Thursday, August 09, 2012

morning walk

it was a nice morning out, and everyone was a little tired of playing in the house...

so we decided to head to the park, which the littles thought was an awesome idea!



so we grabbed some snacks.


and we headed out.


the littles got to ride in style with the hippie as their chauffeur.


the critter walked and scootered.


when we got to the park, there was a lot of swinging. hippie was on pushing duty for the littles, while i was hangin' with the critter.


kaiya LOVES to swing!


and so does finn!


man, did we get HOT and THIRSTY!


but that didn't slow anyone down.


no one wanted to go, but everyone was getting hungry, so we headed back to the house.

on the way home, it started to rain, so the critter ran for it and went inside asap. not the littles! they loved the rain!

kaiya didn't want to come in, and neither did finn.


so we let them keep playing for a while. the downspout was the favorite attraction of the day.


then we wrapped it up with a little puddle stomping.


lunch and naps were calling, and the rain stopped, so we went back inside.
a good outing...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

the new normal

tomorrow marks the end of the 3rd week since we became a temporary family of 5, and i have to say, it's going far more smoothly than i expected. it's most certainly an adjustment, having 3 little ones in the house, but thanks to our particular kids having a lot of flexibility, even that has been easier than i thought it would be.

kaiya is a sweet girl whose care is a bit high maintenance because of a difficult list of food allergies. but thanks to her uber-laid-back nature and lack of pickiness about what she eats, she is blending right in. first of all, she LOVES daycare. she's happy to go in the morning and happy to see me when i pick her up at night. she's fallen into our routines without effort, and has already come to understand what to expect when. she reaches for her crib at night, and plays happily while waiting to be picked up in the morning when she wakes up. her skin seems under control, and we've been crazy careful about not letting her come into contact with any of her allergens. she's now having one bath a day, one application of a tiny amount of steroid cream per day, and lotion head to toe every time her diaper is changed. it seems to be working. she is happy and giggly and a little demanding--her biggest adjustment has come from not being the only kid in town, but she's getting used to it.

finn has noticed that there's more competition in the house and has responded with a handful of the most insane tantrums you have ever seen, which we ignored. they stopped pretty quickly once he realized they weren't going to get him anything but left howling in the middle of the floor where the dog is almost certainly going to come lick him in the face. he's changed tactics, and has become the loviest little boy on the planet. i admit, that's working better for him--i can't resist me some baby hugs. mostly he's happy to show off for kaiya and make her laugh, and he likes being the only one to get to ride in the stroller in and out of daycare.

kieran has probably had the roughest adjustment of all three kids. i think it's because he's the oldest, and just gets the reality more than the babies do. he feels just a little left out sometimes, being the biggest and the best able to fend for himself. he's found some confort in more stuffed animal time--he's been bringing one to daycare with him lately, which he stopped doing many months ago--and in some extra time with mama. he and i have started watching one episode of avatar at night after the babies are in bed, and it's helping A LOT. he loves kaiya--he thinks she's cooler than finn because she's less likely to wreck his stuff. but at the same time, he goes--mama, you are taking TOO LONG to get kaiya ready for bed! and i just tell him--it's takes as long as it takes--you must be patient. he's actually torn: on one hand, he's proud of himself for his independence, and on the other, he's resentful of having to BE a little more independent for the new dynamics to work. he, too, is adjusting.

and as for me and the hippie--well--we're adjusting, too. we're tag-teaming a little more. we're both learing to manage baths and bedtime on our own. we're learning how to fit time for each other in around time for the kiddos. we're learning to manage the exhaustion that comes with caring for an extra one. we're finding the little wells of extra patience that we need to make it all work.

i have streamlined my daycare drop-off and pick-up process so that i can now get through it in less than 15 minutes--i think that's pretty good. i have learned to make a couple of big things that kaiya can pack for lunches ahead of the week's start. i have learned to plan ahead for her snacks and foods she can feed herself if we want to go anywhere. i have read every label at whole foods and walmart and target and at least 2 grocery stores. i am finding new recipes to make for her. thank goodness i am a person who already cooks a lot and who likes to cook--i don't know how you would deal with the allergies otherwise!

we are working hard this week on backing the whole schedule up so that we get out of the house a little earlier in the morning--i have managed to get through the daycare door before 9am two days in a row. my goal is to get that closer to 8:30, but i'll take anything before 9am and call it success. we are also working on cutting down on TV time and increasing togetherness at family meals. we're eating breakfast and dinner together at the table with no TV and only one toy each, and no TV or iPad till after we're all done. aftermath of a good dinner looks like this:

post-dinner playtime

the hippie left today for a week. it's going to be interesting to see how well i fare on my own without him--prayers and good thoughts appreciated!

