Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Aaaand, the breakfast tab of my Little Red Hen cookbook is also up. You can find it here.

Menus (Thanksgiving Week!)

Monday: Oven-roasted sweet potato/potato fries, green salad
Tuesday: Black bean tostadas
Wednesday: Tuna melts,  tomato soup
Thursday contributions: Rolls, salad, sweet potatoes with meringue topping, homemade cranberry sauce, and pies (apple and pumpkin)
Friday: Minestrone soup, if there aren't enough leftovers (which has been more and more the case over the years!)
Saturday: Rice pilaf
Sunday: Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs
(Last week we had pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon chips...mmm boy)

Friday, November 20, 2015


No 'fudgemuffins' this time! The new link is up and functioning. Yahoo!

The Little Red Hen Cooks

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Flourishing: Conversations You Never Want to Have

It's a tough world. You teach your kids to be kind, to pray, to work hard; you steer them through friendships and stresses; you feed and clothe and love them -- and you thrill to see them thrive and blossom with the good outside influences of educators and peers.

And then you have to tell one of them that their favorite teacher -- heck, let's face it, your favorite teacher they've ever had -- has been arrested and, if found guilty, will likely never see freedom again. They've had this teacher for the past two years in a row, and this final, third year was supposed to be the capstone of their musical experience. Your particular child -- a shy daughter -- got the guts up to participate not only in the audition process for the small, exclusive,  8th-grade chamber choir (and made it), but also for a statewide vocal audition and an application to the local performing arts charter school for high school next year. She has found a love for her choir experiences that you didn't see in her other subjects (even her other band and piano lessons), and that has been a phenomenal influence on her happiness in those tough middle school years.

This incredibly gifted teacher, who has long been one of the foundations linking the whole school community, has been 'on leave' for most of the current school year, leaving kids like my daughter stranded without the mentorship they counted on for the upcoming auditions and applications. The kids have been wondering, in vain, what 'family emergency' could possibly keep their beloved teacher from being there to help them succeed. They've been cycling through a string of substitutes and movies in class. In a heartbreaking turn of events yesterday, after an actual arrest was made, the school principal was able to let the students and families know about the ongoing investigation and criminal charges pending against this man we all thought we knew.

It's just not something we ever expect, not so close, though we know empirically that abuse and molestation are happening all over, in all classes and walks of life. I'm grateful for a school system that has, overall, been safe and productive for my own kids; and I'm grateful for the moral principles that they've already internalized that help protect and comfort them in times like these. There are plenty more kids who face obstacles far beyond the scope of this one, and I realize our blessings. But I'm shaken.

S. and I had originally thought not to tell her the details, because we'd rather she remember the good, at least for this year -- but then we realized how public the announcement was and the inevitability that she learn it at school without us anyway. She's handling it OK, but I hope she never sees the mug shot, doesn't go looking in the news. That's what really got to me. It's so hard to fathom, to connect the two pictures -- the grim-faced man in front of a police camera, and the charismatic, talented guy we've known up until this point. His own daughter currently attends the same school, is in my daughter's grade, has been attending at least so far this year. I can't imagine what she and her family are facing, either. The horrible tragedy hits in so many directions.

What a wonderful husband I have. What willing, affectionate, creative kids I have. What safety and comfort I enjoy. It sinks deep at Thanksgiving time in any case, but this latest event throws real highlights on the incredible, divine gifts that have come into my life. I feel deeply, deeply indebted to the gospel and belief of Jesus Christ for so much of the good that has been bedrock to me and my family. Bless you all, and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

To Use My Son's Favorite Expletive, Fudgemuffins!

I just spent a precious hour and half wrangling my muffin recipes onto the new blog, The Little Red Hen Cooks -- I actually typed out the whole thing in html because that turned out to be the most straightforward -- and at the end, adding in minor formatting (such as those dang degree º signs), I managed to delete the whole thing irretrievably. AArgh!! So, know that I'm still working on that cookbook, but that electronic setbacks happen.

In the meantime, here are pictures of some doughnuts I made last weekend, and quiche from the prior week -- both some of the best I've yet pulled off.


