16 December 2012

What Shall We Then Do?

A Dear Uncle with A Newborn Niece

 This article was lighting up my newsfeed over the past few days.  If you've not, please read it.
In it, Liza Long plainly articulates the everyday reality of living with a child who is mentally ill.  She doesn't offer many solutions, but she asks for help.

I have a mentally ill brother.

We had these types of scary moments at my house growing up.

My brother has always had a child-like sweetness and generosity of spirit.  He adores my children.  When he was young, he knew the diet, mating habits, and habitat of every species of fish and snake around, and could - and did - quote it all.  He was a walking wikipedia of marine life. My brother is to his family what a mother bear is to her cubs. 

He once, at the age of nine, chased a friend of mine, age twelve, around the house with a paring knife. One afternoon, he held a power hose nozzle on me, refusing to let me leave the back yard.  When I was in college, and he in high school, he threw my mother's canister vacuum cleaner down the stairs at me.  He was kicked out of more schools than I can count - and we long since quit counting. 

My parents sought help early and constantly, and while wonderful folks tried, there wasn't a really good answer.

And now, my brother floats in and out of jails and rehabs.
We are blessed that he, while anger management is still a struggle, has never been a vengeful person, but, rather was always reacting to in-the-moment stressors.  Also, he seems to have, thanks be to God, outgrown these physically scary and dangerous responses.  His outbursts are now verbally abusive, which, while remaining a burden, are much less panic-inducing. 

So, Liza Long asked for help in her article.  But folks do not know how to help.  Not even mental health professionals seem to know how to assist these young men who are afflicted with this specific, difficult to diagnose, and seemingly impossible to cure illness.

And most of us aren't mental health professionals or legislators or policy advisers or other sorts of folks to be on the ground working with a systemic, logistical solution.

But, most of us, whether we have an awareness of this or not, are in a position to be very helpful.

First, pray.
Pray for this issue continually.
Pray for the mentally ill in general - that they will know the healing power and peace of Jesus.
Pray for any specific people that you know of who struggle with mental illness.  Pray that they'll be spared from the worst symptoms of these diseases. 
Pray for their families, especially their parents.  Pray for them to be sustained by God's wisdom and mercy to us all.
Pray for those people who venture into the field of mental health.  Pray that they'll be granted knowledge of - and the ability to put into place - real solutions that are both effectual and merciful.
Pray for those saints who engage with the mentally ill in their ministries.  Pray that they'll be rewarded for their great work and that they'll see results in this world.
 Since we are commanded to give thanks for all things, give thanks that you've been placed in a world currently dealing with this issue.  And, especially give thanks if you have the privilege of ministering to specific families of mentally ill persons.

Second, minister to anyone you know who struggles with mental illness.
Treat them with kindness.
Be normal.

Third, minister to the families of the mentally ill.

Do not stigmatize.  Having a mentally ill family member is not an embarrassment.  Are family members with cancer embarrassing?  
Do not pretend there isn't a problem. 
Do not pretend you understand the problem. 
Do not ever let the sentence, "well, if he was my child, I'd..." come across your lips.  You do not know what you would do.  I grew up with it, and I do not know what I'd do.
Do not attempt to diagnose.

Ask if and how you can help.  One great way is to minister to any siblings.  Grab them for the day.  Any respite is welcome when chaos is a reality.
Food is always a ministry.  Always.  Second only, of course, to laughter. 
Follow the lead of the person in your life about how much and when to discuss the problem.  Some folks are open and benefit from people checking in.  Some are tired and want to talk about the BCS standings, the weather, the anything but.  Provide openings without prying. 

Fourth, remember. 

Always remember that, but for His grace, there go we all. 

Honor the truth that sick people can do evil things.  The deeds are no less evil because they are sick, and the people are no less sick because they do evil things.

Remember that the vast majority of those who struggle with mental illness are not on the verge of engaging in destructive behavior.  

Talk to your children about emotional struggles that all people have.  Talk to them about right reactions to their own emotional struggles, and reactions to those folks who they encounter who have much more acute problems. 

God has blessed and protected my family from much of the sorrow experienced by Ms. Long, and certainly from the reality experienced by the Lanza family.
To Him, we are grateful for this and all of his mercies upon us. 

Join me in giving thanks for all of the blessings we all experience everyday. 
They are abundant and we deserve them not. 

26 November 2012

menu 11.24 - 11.30.

Whew - the leftovers have been demolished - almost all by people - and now the compost gobbled up the last few fractions of servings this evening. 

We had a grand Thanksgiving.  We ate a ton, laughed at a ruined turkey (a full story to come here soon, because, well, not recording it would be a waste), imbibed a bit, and washed up while having a spur of the moment dance party in my kitchen.  Having parents who will help wash the china and dance with you, well, that's something for which to be thankful! 

But, now I never want to cook anything in a 9x13 ever again. Well, not never, but, not this week.  No American food.  Or, well, just a bit, but nothing you'd find on a Turkey Day table.

Saturday 11.24

Breakfast:  We were fed a wonderful farmhouse breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and sausages doused in syrup. 
Lunch:  Various and sundry paninis
Supper:  Turkey Pot Pie. 

Sunday  11.25

Breakfast:  Sabbath Sugary Cereal Treats
Lunch:  Last of the Leftovers w/ friends
Supper:  Were surprised fed cheeseburgers by my daddy and Caroline.  We meant to grab fast food and stop by for a visit after our tree shopping, but, instead, she caramelized onions and he grilled beef and we were happy and loved. 

Monday 11.26

Breakfast:  Wholesome Spelt Cinnamon Rolls delivered by a dear friend. 
Lunch:  Leftover Cheeseburgers/PB&Js
Supper:  Peanut Chicken,  Salad  (This is a dish we've been enjoying about which I need to blog so I won't forget how to make it....)

Tuesday 11.27

Breakfast:  Same Cinnamon Roll pan - revived by toasting with a bit of butter
Lunch:  ww noodles with sauteed produce (The drawer will be cleaned out - badparts into the compost and stillbreathingparts into the saute pan)
 Supper:  Red Beans and Rice.  There is something about a pot of beans. 

Wednesday 11.28

Breakfast:  Bran Flakes.  Oooh.  So Sexy. 
Lunch:  Leftover Red Beans / PB&Js
Supper:  Church.  I hope it's pizza, but I bet it's forsaken Subway.  Gosh, I hate that place.  I know, I am insane, but cold, super preserved lunch meat and fake cheese just don't make me happy. 

Thursday 11.29

Breakfast:  Scrambled Eggs
Lunch:  Red Bean Quesadillas.  (I'm going to grab a cup of beans out of the red bean pot on Tuesday, continue cooking with cumin and chili powder and then save for Thursday's lunch)
Supper:  Crockpot Marinara (Say a prayer of thanks for my happily-vegetarian-husband.  He helps my budget and his triglycerides) w/ carb of some kind - either homemade spelt cheesy focaccia or noodles, depending on my day. 

Friday 11.30

Breakfast:  Bran Flakes.  The excitement overwhelms. 
Lunch:  Tuna Salad w/ some carb (homemade bread or box o' wheat thins - again, depending on my day)
Supper:  Chicken Tortilla Soup, Cornbread, Pot of homemade hot chocolate, Paul's specialty (only) dish. 

Saturday, we're having a good ol' fashioned fayncee dinner.  I cannot wait.  I'm still finalizing the menu, and well, that makes me quite happy.  I keep playing around with different things.  Can I have shrimp in more than one course? 

Oh, I feel better, friends.  We are settled in our house (87% settled.  This is a good solid B and it counts).  I am fighting off, successfully, I think, a sinus infection.  Both of my Math classes misunderstood a concept today, and then, after a bit of work, every child in both classes got it.  Latin is wonderful.  Advent is five simple days away.  The food is good, the grocery budget for the week came in at 40% under budget, and we are blessed by a gas stove and a family being read-aloud the hobbit right now.  Oh, taste and see.  Taste and see that the Lord is good. 

13 November 2012

Gobblin' up a Storm!

How many times did you complete this coloring sheet as a child? 

It's that time again. 

We're almost there.  A measly 9 days from now, I'll be frantically scooping things out of the oven and finding a place to keep them warm and ready. 

And, I get to go it all with one oven instead of two, so that should be fun this year. 

I've not yet worked a schedule of events, but I probably need to do that soon.  And then there is the shopping list.  I'll shop on Monday morning.   Also, there is the table to think on and the personalized place cards that AB has to find pinterest inspiration to complete.  My guest list is modest, as usual -  9 adults and three kids - but that doesn't stop me from being a crazy person with the feasting. 