anyway--bottom line--for the most part, we are a happy family of 5.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

finn is two!

i can't BELIEVE finn is two today! this birthday has snuck up on me a bit in the midst of all the family upheaval related to kaiya's arrival, her mom's departure, and all the ensuing preparations and adjustments we are all still making. finn's so laid back, however--he's just sailing on through. here's what he looked like eating breakfast this morning:

happy second birthday breakfast to finn!

finn is the child of my heart--he is sweet and cuddly and fun. he's a beast and a brute, and he has the cutest giggle in the universe. there's much i could say, but it would all be gushing because i just love him so much. so instead of boring you to tears with all my Proud Mommy Ramblings, i'm just going to show you a bunch of awesome pics of the cuteness. :-)


easter eggs



tide pool



it's hard to look at all these and believe that just two years ago, we were here:


time truly flies. happy birthday to my dear, sweet, chubby, cheeky boy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

on change

change is familiar to all of us. life evolves, and we either run with it or we fall down and let it run over us. that sounds like a cliche, and it is. it is also 100% true. at our house, we try hard to just roll with the tide that comes.

we're facing a new tide right now, and we're gearing up for some major change coming our way. our little niece, kaiya, is coming at the end of the month to stay with us for the next year. her mama is a military mama, and she's deploying into a region that's unsettled enough that ms. kaiya can't go. i can't tell you how badly i feel for them both, especially now, right as they have passed the 1-year milestone when babies start to turn into actual people instead of what my friend jake calls hungry luggage. that said, we are also looking forward to having her and spending the time with her. i am glad our boys get to have their cousin for a sister for this long, and i really hope it leads to some awesome lifelong bonding between all the kids.

i've been working on getting ready for her. getting daycare set up, disassembling my studio to make her a room. remodeling our bedroom to make room for a smaller version of my studio there. fencing in the backyard. doing a big do-si-do of the kids' furniture so i can use some of it in her room, and they can use some of the stuff that used to be in the studio in their rooms. we're nearly there. kaiya's room just needs a few finishing touches, and i have to say--it's fun shopping for something girly in the midst my boyish sea of blue and red and orange and green. there are flowers. and pink. well, a little pink anyway...

the critter is facing his own set of changes right now, too. he's handling it, but change is rough for him--harder than it is for any of the rest of us. but he's talking about his anxieties--telling a million stories about the things that scare him and/or make him uncomfortable, and i think he's really just fine. he'll come to temperature in a month or so. it's a lot at once, though--i get that: his bedroom got rearranged, he knows and understands about kaiya coming, he's in the middle of transitioning into the next room up at daycare, and possibly worst of all--daycare started summertime water play this week. the kid could not hate water play more if someone were paying him to hate it. he informed his teacher this week that, unfortunately, he was a robot and therefore electronic. there's no way a robot can get wet, since water could short his electronics or make his battery die. no way. water--it's not his thing.

finn, on the other hand, LOVES the water with the crazy love. he's been delighted by school lately. and change? it just rolls right over him. new bookshelf? cool! can he climb it? new friends at school? cool! do they want to be wrestled to the ground? new toys? eh. toys, schmoys--where are all the jars and cups with lids? that's really all he wants right now--ALL the cups and jars with lids he can put on and take off. so funny. his only recent change is that he's gone from a kid who would eat anything! everything! now! all the time! to a kid who will eat about 6 things sometimes, if he happens to be in the mood. toddler. right down to the 2-year-old tantrums. he's lucky he's so cute.

our family is growing and ever-changing and delightful. (most of the time.) (except when they aren't.) it's going to be a bumpy couple of months around here as we all adjust to adding a new person to the house, and as she adjusts to being added. but i believe that we will be fine, and that we will find our way together into a new routine soon. at least i hope so!

i am going to try hard to start updating here more and more, posting pictures and updates on all the kids so that not only kaiya's mom, but also all our extended family, can see what these fast-growing and ever-changing babies are up to. too many moments are slipping by with only facebook updates to show for them. i need more!

