Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wooing my children with carbs

My children love bread. I love baking, and I love baking "real" bread that requires lots of love and kneading... but finding the time to make it is often a challenge. My sister sent me this recipe this winter and it has really been great for our family-- I keep a container of dough in the fridge almost all the time, and regularly bake a loaf with dinner, especially when I know that the main course is not going to be a hit. It's also great for company, or if we are taking a meal to a friend-- it bakes fast. It looks good (usually)! Rachel can make it with a little supervision. I have made the loaves in many shapes and sizes, and can now pull off just enough dough for dinner with no leftovers.
The recipe can be found here and is originally from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking

Variations we have done:
I always use at least half whole-wheat flour and have used as much as 2/3 whole wheat flour. I also have used a six grain blend flour  (2.5 c white, 2 c. whole wheat, 2 c. six grain flour-- that made a heavy but tasty loaf). I have rolled it out and sprinkled on sugar and cinnamon and raisins (yum). I plan to try making a pesto swirl bread but that is waiting till the next time we have company.

Green(ish) updates for the week so far: all that fuss.... and it never rained yesterday. Sigh. Laundry is on the line now, although the sky looks pretty grey and the humidity is high. We are eating our way through our CSA share with a few minor menu modifications: last night we had salmon, roasted broccoli, and rice with chard and almonds. I think we'll do a giant taco salad tonight.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reading with Rachel, and a little challenge fail.

this is what the weather channel has on the agenda for today.  

Sam is on antibiotics for an ear infection. I'll just leave it at that. I have to wash diapers and I need them dry quickly, so I am going to have to cheat and use the drier. I was hoping to wash a small load of diapers yesterday to avoid this, but we had an unexpected errand in the afternoon and I just couldn't manage it. Oh well. Our real goal here is to make small changes, slowly, that we can maintain, and we're doing decently with that. 

I did do a big combined load with clothes for everyone yesterday, though, and I think taking that kind of approach is helpful with this challenge. I will say that I am the world's least pickiest laundry-doer (well, other than a college student). I sort by temp only and other than my freaky wash routine for the diapers, I am laid back about what goes with what.
multitasker like mama.

Rachel loves to read, and in the last year or so I have really been enjoying reading old favorites, as well as new books with her. I love reading children's and young adult lit, and have checked out a number of my favorites to "pre-read" to see if Rachel might be ready for them. Sometimes she is; sometimes not. These are some of the books we've enjoyed reading and talking about recently.

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet)
One of my all time favorite books. I have been trying it with Rachel for about a year now. She was capable of reading it, but just not interested until a few months ago, when one of the librarians at the BPL suggested it for a book club. We haven't tried the next one yet, but maybe this summer. "It was a little scary."

The Cabinet of Wonders: The Kronos Chronicles: Book I (Kronos Chronicles Trilogy)
A gift from Rachel's godmother that we both loved. This is a fascinating story-- now we are on to Book 2. Petra is a strong heroine and I love her tin spider.

Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
Lots of discussion about Hitler after reading this one."There was a lot of drama in this one, with Sally making up stories that she thought were true but turned out not to be. Sally is very good at thinking up games to play with her friends."

Cherry Ames Flight Nurse: Book 5 (Bk. 5)
I loved these books when I was a little girl-- we used to check them out from the library when we were visiting my grandmother. Rachel is admittedly not as interested in these as I am, but she has been reading the ones I picked up at the library booksale, as well as one that used to belong to her great-aunt. Like Nancy Drew only she's a cute nurse who has adventures, solves mysteries, and goes out on tame dates with nice boys. Cruise Nurse was fun too.

The Capture (Guardians of Ga'hoole, Book 1)
Another godmother gift. Excellent owl story. "It's very adventurous, and Soren is very courageous. I love the songs."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CSA Week 3: beets are a challenge for me.

 Sam is intrigued by the broccoli in our farm share this week-- some fell out when I was unpacking and he went to town.