What we've eaten the last few years:

So, here we go: 

The Pre-Meal Bites
0.  Carrie, my stepmother, is bringing an appetizer and cocktail.  Yay.  

The Bird
1.  Turkey.  I'm going to use a tried and true cooking method in Come on In - I need my oven available on actual T-Day morning.  It's called "Turkey While You Sleep" -  But, their seasonings are a bit bland, so I'm going to spice it up a bit.  I'll google around and see what I can find.  Idears are appreciated

The First Course
2.  Butternut Bisque.  Here is Martha's recipe.  I'm sure I'll mess with it, but not much.   I've never done a soup on Thanksgiving, but why not?  I mean, why the heck not? 

The Side Board
3.  Sweet Potato Casserole.  Traditional.  Non Negotiable.   Last year we striped the different toppings - marshmallow and candied pecans.  This year, I'm thinking polka dots.  Or, maybe a design?  Oh.... I can post it on pinterest.  Wouldn't that be fun!?

4.  Cornbread Dressing.  Again - Traditional.  Non Negotiable.  Filled with celery and onion to the brim. 

5.  Sauteed Apples with Bacon.  I'm feeling Cracker Barrel as my muse here.  I believe fruit gets the short of end of the stick on Turkey Day.  Well, not at my table!   I'll serve the crispy bacon along side for my dear, vegetarian stepmonster.  (Her nickname for herself, not mine.  I find her decidedly non monstrous). 

6.   Mashed Potatoes.  We have usually done scalloped, a favorite of Paul and AB, but this year, we determined we wanted a better vessel for gravy. So, we're going mashed.  Garlicky and Buttery and Full of Half n Half. 

7.  Penne w/ Caramelized Onions, Vodka Sauce and Goat Cheese.   I always try to have a mac-and-cheese ish dish, and this is this year's version.  Having Vodka Sauce, I may be throwing off tradition all together and won't, in fact, get credit for obeying the pasta-dish-rule, however, I care not. 

8.  English Peas Au Gratin - Our green but bad for you dish for the year.

9.  Pear and Green Bean Salad w/ Sorghum Vinaigrette.  Assuming I can find Sorghum.  The recipe is in this year's Southern Living Thanksgiving Issue. 

10.  Braised Carrots.  They're just too pretty to leave out. 

The On-The-Table Condiments

11.  Liquored up Gravy.  We did bourbon last year.  I think we'll do white wine this year.  The bourbon was good, but it strayed from good ol' gravy a bit too far for my sake.  But I like the bite the alcohol gives it, despite being all boiled off. 

12.  Cranberry Apricot Sauce (Also see Southern Living Nov. 2012). 

13.  Our homemade hot/sweet pickles.   (Paul Forster- since  you're obviously reading this - we need to make pickles this Saturday....) 

14.  Spiced Peaches out of a Can.  I won't stop.  You cannot make me.  I think I'm the only one who eats them.  My grandmother taught me.  I cannot help it.  It's not my fault.  Hush! 

15.  Yeast Rolls.  Recipe courtesy of Via Fortier, an old friend who actually gets paid to cook things. 

16.  Foccacia.  What?  Say something. We like bread.  AB insisted. 

The Dessert Cart

17.  Chocolate Pie - Brought by Carrie, the aforementioned non-monstrous step mother.

18.  Buttermilk Chess Pie - a favorite around here.  It's in Square Table.  It's good.  Embrace it. 

19.  Rum Cake.  It's been years since I made my mother's Rum Cake.  Too Many Years. 

20.  Blackberry Crumble.  We don't need four desserts.  But, two things come to mind:  One, we're feasting, so who cares about need, and Two, I was at 19 items.  That wouldn't do. 

Menu 11/11-11/17

I'm all off food schedule, because we were out of town last week for a few days. 

But, we are home, and so I have to just press on! 


We were on the road and ate tacobell/kentuckyfriedchicken for lunch.  No, we did not make multiple stops.  They were both in the same restaurant.  Who ever heard of such.  
We ate grilled cheeses for supper.  It's hard to beat a good, buttery grilled cheese.  And homemade spicy pickles.  Yes sir ree bob. 


For lunch, we cobbled together sandwiches and leftovers and packed for school/work.

For supper, I had thawed some chicken ramano sauce I had frozen and thought to throw it over pasta for an easy evening.  We ended up having an even easier one - some friends had us stop by for a quick afternoon visit and it turned into supper.  Coincidentally, they were having pasta with chicken, tomatoes, cheese and olives on top. 


For lunch, well, I haven't gotten that far yet.

For supper, my mama is coming to celebrate her birthday.  We're having Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup, salad, angel hair with scallion cream sauce, and sauteed italian shrimp.  Oh, and Amaretto Freezes for dessert.   All are some of her favorites.  Yay! 


For lunch, we'll cobble together leftovers from the feast from the night before. 

For supper, we'll be at church, having yumm-o dominos pizza. 


For lunch, I believe we'll be at the Renaissance Festival in Louisiana, but if that falls through, we'll figure something or other out.

For supper, Chili and Cornbread


For lunch, Chili Dogs
For supper, Bean Burritos


For lunch, Bean and Cheese nachos - from the bean burrito filling, of which there is always a bit too much, since I started doing my own beans instead of canned beans. 

For supper, Potato Soup of some kind.  Haven't gotten that far yet. 

Then, to Turkey Week!   


28 October 2012

Shrimp and Potato Porridge






This is originally a Paula Deen recipe that I've messed with.  Shocker, I know. 
Her recipe is titled Potato Soup with Shrimp, but a dear friend was eating this four or five years ago and said, "Ann Lowrey.  What we've got here is not soup.  This is Porridge." 

I did not argue, though as I sat down to write this, I did google out of curiosity.  [It remains quite frustrating to me that curious has a u and curiosity does not.  What ridiculousness.]

Porridge is actually traditionally made of oats - we just call it oatmeal here in America.  However, there is such an animal as Potato Porridge - a Norwegian tradition.  I am not Norwegian, and neither is my friend proclaiming this to be porridge - in fact, we're both quite Irish with a little English thrown in.  But, for today, we sing the song of Norway proudly.

1 stick of butter
1 large onion diced on the small side
3 carrots, diced
 2 T all purpose flour (optional)  This gives it a more porridge-y consistency, but if you are trying to avoid gluten, leave it out.  The potatoes will make it plenty thick.

6-7 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-1 inch cubes
4 cups milk (whole, 2%, 1% - again, depends on what's in the fridge, but I usually use whole)
2 chicken bullion cubes dissolved in
1/2 cup hot milk

1 cup half and half
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled (cooked already is fine, but I prefer throwing it in raw and letting it cook in the soup.  I have my reasons.  If I type them here, it will take too long.  The moral of the story, though, is that you shouldn't be scared of shrimp - they cook in mere seconds). 

So, in soup pot, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Toss in those onions and carrots.  Enjoy the aroma.  Stir occasionally for 10-15 minutes, allowing them to soften thoroughly.

Add the flour, stir for a minute or two. 

Add the milk, potatoes, and bullion dissolved in milk. 

Let it cook for 30 - 45 minutes over medium heat. 
Now, you can let it go a bit longer and the potatoes will fall apart for you.  Or you can stop at 30 minutes or so and use an immersion blender on it.  Or you can usually, at about 45 minutes, use a potato masher.  The point, is you don't want potato chunks.  It's a porridge - which basically means mush.  You wouldn't think it would be awesome.  But you'd be wrong. 

After it's all mashy and pasty and you accidentally lick a bit off the wooden spoon and think, "Damn, baby, you so fine," because you will channel Will Smith in his freshest Fresh Prince days, then, and only then, should you add the remaining ingredients. 

Add the salt and pepper and the cup of goodness.  Bring to just shy of a boil.  Don't let it boil - I don't know this for sure, but it seems to me that half and half has a tendency to curdle more readily than its cream or milk brothers. 
After it's as hot as it can get without boiling, throw in the shrimp -

It will cook in 2 minutes - really - I promise.   And you'll be ready to go. 

My top ten favorite meals involve this soup and a really bad for me grilled cheese. 

And then all shall be well.  All manner of thing shall be well.   Very well, actually. 

25 October 2012

a nice little side dish

This is just an amazing photo.  Really great angle and lighting.  I'm just so impressed.  

