddy, and Clarence were the hit of the game.  Gram was so tickled that she lost interest in the game and was just floored by all the quarters that their ploy had garnered them.  When they ran out of dogs after Halftime, they sold chili on buns for a quarter.  This is one of my favorite stories that Granddaddy tells.

It is for this reason that spending $15, $20, $40 on a home cooked meal makes me crazy.  I for all my failings in organization, am the queen of <$5 dinners.  Increasingly, this is becoming next to impossible to do while shopping at the local Grocery Store.  I hate cutting coupons, I don't get the paper, I won't be playing the Grocery Game anytime soon.  So as a picture is worth a thousand words, I wanted to share with you my weeks worth of veggies from the Farmer's Market (which cost $23.56, but when combined with beans, tortillas, and grains from our pantry this will last us all week).
Clockwise from the left: fava beans, cactus paddles,
 okra, ginger, spaghetti squash, napa cabbage, cantaloupe,
cute  little brown mushrooms, summer squash, roma tomatoes,
cucmbers, organic carrots, tomatillos, and
cream peas.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Apostles' Fast Menu

Mary, you have inspired me to give over to organization.  It is frustrating to meet each day without a plan.  It is exhausting and unproductive.  It is a poor example to my children.  It is not being a good steward of my household or of my talents.  It is not respectful of my children.  So I will pull myself up out of my sloth.  Dear readers, please, pray for me.  This task is not easy, but it is important and worthwhile.  Also, it is not particularly grown up to meet each day with: Surprise!  Another day has dawned!  Whatcha' got planned, Sunshine?
I will begin will a meal plan.  This meal plan will carry us through the Apostles' Fast.  You can read about Mary's Notebooks here.  

Here are some recipes:
Chilled Tomato Basil Soup
Chick Pea Flour *Omelets*
Vegan Samosas
Macrobiotic Miso
Macro Spring Rolls
Dairy-free Pizza Ideas

Come, Bebe, Vive

There is no shortage of Tex-Mex, Americanized Mexican restaurants in North Texas, places where oozing pools of queso con red sauce and fajitas rule the day.   Not that there's anything wrong with that. . . but at the end of the day . . . it is really Mexican-flavored-American-food.  Over the last year, I have been acquainting my family with auténtica mexicana cocina.  Once you have tasted the delicate flavor and subtle heat of a genuine red sauce made from guajillo chiles, never again will even consider opening a can for your enchiladas.  Heck!  You will make enchiladas!  Pots of humble pintos will grace your stove.  Bright, piquant napolitos will grace the table in place of limp green beans.  Agua Frescas will be the beverage highlight of your day.

Or at least, that is what has happened at our house.

I made Enchiladas Verdes and Enchiladas Rojos with frozen Apple Ginger Agua Frescas for our Sunday dinner.  I have reduced our meat intake to Sunday dinners and this was fabulous.  Sorry for lack of pictures, dinner didn't survive long enough.

Las recetas after the jump:

Friday, May 14, 2010

A is for Ascension, Andrew, and Apple Pie

We are finishing up our first week of Letters of Grace from Mary at Evlogia.  Initially, I forgot to print out the Lesson Plan so I felt overwelmed.  Where do I start?  How many of these books am I going to read.  Heck these kids aren't even paying attention anymore!   Aaarrgh!  Then I realized I was trying to do way too much in one day.  It is easy to forget that the stack of papers and activities that constitutes most kindergarten and preschool programs is busywork.  My children can have time to do nothing.  It won't hurt them.  They will not become stupid or boring or apathetic.  They will become more resourceful and independent.  They will become better stewards of their time.  Hopefully.

Yesterday, was Ascension Thursday which worked out well for our Letter Aa Week.  Here are some of our creations from yesterday:

The Ascension according to E. (age 3)

Mama got to paint with her littles!