What's in our share this week:

1/2 lb salad mix
1 bunch Hakuri turnips
1 bunch kale
1 bunch swiss chard
1 bunch garlic scapes
2 heads of lettuce
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch beets
2 lbs broccoli 

    Tentative Meal Plan  (Plus: Kale Chips)
    Roasted Shrimp with Broccoli, rice, fruit
    Chicken with honey roasted carrots, roasted beets, 5 minute bread, Salad
    Big salad with leftover chicken, roast veggies
    Pasta with swiss chard and goat cheese
    Homemade pizza with garlic scape pesto on the "adult" side, salad
    Taco salad bar (black beans and fresh corn chips); Breakfast for dinner (hmmmm...) with salad.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Latest green(ish) challenge

    We are all enjoying the sun, especially Rosie Dangercat.

     1. Many cloth diapers are hanging on the line. Sam closely examined blades of grass while I hung it up.  We'll see if I can keep this up all week. The weather looks like it will be great, though, so I have a decent shot. And I am not actively behind on laundry right now, either.

    2. Lots of exercise for all of us this week-- Rachel went to track camp and I got in a four mile run/jog/walk this morning with Sam (who enjoyed a nap).

    3. Rachel and I started a craft project during the rain this weekend: a prayer flag for our backyard. It looks like it will be really neat.

    4. We have almost eaten our entire CSA share for this week, except for the beets. I may give them to my dad, who loves beets. I have one head of lettuce left but will likely give it to a friend. New share tomorrow!

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Gillyweed Burritos

    My big list of ways to try to elicit interest in food:

    1. kids help prepare it
    2. kids help grow it or select it
    3. we call it a "_________ Bar" and act like there are cool and optional things about it. This is often really successful, actually. Burrito bar, sandwich bar, pasta bar....kale bar.
    4. we give it a clever name
    5. bribery.  
    This meal involves  4 and 5. And yet was not an especial success, although Ben and I love it-- super easy and very tasty. I think if Rachel would actually make a reasonable effort to try it, she would like it... because who can resist the siren song of so much cheese?

    Spinach-Cheese Burritos, from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers: Fresh Ideas for the Weeknight Table

    My adaptations:

    I use a mixture of greens when fresh are available-- I have used all kale before, without any issues. Just make sure you cook the greens longer than the directions indicate if you are using a tougher green (or, add the greens in order, starting with the tougher ones and adding spinach toward the end). When fresh greens aren't available, I have used frozen (thawing and squeezing out the water before cooking). I have used regular or sweet onions in place of the scallions. I use reduced fat cream cheese and usually cut the Monterrey jack cheese, too, by at least 2 oz and sometimes more. We use whole-wheat tortillas.

    For the hot sauce, I have grilled the pepper and onion outside and then chilled until I was ready to prepare the sauce-- and we add at least one jalapeno, which we usually roast, too.

      Saturday, June 25, 2011

      CSA midweek, and another Potter-a-thon

      1. So far, so good on the CSA share for this week. We've eaten about half the greens (kale chips! they continue to eat them. I actually did take a video....) and will be making the other half into Gillyweed (greens and cheese) Burritos for our unsuspecting company tomorrow night. We have eaten a ton of salad and I have discovered that I actually like the little white turnips, go figure! I have many negative memories of turnips but these taste good, even without salad dressing. We have basically stuck to the menu plan with one exception (listed in #2).
      What is helping us use all our CSA share, so far:
      • making a menu plan
      • not going to the grocery store for staples until after we pick up our farm share
      • combining strong flavored greens with milder ones
      • sharing.
        Also, I just didn't grow lettuce in our family garden-- I plan to do some as a fall crop, but I didn't do any in the spring. I don't feel nearly as overrun with salad as I have in the past, even though we had to buy it at the farmer's market early in the season.
      2. We had pizza one night so we could do a big Harry Potter marathon and finish Book 6. I couldn't believe we were at the end, but I guess the end of school and a highly motivated Rachel contributed to our speed. Plus Book 6 is a bit shorter, and was easier to read aloud than Book 5. So now we are on to Book 7.  This excites me for several reasons, not the least of which is that we will be reading a non-Harry Potter book for bedtimes in the near-ish future. We're thinking it will be The Hobbit.
      3. I'm starting the green(ish) challenge Monday, because I managed to get all the laundry "done" before the weekend.

      Why I'm not doing laundry today. Picture by Adam (made this fall, I think).

