Monday, January 31, 2011

Soup Night Part Deux: Tomato Ravioli

Well, we didn't have the post-supper hijinks of Sunday night, but we had some demmed good soup!

I made the biscuits again because they're just so dang quick and easy! Redheaded Snippet mixed them up this time! I'm finding the recipe I'm using actually needs more cream and I still need to tweak with the flavor a bit (still a bit bland) but we are definitely going to be making these on a regular basis.

For the soup, I had found two recipes I really liked. They were very similar with only a few differences so I combined what I liked about each and left out what I didn't (ground beef, for instance: I think that would have made it a little too Chef-Boyardee).

Basically saute' onions and garlic in a heap o' butter, add spices (oregano, basil, thyme, and pepper or whatever you want) to toast and some tomato paste then dump in a couple of cans of low-sodium chicken broth and two hearty-sized cans of crushed tomatoes.

Man-Cub was unavailable for comment
I still had some of that leftover fresh rosemary so I tossed a large sprig of that in there, too. While it simmered, the children crept into the kitchen with that look on their face. You know the one: I don't know what you're up to in here but it smells mighty purty! When it was almost done, I slid the biscuits into the oven, boiled a package of ravioli and added a liberal sprinkling of Parmesan cheese into the pot.

Redheaded Snippet was determined to ignore the crazy lady pointing a cellphone at her
A bowl of croutons made a nice accompaniment and I was even on top of things enough to remember NOT to put them into the soup on the stove but to keep them on the side so they wouldn't go all soggy on us! The Viking thought for some crazy reason (despite hearing me say things like, "tomato ravioli soup, tomato soup, never made tomato soup before, making tomato soup this week," all weekend long) that I was making pasta sauce. I guess you can't really tell the difference simply by looking into the pot...

More, please!
But he made up for it by asking eagerly for seconds! And, yes, he was kind and gracious enough to hold that pose long enough for me to grab the camera (cellphone--grrrr)!

The final consensus was that it was very tasty but too chunky. The children do not like chunks. Especially where tomatoes are concerned. I should have remembered that from my experience with making pasta sauce. They asked me to run it through the blender next time. And I think I probably will. Once I get my immersion blender for my birthday (ANVIL-SIZED HINT).

So, next on the menu: Chicken Noodle! Until next time...

Soup and Rubber Bands

It will make sense, I promise.

Well, sorta...

But before it does I must be upfront about something. The following photos REEK! They're TERRIBLE! Probably the worst photos you've ever seen! We've lost each and every camera we've ever had in this household (that or there's a camera thief out there who knows a good mark when he see one and has been following us around, knicking our cameras when we're not looking ((which, apparently, is most of the time))) and I have resorted to using the camera on my cellphone like my parents do. I don't know if it's just me but I seem to associate using a cellphone camera with old people (ok...oldER people than me).

Ye be warned.

So it's SOUP WEEK! No one else seems to be excited about this but that's okay, I'm excited enough for everyone. And I take photos of my food; I'm a weirdo, that's been well established.

Aaaaaaand I had decided, because I had half of a previously braised roast waiting expectantly in the fridge, to start off with Vegetable Beef soup. It was Dharma's suggestion; only she said, with the horrid casualness of the fearlessly natural cook, I should make, you know, your basic beef soup with perhaps some tomato paste and whatever vegetables I have on hand. She doesn't measure anything and it always turns out great. I hate that. I usually wind up setting off the smoke alarm and breathing into a paper bag. So she had pity on me, gave me a skeleton of a recipe and I decided I was going to take it and be intrepid and just figure! it! out!

And if it didn't work I could just bury it under mashed potatoes and call it Cottage Pie!


I chopped up the beef, the only onion I had left and 2 shallots left over from Christmas that I had no other ideas for. I threw it all into some melted butter over medium-high heat with the last of the red table wine we keep on hand (only about 1/2 cup). When everything was fragrant and the onion translucent I dumped about 3 cups of chicken broth and 3 of beef broth in. I had forgotten to saute the 2 garlic cloves I'd minced so I threw them in, too, and then, ooooh look at that! I came across some fresh rosemary that hadn't been used at Christmas and, somehow, hadn't gone bad in the bottom of the crisper drawer! In it went!

Please ignore the flour still on the counter from kneading the biscuit dough.  I hadn't cleaned up yet.

After a quick boil and a moderately long simmer, some peas, carrots and corn went in to simmer a wee bit longer while I mixed up some cream biscuits.