Ais for Ascension and A. (age 5)!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Beautiful Tribute from a Son to His Father

"At home Father Alexander never told us to “go to church,” or that “you must fast,” or “do it this way,” never. Simply, he did what he had to and we found ourselves drawn to those things which were important to him. I can’t say we spent as much time in church as he did, but our joy in the services came entirely from him. In our house the guiding principle of churchly life was the example of my father. My father is fasting quietly, without insisting that anyone else does so, and instinctively we begin fasting as well, after all, we can’t let him fast alone! It was important for him, and thus it became important for us... With him everything was cozy, he was always extremely joyous. If we arose in the morning in foul spirits and saw that he was happy and energetic – with him each day began this way – then his attitude infected us all... He always fought against the reduction of Christianity simply to forms and rules. It, in fact, liberates man from the narrowness of forms and rules and Father Alexander saw in Christianity the freedom of the person and love, and in his lectures, writings, sermons, always sought to reveal the deeper meaning of all things occurring in the Church. He never oversimplified, seeking in each person the very complex arena of struggle between good and evil... [H]is theology was marked above all by the element of freedom. His Christianity is that of Christ, for precisely He gave us freedom. All church rules, after all, can acquire a certain independent life of their own, totally detached from God. Father Alexander knew this all too well, which is why he never began from rules. For him all things begin with faith in God, which leads to an order of life, and not the other way around." 

-Serge Schmemann on his father, Alexander. 

h/t Ora et Labora

Monday, May 10, 2010

Time Weighs In on Name

People are naming their children after vampires. The Social Security Administration has released its list of 2009's most popular baby names, and the leading choices were Isabella and Jacob. Both names just happen to belong to main characters in the Twilight book series. True, Isabella has been trending steadily upward since the 1990s, and Jacob has been in the top spot for 10 years in a row (thus predating 2005's Twilight). But one of the rising names is almost certainly the result of Stephenie Meyer's blood-sucking romance: Cullen. The last name of Meyer's sexy main vampire jumped 297 spots in one year and is now the 485th most popular first name for a baby boy. (See TIME's Q&A with Twilight star Kristen Stewart.)
Cullen is also part of a larger trend: two-syllable male names that end in the sound en. Aiden is another example (12th most popular name). So is Jayden (No. 8), Logan (No. 17), Nathan (No. 24), Kevin (No. 44), Justin (No. 46) and a name I'd never heard of before: Brayden. At No. 47, it means I'll probably start meeting a number of Braydens in about 20 years. Likewise, nearly half of the 50 most popular girl names end in the letter a, like Isabella. Why does this happen? Why do parents so often choose the same names for their newborns?
Read the rest here.

N. Unscripted

N.'s school had it's field day last week. Although he sprayed himself with sunscreen on his legs and arms, he missed a lot of his face and neck.

N.: Daddy, I'm sunburned from field day.

Mr. Flavius: N., you're a redhead. You need to be careful with the sun.

N.: No! I'm. A. Red. Neck!

me and Mr. Flavius: [laughter]

Does A Rose By Any Other Name Smell Just As Sweet?

Do names matter?  For the better part of history, the name you have depended on your family, your culture, or your faith.      I have often wondered about the current trend to name children with popular sounding neologisms and surnames foreign to that particular family.

Years ago, I went to a Girl Scout meeting with my daughter, where we were promptly introduced to a smartly dressed little girl named Aniston.  The other mothers squealed with approval of the uniqueness of their name choice.  So effete!  So refined!  Is that a family name?

Why, yes, it is, smiled the mother mischievously.

But not your family.  Jennifer Aniston's family.  I said, guessing at what lie behind that smile a little too pointedly.

It's true! she gasped.

Still, the other mothers lauded the ingenuity, the androgyny of it, and especially the ruse.  Abasing the apellations they chose for their own children as boring, too traditional, not creative.  I, of course, defended our choice as being counter-cultural, the necessity of a patron saint, and the muddling of the faith to our children as we become increasingly worldly.

And with that lesson on How to Win Friends and Influence People, I was not invited back.  Oops.