      Friday, June 24, 2011

      Green(ish) Challenge 3: the laundry, it's infinite

      Here is our new clothesline. I am enjoying it way too much. It is almost kind of fun to strap Sam up on my back and grab a basket of wash and hang it up. Yes, motherhood has given me a warped idea of fun.  I am sure the romance will end soon but in the meantime, I am hardly running the drier at all. I'm finding that I have to use the weather report to plan my laundry, which is a little inconvenient, but doable.

      The laundry situation with three children is really kind of amazing, volume-wise. I thought I did a lot of laundry before but I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Sam is cloth diapered, too, so that is 3 or so extra loads a week.

      Rachel recently expressed horror that I had hung her underwear on the line. She was concerned that our neighbors two doors down are a family of four boys and that they might have looked in our yard. "They are BOYS." We pointed out that they were a family of four boys and that they might not even recognize girl underwear but she was not impressed. A close eye will note that Adam's unmentionables are hung up on the line in the photo above... and he does not care. At any rate, I am going to rig up a clothesline in the basement to limit her mortification.

      Green(ish) Challenge 3 is to not use the drier at all for a week. I admit that I looked at the long-range weather forecast before setting this goal-- and it seems doable. The kids help some with the laundry, although that is mainly centered around folding and putting away-- this challenge will mostly be on me.

      Thursday, June 23, 2011

      Gardening, Late June

      we wondered what this was all last summer because it never bloomed-- turns out it is a biannual and worth the wait. 

      6-23-- tomatoes are doing well and the cherry tomatoes are starting to set fruit. The sunflowers are about 2" and the zinnias are about 1". The cilantro has just come up. The basil is doing quite well, but the peppers don't look especially good. I think they need some fertilizer.

      Sunflower. This one is Adam's "favorite."

      Rock garden area-- the hen has had chicks.

      Wednesday, June 22, 2011

      Walking to School-- the end of Greenish Challenge #1

      And... the end of kindergarten and third grade. Here we are on the first day--


      And here we are on the last day. Some of us have matured so much that we will not condescend to pose for a picture at school.

      We started our walking to school challenge right around the time I left my job and this one has gone really well. I picked them up one day for a dentist appointment, but other than that, we walked both ways, every day. This one was really pretty easy, and Rachel discovered that unlike the Wicked Witch, she does not melt if she gets a little wet. I have a giant "Mama Coat" on loan from a friend so Sam felt no pain on those rainy days. Adam had much better mornings at school after the exercise. It makes me sad that he will be getting steadily less and less physical activity throughout his school day-- he concentrates so much better when he gets frequent opportunities to run. We run him in the church garden before services and you can see a huge difference in his behavior.

      And now the countdown begins....

      Tuesday, June 21, 2011

      CSA Week 2: KALE KALE KALE

      ALERT: My children consumed a green vegetable!!

      I made kale chips this week for the first time and they were an amazingly big hit. I just tossed the washed kale with olive oil and then sprinkled on a little sea salt, and baked them in a low oven for just under 20 minutes. I was a little shocked they even tried them, but then they found that they loved them. They asked me to make them again. They begged me for more. "Can I have a few before dinner?" Uhm, sure. You do that. "Can we put the bowl between me and Adam?" Why yes, yes you can. "Do we have any more kale?" No. "Will we get some in the CSA share tomorrow?" Molly was also charmed at the amazing kale consumption and she gave us an extra head of kale, so... kale chips it is.
      Seriously, watching them eat the kale chips was one of the highlights of my parenting career. Maybe I will video it tonight so I can watch it again and again.
      Sam didn't pose with the produce this week because he collapsed in exhaustion after we went to Music Time at the Central Street Farmhouse.
      This week's share:
      1 lb salad mix
      1 bunch Hakuri turnips
      1 lb beet greens
      1 bunch kale
      1 bunch green garlic
      2 heads lettuce
      1/2 lb spinach
      1 bunch beets

      Tentative meal plan: lots of salad. And kale chips.

      Mixed green salad with roasted beets(recipe in our farm newsletter), 5 min. bread
      Grilled chicken, salad, salt and vinegar potatoes with rosemary
      Pasta with greens and white beans
      Turkey burgers, giant salad
      Tomato soup, salad, 5 minute bread
      Spinach quiche, mixed green salad, 5 min. bread
      Waffles, fruit... and salad.