I went a googlin' earlier to find something to serve with seared tuna for supper tonight.

I found something, fiddled with it, and this is what we have here. 

Bonus:  Gluten Free and Dairy Free and No Sugar Added.  Now, we are pro gluten and pro dairy at our house, but with three friends with celiac now and countless others with sensitivities to things, it's always good to add to the repertoire of things we can feed people. 

Black Bean and Rice Salad

  • 1 cup dry basmati rice, cooked (without adding butter or oo or seasoning to the water)
  • 2 cans black beans well drained and rinsed (obviously, you could cook your own, but then it wouldn't be a 15 minute ordeal like it was tonight.)
  • 1/2 a red onion, diced fairly small
  • 1 bunch cilantro or parsley, hacked at with the santoku knife to relieve all frustration (cilantro tonight, but whatever floats your boat)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil.  The original recipe called for 3/4 a cup.  I maintain that this has to have been a typo.  If not, my feelings remain hurt. 
  • 2-4 Tablespoons Lime Juice (Juice of 1-2 limes)
  • Season to taste - Tonight - maybe 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp granulated garlic

Toss it all together well and serve at room temp - or chilled-

Nothing fancy, nothing to write home about, barely anything to record in this here blog, but all five of us ate it up,  it was cheap, and I'll wonder  in three months what exactly I did.  So, problem solved.  I do so love the internets. 

Menu 10/25 - 10/31


Lunch - Fridge Clean Out
Supper - Seared Tuna with this Black Beans/Rice/Cilantro/Lime mixture I saw online.  We have some tuna that some friends brought us from a fishing trip, and it needs to give up its rent-controlled apartment in my freezer. 
[My dad had this law student work for him one summer who wouldn't quit saying "Ahi Tuna - I have to have Ahi.  No other kind will do.  It needs to be AAAAAAAhi"  -  So, rather than the lovely words you would be tempted to call that guy, we just called him Ahi.   So now, Ahi is synonymous in my head with one of those words that you'd call that guy who talks incessantly about acceptable grades of Tuna.]


Lunch - Out and About, I imagine

Supper - Red Beans and Rice.  I have a hankering.   I actually had some recently, but I haven't cooked any in a while.  There is just something about a pot of beans.  Something good. 


Lunch - Soup Contest at our Reformation Day celebration.  I'm making a Shrimp and Potato Porridge.  It is our family favorite. 

Supper -  Our children are abandoning us to go see John Prine.  This means that Paul and I are going to curl up, watch a movie, and eat take out Chinese.  Or Taco Bell.  Depending on his mood. 


Lunch - Tuna Melts - My favorite.

Supper - Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas, Mexican Rice


Lunch - Leftovers / Sandwiches

Supper - Chili, Cornbread


Lunch - Chili Dogs

Supper - Noodles with Sauteed Vegetables

14 October 2012

the public vow

This morning, like most Sunday mornings, we found some matching shoes, and even a few collar-shirts (as Collins calls them) for the menfolk, and we traipsed to church.

But, rather than heading ten miles west, we headed ten miles east to a different church of a different denomination. 

We explained to the little people that the church service was going to look different, and we found our roped-off pew next to the font.
We tried to quickly instruct Ada Bee how to follow a service that relies on a prayer book, rather than an extensive bulletin.  We did not attempt this with Eas.
We reminded children how to receive communion through a common cup.
We had an organ rather than a piano. 

We sang unfamiliar service music. 

06 October 2012

Genius Parenting Tip # 367

So, when your kids are little (or big), they fight.  They also share.  We split a lot of things around here.  One graham cracker left?  Split it.  A bowl full of popcorn?  Divide it among you.  One third of mom's lukewarm coke remains?  Sure - everyone take one sip, and make sure Collins gets some! 

Well, at lunch today, I was reminded of a genius parenting tip that someone, somewhere passed down to me. 
I don't know who.  It may have been my Mama. It may have been a dear friend who may see this and rightfully demand credit.  It may have been a random woman in the grocery store. 

I honestly cannot remember.   All I remember is being dumbstruck at the simple brilliance.  Why didn't I think of that?  Who knows. 

Regardless, here we go. 

We all had leftover poached pears with our lunch. 
Collins didn't like his.  His brother and sister were both coveting it. 

So, how to split fairly? 
Someone will get a bigger piece.  Unless you get a ruler, bigger pieces just happen.  And one response to their complaining about being slighted is to say, "Get a life."  And we do a lot of that.  But why make the kid feel like his life has been less than fair today if it's easily and joyfully avoided?  Right.  No reason.
We have plenty of life isn't fair moments.  We don't need to add poached pears to the pile.  

So, brilliance cometh like manna in the wilderness.  

One child breaks it in half.....
 and the other picks which half he wants. 

Isn't that brilliant?  Simple and brilliant. 
It entirely eliminates the "I want the bigger piece" obnoxiousness.

The person breaking has every incentive to actually break it as close to half as possible - because he knows, in all likelihood, he'll be on the receiving end of the less desirable half.  

If he does a bad job, he's only done himself a bad turn. 

It's pretty great.  Pretty great, I tell you. 

If you're not eating soup, well....

If you're not eating soup these days, we may have to reevaluate our friendship. 

I'm struggling to keep us to two soup meals every ten days.  That's right - my average is above one soup meal a week.  I love the stuff all year round, but well, have you been outside this week?  And this morning, it's down right chilly. 

So, this week, I pulled out an old soup recipe that is inexpensive, quick, and filling.  For what more could one ask in October?

I was going to email to a friend, but thought I'd just as well type it here first. 

I think this is some form of minestrone.  I have it scrawled in my cookbook as "quick soup" - such imagery! 

I just looked up minestrone. Fascinating etymology.  It currently literally translates 'Big Soup' in Italian.  However, it comes from the same Latin word that minister comes from -  Minestrone - that which is served; Minister - he who serves.  

 So, to the recipe.

Read all of it as optional/guidelines.  I toss in and don't measure a thing.  But, we all know I'm a weirdo.

Quick Soup

1 lb ground beef or venison or some such (mas o menos, as you see fit)
1 yellow onion, chopped - size based on your onion love. We all know how big o' one I used.
1 clove garlic, minced (Or 1 tsp dried)
2 cups coarsely chopped cabbage 
1 can mixed veggies
1 28 oz can tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups water

1 cup macaroni (shells or elbows)

Freshly grated parmesan

Brown the meat and the onion together.  Get pretty lean meat and you don't ever have to drain it, so you can brown veggies in it, making a superior falvor and less time. 

Add garlic and cabbage and stir for one minute. 

Dump in the cans - undrained - seasonings, and water.

Bring to a rolling boil. (look at the water - does it need more?)
Add macaroni.
Simmer 15 minutes.

Serve, sprinkling each serving with cheese.

It's a weird mix of hearty and light -  hearty because of the meat and noodles, but lighter because of the brothiness.  Brothiness is now a word.

All my kids ate it happily two nights in a row - and so did some extra kids who were over, so that means that it's not just my weirdos.  And Paul and I were happy with it.

I really think you could do whatever you want to change it up -  remove the meat, add cannelinis or garbanzos, add carrots or celery or bell peppers, remove the can of mixed veg and actually chop veggies (it's such a small amount and adds time to prep work, so I haven't done that yet.)

Embrace the Soup.

"Soup for you!"  

04 October 2012

Menu 10/4 - 10/10

In fun news, this gourd is currently on my dining table:

It's fall time, and I'm trying to live and cook and eat that way.  Good, wholesome, filling, warm, real food.  We don't aim for perfection, but we're a trying! 


Lunch:  Fridge Clean Out
Supper:  Quick Beef & Vegetable Soup - I don't know where this recipe originated.  I went through my Mamas recipes when I was in college sometime.  I copied down everything I loved and everything that sounded good.  I had a vague memory of having this, and so I copied it down.  It has been very successful. 
I have a better, and more authentic, beef and vegetable stew recipe.  But this one is cheap and seriously - not in that fake liar way - seriously takes from the onion being removed from pantry to first bite in mouth about 42 minutes.  And not all active.  Twelve minutes of active time.  Maybe one day I'll put the recipe up here.


Lunch:  Pic - A - Nic -  I have this problem:  I love picnics.  I do not love cold food.  What I really want for a picnic is Beagle Bagel chicken salad and wheat thins.  But, at like 10 bucks a pint, or more, it's not often viable.  So, I'll figure something out.  But, we're going to the park around the corner, eating our picanic and then heading to the Fire Museum on a School Field Trip. 