Monday, June 11, 2012

getting it right - creamy coleslaw

i have been making coleslaw for years, and yet, i've never been happy with it. i've tried recipe after recipe, and never loved the results. i managed an awesome one with savoy cabbage and green garlic a couple of years ago, but while it IS fantastic, it requires a very specific list of ingredients and season to pull off. it's good. it's not basic, classic coleslaw like i want with my barbeque or beside my burger in the summer.

so, yesterday i did some research--i read probably 100 recipes for basic coleslaw, then made something up. this time i was careful to measure everything as i went in case it was actually good. and man--it IS! it has the right mix of sweet, tangy, and creamy for me. it probably helps that all the produce was super-fresh, but i am telling you--this is the one true coleslaw for our house from now on. it's simple, to be sure, but it's a tasty enough version of the classic to share.

creamy coleslaw

1 medium head of cabbage
1 medium to large carrot
4 scallions
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon celery seeds
black pepper to taste

core and chop cabbage and add it to a large bowl. peel the carrot, then grate it into the cabbage. slice scallions and add those as well. toss the veggies until mixed. in a separate bowl, mix all remaining ingredients and stir with a whisk or fork until it's smooth and creamy. taste your dressing, so you can adjust for sweetness and peppery-ness, etc. add dressing to the cabbage mix and toss until the veggies are well coated. refrigerate for an hour or two before you eat so that the flavors have time to marry.

we had this for dinner last night on some pulled pork sandwiches, and it was beyond delicious.

down home dinner

it's worth mentioning that this meal was almost all local. the produce was all from our CSA from in good heart farm, the pork from fickle creek farm, and the onion challah rolls from la farm bakery. i cheated on the beans--they are from the good folks at bush's beans. all of it was 100% yummy.

Monday, April 09, 2012

some things about the critter

NOTE: i started writing this back in january. it's now april, and i am just getting around to finishing it. this is an indication of a) how quickly the time passes, and b) how little time i have to blog these days. whew! however, i still love this information, so i am still posting. prepare for a long one...

kieran, about to board the train to DC

the critter, he's getting so big, and there are so many things about him i want to remember. three and a half turns out to be a tough age. he's getting independent, but still needs us. he's developing opinions, but still can't really make his own choices. he's talking more and more and better and better, but still can't always make himself understood. he's got too much energy to nap, but not enough to get through the day. all in all, it makes for an almost bi-polar child who's either elated or completely frustrated. he throws tantrums you would not believe. but he's also a delight. it's all one big roller coaster these days. here are some things i want to remember, in no real order.

  • he picks me a flower every morning at daycare when we arrive. we can't go in until he finds one. he hands it to me and says, "mama, here's a flower for your work! you can put it in water if you like!"
  • he has 3 imaginary dogs called hardware, take-out, and jack. hardware is the biggest and the oldest and is very lazy. take-out is a blue heeler and the smartest. jack is little and sometimes bites. the stories about these dogs are endless. they are all boys. they have imaginary leashes and toys. they go for walks, just like our real dog.
  • he still rides his little fisher price fire truck, for which he is WAY too big. that said, he's a daredevil on that thing and can make it spin out and slide to a stop in a very dramatic manner. he comes flying into the kitchen on it, screms it to a sliding stop half an inch from my foot, looks up at me and says, " stop it--you know you love it!" (WHERE does he get these things???)
  • he's super fast on his scooter as well. he has pinwheels he puts on the handles of it so that they stick out on each side, one yellow and one blue. they spin as he rides, and he tells me that they are cooling fans. he puts his toy pliers over the rear axel "to make it go faster." the child is three, and he already believes in after-market mods on his vehicles.
  • he tells me he's more of a cat person than a dog person because cats are calmer.
  • every night we snuggle a minute in his bed before he goes to sleep. he tells me about his day, and then we have a set routine of hugs and kisses we have to go through. it started as 3 hugs and 3 kisses, but now it's those, plus higs and kisses for the following: firetrucks, fire engines (yes, they're different), bill ( his friend at school's alter-ego name), ribbon (HIS alter-ego name), caitlin (another friend), and one for the road. we repeat this same sequence at daycare drop-off.
  • he has chosen a name for his t-rex alter ego: ribbon. mr. ribbon the nice t-rex, to be exact. he will argue sometimes that this is actually his real name, and not kieran. we still call him critter, too. it's all very confusing.
  • ribbon's friend's name is harry (not to be confused with our actual real friend harry), and he's a parasaurolophus who makes noise with the bony crest on his year. the fact that he can say parasaurolophus blows me away, especially when he still has trouble with leading s's.
  • the kid is obsessed with the mars rover. it is both a ROBOT and a SPACESHIP, and this is awesome. we got him a bunch of space themed bedding for his room, and his main observation was that there was no mars rover represented. because i am a sucker, i went online, downloaded a super high res image of one, and had it made into a pillowcase for him. he's beyond delighted, and carries it all over the house. win.