Here's the thing I learned today about cream biscuits: the only difference between them and cream scones is little less than 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cream and a teaspoon of baking powder. And now, magically, I have the proportions for cream biscuits memorized. Making that connection made all the difference.

I am in the process of substituting all sugar in my diet with raw honey. The honey doesn't seem to make my blood sugar react like sugar does and lately I've been having some more severe reactions. I almost fainted the other day and The Viking had to help me back to bed and bring me some orange juice because I waited too long to eat breakfast. Anyway, I decided to substitute the sugar (tiny amount that it is) in the biscuits with the honey. I looked a few things up on line and decided to just wing it. There's always next time. So I mixed them up and into the oven they went.

I decided to pat them into a squarish shape and cut them into cubish shapes which is why they look a little weird. And, boy, these pics are bad, but you get the idea. They were pretty darn good! The texture was lovely, flaky and light just like biscuits should be. They weren't quite sweet enough so next time I will add more honey than I did this time. But they were perfect with the soup...

This clever little basket has a stone in the bottom that gets heated in the oven and keeps all the lovely little biscuits nice and hot!  I highly recommend it for the distracted, scatterbrained cook!

And the soup, the soup! It turned out so very good! Dharma and I, in our quick conference about it beforehand, weren't sure what the results would be with pre-braised beef, you know, without all that fond and drippings and such, but it was good nonetheless! I quickly dished it into a bowl, got the kids to set the table and called for The Viking!

Man-Cub was a bit excited from the delicious aroma but he's only hamming it up for the camera here!  He's supposed to be finishing setting the table...

Just before we sat down and I was ticking things off in my head, "...soup, biscuits, butter, salt, pepper..." I suddenly remembered The Viking likes to have cheese with his soup and bread! A quick rummage through the cheese drawer in the fridge revealed half a wedge of Fontina, cheese from his homeland! So I peeled off the rind and sliced it up (incidentally, it was the first thing he reached for when he sat down).

Man-Cub was beyond delighted that I was cutting the cheese just before dinner.  Yup, flour still there...

Let me tell you, I felt like Superwoman! Everyone loved the soup and was impressed with the biscuits! I was glad I'd made it with things I had on hand and in very little time! I was so thrilled I decided to share the magic and, after putting some away for lunch tomorrow, packed up the rest and sent it over to Mom and Dad's.

As soon as dinner was over, Man-Cub and The Viking tore into a bag of rubber bands they had bought for the catapult they had just made. Yes, catapult. Man-Cub is taking a Medieval History class at our Homeschooling Co-op and one of their projects is to build a catapult.

They finished it Saturday afternoon and all they have done since is find different things to launch with it and launch things at. I heard chatter about setting things on fire and launching them into the snow but, so far, that hasn't materialized yet.

They also blew right through my entire rubber band stash and this bag was supposed to be used to replenish my supply. They quickly found alternate uses for them, though...

That's the business end of the catapult in the left of this shot.  It's not really right up against his head, nor is it that large.  It just happened to be sitting right next to me.

It was actually The Viking who started it all, but the kids needed no encouragement to join in. I hope you can recall what my husband actually looks like from the photos above because he gets more and more grotesque with each passing photo...

He's not wearing antlers.  Those are twigs from the Santa decoration hanging behind him.  I might take that down in time for Man-Cub's birthday in March.

One rubber band was all it took to set us all off. I was laughing so hard I had a hard time holding the cellphone/camera steady. Another reason these photos are so wretchedly bad.

Not to be undone, Redheaded Snippet entered the fray...

And then it was on!

She was laughing so hard, she could hardly sit up.

Like father like daughter, never more so than when they're clowning around!

And he just wouldn't stop!  Sanctuary!

We finally made him take them off when the top of his head started turning purple.

Poor Man-Cub wanted desperately to join in the fun, but he was laughing too hard to do much more than slip a band over his nose.  Then the helpless flapping took over.

I don't know if all that silliness had anything to do with having enjoyed such a fine meal, but I will certainly have my camera/phone ready this evening just in case. On tonight's menu: Tomato Ravioli Soup with salad and more biscuits!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ignore previous post, please, and let's talk about soup

I knew I shouldn't have hit the publish button! What happened there was the hypoglycemic blogger's equivalent of drunk dialing: low-blood-sugar blogging.

Don't blog while your sugar is low. Just don't.