Monday: Birthday Girl Request: Corn chowder, garlicky green beans, Lord Baltimore Cake, cookie dough ice cream
Tuesday: Salmon burgers, salad
Wednesday: Mulligatawny stew
Thursday: Pasta with pumpkin, ricotta, and sausage
Friday: Split pea soup, beets
Saturday: Carrot soup, baguettes
Sunday: Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Monday, November 9, 2015

As Requested

A throwback post from April 2013: 'Super Probiotic Ramen Galore'

2 c. water

frozen mixed vegetables, one cup or so

an egg

about 1 T. miso, or to taste

Put cold water and vegetables together in a pot and bring to a boil; when boiling, add ramen noodles (reserving flavor pouch, as directed on packet) and cook for 3 minutes. The last minute or so of cooking, crack egg into boiling liquid and quickly stir to break it up. Remove from heat and add contents of flavor pouch. When soup has cooled enough to eat, add miso and stir to incorporate. Makes 2 servings.

TIP: miso is a live cultured food and for full benefit should not be subjected to temperatures hot enough to kill bacteria, though taste would be unaffected.

I've basically done this styrofoam version in gas stations on road trips, but am happy to bring it up a notch .

Monday Menus

I used to have our menus planned by Sunday night, but now I'm proud that I've got it figured out by lunchtime on Monday!

Monday: Spaghetti marinara, corn
Tuesday: Cuban black beans
Wednesday: Flounder, potato hash, carrots
Thursday: Eggs Kristin (fried eggs over toast with a curried white sauce), garden salad
Friday: Pizza, mixed veggies
Saturday: Chicken stir-fry
Sunday: Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Monday: Potato and sweet potato wedges, corn
Tuesday: Chef's salad, biscuits
Wednesday: Probiotic ramen galore
Thursday: Quiche, spinach
Friday: Red beans and sausage, rice
Saturday: Niçoise salad, popcorn for movie night
Sunday: Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Monday: Crispy tostadas with refried beans
Tuesday: Pumpkin-thyme mac n' cheese, salad
Wednesday: Mashed potatoes, peas, gravy
Thursday: Minestrone soup
Friday: Pizza, popcorn, birthday cake, etc.
Saturday: Asian chicken salad
Sunday: Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Friday, October 16, 2015

Local and Minimally Processed

Last night we ate salmon burgers, with fresh tomato slices and dill pickle spears, and a side of green beans and garlic.

I realized that the only thing at the table that came from a store was the salmon patty itself and the ketchup.

Of course, the burger buns had ingredients in them (butter, a portion of all-purpose flour, etc.) that had come from a store, but their out-of-home processing wasn't largely significant, in my eyes. They hadn't come out of a package, in fact, they had come out of my grain mill (in terms of the whole wheat flour portion of them) just hours earlier.

It's been an exciting season for local food at our house. I'd say it's been a good three months or more that we've had at least one dinner ingredient, even if a very small one, from our own backyard or from the farm where I work. I do credit a lot of it to luck, as we've had a small but varied harvest in our own garden, but it is also a side effect of very intentional habits -- a choice not to keep many processed convenience foods around, to only have raw ingredients to work with. There have been a few nights when I've cursed the fact that I had nothing to fall back on, but there have been uncountably many nights that I've sat down to the table with my family and just felt immensely grateful for the good, real food that farmers have grown and I have committed to prepare.

(I also enjoy the fact that I can answer the question "Do you know your farmer?" with these facts: the actual farmer that I work with is a former professional chef and ongoing gym rat; has a pair of bumper stickers that respectively read "No Farms, No Food" and "Yes Farms, Yes Food"; a snazzy Swatch watch and flamingo-print Vans shoes; and a big ol' tattoo on his shoulder that proclaims "Vegetables".)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

New Cookbook

Also, it's still just beginning, but I've got a new blog I'm devoting just to recipes, so as to get away from the awkward navigation in this blog's sidebar. It's called The Little Red Hen Cooks, and you can find it here.

OOPS! It was set to private, so no one could follow that link. That's fixed, and it's available now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Monday: Pasta with pesto, cooked carrots
Tuesday: BLT wraps
Wednesday: Baked potato bar
Thursday: Salmon burgers, garlicky green beans
Friday: West African peanut soup
Saturday: Pizza, salad
Sunday: Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Monday, October 5, 2015


Just FYI, grated eggplant doesn't substitute all that well for zucchini in a quick bread. Or at least, it would take some real getting used to. One of my pickiest kids liked it plenty and ate a bunch; most of us managed to eat a fair amount when offered chocolate frosting on top; and my least picky kid just couldn't get around the idea of eggplant bread. But it was worth the try, we're pretty much sick of eggplant every other way and I had some beautiful barbarellas that were just going to rot if I left them at the farm.