Supper:  Chicken in Puff Pastry -  This stuff is bad news.  And the best news.  I'm not venturing into making my own puff pastry, no matter what Robert Capon says, so I'll have to buy that jazz.  Other than that,  (which is a calorie dense caveat)  it's mostly whole foods. 


Lunch: Leftovers

Supper:  Heading to a friend's.  My job is a Walker's House Salad.  Which I am glad to do.  In a heartbeat. 

Mixed Baby Greens - Colored Peppers - Blue Cheese - Creamy Peppercorn Dressing - Red Onion


Lunch:  Noodles.  Parmesan & Butter.  It's good.  And for it we should be thankful. 

Supper:  Cheesecake, Rosemary Mustard Pork Shoulder w/ Egg Noodles, Veggies -  I want radishes and sweet potatoes - probably separately.  We shall see. 


Lunch:  Spelt Bread, Pieces of Cheese, Apples, and Love

Supper:  A dear friend is bringing supper.  I hear we're getting Beef Stroganoff.  And Peanut Butter Pie just for Eason.


Lunch:  Cheese Toast, Trimmings

Supper:  Frankly, I haven't gotten that far.  We might go to the fair.  We might pull something out of the freezer.  We might do fridge clean out.  Depends on our plans and current state of events.  I will not have to go to the store, though -  Will not.

24 September 2012

Menu 9 / 20 / 2012

In an effort to return to normalcy, I'm actually making menus and lists, executing shopping trips, and then chopping onions to my heart's content. 

We all have those things that make us feel settled, contented, at peace.  Being climbed upon by children, special passages of comforting books, pitifully picking out melodies on the piano, really good or fairly bad television, paul forster kisses, friends around the dinner table, passages from the BCP are all on my list. However, one moment, beyond others, convinces me I'm engaged in the rich goodness of day to day duty: Yellow onions, a Henkel knife, and the deliberate up and down into perfect dice. 

18 September 2012

the justice of beautiful conversations


This morning, Ada Brooks had a hard time with her Latin translations.  They were just a bit harder than they have been, and there were more of them than there have been, and I was out of town last Thursday-Sunday, etc.

So, by the time she got to this sentence, she wasn't feeling chipper, but, rather, in the Forster Family vernacular, she was done.

Natura pulchra est, non iuesta.

Nature is beautiful, not just.

She marched into where I was headquartered, helping Eason with his handwriting.

"I don't think I've translated this correctly.  I'm having trouble with all of them, Mama.  They are just especially hard today. Ugggghhhhh."   (Foot stomp action as well). 

"Okay - dahlin - let me take a look."

I looked, and discovered that while she has not mastered the turning of halting first-try translations into flowing prose, she had not, in fact, made many mistakes.

"No, sweetheart - you got that one right - Nature is beautiful, not just."

AB:  "Well, that's not true.  How is nature unjust?  How can nature even be just or unjust?  And even if it can be, it seems pretty just to me."

26 July 2012

Creativity. Within the Box.

One of my colleagues at Jackson Classical sent me this video earlier today.

 You should watch it. 


The conclusion from this should not be to fore go great (classical) educations, but, rather, to, along the way, allow for and encourage ways of learning that are not traditional.  Classical and traditional, after all, are two different words that would benefit from non-conflation. 

I found myself this past school year calling out spelling words to a certain little boy while he sat in a tree in the front yard.  I cringed the whole time.  I hate it. 

I'm the academic, disembodied type of whom he speaks.  I'm so disembodied a lot of the time that I literally do not notice my body.  I break things, run into things, burn myself, and all manner of other physical ridiculousness. 
But, to be great educators, we must educate the children God creates, not the ones we project on to them.  So, I cannot project onto my children my make up. 

It seems to me, though, that we must also fight the two ditches here.   One of my favorite pastors talks often of the two ditches of things.  He's usually talking theology, but it applies, oh, everywhere.  Culinarily, relationally, and most definitely educationally. [Can we tell what I do all day?  Cook, relate and educate...]

The first ditch, when reexamining the concepts of traditional learning and creativity, is to do this atrocious, Montessori on meth all the way to college, "Let the children express themselves" bull butter.  In the fight to get outside the box, educators and parents burn the box.

Steiner/Waldorf and Montessori methods of education have been hijacked and turned into hippie free-for-alls that let the children direct education to their own detriment.  Arts are emphasized, yes, and then no one learns to read books.  Or sit still.  Or do things that people, who interact in a civilized society, should learn to do. 

Gillian Lynne, of whom Sir Robinson speaks in the video, though she's a dancer, has to sit still all the time.   If no where else, worship requires some attention.  So, the idea, that because he's a dancer or a different thinker or a fidgeter, or what have you, little Johnny shouldn't have to sit still, or, worse, cannot be expected to be able to sit still, is tragic.  Get a life, shave your legs, wear a bra and behave, people.


Yes, right.


The other ditch....
Into which we disembodied academics who (rightly) react to that ditch so readily fall.

That's what ditches are.  Reactions.  See, the hippie Montessory Steiner gone wrong folks are all just reacting to the 19th century Victorian educational traditionalists who said if you cannot sit still and do your times tables then poo poo on you.  And...then.... we react right back!

We say, "Well, that's bollucks.  Of course  you must learn your times tables."  And you must.  And we say, "Everyone should read the classics, see."  And they should.  And we say, "Really, you must learn to sit still, Eason."  And he should. 

However, we fall into this ditch of thinking that times tables coming easily makes you a better person than dancing coming easily.  And, if through God's grace, we make ourselves stop short of "better person" we cannot help but say "better student". 

This past year, at school, I had the privilege of teaching a slew of children.  In the spring, they all took standardized tests.  I had thoughts about different abilities, in different areas, of different children prior to the tests.  These thoughts, after examining the test results, were in some ways confirmed and in many ways challenged.  I know some of these children to be quite bright.  But in the ways that we traditionally measure "brightness" (whatever that ineffable quality is), they don't always appear that way on paper. 

College Professor type learners - general academicians - are awesome. 

But, there are many other kinds and expressions of brilliance. 

We must avoid the ditches:  Require conformity to some level of "Everyone needs to learn x and behave in this realm of normalcy" while at the same time allowing for learning modes and styles that acknowledge the diversity of intelligence. 

You must learn to spell.  But if you can do it in a tree (and that doesn't disrupt our other parts of life/learning- an important! caveat!), then, by all means, climb, child, climb.  And, if you want to dance while you recite Latin words, do so. 

Creativity can be achieved - within some sort of box.  We don't have to sacrifice excellence to allow for growth.  In fact, we cannot.

 It will be an interesting experiment - one we're engaged in fully at Jackson Classical - to see if we can strike the balance.  Dance our way through the Western Cannon.  We cannot do it because dancing is sweet, or because we're scared of failing at the excellent stuff. 

But we can and should do it because all the research (and results) of intelligence are telling us that out-of-the box thinkers, who can learn to function in the box, are the makers of the future. 

[This has exhausted my educational philosophy mental resources for the summer quarter of 2012.   Off to the swimming pool.]

Share my watermelon?

I haven't written in a long time.  Honestly, because I haven't had time when my children are working and I'm sitting at the computer.  We've been at the pool, at the park, and at school working to be ready for fall time.
During the school year, I often have twenty minutes, because it takes twenty minutes for Ada Bee to finish a chapter/a worksheet/etc.  Well, in the summer, we're all running/lazing about/playing together.
Well, not today.
There is an elaborate tent fort in the hallway and I'm pretending not to be a mother to any of them.

Except when they come ask for various accoutrements to make the tent fort even better.  Then I get to pick one of the roles - of either being super fun and offering to accommodate or of being super unfun and refusing to participate and really, when it comes down to it, banning their participation.

13 May 2012

Oh, the reasons I drink

I just saw this card celebrating Mother's Day today.

And I thought, "Yes!"

You know, because I love wine, and I love being a mom, and sometimes they do make me want to pour a beverage.  

But I immediately thought of the famous and awesome whiskey speech by Soggy Sweat.  When I was a small child, my father began holding it up to me as one of the most brilliant moments of rhetoric in the modern west, and he was, as per usual, correct in doing so. 

I remember the speech always - about adult beverages and about most things. 
And children are one of those most things. 

Because, as a mother, I daily give up my everything and die for them -  and at the same time, I find my glory, my joy, my everything in them.  We do this first with our spouses, but with our children it is even more profound.