k excited to eat in the kitchen

a few months ago at daycare, he was "friend of the week," which means he was kind of the focus in his class for a few minutes every day. every week, it's a different kid, and that kid gets to bring something in to share with the class every day as well as share his favorite books, snacks, toys, etc. you can do as much or as little as you want to enhance this for your child, and i'd say we're kind of middle of the road. k and i discussed it at length, and he decided he wanted to bring in a book to share every day, and then we decided we would alternate between snacks and toys so that he could give something he likes to his class every day. it's so cute how excited he is to share with them! we also had to do a questionnaire together, which was great fun for both of us. i went through, asked him the questions, and wrote down his answers. i tried hard not to lead him, and just let him answer for himself. some of the answers surprised me. i took pictures of the questionnaire so we could look back at his answers in a few years for comparison--click here if you want to see his crazy answers.

we also went on our first big trip together, just me and the critter, in january. we took the train to washington DC to visit our dear friend, meredith, and spend the weekend sightseeing, critter-style. he was awesome and brave, and had a TON of fun. we went to the natural history museum and the air and space museum, and it's an utter tossup which one he loved more. between the t-rex and the mars rover, i think his head about exploded! he's still talking about all he saw and did, aunt meredith's apartment, the food (especially the cupcakes), and the trains, both amtrak and subway, that we took. he LOVED the taxi ride. all in all, it made me want to travel more. he wants to fly somewhere next. so awesome.

the boy is into food. i LOVE this of course, and i really hope it's something we keep in common between us as he grows older. he loves to help me in the kitchen, and he has food jealousy that may actually be worse than mine. he likes to go to the farmers market with me and talk about what we will cook from the foods we buy there. he has to try everything, even totally unfamiliar foods. when i was out of town a couple of weeks ago, he gave his dad a long lecture on the importance of eating healthy and playing outside and getting enough exercise. i'm just going to go ahead and call that a parenting win. :)

he's my little man. he tells me he loves me to the sun and back. i love him to the sun and back...twice.

mama and k

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

dark days of winter meal 7: chicken and dumplings

i guess i missed a couple of weeks there--i am doing a LOT of local cooking, but the blogging part is often hard for me to keep up with. especially true when there have been some family illnesses to deal with on top of all the normal life madness. not making excuses...just explaining where the heck i've been. to me, the point of this challenge is to make me aware of where everything we eat originates and to make as much of an effort as i can to keep things as local as possible.

on the menu
  • chicken and dumplings with kohlrabi and baby carrots

chicken and dumplings

(WORST. PICTURE. EVER. --sorry!)

local ingredients
  • whole stewing hen from fickle creek farm (efland, nc, 44 miles)*
  • cutting celery from screech owl greenhouse (moncure, nc, 19 miles)*
  • kohlrabi from coon rock farm (hillsborough, nc, 35 miles)*
  • mixed baby carrots from coon rock farm (hillsborough, nc, 35 miles)*
  • thyme from our yard (apex, nc, 15 feet)
  • whole wheat pastry flour from singing turtle farm (dunn, nc, 54 miles)*
  • rendered lard from fickle creek farm (efland, nc, 44 miles)*
  • butter from maple view farm (hillsborough, nc 35 miles)
  • buttermilk from maple view farm (hillsborough, nc 35 miles)

* purchased at western wake farmers market

non-local ingredients
  • onion
  • pepper
  • salt
  • baking powder
  • sugar
easy: this is a meal i planned for while walking through the farmers market, so it was very easy to get all the ingredients on the spot. some things i already had on hand.

challenging: oddly, nothing to report here. i have accepted the salt, pepper, baking powder, and sugar limitations, so there were no issues there. i just use those things as sparingly as i can, and keep the focus more on the local things i CAN get.