And DON'T scroll down now just to see...knock that off! Here's a recap of what I'm saving you from:

1. Snow--loving it.
2. Small detour through a global warming jibe
3. Snow Day Aquarium Adventure--and probably not the kind you're thinking.
4. Redheaded Snippet is leaving us for the weekend--why is this newsworthy? (Hint: it isn't)
5. Blah blah blah
6. SOUP!

I am declaring next week SOUP WEEK! I don't know why. Maybe it's the cold and snow. Maybe I just want lots of soup.

Here's what's on tap and I am going to do my best to document each submission for posterity:
1. Chicken Noodle Soup
Not just any chicken noodle soup, the chicken noodle soup I am becoming known for! Which makes me feel like a fraud. I didn't invent it, I just copied a recipe off of the internet and I make it a lot. And it's scandalously easy.

2. Tomato Ravioli Soup
I'm excited about this one. I want to have it tonight! I don't usually like tomato soup, but then, I've mostly been exposed to the canned stuff to which you have to add a can of water. I don't think that counts. Especially after having some rather yummy REAL tomato soup at a tea room last week. This is a Frankensteined recipe and I don't usually like doing that but we'll see how it goes.

3. Beef Vegetable or Beef Barley Soup (depending on whether I can get myself to the store before dinner tonight)
I braised a hunk of beef last night. I don't want to talk about it, really, but I have planned leftover meat that I was going to put in a pie tonight. Then Dharma got to talking all about Beef Barley Soup on Facebook and now I want to make it into soup instead. But we're not sure if it will work with previously cooked meat. But if it's not a suitable soup I'll let the liquid cook off and make it into cottage pie anyway.

4. Broccoli-Potato-Gouda Soup
This is a favorite of teenaged girls everywhere, it seems. This is one of the dishes Redheaded Snippet's best friend hopes I'm making when she stays for dinner. You could almost serve this as a warm dip, it's so rich, thick and good. And it's one of those wonderfully fast soups to make.

5. Southwestern Chicken Soup
Have never had this before. The recipe is from a Facebook friend and it sounds delicious, especially for a cold and snowy evening. Apparently, it's quite spicy. And my kids LOVE quite spicy!

I'm thinking five homemade soups might be enough for one week. I'm hoping there are leftovers of one or two of them to fill in the other two nights. But just in case, I'll have pizza and bangers-n-mash handy.

But what I'd really like to conquer this week is BREAD! NOthing will make me feel more like a woman, like SUPERMOM than making homemade bread! I know, I must be crazy but there it is.

Right. Must go now. Things need to be tidied and such.

Week's End

So, did I mention the snow? No, I don't think I did...

We got a lot of snow again! It's glorious!

I swear, my kids are going to drive their children crazy with stories of how snowy winter used to be "in the good old days". My parents used to do that and it made me jealous and irritated! Almost made me want to get back at them by concocting some crazy theory saying it's because the earth is getting hotter and is going to scorch us all up by 2016 (we've got 5 years left, people, change those lightbulbs)! Haha, wait until they're old and will believe anything and then scare then senseless! That'll show 'em.

Anyway, we got almost a foot and the kids got their snow day (with a bonus delayed opening today). We all slept until noon. The Viking (who had taken a Vacation Day due in large part to being out most of the night answering calls with the fire department) supervised Man-Cub in cleaning out the aquarium in his room, a task that apparently requires half a day and a team of toad sitters. And a trip to the store to buy a new aquarium when you break the old one while cleaning it in the tub. And let me tell you, toad sitting is no easy task. That little female was hell-bent on getting out of her temporary lodgings and actually managed it once! She would have gone who-knows-where if Redheaded Snippet (her warden at the time) hadn't spotted her crawling slowly across the coffee table! Clearly, Facebook and toad sitting do not mix. But, never fear, the new aquarium is clean and whole and the toads are back safely in it feasting on crickets (*shudder*).

Redheaded Snippet is going on a retreat this weekend is wild with delight over it. We don't know what we are going to do without her for two-and-a-half days. Except I will get a break from feeling like her cruise director and Man-Cub will have to find someone else to startle in doorways and tackle on the living room floor. And I bet the phone won't ring once. I'm kidding, we'll miss her, we always do.

I am hell-bent on getting some things accomplished around here. We need door mats. I am tired of the old brown towel The Viking sets in front of the kitchen door every winter. Usually it's temporary but the way the past two winters have been, it's become almost a permanent fixture in here. And I don't like it at all. Oh won't it make The Viking's face light up with delight when I tell him I want to go to Home Depot tomorrow! Or maybe LL Bean? He won't like that at all but their mats aren't quite so industrial-looking...