      Zero Waste Food Challenge Wrap-Up

      We have finished our zero food waste challenge, although I am hoping we can keep going in that vein. We threw out about a fifth of a loaf of bread that got moldy this morning, which was sad (it was awesome bread). But we threw out very little produce this week, and ate all leftovers, which I count as a success. The children gained some mindfulness about wasting food, too-- appealing to their competitive natures often really helps us to make some good changes. I'll wait a few weeks, and then we'll do it again. Later this week, we'll bake a special dessert to celebrate, and both big kids will ensure that not a bit of batter nor a single crumb gets wasted.
      This was helpful for me in that I did a much better job thinking about leftovers and how to use the food I had available. I planned the meals for the week after getting our farm share, and while I did flex quite a bit on my original meal plan, I flexed in a way that didn't involve any last minute trips to the store. We didn't use one head of pak choi, but I prepped it and put it in the freezer, where I will likely use it the next time I make soup (we put the other head in a the chicken tortilla soup we made last night, which was delicious).

      Monday, June 20, 2011

      Zero Waste Food Challenge: Weekend

      Still plugging along and doing pretty well-- we have been using all our leftovers and no produce has been thrown out at this point. We changed the meal plan up a little and made homemade pizza last night-- topped with leftover arugula pesto and chicken for the adults; the standard red sauce and cheese for the kidlets. This was a predictable hit.I made the crust a little too thick (I used the artisan bread dough instead of my usual recipe, which I prefer-- but this was a last minute decision so I used what I had on hand) so there was some wasted crust.
      We went to the farmer's market for day-old bread (from Daily Bread in Levant), eggs, and some goat cheese (which will be used with our CSA share greens next week-- yum). We met friends for coffee and I went to a birthday party with Rachel and Sam. It was a good and busy day.
      We had both sets of parents over for Father's Day dinner. Menu was a giant salad, a roast chicken, 5-minute bread, and kale chips. We had strawberries and some bars from a bake sale for dessert. I did throw away four berries that had gone bad-- even though they were just purchased on Friday. The kids ate the kale chips like magic-- it was awesome. I cooked the organ meats to use for broth (which I usually skip) and have the bones on the stove right now to make tortilla soup for dinner tonight (menu change due to all kale being used for kale chips).

      Friday, June 17, 2011

      Zero Waste Food Challenge: Day 3

      We didn't throw away any produce, we ate all leftovers, and other than some people who were not me or Ben being picky about trying their dinners, it was a pretty good day.

      I ended up changing the menu since I didn't use all the arugula making pesto-- so we had grilled chicken, braised white beans with arugula (recipe provided by our CSA.... delicious), couscous, and fruit salad.

      Feeding the kids is surprisingly hard to me. Rachel was a fabulous eater as a young child. Adam had some medical problems as a toddler that have contributed to a continuing eating problem, although since he gains weight and grows well now, I feel blessed not to have to worry so much. Rachel became picky after observing Adam for a while, and now, if we are not careful, eating is a serious power play issue with her. I have read up on it and tried different approaches, including that of Ellyn Satter. But using her approach completely doesn't work well with the kids-- they won't try anything new at all. We serve at least one item the kids like at each meal, and they can have second helpings after tasting everything on their plate. I insist that things I know they like be finished before they have seconds. I try not to make a big deal out of their not eating-- I know it's my responsibility to provide healthy food, and their responsibility to actually eat it. But eating gets very emotional for me, and trying not to get angry when I know Rachel especially is just being stubborn is really hard.

      We try to serve a reasonably balanced menu. We serve regular treats (I usually make them from scratch). We garden, cook, and eat together. But both kids still have a really limited diet and it totally frustrates me.