In Sleeping Beauty,  the good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, come to the palace for the christening.  Each give a gift to the infant princess, Aurora, beauty, wit, and song.  Now the the story takes a turn for the worse with the appearance of Maleficent, but that is not the point I am making.  In the West, the christening is when a child receives her name.  That name is full with not only the desires of the parents, but also the lives of those that came before.

A priest-friend of mine, never to be outdone by parents who have thrown their lot in with the rest of the world, gives Christian names to children whose parents give them none.  So Aniston Lane, is baptized Anniston Lane Mary or Anniston Lane John (or whomever the saint of the day happens to be if it is a major saint), so that this child created with her own dignity in the image and likeness of God, will also have a patron.  

I have always believed that the name you give to something, but especially the names you choose for your children, not only says something about your family identity, but it ties your children to something.  It gives them context.  In choosing a name (or worse not choosing a name at all) not for its meaning or for its context (a saint, a family member, etc), but it onamonapoeic aesthetic robs your child of something important.  An identity, a context.  It demonstrates a lack of concern or thoughtfulness regarding the life of the child, who will they be?  What vision do you have for them?

Now these are my beliefs and this is a deeply personal issue, but I believe that our actions define our beliefs, not our thoughts.  If you believe nothing, and you name your child nothing or a name that means nothing . . .well, you get where I am going with this.

From the New York Times:

What’s in a Name? A Lot, as It Turns Out

Published: May 9, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. — With his frizzy hair pulled into forward-protruding spikes and his goggle-size glasses, Max Pauson resembles one of the futuristic comic-book characters he admires and draws. Ebullient and eager to show a sketchbook filled with startling portraits, he seems to have identity to spare.
But this promising art student’s strong sense of self was hard-earned. It was forged in an unstable, emotionally wrenching childhood and, in an odd detail that might serve as a metaphor for his struggles, it comes after 19 years of life without a legal name.
His birth certificate read only “(baby boy) Pauson.” Name to come.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I made a skirt! And other Nifty Noodle ideas...

M. in her 3-tier ruffle skirt.  I know not very ruffly.
A long time ago, my sweetest husband bought me a fine quality serger and an even finer quality sewing machine.  Unfortunately, my plans to sew and sew until the end of time came to a screeching halt the first time I spent way too much on fabric and then wrecked my project.

Occasionally, I will be inspired to sew a quick this or that, only to be cowed into submission by the thought of ruining the fabric I am about to lay waste to with my scissors.  I have made quilts, a plushy octopus, and a few gift bags, but I have stayed away from clothes.  Until now . . .

This past weekend, I strolled boldly into not one, but two fabric stores, expertly purchased fabric and notions, and proceeded sans pattern to make a skirt.  And it wasn't horrible.  In about 2 hours I had cut, pieced, lined, and made the casing for one skirt.  Best of all, I did not die or become injured, blow up my sewing machine, waste hundreds of dollars, or wreck the house in the process.  I did have some help from the interwebs.  I can happily pass along a handy tiered skirt calculator that I found, here.

I am looking forward to practicing so more.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cool and Refreshing

I grow apple mint.  Apple mint is taking over my yard.  On the one hand mowing the backyard is a pleasure, just when I am ready to be done and quit mowing, a burst of mint erupts from the blades of my Toro.  It's like aromatherapy for yard work.  On the other, it can be fairly aggressive.  Everyone should grow a pot of the stuff.  If you are inclined, plant some under a tree in a place that receives frequent mowing.  The shade and the mowing will help control it substantially.

Apple mint has a more subtle flavor, mint without the bite.  I use it in drinks, fruit salad, asian noodle salads and spring rolls, and desserts.  This year, I think I will try my hand at making some apple mint jelly and some mint ice cream.
Ladies In Hats, by Gayle Kabaker

Last night, I was going through my rss feed and I came across an article by Rod Dreher on BeliefNet entitled, the Best Mint Julep Recipe Ever!  Really.  Growing up in Texas, I missed out on a-many  culturally enforced traditions of my Louisiana betters.  Marrying a boy whose family came to Texas by way of the Mississippi Delta only re-enforced to me the existence of those ghosts of traditions. One being the mandatory watching of Kentucky Derby upon the first Saturday in May whilst drinking mint juleps.