Like with whiskey, they both topple and cheer.

And if you go a day without them doing both, well, you're likely doing something either wrong or way more right than I am.  When God gives you your ultimate tool of sanctification, you better believe it will be awesome in all senses of the word, not just the newfangled ones. 

So, for mother's day, from the MS house of representatives, just 60 short years ago:

"If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
"If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the skip in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, Christmas morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
"This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise."

My children are the reasons I drink.  Sure.  Definitely.  But, I'm glad to say, most of the time, it is because they put a song in my heart, laughter on my lips, and the warm glow of contentment in my eyes.  They are Christmas cheer, they provide way more than a skip in my steap.  They magnify my job, my happiness, and allow me to forget, if for a while, life's great tragedies, heartaches and sorrows.

This is my stand. 

Pour me up another.  There is much to celebrate.

[Most of all, today, when Eason passed his sister a vase of flowers at the kids' lunch table.  He said, "These are for you - it's mother's day."  Paul said, "Well, Eas - she's not your mother." Eas said, "I know.  But she's the only girl and the oldest at the table, so she's the closet thing."]

Cheers to that, if nothing else. 

09 May 2012

Menu 5.10.12 - Birthday Week!

Thursday 5/10
Lunch - Leftover Pulled Pork - mayhaps will turn into nachos. 
Supper -  Bean Burritos!  Yay!

Friday 5/11
Lunch -  Bean Burritos!  Yay!  ;) 
Supper - Walker's Drive in for me for my birthday.  Best Restaurant in Jackson.  Little Contest from a couple of places, but, all in all, on my birthday weekend, it's where I want to be.  Also, my mother in law is awesome and is babysitting on HER birthday while I go out for mine.
 My husband is a delight. I'm already salivating.  If they have soft shell crab in fresh, well, I can die happy on Saturday morning. 

 Saturday 5/12
Lunch - PB & Js?
Supper - Early supper, so that's why the little plan for lunch -    My father in law is an excellent cook and is bringing gumbo for mother's day for his wife and me.  I'm making a chocolate cake for her birthday (yes, in three days, we've both our birthday's and mothers day (for both of us...) Poor Paul.).  I think Paul is going to get some stuff to throw on the grill and we'll have a salad I'm sure.  

Sunday 5/13
Lunch - My Stepmother is cooking for us.  She prefers to be called my stepmonster, but since she's entirely not monstrous, this seems silly.  Carrie is a great cook.  I'm taking Pavlova.  Or Strawberry Short Cake.  The only commitment I've made so far is Louisiana Strawberries and Fresh Whipped Cream.

Supper - Paul in charge - it's mom's day and my birthday  - I ain't cooking. 

Monday 5/14
Lunch -Fridge clean out / PB & Js
Supper -  Chicken Tortilla Soup; Cheese Quesadillas

Tuesday 5/15
Lunch - Soup
Supper -Spaghetti and Meatballs.  Meatballs make my husband happy.  I cannot deny him in good conscience. 

Wednesday 5/16
Lunch - Spaghetti and Meat Balls
Supper -  Church / Pizza

03 May 2012

Food - Week of 5.3.12

Thursday 5/3
Lunch -  MeixiCAN with Mama
Supper -  Grilled Chicken Paninis -  Comeback, spinach, cheese, onions.  Giant Green Salad. 

Friday 5/4
Lunch -Grilled cheeses. 
Supper -  Paul and the kids are going camping;  I'm going to a girl's night.  I'm taking shrimp infused cream cheese and some sort of dipping item. 

 Saturday 5/5
Lunch - Crawfish!  Annual church crawfish boil.  I'm taking Honey Corn Chex Rice Krispie Treat things. 
Supper - We'll all be 'xhausted.  I imagine I'm going to give the kids something simple and perhaps Paul and I will have cereal?  Or taco bell?  Oh, Taco Bell has been a while. 

Sunday 5/6
Lunch -  Having Sunday Lunch here -  Good Ol' Fashioned Pot Roast, Mashed 'Taters and Green Beans.
Supper -Leftover Sandwich Smorgasbord. 

Monday 5/7
Lunch - Salads
Supper -  Lasagna

Tuesday 5/8
Lunch -  Lasagna
Supper - Book Club!  I'm taking some kind of dip.  My people at home are having sloppy joes.  They love sloppy joes. 

Wednesday 5/9
Lunch - Whatever we can drum off. 
Supper -  Church / Pulled Pork

26 April 2012

Weekly Menu 4.26.12

Thursday 4/26
Lunch -  Sam's Club Pizza
 Supper -  Conquering the Compost Pasta. 

Friday 4/27
Lunch - Pic-A-Nic to the Park.  We may take Compost Pasta as Pasta Salad - or maybe PB&H Sandwiches - or maybe the hummus that's been in the fridge for 10 days -  what is Hummus's Fridge Life? 

Supper -  Bowling Alley Pizza.  This is not something clever.  We are going on a bowling date.  Our groupon outing includes a pizza.  We will be eating it.     

Saturday 4/28
Lunch - I have a Baby Shower.  Paul has already declared he'll be having leftover Compost Pasta.  I've got to quit calling it that - it's making it less appetizing. 

Supper -Going to a friend's to play poker. Bowling and poker in one weekend?  What?  say something.  Our kids are going to grandparents.  We're pretending we're still in our twenties.  


What the hell happened to our twenties? 

Sunday 4/29
Lunch -  Being hosted for lunch by some sweet friends at church.  I hear shrimp pasta is in our future.  Since shrimp + noodles is my favorite ever, I'm thrilled.  I'm bringing German Chocolate Caramel Cake and Ice Cream.  Every Single One Of Those Letters Deserves Capitalization.  Dadgomit. 

Supper - Multiple Courses.  I'm in the mood.  Kids gone all day Saturday.  Which means cooking day for me!  Main Dish - Sausage and Chicken stuffed Manicotti.  Also having a roasted corn bisque, a cannelini and arugula salad and a ginger sorbet.  It's my hobby. 

Monday 4/30
Lunch - Salad.  ;) 
Supper -Black Bean Soup and Veggie Quesadillas with my daddy, favorite stepmother, and my sweet granddaddy. 

Tuesday 5/1
Lunch -  Taking a pic-a-nic to a friend's for a work meeting.  Good to be friends with colleagues. 
Supper - Leftover Clean Out / If there aren't enough - meal out of the freezer - garlic, white bean and salsa verde enchiladas.  

Wednesday 5/2
Lunch - Leftovers / Doctored Up Rice
Supper -  Hymn Sing / Pizza

Covetous Compost (Pasta)!

The relevance will become apparent. 

I have a challenge.  For the seven people who read this blog. 
It is to Conquer the Covetous Compost!  

I am in a constant battle with our compost pile.  It wants to eat as much as possible.  It puts teenage boy sports teams to shame. 
It gobbles our peels [onion, banana, potato, carrot, cucumber, et cetera].
It grabs our other droppings [apple cores, pear cores, flower stems, celery leaves, carrot greens, et cetera].
It greedily consumes our plate and dish scrapings.

However, apparently, it is not enough.

How do I know this?  Well, it seriously wants more food. It longs for it.  It covets.  The Forster Compost Pile breaks the 10th commandment like it's going out of style.  

 What do we [and the compost] covet?   We begin by coveting what we see every day.

[Name the movie.  If you know off the top of your head, we should probably be best friends forever.  If you don't, call me.]

Weekly Menu 4.19.12

Weekly Menu 4.19.12

Thursday 4/19
Lunch -  Meeting Mama for a Bite
 Supper -  Roasted Chicken. Mashed Potatoes.  Green Beans. 

Friday 4/20
Lunch - I genuinely don't remember.  Cannot recall, no matter how hard I try. 

Supper - Griled Chicken Paninis.  We were supposed to have Red Beans and Rice, however, I spent Thursday night at the hospital with dear friends having their first, precious son, so I didn't get the prep work done.  And I needed a nap.  Luckily, I had plenty of chicken to grill and then all I needed was some comeback, some Sam's Club French bread, various sauteed toppings and cheeses and we had a gourmet sandwich evening. 

Saturday 4/21
Lunch - On the run -  Catfish Sandwiches (We were taken on a treat supper on Wednesday night to celebrate school victories and we have left over Catfish.  It wouldn't be yummy alone, but a bop in the broiler and some po'boy bread picked up at the store and we'll have lunch for kings and queens)

Supper - Taco Soup at friends'.  I'm making margaritas and white cheese dip to go with.