      Thursday, June 16, 2011

      Zero Waste Food Challenge: Day 2

      Another decent day. I threw away no produce and no leftovers, and again ate a very strange lunch. The kids did great at breakfast and at lunch (no crusts!) but dinner was again a challenge. Adam hates pasta and Rachel hates pasta with anything on it. I served them some plain pasta as well as some with the arugula pesto. They tried everything, though, so I'll count it has a half-success. Maybe starting this the last week of school (when kids in transition are naturally a little oppositional and tense!) was not the best idea. It has increased their mindfulness around waste, though, even just a few days in, and they both have been paying attention to my planning (today, I knew I would have a leftover egg white from a cookie recipe I planned to make. So I made scrambled eggs for breakfast, including the extra white. Adam watched me store the yolk and said, "That's zero food waste!")
      If I ever do make pesto out of grass, Sam will collect it for me.
      The arugula pesto was excellent-- I combined several recipes and made it like this: 4 c. arugula, 4 (thawed) ice cubes of chopped basil from last summer, 1/4 c. olive oil, 1/3 c. parm, 1/3 c. toasted walnuts, dash salt, dash lemon juice. It was spicy but not overwhelming. I couldn't taste the lemon but according to multiple recipe comments, it makes it not taste like it is made of grass. I haven't ever made pesto out of grass so I can't comment.

      Wednesday, June 15, 2011

      Zero Waste Food Challenge: Day 1

      Well, we did fairly well. Everyone ate every bite of breakfast, took one food item at a time, and finished drinks. Half a dish of fruit salad came home from Rachel's lunch, but I know that often the kids don't get enough time to finish lunch. I ate leftover mashed potatoes and fruit salad for lunch. Adam finished his dinner (very petite servings, sometimes I feel like I am that guy on the food network who plates food in tablespoon portions, only without the beautiful garnishes). Rachel spent thirty minutes eating a peach and a tortilla while waxing poetic about Maine history and then refused to eat most of the rest of dinner. The kale and cheese burritos rocked (and I am not a huge fan of kale. but how can you go wrong with lots of cheese?). Well, only Ben and I would endorse that statement.
      Food waste for Day 1: 1/4 c. milk that went bad (although it was a couple of days before it's date), small amounts of dinner, about a quarter cup of fruit salad, and 1 crust belonging to a nameless peanut butter eater.

      The garden is coming along!

      Tuesday, June 14, 2011

      CSA Week 1

      Today we picked up our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from the Brewer Farmer's Market. We are doing a full share with Nettie Fox Farm this year. We bought produce from Molly a lot last year and I was always happy with the quality, so when we decided to switch CSAs this year we went with her.
      This week's produce:

      what WILL you do with all that kale? this picture is at a funny angle because I had to hold onto him while I took it-- still not so steady with the sitting thing.

       This week's share: 1 lb salad mix, 1 bunch radishes, 1 head pac choi, 2 bunches kale, 1/2 lb arugula, 1 bunch green garlic, 1 baby head lettuce, 1 bunch radishes, and 1/2 lb spinach

      Tentative Menu Plan for this week:

      1. Kale-Cheese Burritos with Blender Hot Sauce (adapted from Moosewood)-- 1 bunch kale, green garlic
      2. Father's Day Meal: Roast Chicken, Spinach Salad, 5 minute artisan bread (we're having company, so I'll roast two chickens)
      3. Giant Salad with leftover chicken, radishes, 5 min bread
      4. Arugula Pesto on whole wheat pasta, tossed salad
      5. Chicken Soup with Kale and White Beans (made with final leftovers of chicken)
      6. Shrimp Stir-Fry with Pac Choi/ remainder of green garlic, brown rice
      7. Kale Chips

      Gardening: Spring

      Well, since spring came kind of late this year, I'm posting this in June. We just got our garden planted over the last two weeks, which is crazy late. There are no pictures with the kids because I was so busy whenever they were out planting with me (planting in Sam-nap-sized intervals).

      I decided to focus on just a few things this year, mainly herbs and tomatoes. We will also do a fall garden of greens: spinach, lettuces, and arugula. I decided to start one small new area of perennials: a rock garden with succulents. I always bite off more than I can chew with perennials so I wanted to keep it simple. I got a hens and chicks plant and some sedum at a neighborhood sale, and added some portulaca. The kids added the rocks.

      Rachel planted a lavatera from the same sale, and we added a chive plant to our herb area from our friend Cynthia's garden.