chicken stock

1 whole stewing hen, about 3 lbs.
1/2 large yellow onion
4-5 stalks of cutting celery
a bunch of thyme
salt and pepper to taste

directions: this one's easy. place all ingredients in a large stock pot. add water until everything is well covered with maybe 1.5 inches to spare. bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. cook until the meat is starting to separate from the bone, about 4 hours. remove chicken and strain the broth into a clean soup pot. add salt and pepper to taste.
note: you now have awesome broth--you could make anything! :)

chicken and dumplings with carrots and kohlrabi

1.5 - 2lbs young fresh carrots
~1 lb kohlrabi, about 2 bulbs
1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp lard
3/4 cup buttermilk

trim carrot stems to about 1/2 an inch, then peel carrots. trim away thinnest part of root if necessary. peel and dice kohlrabi to about 1/2 inch chunks. return the broth to a slow boil, and meanwhile, make the dumplings. in large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. cut in butter and lard with a pastry knife or work in with fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. aff buttermilk all at once and make a sticky dough. turn onto floured surface and lightly knead (more like patting) until dough gets just a little springy. roll out to about 3/8 inch thickness, and cut out dumplings (i used a 1-inch round cutter, but you can use whatever you like.) when the broth is boiling, add the veggies and let them cook for about 5 minutes befor eyou add the dumplings. add them slowly, one at a time, till they are all in. note that if your pot is furiously boiling, it will break the dumplings apart. go slow, and cook at a soft boil. everything should be done by the time the veggies are tender, about 10 more minutes.

note: the dumplings are adapted from the biscuit recipe in bill neal's souther cooking cookbook, and they definitely need a little tweaking to get just right. when i made this, i think i added too much buttermilk, so i cut the amount here back a little to 3/4 of a cup. my dumplings fell apart more than i would have liked, although they tasted great. next time i will put in 3/4 cup buttermilk, and maybe up the other fats just a little while dropping 1/2 a tsp of baking powder. the kitchen, as y'all well know, is a lab.

family ruling
AWESOME! will absolutely be making this again.

further thoughts
there are few foods on the earth more divine than fresh baby carrots. so. delicious.

kohlrabi is turning out to be a new favorite of mine. it's like a cross between jicama, broccoli, and a potato. it's good julienned and added raw to salads, it's good in stirfry and sautes for pasta, and it's delicious in stews and soups. it brings a lot to the table, and there's nothing hard to prepare about it. i was kind of intimidated by it at first, but now i want more, and i can't wait to try making slaw out of it, too. it seems like you could use it with or in place of many other things. i wonder if i could make it mashed with some cheese? steamed? in strips with hummus in my lunch box? it seems remarkably useful, healthy, and versatile. let's hear it for cool new (to me) veggies!

one last note on lard: this was my first time working with it, and man--it's pretty awesome. it's the texture--it's smooth as silk, and so easy to work into the flour. i think i might have to try making some tortillas. i am almost sorry i liked it as much as i did--it's not exactly the healthiest fat. but i just wanted to check it out. i felt so old school! i'd be interested to know if you've every cooked with it, and what you thought. my mother always swore it made her biscuits. i wonder if it would mine, too...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

dark days of winter, meal 6: one pot meal challenge

the dark days of winter challenge is starting to have some theme and challenge weeks here and there. this week's theme is soups and one pot meals. i decided to challenge myself to see if i could make this from what i already had in the kitchen with zero shopping or planning. sometimes i think i do better when there are limitations that force me to become creative.

on the menu
  • hearty winter stew with chicken and cabbage
  • rosemary beer bread

dark days meal 6, plated

local ingredients
  • whole chicken from fickle creek farm (efland, nc, 44 miles)*
  • wheat berries from singing turtle farm (dunn, nc, 54 miles)*
  • cabbage from ben's produce (clayton, nc, 33 miles) (CSA)*
  • homemade chicken stock from my freezer
  • sweet josie brown ale from lonerider brewery
  • bay leaves from east wake apiary (wake county, nc, exact mileage unknown) *
  • whole wheat bread flour from singing turtle farm (dunn, nc, 54 miles)*
  • rosemary from our yard (apex, nc, 15 feet)
* purchased at western wake farmers market

non-local ingredients
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • onion
  • butter
  • baking powder
easy: honestly i thought this would be harder. i turn out to have a really well stocked fridge and pantry. lol.

challenging: the challenge here was staying local. there were some things in my fridge that needed to be used and were not local--i couldn't see the value of seeking out the local counterpart to something i already had if it meant wasting something. so--i used the half an onion in my crisper rather than try to find a local onion. for all i know, it WAS a local onion--either way--it went in the stew.