Sunday 4/22
Lunch -  Bad for Us Chicken Casserole to go to Church Lunch With,
Supper -Crawfish, Onions, Potatoes, Corn [All courtesy of one of our favorite folks who ended up with WAY too much Crawfish]

Monday 4/23
Lunch - Cooking Class with the Kids
Supper -Spicy Cheese and Onion Enchiladas.  I planned these to trigger labor in my sweet friend, but didn't need them.  However, they are one of my favorite dishes - modeled after the enchiladas at the Elite Restaurant, a Jackson staple [at which only the enchiladas are good]

Tuesday 4/24
Lunch - Leftover Cheese and Onion Enchiladas. 
Supper -Red Beans and Rice [Finally]

Wednesday 4/18
Lunch - Red Beans and Rice
Supper -  Prayer Meeting / Subway

17 April 2012

Ecstatic Shellfish

I was supposed to make Red Beans and Rice today.

To make decent RB&R, one really needs to start early in the day.  I frequently think to myself, "Oh, well, I can speed make them."  It never, ever turns out well.  Neither does the crock pot, at least for me. You just need to be able to stir, add water, taste - all the day long.
I looked up and it was 1:30.

Additionally, when I made my menu plan I didn't know I'd want to feed a couple of ladies tonight -  ladies who are Louisianans, at least when it comes to food.  Ladies who, I know for a fact, make much better Red Beans than I do.  In fact, one of them smoked me in a Red Beans making contest.  So, why serve a third or fourth place dish to the creator of the gold medal winner?

So, I started poking around my kitchen to see what else I could make.  I needed it to be quick - I had some extra small people around here and it wasn't a day for kneading anything.  Secondly, I needed it to be yummy.  Third, I was not going to the store.

My friend Anna, when she was a fairly-new-lywed, tried this recipe called Happy Shrimp.  Then, one Sunday I think, she made it for us.  It was delicious.  I already have a tried and true shrimp pasta recipe that I have been making since childhood - and I'll never give it up - but Happy Shrimp is different.

I went a googling today and I found the recipe for Happy Shrimp.

But, of course, I didn't have all the things and I messed with it so much that it was really not the same thing anymore.

Ada Brooks asked for the recipe.
Paul used cuss words to describe it that I'll not reproduce here. But, you know in Lethal Weapon when Danny Glover says he's too old for this Something?   Well, Paul said this recipe was "Some Good Something"  

My same friend Anna quietly admonishes me about twice a month to quit fiddling with and/or making up recipes and not writing down what I do. 

So, I'm trying to grow.

Ecstatic Shellfish

1 to 1.5 lbs Shrimp, Peeled  (Medium, Kroger Brand with Shells On EZ Peel is what I use for everything.  The only way in which it lets me down is it spells Easy, "EZ")
1/2  of a purple onion, finely diced.  This measured out to be right at 1/2 cup.  Be pround, Anna.  Be proud.
6 Tablespoons Butter (3/4 of a stick)

Melt butter over medium heat.  Throw in onions.  Throw in Shrimp.  Stir it around for about 5 minutes, until Shrimp turn pink and are no longer translucent.

Remove Shrimp.

To warm butter/onion/shrimpjuice mixture add 6 cloves garlic, pressed/minced.  Stir for a second.
 Throw in 2 cups of grape tomatoes that you have cut in half.   
Stir for a minute.

Pour in 1/3 cup of Riesling.  I know.  That's specific. Most wine/creamsauce combos call for dry white wine.  Well, I didn't have any.  And, the coming cayenne pepper I think plays nicely with the Riesling.  So, go with it.  Or go with whatever white wine you have.  I'm not the cream sauce police.  Far from it - I think it all tastes good. 

Stir it around for a second.
Add 2 tsps dried basil
Add 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.  I'll confess.  Tonight, I added more like 1/4 tsp. I thought it could have used a bit more kick.  My kids loved it, though, and I think if it had had the kick I love, they probably wouldn't have loved it, so I'll likely vary my cayenne in the future based on my audience. 
Add 3/4 cup of heavy cream. 

Swirl it all around.  S&P to taste.

Meanwhile, put on to boil 12 ounces of the pasta of your choice -  Bowtie is what we used and I thought it worked nicely.Also, the 12 ounces was the right amount.  Not 8.  Not 16. 
Let it simmer a bit - till it coats the back of a spoon  - 8 minutes maybe.

Add back the shrimp.  Heat through. 

Toss with the drained pasta.  Yes, toss it.  This is a thin sauce - you want it coating all of the crevices.  Don't do your tastebuds a disservice by trying to make it prettier and piling it on top.

There ya go, Anna Dubs -

There ya go, Future Ann Lowrey who cannot remember what she does either.

This is the way to make happy shrimp with ingredients you keep on hand.   

12 April 2012

Weekly Menu 4.12.12

Last week, we had an Easter Feast.  You always forget the major amounts of leftovers from Easter.  So, we haven't made a lot of the food scheduled for post Easter feast.  We didn't even attempt to eat dinner on Sunday night, much less prepare it. 

And I was gone both Monday and Tuesday evenings.  Which meant that my people were even happier than I would have been with the smorgasbord of leftovers in the fridge. 

So, we've shifted most things forward to this week, with a few minor changes.

Thursday 4/12
Lunch -  We have a field trip, so we're likely going to bop out a bite.  
Supper -  Pulled Pork Enchiladas.  I'm making this up today.  And taking to friends as well.  This is breaking all sorts of rules, but they're an understanding bunch and I have pounds and pounds of pulled pork calling to me leftover from a sparsely attended Wednesday Night BBQ at Church last night. 

Friday 4/13
Lunch - Sammiches / Mish Mash, as my Mama used to call it.  (This is code for find what you can people; find what you can)
Supper -  Date Night with the Hubby

Saturday 4/14
Lunch - Baby Shower for a Dear Friend at our house.  I'd say what we're eating, but she'll read this, so I best not ruin her surprises.  It's a modern classic luncheon.  How is that for nonsensical?  I'll post pics and a menu next week for posterity.  And for her mother, who is a thousand miles away.  
Supper - Shower leftovers.  It's not fun, but it's the most responsible I can be.

Sunday 4/15
Lunch -  Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Supper - Spaghetti and Meatballs

Monday 4/16
Lunch - Leftover Spaghetti for the Grown Ups; Sandwiches for the Small People
Supper - Bean Burritos

Tuesday 4/17
Lunch - Cooking Class with the Kids  (They get to get out their kids' cookbooks and go in the pantry and see what we can rustle up.  It's a great Math and Reading exercise.  Especially when I make Ada Brooks tell me what all the measurements would be in reduced fractions if we were trying to prepare exactly 2/3 of the recipe.  What is 2/3 of 1/4 of a cup? Well, 2Tbls, 1tsp, clearly.....)
Supper - Red Beans and Rice

Wednesday 4/18
Lunch - Red Beans and Rice
Supper -  Out to Dinner to Celebrate A Successful Score on A Final Latin Exam. 

(Hopefully.   We won't dangle but rather surprise with this specific carrot.  She's worked hard all year, though - and this is the first real, consistent, difficult, academic work she's done, so it will deserve to be celebrated.  I do love that kid.  If she doesn't work for the next six days, and bombs it, though, we just won't say anything.) 

A good week of food and a cheap run to the store considering most of it was bought erroneously and ambitiously last week!

05 April 2012

Weekly Menu - 04/05/12

I seriously must do better!  We don't stop eating - I just stop writing about it, and I really do love to be able to look back and see what we were eating and doing and loving and so much more. 


Lunch with Ma at the 'xican restaurant. 
Supper - Maundy Thursday Soup, Biscuit Bread, Wine


Lunch - plundering of leftovers
Supper - grilled chicken paninis (comeback, onions, cheese, spinach, sam's french bread)

Lunch - mediteranean picnic - hummus, tzatzkiki, veggies, pita, grilled chicken tenders
Supper - haven't quite gotten there yet, but I will.  I'll be cooking for Sunday, so it will likely involve a box of angel hair, some vegetables, and some parmesan cheese


Lunch - Easter Feast
Supper - Spaghetti and Garlic Bread


Lunch - Leftovers, clearly
Supper - I'm headed out for a dear friend's birthday celebration. Paul and the kids will be feasting upon bean and rice burritos. 


Lunch - bean burritos
Supper - Red Beans and Rice with Sausage

Lunch - Red Beans and Rice
Supper - Pork at Church

Sons of Men and Angels Say!