While my breeding may be as Southern and genteel as ladies in hats on Sunday, I am not. We missed the Downs due to fishing and strawberry picking on Saturday.  I would like to recover my southern roots if at all possible and it occurs to me that learning how to make a proper mint julep might be a step in the right direction.  Maybe another time.  I made a frozen mint julep, and it was really perfect.  Here's the recipe:

Frozen Mint Julep

Fill a blender with ice and crush it.  Add a goodly amount of sugar (about 1/3 cup), more or less to your taste,  and a small handful of mint (less the stronger it is).  Pulse and add 2 1/2 ounces of good bourbon.  Pour up in some pretty glasses.  Grate some fresh nutmeg or a squeeze of lemon on top.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

So now that I've kissed meat goodbye . . . what's for dinner?

When I married Josephus, he was a vegetarian.  I think it was for health reasons, I never really delved too far into it.  He was not into vegetarian activism thankfully.  He was not trying to save the earth.  Eating animals was not mean, as far as he was concerned.  He did have one membership with PETA which was a deal breaker for me and then he dropped it.  Eventually, through the power of tuna fish salad he returned to the meat eating world after 4 years of marriage and now 7 years later, we have given up meat together.

Eventually, I will write a post on how letting my husband be in charge makes our family work better, but not tonight at nearly 2 a.m..

When I was originally cooking meatless, I remember feeling like there was no main dish and making up for it with 5 or 6 different sides.  Back then I would cook for hours.  We typically ate dinner after 9 p.m..  We are not very avant garde folk, so this was a challenging time.  This time I feel like I've got a better handle on what makes dinner (not to mention, keeping to a regular dinner time).  With that I bring you this tasty treat from the Etsy blog:

Quinoa Croquettes with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
by Anna Getty

Quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah") is one of my favorite grains. It's high in protein, low in acid, and has a beautiful nutty flavor. It is an ancient Incan grain, which the Incas believed was a grain from the gods. Look for heirloom varieties with the fair trade symbol. Fair trade ensures that farmers are being fairly compensated for their labor.
Before cooking, make sure to rinse the quinoa thoroughly in a fine-mesh strainer to remove the bitter outer coating. The tartness of the Cilantro Yogurt Sauce, made with Japanese plum vinegar, is the perfect accompaniment to these crispy croquettes. The sauce is so tasty that I increased the recipe a bit so you'll have extra sauce on hand.

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce:
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ume plum vinegar
1 small white onion, quartered (about 1/2 cup)
2 cups plain yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil

Quinoa Croquettes:
1 cup quinoa, washed thoroughly
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on medium holes
1 small zucchini, grated on medium holes
1 scallion, finely chopped (white and green parts)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 sprigs fresh parsley, stemmed and minced
1 large egg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Grapeseed oil for cooking

Serves 6
  1. To make the sauce, combine the cilantro, soy sauce, vinegar, and onion in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Stop the motor and add the yogurt and olive oil. Blend until creamy. Transfer the sauce to a container with a lid and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. To make the croquettes, combine the rinsed quinoa with 2 cups of water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the water is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and transfer to a medium bowl to cool.
  3.  When cool add the carrot, zucchini, scallion, garlic powder, salt, parsley, egg, and flour. Mix well. Using your hands, form the mixture into patties about 1/2 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter.
  4. Pour just enough oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan, and heat the oil over medium heat. Working in batches, lay the quinoa cakes in the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. (You can probably cook 5 to 6 patties at once.) When the cakes are golden, turn them over and cook until the second side is golden. (Check by lifting up a side with a spatula.) Add additional oil as needed, and remove any brown bits that accumulate in the pan as you cook.
  5. Remove the cakes from the pan and place them on a plate lined with a recycled brown paper bag. Serve hot, drizzled with the Cilantro Yogurt Sauce. Or put the yogurt sauce in a bowl for dipping. Top the cakes with grated carrot and zucchini.