hearty winter stew with chicken and cabbage
this one's 100% made up.
1 whole chicken
1 cup wheat berries
1/2 large yellow onion
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic
2-3 bay leaves
1 small to medium head of green cabbage
1 cup dark beer
salt and pepper to taste

directions: about 6 hours before eating, cut chicken into 8 pieces, and place into a slow cooker. roughly chop onion, then add it, along with the wheat berries, to the pot. add chicken stock, water, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. cook on high for about 4 hours. while this is cooking, go ahead and roughly chop the cabbage. set aside for later. after 4 hours of cooking time, remove chicken, pull the meat from the bones. discard skin and bones, then return meat to the pot. add cabbage and beer. continue to cook from about 2 more hours until wheat berries are just starting to split.

beer bread with rosemary
this is based on the beer bread recipe on the food network's website. i changed the type of flour, added rosemary, and cut the butter in half, but the original concept is still theirs. :)
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
~1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
12 ounces dark beer
1/4 cup melted butter

preheat oven to 375 degrees. butter a 9x5 baking pan. sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. (note: when i sifted my locally milled flour, the sifter wanted to keep much of the wheat berry hulls and other bits of the rough flour. i did sift, but i also dumped those back in. my point was to aerate the flour more than to "strain" it, so to speak. if you wanted fluffier bread, you could leave those things out, but i wanted all the nutrition that comes with the WHOLE wheat berry being included.) whick 1/2 the rosemary into the dry ingredients. add beer, and stir just until mixed. pour into greased loaf pan. pour melted butter over mixture. bake about 1 hour until golden brown and crusty. cool in pan for 5 minutes, then move to wire rack. let sit for at least 10 minutes more before slicing.

family ruling
i knot that picture up there isn't the most stunning, but trust me, people. this. was. awesome. we had friends over for dinner, and the vote for awesomeness was unanimous. it was warm and comforting and delicious, as well as ridiculously healthy. the 8-year-old at the table ate two big bowls, and i think all the grown-ups did as well. this is one made up recipe i'll be hanging onto! the bread as well was a pleasant surprise. i had heard good things about the beer bread recipe, but i was a little reluctant to try it with the dark flour and beer--it was fantastic and went really well with the stew. also--it's worth noting that all of this held up very well--the leftovers i ate for lunch a few days after this was made were probably even better than the freshly made stuff. YUM!

further thoughts
a note on beer and broth. this is something i have never done--add beer to broth. i've read countless recipes for stews and soups that use beer, but for reasons i can't even begin to think, it never occured to me to actually make one before. but i was about to add the cabbage to the stew, and i kept tasting it, and thinking it was missing something...something to give it a little more kick and add to the heartiness of the dish...something a little bitter to balance the sweet cabbage i was about to add. BEER! it was right there in front of me, so i tried it--totally the right thing.

also a first for me: wheat berries. sharon, the farmer at my market who is growing wheat and milling flour had some of these for sale, and i was like, wha??? she assured me that they were delicious, and that you could add them to hot, long cooking cereals like steel cut oats, or to soups where you would normally use barley or brown rice or something like that. i admit, i was a little nervous about them. rice in stews can get mushy, and barley can make them too thick. but. i had them, i wanted something different, and i needed a starchy something in the stew for body. OMG, they are fantastic! they turned out like rice, but chewier, a tiny bit crunchy, and not mushy at all. after 6 hours on high, they were just starting to split and release a little thickening wheat germ into the stew. all of us really liked both the texture and the slightly sweet flavor they brought to the table. so. good. one of those foods i now wonder where it's been all my life. if you can get your hand on some, i can't recommend them enough.

so yeah. success.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

dark days of winter, meal 5: gettin' experimental

i seem to be skipping a week here and there. again, my meal# isn't matching up to the actual week the dark days of winter challenge is on, but i swear i am doing the best i can! :)

this week, the meat was super basic, but i got a little experimental with the veggies. i had some turnips left from my fall CSA (those things last forever!), and a couple of big bunches of kale. the hippie is always talking about trying some green smoothies, so i get extra greens for him. however, it takes us a while to start following through on intentions like that, so i sometimes end up with the extra greens lying in the fridge begging for mercy! suffice it to say, we've had a lot of turnips and kale this year. time to try something new with them!

on the menu

  • grilled smoked pork loin chips
  • creamed turnips with bleu cheese
  • kale chips with french grey sea salt

dark days meal 5, plated

local ingredients
* purchased at western wake farmers market

non-local ingredients
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • cream(organic, but not local)
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • cloves
  • french grey sea salt
easy: this week's meal was thrown together pretty quickly from things i already had in the house--no real planning till i was ready to start to cook. i LOVE when that happens.