This Sunday is Easter! 

Easter is a big deal around here;  then, again, what's not a big deal around here?  I feel like my job in life is to make sure all the things are big deals. 

Good Friday:  Hot Cross Buns and Prayers at the Church.  We remember in sobriety, grieving our sins, though not grieving his death, because after all, God has already redeemed the Cross.  It may seem difficult theologically - it is a nuance, but I don't think it's especially hard. 
There are two errors into which one can fall.  First, not remembering the crucifixion.  You cannot sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today on Easter if you haven't first remembered from what He rises.  You really cannot put everyone in their best outfits and cook the fatted lamb (more on that later....) if you don't remember the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.  It's so very American, and in all the bad ways, to ignore Good Friday and hunt eggs anyway. 
The other error is to obsess - to lament.  We must remember, but in fact, we are remembering the death of Christ in a context of a redeemed world.  He has died, but He has risen.  We are remembering His death, but we cannot and should not ever be as Mary wailing at the cross.  We can wail for our own sin that put Him on the cross, but we cannot wail for our dead Lord.  He is not dead.  He sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  Every day - even on Good Friday. 

So, we remember. 

Easter Vigil - or Holy Saturday- is a day of preparation.  The disciples would have been in a prayer vigil.  That's what you do, after all, after someone dies.  You keep a vigil.  You pray.  But, we don't have to do that.  We know what's coming the next day.  And of course, it's not actually coming again.  Nothing is any different about Good Friday or Easter Sunday than any other Friday or Sunday, metaphysically, ontologically, or in any other way.  Christ is just as risen today, tomorrow and Saturday as he will be on Sunday.  It is all about us - our ordination toward Christ and His life.  We are a dumb people - like asses and oxen and goats - and without being forced to remember, we'll (do what we've done and) skip everything but birth and resurrection.  So, we don't keep a vigil to pray for our departed Savior.  Instead, we prepare our hearts for the joy of the resurrection and of course our tables for the accompanying feast. 

And then the trumps sound and we're Eastering!  A day of feasting like no other.  Breaking bread and egg hunting.  Toasting with wine and champagne and wearing our beautiful clothes.  Lilies and tulips and the best of all hymnody. 

So, what of the menu for our feast? 

Well, we're sharing Easter with some dear friends.  They're in charge of meat and I'm in charge of everything else!  They're smoking a lamb (I'm nearly dying with the literary significance) and roasting a beef brisket.  I'm sure it will all be thrilling. 

So, what to round out the table? 

Shrimp and Pineapple wrapped in bacon for appetizer. 

Fresh Corn Casserole, a la Pioneer Woman, who doesn't generally get my culinary vote, but I don't see how this could be bad.  

Three Bean Salad, a favorite at our house, especially for special occasions.  Ada Brooks is in charge of this and will make tomorrow so it will be super yummy by Sunday.  Kidney Beans, Wax Beans, Green Beans, Celery, Onions and Bell Peppers swimming in a vinegary, peppery, sweet dressing.

Deviled Eggs, of course.  Don't know what the devil has to do with it, but they're so damn good, so maybe that's it?

Scalloped Potatoes, because I love my husband.

Scallion Cream Sauce and Bowtie noodles, because I love myself.

Roasted Asparagus, to make us feel better.   I'm so tempted to make it asparagus casserole.  So tempted.  Someone stop me. 

Sister Schuberts, because I'm cheating.  I'm sacrificing making my own bread.  I'd rather have strawberry pie and buy the rolls.  

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake - Easter without chocolate is apparently sacrilege. 

Strawberry Pie - again, because my heart lies in the hands of Paul William Forster.  If the man could eat scalloped potatoes, hamburgers and strawberry pies for the rest of his life, he'd be happy as a clam.  

Plentiful fresh whipped cream for both of them. 

We're going to hunt the fire out of some eggs. 

Now, back to sewing the new outfits and making a grocery list! 

Bread, Wine, Soup

Today is Maundy Thursday.  In the church calendar, we commemorate the Last Supper and Jesus's washing of the disciple's feet.  If you have a phenomenal church community who is very liturgically inclined, you may have a great Maundy Thursday service.  Foot washing, a somber, simple meal of bread, wine and perhaps soup, followed by the stripping of the altar in preparation for the rememberance of Good Friday tomorrow. 

Or, you make do at home - bread, wine and soup, the reading of the gospel sections about the Last Supper, and talking about the significance of foot washing and the various happenings the night before the crucifixion.  I think we'll probably wash feet one day -  what a great picture for our kids - but right now they're just too young to be serious while having their feet in a basin of water.  And that's okay.  But you cannot save all of the somber stuff until they're older.  So, we'll be quiet, have bread and soup and try to give them a picture to make the resurrection celebration in just three days all that more important.

(Of course, we are blessed that we know already that He rose from the dead.  It takes the edge off of the mourning and grief, and by golly, it should.  We don't wail and beat our breasts for our Savior has been crucified.  But, we do humbly remember.  It's a fine line - but worth, like most great things in life - making the effort to strive for the balance.)

There is this soup.  We call it Maundy Thursday soup. And, actually, so do the people who came up with it - the Saints at the Chapel of the Cross in Madison, MS.  I've messed with it a bit.  Shocker, I know.  Of course we have no idea what, if anything, Jesus and the Disciples had at supper with their bread and wine.  It was most likely nothing or something very simple.  So, we try to echo that a bit.

Maundy Thursday Soup, one of my favorites:

1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, whole
1 T minced, fresh rosemary
2 tomatoes, moisture squeezed out, diced
3-4 cups cooked or canned chick peas (2 cans if canned) 
1/4 cup minced, fresh parsley
4 cups chicken broth

Fresh grated Parmesan or Asiago

Heat olive oil over medium low heat until warmed through.  Throw in garlic, still whole.  Brown the cloves, but be very careful not to burn!
Remove garlic, set aside.
Add rosemary, tomatoes.  Stir and simmer until most of the liquid has been evaporated.  Stir in garbanzos.  Add parsley and broth.
Cook over medium heat 30-45 minutes.

Remove and puree and return some of the beans
Immersion blend the whole garlicky lot.

Serve with cheese and parsley on top.  Along side bread and some of the sauteed garlic.

02 April 2012

Long Days at Work: Slow Cooker Marinara

I've been more label conscious lately, and as much as I'm pro the occasional easy meal, I'm more and more aware of the unpronouncables on almost every, even seemingly innocent, packaged food. 

I mean, we all know that Velveeta cannot be doing great things for you.   And condensed cream-of-x soups.  But look at Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat Bread.  Or a jar of simple jarred spaghetti sauce.  Multiple ingredients that didn't exist 100 years ago, much less 1000. 

I don't want to be an alarmist, but what I'd like to do is say that we don't know what any of that stuff might be doing to us, so let's try to avoid.  And when I say avoid, I don't mean avoid like yet another germ in the winter of 2012 (we've had stomach bug 1.5 times, flu, strep and probable pneumonia this year).  I mean avoid like stepping in muddy puddles or throwing away plastic rings off of coke cans without cutting them up first. 
Just avoid it when possible, but don't lose sleep or make other people's lives miserable in the process.

All that to say:  I've been looking for a low key pasta sauce that could substitute on those long days at work when I need to boil up a pound of angel hair and call it a night.  If you don't have those nights, then you have it all more under control than I do - or maybe you just live a charmed life. 

A couple versions of this have been floating around Pinterest.  My friend Jessie tried one and remarked that it needed something more.  So, I drew from a few sources and amped them up a bit. 

Paul declared that it doesn't taste so much like jarred spaghetti sauce - but rather like "real marinara - you know - like in a restaurant." 

I'll take that.

So, for posterity and for next time when I cannot remember exactly what I did: 

  • 56 ounces crushed tomatoes (2 28 oz cans or 1/2 giant Sam's can.  I happened to need crushed tomatoes for other recipes this week, so I just got out my scale, measured out 1/4 of the giant can for one thing, 1/4 for another, and 1/2 for the crock pot)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 - 1 head garlic, minced  
  • 1 can tomato paste 
  • 3 bay leaves, whole, dried
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar (Sugar!  But if you don't do it, the tomatoes will be too acidic - and really for the 12 or so servings you're getting out of this, 1 T isn't a deal breaker)
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper

Throw it all in a crock pot.  Yes.  I said it.  Throw it in.  Throw it.  Throw it.  Stir until tomato paste seems incorporated.  Cook on low 6-12 hours.