      We got our tomato and pepper plants from Snakeroot Farm at the Orono Farmer's Market.  I'm excited about the mostly heirloom varieties we picked for this year, with the exception of the sungolds that are kind of like an addiction for me. Here are the varieties they grow at Snakeroot: from these, we will be growing Black Cherry, Frosty's Heart, and Paul Robeson. We are also growing Joe E. Parker peppers, which are apparently hot when raw, but mellow when roasted. We planted the tomato plants with basil, marigold and dill seeds to do some natural bug repelling.
      this was a hot, dry day... unlike most of the days lately.

      I could not find any herb starts at the Orono Farmer's Market, so I ended up at Sprague's because I did want locally raised plants. I got lettuce leaf and purple basil and  bouquet dill. With these, I planted cilantro seeds.

      What did Picky 1 and Picky 2 want to grow? Sunflowers and zinnias. So I went out and bought seeds, a variety pack of sunflowers and zinnias (pumila, or cut and come again-- an 18-24" tall variety with big blooms).

      Here is a map. We grow our garden in rough quadrants so that we can rotate the tomatoes each year. Ben already dug our compost (and some extra) into the plot, before we added the tomatoes. We'll add some more in a few weeks.

      Monday, June 13, 2011

      Greenish Challenge Updates

      1. Still walking to school.

      2. Getting ready to start the Zero Food Waste Challenge tomorrow, when we get our CSA share and shop for the week. I thought we needed to talk with the kids a bit more about what this would entail, so we have been doing that at meals. I also want to start with a clean fridge.

      I think our strategy will be to do even smaller portions than usual (we already do pretty small portions, since we have the Uber Picky Eater problem at our house). My other goal this year is to eat, freeze, or give away every item in our CSA share this year, so we will see how that goes.

      3. We're mulling over what to do next. Not using the drier? A week without the car? Only local protein for a week or two?

      My kid has better hand-eye coordination than me.

      Adam is playing soccer and he is actually pretty good at it. We sit around and marvel at this because Ben and I are both, well... challenged in the sports arena. We can run and ride bikes and I can swim decently, in the sense that I could survive for twenty minutes while I waited for rescue in the deep sea (or at least in an olympic sized pool). I can sometimes throw a basketball into a basket. But I spent my teen years avoiding volleyball with a passion and never played a team sport in my life.
      But he's actually pretty good-- he kicks the ball, runs fast, and follows his coaches' directions. He has scored goals in both the games. It is fun to watch him get excited and run so fast.

      The soccer mom stereotype thing feels weird, though. No minivan, though. not yet.

      Thursday, June 9, 2011


      Reading Harry Potter has been an obsession with Rachel for about a year now.
      When she started hearing way too many spoilers from other children, I decided to let her read the whole series (I had previously announced she would have to stop at #4). When she started (inadvertently, really) giving spoilers to Adam, we decided to read the whole series as our bedtime reading, for as long as it took. We started on December 1 with my sister reading the very first pages of Book 1. Since then we have made steady progress (and have watched some of the movies, too), and this week it finally happened: we came to the end of the 800-some page Book 5. 870 pages, to be precise.
      Now, I hate to stop reading once Voldemort gets involved. We had about 100 pages left as Harry and the crew were arriving at the Ministry of Magic. I couldn't see a good place to stop coming up. So we decided to try a Potter Pizza Night: with all three family members able to read HP taking turns, a large pizza from Angelo's, and some patience with JK Rowling's extensive descriptions... could we finish the book in one evening?

      We had some minor detours (namely, a fussy baby, and Ben getting delayed at a meeting an hour away). But we diligently began reading just after 5:00 pm. With one five minute break (to get a piece of pizza into the first dinner reader).... we finished at 7:58pm.

      Now on to Book 6....this weekend or next, we'll have our finishing celebration for Book 5. Which means a special HP themed snack while we watch the movie. For Book 4 we had Gillyweed Burritos (not popular, although I loved them) and chocolate broomsticks (chocolate dipped pretzel rods, extremely popular). What to fix for #5.....

      Greenish Challenge #2: Zero Food Waste

      An update on Greenish Challenge #1: with the exception of one day when the kids had dentist appointments, we have walked to school every day, both ways.

      Now on to #2: zero food waste for one week. I think it is going to be tricky to get the kids ("I don't LIKE that"; "what, crusts?") on board with this one, but I am going to try. Goal will be to use all leftovers (within 48 hours, because I am freaky about food poisoning like that) and not to throw out any produce.