challenging: i was a little disappointed that i failed to buy local cream and butter for this week. i've been trying to favor those, but a) i can't get them at the farmers market, and b) not all grocery stores have them either. if i don't make it to the places that do, which are a little out of my way, then i can't get local. i always get organic, but it would sure be nice if local were as easy to find.


grilled smoked pork chops
recipe is a strong word for this--we don't do a thing to fickle creek's smoked pork chops other than heat them on the grill. i unwrap them and hand them to the hippie, and he grills them about 3 minutes per side on high heat. let them rest a few minutes, and eat them up!

creamed turnips with bleu cheese
~2 lbs salad turnips (these are small white turnips with a milder flavor than the big purple kind)
2 whole cloves
2 cloves of garlic
~1 tsp fresh thyme
1 oz good quality bleu cheese
1/4 tsp white pepper
heavy cream to texture
salt to taste

directions: peel and chop turnips to about 3/4-inch cubes. place in saucepan with both whole cloves and garlic cloves, cover with water, and bring to a boil. reduce heat slightly and continue to boil just until turnips are tender, about 15 minutes. drain well and remove cloves (leave garlic in!). mash turnips slightly with a potato masher and drain again. i discovered that turnips contain a LOT of liquid--drain them a lot so they don't become soupy. add thyme, bleu cheese, white pepper, salt, and a tiny bit of cream, and whip. add cream in increments and by tiny amounts--you don't need much.

kale chips
(recipe from use real butter, one of my absolute favorite food blogs)
a bunch of kale
olive oil
sea salt

preheat oven to 350. wash and dry kale thoroughly. remove the hard center stems, and roughly tear or chop it into manageable sized pieces. toss with a small amount of olive oil. line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lay the kale out in a single layer. sprinkle with sea salt. bake for about 12-15 minutes until crispy.

family ruling
this whole meal was YUM city, ESPECIALLY the kale chips! those were just fantastic. i've wanted to try them for a long time after having so many friends rave to me about how good they are. i was skeptical, but delighted in the end. i can't recommend it enough. (note: our 3-year-old was NOT as impressed. he was game and tried them, but HATED them--so much that i gave him a cookie to make up for the level of horror he experienced. it's rare for us to have such a mega-fail with him, but there you go--this was right up next to cauliflower on his PLEASE-MAMA-NOT-THAT list, which is saying something. his statement? "mama, i don't really like kale chips." lol)

now. the turnips. turns out they have about 12x the amount of liquid in them as potatoes. so, while the creamed turnips TASTED awesome, they were far more soupy than i intended. i should have done a better job of draining them before i added the cream, so i adjusted the directions accordingly. that said--this was a delicious amalgam about about 15 different recipes i read. i will definitely do this again--i will just know next time to drain better and use less cream.

further thoughts
i forget how much i like playing in the kitchen. this, and the one-pot meal i made for next week's challenge are the first couple of truly creative things i've done in the kitchen in a while. i miss it! for some reason in winter, i seem to stick more to the tried and true than i do in the summer. i think this has something to do with the variety of available produce for sure, but i have also realized that i tend to feel pressed for time when it gets dark so early, too. i need to shake that feeling off and continue to get creative on the winter veggies.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

dark days of winter, meal 4: keepin' it simple

i skipped a week of the dark days of winter challenge because of the holidays and ensuing chaos. that said, i made a LOT of local food over the holidays, including the main showcase of the christmas eve feast i cooked for friends: a pair of lovely london broils from smith angus farms in snow camp, nc. so very delicious!

anyway--onto what is my meal #4, although i have lost count of what the actual week is...

for this week's meal, and after all the madness of the holiday eating, i decided to keep things very simple. again, we ended up with friends spontaneously over for dinner. it seems we do that a lot. and as usual, the number and quality of my photographs drops in direct proportion to how many people are in the house when i am cooking. this post is the lightest one yet for pictures--sorry!