Serve over pasta of choice.

My estimation is that this has about 60% of the sugar that a jar of regular ol' spaghetti sauce has and exactly no fat, unlike most jarred sauces which add oil for flavor  - not that a little fat will kill ya, but wouldn't you rather have it in say...cheese?

Speaking of, Parmesan cheese was not unwelcome piled on top.

We had this and fresh spinach with a little dab'll do ya dressing tonight for dinner.

Paul, Ada Bee, Collins and I gobbled up.  Eason prefers the sweetness brought on by high fructose corn syrup, but he cleaned his plate.  I doubt the promised result of 1/3 of a hershey bar had anything to do with it.  

I have the same amount we ate left over and will freeze in a gallon size bag.

Have I told you lately that I'm thankful for a husband who is happy with a meatless meal. Almost as happy as a meatful meal.

This will be our new marinara, I imagine.  For pizza, all red sauced pasta, as a base for meat sauce and the perfect dip for cheesy focaccia. 

Who needs Velveeta when you've got that jazz?

(Well, me, but only much less often!)  


03 February 2012

Balsamic Pork Loin

Some months ago, when Pinterest was a new phenomenon in my life, my friend Anna spotted a recipe for what was called Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin.

Well, I have a history with pork loins.  It's not pretty.  It involves me pursuing them with the reckless abandon of a fourteen year old girl who has more than a few daddy issues.  And they never love me back.  They almost always end up dry.  But the problem is that they are healthy, relatively inexpensive, but company appropriate, and not the same ol' same ol' thing. 

So, I saw this recipe, I had my doubts, but I did it, just like the girl who sends the 4th unanswered text message.  More like 44th in this situation. 

And he came through.  Apparently, his phone had been dead the whole time. 

I will say, though, that this ends up falling apart.  A fact that I always think is good, but it often ruins a presentation.  This is much more dinner with white table clothes than styrofoam plates and bad baked beans, but it looks an awful lot like its fattier, tastier, less classy sister of Pulled Pork Shoulder.  You may feel the need to serve it with apology (the explanatory kind, not the sorry kind) - "This is Balsamic Pork Loin.  White meat.  Grown up food.  Button up and khackis, not bathingsuits and fireworks.  I promise."  Or, perhaps, you're more secure than I am sometimes, and you are willing to say, "This tastes good.  I don't care if you do think it beneath the occasion.  Kiss my behind."  If so, kudos to you! 

So, here we go:

1 3 lb pork loin.  (This reminds me.  I grew up in the kitchen.  Cooked all the time.  But I was always cooking with my mother's ingredients, right?  I didn't learn the art of reading a recipe and shopping for it until I stumbled through it as a newlywed.  I can remember reading my mother's brisket recipe which called for a 3.5 lb brisket.  I searched and searched.  All I could find was like a 2.79 lb one and a 3.86 lb one.  No 3.5 lbs to be found.  I gave up, went home, and we ordered out.  I was 22 and a mother and could not figure out that IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW BIG YOUR PIECE OF DEDGUM BRISKET IS, but I'm pitiful like that.) 

Granulated Garlic (this is better than garlic powder - tastes less fake for some reason). 

Sprinkle all over the meat.  Put 1/2 a cup of water and the meat in a slowcooker, thin layer of fat side up, for 5-7 hours on low. 

45 minutes before you want to eat, prepare this in a tinyish saucepan on the stove:

1 cup brown sugar
2 T corn starch
1/2 cup balsamic
1 cup water
4 T soy sauce
2 tsp Tabasco

Boil until it thickens, simmer for a second or two. 

30 minutes before you want to eat it, take the top off.  Pull it apart with two forks.  It should come apart so easily. 
Toss with 2/3 of the balsamic mixture.  You can also toss with all of it.  But if you want something for people to spoon over something, save 1/3 of it, put it in a pretty bowl with a spoon and call it sauce.  Because it is.

This is yummy alone, yummy on sandwiches; yummy on quesadillas and yummy in lasagna

It freezes beautifully as well. 

There ya go!  Eat well, do good work and keep in touch. 

Pork Loin Lasagna

So... I like food.  And I love making yummier foods out of simpler, especially leftover, foods.  And for the last month, we've been eating out of the freezer and pantry, which has increased creativity in some ways and limited it in others. 
To make greatest use of leftovers or pieces of frozen meat or bags of frozen veggies, often you also need to run to the store to buy a few supplementary ingredients.  And I've not been able to do that.  I blew my fifty dollar budget at the beginning of the month, so from January 10-31, I spent 7 dollars.
So, this week, I got to buy some food.  And I thought being able to grocery shop would make all the difference.
And then yesterday afternoon I ended up crafting supper from things I already had - didn't buy a one since January 10th - and we all really enjoyed it.

And I need to write it down, because the three Forsters who express such opinions have already asked that it be added to the rotation.
So, here we go.

Pork Loin /Caramelized Onion Lasagna Roll Ups

For the meat stuffs:

2-3 cups leftover balsamic pork loin, pulled into shredded goodness. (See here)
2 good sized yellow onions, sliced
3 T butter
3 T olive oil
1 cup good quality barbecue sauce (either homemade or a good brand name - I had half a jar of  Cherry Republic stuff, but I think it'd be good as long as it wasn't cloying Kraft stuff) 

For the sauce:
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 cups chicken broth (from bullion cubes for me)
2 cups milk (I used 2 percent)
1 cup ricotta (I had this in the fridge) 
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne (or more or less to taste)
2 tsps dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp italian seasoning blend

3-4 cups mozzarella
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles

Caramelize the onions in the butter and oil for about 20-25 minutes, add the shredded meat and bbq sauce, heat through. 

While the onion is cooking, make your sauce.  Make a roux with the butter and flour.  Blend in the broth, stir until it thickens.  Blend in the milk, stirring well.  (Using a whisk (coated if your pot is non stick) will make your life easier).  Add all spices and the ricotta.  Turn to low and let it simmer for a bit until all is melted, well blended, married, melded, all that jazz.

Now, grab a large pan (11 x 14 if you have one) or a 9 x 13 and a small loaf pan to supplement.

Put 12 raw noodles in the pan.  Pour boiling water over it to cover.  Let sit for 10 minutes or so until the noodles are pliable.  

Take 1/3 of the sauce and spread it on the bottom of your pan.  

Now, onto each noodle, place 1/12th of the meat mixture and 2 Tablespoons or so of Mozzarella cheese.  Spread it along each noodle.  Now, roll up the noodle.  Place seam side down in the sauce lined pan.
Continue with all 12 noodles.
Pour remaining sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cover pan tightly with foil.
Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.
Remove cover.  Bake 15 more minutes.

You could also add spinach to the pork/onion mixture to get some green veggies going in there.
You could also probably use shredded chicken rather than the pork - just make sure it's thinly shredded and flavorful.
I used whole wheat noodles because I had a package in the pantry.  We normally use white noodles, but these were so well received, I think I'll convert.  
You could also make a traditional lasagna, just layering meat/onions, then cheese, then sauce, then noodles.  You know how to make lasagna, people.

For lasagna, this is actually a very healthy option.  Pork Loin is better for you than ground beef; 2 percent milk and only 1 cup of ricotta makes the sauce not to heavy, and even with the full 4 cups of mozzarella, at 12 servings, that's only 1/3 of a cup per person, which isn't going to win any health awards, but, again, for lasagna, it's pretty darn good.

Anyway, it is yummy and was oohed and aahed by Eason, who is my hardest to happy.

Yay for creativity; yay for austerity; yay for cooking!  I feel like a new woman this morning! 

20 January 2012

Strong Enough.

I read an amazing article this morning.  My friend Ginny found it and posted it on facebook.  I just sat in my seat and cried and cried.

Mrs. Fisher has a way with words and a wisdom that comes from birthing, nursing and raising nine young ones.  And her picture doesn't even look tired.

I was simply going to post it and move on, but there were two points I wanted to record here, so I'll remember.

The essay is written by a mother with nine children, but it is written to mothers of one - to mothers of a little one who think, and truly recognize, that life is hard.  It seems that 9 is harder than 1 (or that my three is harder than someone's one), and in many ways, it's true.  More laundry, more food, more fights.  When they're little at least, three makes it harder to escape, and it's harder to find someone who wants to steal three for a few hours than it is to find someone who wants to escape with one.

My baby, at six weeks, almost as tired as her mother was:  With one, the exhaustion is from loneliness and a lack of surety about anything.