I also need things like light bulbs, dry erase markers, fancy hair glue and paper towels. That sounds like a trip to Target!

But first I need to finalize our menu and grocery list. I am in SUCH a rut lately! Nothing sounds good to me and I have no desire to make anything! Except soup and bread. Maybe I should declare this a soup and bread week and teach the children about the wonders of homemade bread. It can be a science/home economics class for Man-Cub! that got the old, rusty gears going...

How many different kinds of soup can I inflict on my family before they say ENOUGH? Let's just see, shall we?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reason #713 for keeping your house tidy at all times

Speaking hypothetically, of course...

If, let's say, you happen to have a particularly busy day, one that begins rather early and ends rather late with lots of driving and dropping off and picking up involved..

And if, in theory, you happen to be super-focused on the necessity of being on time to something very important like, for instance, the very first day of the Homeschooling Co-Op you've just joined..

And, also, if you happen to be ever so slightly mentally fuzzy because of some difficulty falling (and staying) asleep the night before due to the constant repetition of the next day's schedule in one's mind so as not to forget ANYTHING...

And you've rushed through your morning tasks so as to accomplish the task of getting out the door on time...

And you arrive at home nearly five hours later to be greeted at the door by the unmistakable aroma of cooking gas and realize with horror that you, in your haste that morning, did not turn off the burner completely once the kettle boiled...

And you have no choice but to immediately vacate the premises and call 9-1-1 and explain that you are, in fact, a scatter-brained idiot who cannot be left alone for five minutes and may have set a horrible chain of events in motion which could result in the sudden combustion of half a suburban block...

Knowing full-well that the fire department that will be deployed to your home is the self-same one that your very own husband volunteers with and that they will be smirking the moment they hear the address, laughing at you from the moment they ascertain that there is no immediate danger and subjecting said husband to years of ridicule over the cotton-headed-ninnymugginsness of his silly wife who is, apparently, too stupid to properly turn a lever...

And that they will have to tramp all through your entire house, even the parts not normally open to the public...

If all these things happen to occur on any given day, it really might help make you feel a wee bit better if your house is not also in a shambles or looking like the ape house at the zoo.

It's been a very tiring day.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A day in the life

I have nothing earth-shattering or particularly amusing to share today. I just decided to submit a quick post because I thought, perhaps, some day I may be scrolling back through old posts and come across a short one about the simple events of an average Saturday in our home back when Redheaded Snippet was only fifteen and Man-Cub was only nine and be glad then that I wrote it.

Also, I am feeling very contented today and that is well worth documenting. We are all together, we are all healthy, we are warm and fed and have just enough chores to do to give us a purpose but not so many that we feel overwhelmed and like failures (well, it's usually me that feels that way but I'll lump the rest of the family in there, too).

We're de-Christmassing today. And even though that is a made-up word, the spelling is bugging me. And though I do not particularly like taking down the Christmas gear and packing it back up, it does satisfy a mild, vague itch. The passage of time, the rhythm of the year and of life, another Christmas come and gone, a new year begun, a new spring ahead (but don't get me wrong, I haven't quite had my fill of winter yet). And this year, next month, in fact, we look ahead with anticipation to the birth of Lobelia's second baby! Another cub in the pride!

I am wiling away a few moments on the computer whilst The Viking makes breakfast. The kids are enjoying their last few minutes of idle time before we dive into laundry and tidying. Redheaded Snippet is ensconced in her room, doing mysterious teen-aged girl things with her door closed and her radio set to "stun". Man-Cub is perched on a stool at the island behind me, taking huge, noisy slugs of coffee (don't worry, it's decaf) out of his Star Wars Stormtrooper mug and sighing, "Ah, that's good stuff," and sounding exactly like his father. We spent a blissful weekend with dear friends last week and a delightful evening with other dear friends last night and look forward to the fellowship and refreshment of church this evening. See what I mean? Nothing earth-shattering, but plenty good!

If I could, I'd probably be purring right about now...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Well, here we are

...talking about colleges.

It was bad enough when she turned thirteen. Worse yet when she entered high school. And now she's half-way through her sophomore year and we're compiling and cross-referencing lists of schools and programs and maps.

How do people make this decision? I know nearly everyone does it, but how?

Field hockey is mostly likely going to broaden Redheaded Snippet's range of choices. We do not want to count our chickens but it does seem that at least a partial athletic scholarship is possible. She is also going to apply for as many academic scholarships as she can, something that I am more comfortable with as they depend merely on her grades and not whether she's scoring goals or gets injured or suddenly gets tired of playing field hockey at the age of twenty.