on the menu

  • simple roasted chicken
  • baked sweet potatoes
  • grilled fennel
  • a big salad

dark days meal 4, plated

local ingredients
  • whole chicken from fickle creek farm (efland, nc, 44 miles)*
  • thyme from our yard (apex, nc, 15 feet)
  • oregano from our yard (apex, nc, 15 feet)
  • rosemary from our yard (apex, nc, 15 feet)
  • sweet potatoes from ben's produce (clayton, nc, 33 miles) (CSA)*
  • butter from homeland creamery (julian, nc, 57 miles)
  • fennel from ben's produce (clayton, nc, 33 miles) (CSA)*
  • lettuces from screech owl greenhouse (moncure, nc, 19 miles)*
  • cucumber from screech owl greenhouse (moncure, nc, 19 miles)*
  • tomatoes from screech owl greenhouse (moncure, nc, 19 miles)*
  • watermelon radishes from ben's produce (clayton, nc, 33 miles) (CSA)*
* purchased at western wake farmers market

non-local ingredients
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • cinnamon
  • yellow pepper (organic, but not local)
  • celery (organic, but not local)
  • salad dressings
easy: really, just about everything here was easy. this is how i cook all the time, and i've gotten used to buying as much locally as i possibly can. in the light of the busyness of this time of year, i think i also accepted the limitations better this go around.

challenging: as usual, the exceptions are spices, oils, and the things that aren't frown in my local greenhouses. also, it was a little harder over the holidays, since some of my farmers also took actual vacations to see their own families. how crazy is that??


simple roasted chicken (adapted from recipes from home, one of my favorite cookbooks):
3-4 lb chicken
6-10 sprigs of fresh herbs (i used thyme, oregano, and rosemary since that's what i had on hand)
salt and pepper

preheat oven to 450F. rinse the bird and pat dry. salt and pepper inside and out. add herbs to cavity of chicken, and tie legs with twine or linen. place chicken on roasting rack in pan, and roast for ~40 minutes. turn oven temperature down to 350 and continue to roast for 30 more minutes or until juices run clear when the joint between the leg and thigh is pierced. (note: the actual recipe calls for 10 basil leaves, 3-4 sprigs each of thyme and rosemary. it also specifies half a lemon, cut in half, with which you rub the insure of the bird's cavity. this does bring something to the table, but i find that the chicken is still delicious without it. as long as you have a good quality, free-range, non-fatty or water heavy bird, this is fool-proof!)

baked sweet potatoes ("recipe" is a strong word for this!)
sweet potatoes

directions:wash and dry the sweet potatoes, and, as long as they are fairly petite, just throw them into the oven with the chicken. when you turn the oven down to 350, pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork. these were small enough that they were perfectly cooked by the time the chicken was done. if they were larger, i would have started them in the 450-degree oven about 15 minutes before i put the chicken in, and i think they still would have been fine. we're all about efficiency around here. we served them with cinnamon and butter.

grilled fennel (again, not really a recipe)
3 bulbs of fennel
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

remove stems from fennel bulbs. slice vertically into 1/8 - 1/4-inch slices. toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. grill for about 3 minutes a side or until desired texture.

this one contained:
2 small heads of red oak leaf lettuce
1 head green bibb lettuce
1 large watermelon radish
2 stalks celery
1/2 large english cucumber
1 very large heirloom red tomato
1 yellow pepper

directions: chop everything into bite sized pieces. toss. apply favorite salad dressing, and eat as much as you want--salad is awesome!

dark days meal 4, fennel
dark days meal 4, watermelon radish
dark days meal 4, lettuce
family ruling
the chicken was awesome, as it always is, and everyone at our house loves sweet potatoes and salad. the fennel was the dud of the meal. disclaimer: i HATE fennel and didn't even eat it, although i DID force myself to try it just to check to see if i had changed my mind about it. (i hadn't.) but even for the other folks who love it, it was just kind of lacking something--i think i should have maybe grilled it with some other veggies--maybe an onion or a pepper or something. people ate it, but no one relished it. i won't do it again on it's own...

further thoughts
i am so grateful for fresh lettuce in the winter. the new greenhouse guy at my farmers market has been a godsend with his cucumbers and lettuce and peppers and LOVELY tomatoes. i read something recently about the incredibly high carbon footprint of shipping greens, and i am so very glad i can still get them, virtually guilt free, even in the dead of winter. i didn't realize how addicted to salads we had become until we started trying to eat closer to home.

in addition to the greens, i am still in love with the way my farmers market is always showing me something new--the watermelon radishes in this particular salad were a delight. since my farmers market started, i have also tried lemon cucumbers, english cucumbers, french breakfast radishes, black spanish radishes, kohlrabi, poona kheera cucumbers, baby ginger, kale (many kinds), mizuna, tatsoi, savoy cabbage, fresh elephant garlic, and so many other things i never knew i was going to love. the variety in what we eat is ever-increasing, which is an incredible gift from the local farmers to us. so thankful...