She wants to be part of a hockey program that's ranked somewhere in the top ten. She wants to study psychology (maybe criminal psychology). She doesn't want to go more than 6 hours from home and she does not want to go where it's any hotter in the summer than it is here. Being on the East coast, those last two stipulations limit her quite a bit.

And we have to narrow things down pretty soon. Things will kick into high gear this coming Summer. She needs to attend a college field hockey camp or two. The best way to get noticed by the coaching staff of the school you'd like to attend is to go to one of their hockey camps. We need to visit a bunch of campuses. And in order to do all that, we have to start zeroing in on which campuses, which camps, which coaches to send letters to.

So far we've got Penn State, University of Maryland and Princeton. And I don't even know at this point if any of those are even possible.

Wasn't it just yesterday I was putting her in the corner for writing all over the fridge again?

Monday, January 03, 2011

I'll regret this in the morning...

It's after 1:00 in the morning (casualty of the recklessly nocturnal lifestyle I was living during our Christmas break) and I REALLY should be in bed, but I know I won't be able to sleep if I don't get a few thoughts out of my head first.

Today was somewhat of a challenge. It was our last day before going back to school and work and thus fraught with pressure to squeeze every last drop of fun and/or relaxation out of it. But it was also weighty with the need to prepare for our return! What to do, what to do?

I decided to forever ruin the children's lives and clean things. And I mean CLEAN THEM! They were very unhappy about it and still cannot believe I swooped in and took their very last day away from them, but very large portions of the house are now as clean as they could possibly be and I feel like we accomplished something today!

We tackled portions of the kitchen and the entire living room today. We picked a starting point, pulled furniture away from the walls into the middle of the room and worked our way around, top to bottom cleaning everything that could be wiped or vacuumed. Redheaded Snippet was given a damp rap and dominion over walls, windows (including sills and trim) and baseboards. She also mixed up her very first batch of homemade furniture polish and was made acquainted with how to use it. She's not a fan, but she now understands.

I made use of the polish, my dusting mitt and another damp rag and claimed the realm of wood furniture and knick knacks. Some of our things are not only breakable but arranged in ways that I am particular about so that seemed the most obvious job for me. I also supervised (which means I was Head Child Wrangler), of course.

Man-Cub followed in our wake and was master of the vacuum. He learned that the attachments are not actually for using in sword fights or as space pods for Lego men! He also learned that you can, in fact, vacuum the sofa. We recently had to buy a new vacuum and went for the light model that seems to propel itself along the floor. We had no idea that one of its best features would be that our nine-year-old can use it with ease! I feel so liberated! I'm sure Man-Cub does not share in my jubilation.

While we were de-griming the living room, The Viking was taking care of the kitchen and dining room floors. I hate doing floors and he, thankfully, does not mind them so that's usually his default setting when we're all doing chores. He also brought in a few more loads of wood, ran out to the UPS store to mail a package (keep your eyes peeled, Dharma!) and then had to swing by the laundromat.

Yes, the laundromat. You see, our dryer died and it did not occur to me, being, as it turns out, kind of a spoiled, middle-class American woman, that I could hang our wet laundry on the clothes line in the winter. We rigged an emergency drying rack in front of the wood stove (out of two chairs and the mop and broom handles) when we were suddenly left with a load of wet underwear, socks and towels on the night of the dryer's demise, but doing the laundry as usual and hanging the clothes to dry just never really entered my mind. So my poor Viking had to spend his last evening of freedom alone in a laundromat.

Fortunately, I've been researching and realized the error of my ways so tomorrow I'm going to hang out a load on the line first thing and then go out and buy a drying rack. It's supposed to be sunny and not as cold tomorrow so things should be fine. But we've got a few more days before the arrival of the part The Viking ordered so I'd better get myself prepared. There's no reason this has to be a crisis; a little preparation will go a long way here.

So, the husband and children are asleep, the living room is sparkling clean, the kitchen is reasonably clean and, somehow, we've even got clean and dry laundry. Tomorrow we all go back to school and back into the rhythm of things and I must admit I'm kind of looking forward to it. Being on break is nice, but there is something to be said for returning to order and structure, especially for someone as naturally undisciplined as I am.

I'm not exactly sure why I had to get that all out of my brain, but I feel much better now. And so I'm going to finish my milk, throw another log on the fire and head up to bed, hoping that the 6 hours of sleep I'm going to get will miraculously feel like 8 when the alarm goes off tomorrow!