I suppose I could have cooked and mashed them before putting them in a recipe, more like banana bread than zucchini bread, but I decided to leave my efforts at peeling and grating.

I have to say, though, that I do feel really, really pleased that I've been using a lot of eggplant this season. It's always been one of the few vegetables on my no-no list (it turns a gross brown, has those annoying seeds, and then there's the odd spongy texture), but my husband likes it and I decided to take the plunge. It didn't hurt that I could pick up such pretty varieties at work, of course -- they piqued my interest more than the typical supermarket ones would. But, while I wouldn't put it on my favorites list, I now know that I can stand to eat eggplant on occasion. It feels like an accomplishment.

Monday Menus

Monday: Lemon-pepper fettuccine, baked sweet potatoes
Tuesday: Barley-vegetable soup with beef bone broth
Wednesday: Tuna-rice casserole, beets
Thursday: Chili, cornbread
 (Lucy's choice!) Hawaiian haystacks, birthday cake and ice cream
Saturday: Raw veggie platter, apple pie with cheddar crust [for a fall potluck and pie contest]
Sunday: pumpkin pancakes, bacon, applesauce

Friday, October 2, 2015

Bread Geek

I recently checked out a spate of cookbooks from the library, one of which was this:

And I am pleased to announce, I have found my muse!

Out of all the bread bibles and recipes, whole-grain gurus and tips, this book combines the physical practicality of bread with the answers to all my questions behind it. The main question having been, for me, 'why is no one really telling me how to bridge the gap between sprouting/soaking and eating a sandwich?' I've been soaking beans and breakfast porridges and occasionally some muffins, but getting from that to an actual loaf of bread has felt impossible. Aside from some well-meaning, but ultimately unprofessional, advice in a few fringe books, I've been hunting fruitlessly for anything solid to work with. My first few attempts to get from here to there failed and I gave up.

But now, I'm all inspired again, like I was earlier in the year when I first read Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America. Even without the holy grail of sprouted flour, this cookbook gives me the ratios, techniques, and specifics to really feel like I'm going up to the next level.
I happened to be going out to the fabric store just a day or two after I started this book, and I bought a nice piece of natural linen to be a couche, and I baked from it today for the first time. Mmm, boy, I won't tell you how much of this quite-large loaf I've already eaten by myself this morning...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Monday: Pasta with pesto, garden salad
Tuesday: Boiled potatoes (fresh from the garden) with butter and herbs, garlicky green beans
Wednesday: Flounder, rice, curried cauliflower
Thursday: Baked beans, biscuits, beets
Friday: Chicken pot pie, salad
Saturday: Ramen with veggies and eggs
Sunday: Cottage cheese croissants for breakfast (General Conference tradition!!)

Monday, September 28, 2015

My Pretties

I picked these this morning -- it makes me happy to finally have some of my own heirloom tomatoes growing well, after a long season fighting off deer and other unknown pests. Possibly a raccoon. I never saw one, but I was watching my big, green, lovely tomatoes on the vine early in the season, and then a few days later when I went to pick them, they had all disappeared. The vines themselves hadn't been eaten, and I know I wasn't imagining the large nearly-ready tomatoes. I had even counted them. Something came just for the fruit and hand-picked it. So unless I have some really wily deer...

And then, of course, the deer themselves managed to get in somehow. I put up the same fence I've successfully used in all my other years of gardening, but this year I accidentally left about a 1 1/2-foot gap on the top part. I never saw huge ravages, but there was enough evidence (again, mostly on the tomato tops) that I have to guess a few found the opening. So, finally, I've closed the gap and the plants recovered and apparently the raccoon moved on, and I have a decent harvest now that we're approaching October.

This, below, is what I've done with my first few tomatoes -- panzanella. I think this year's, using some of the most gorgeous Mister Stripeys ever along with homemade sourdough croutons, was the best yet.

Also, I made one of my first real batches of homemade marinara sauce. Surprisingly, given my propensity for from-scratch cooking, I usually use sauce from storebought jars. (I've made homemade noodles more than I've made homemade sauce!) But the recipes of my usual -- ahem, cheap -- brands have been changing, nearly doubling in added sugar. My kids thought they tasted like Spaghettios. So I've been retrenching to nice, affordable 28-oz. cans of crushed or diced that come Italian-style with basil, and it's been fine. 

This particular day, however, I opened a can of whole plum tomatoes and went to the extra effort of dicing and sautéeing. I trundled out to the garden and picked my freshest herbs to simmer. It would have to be done in much larger batches and canned to really be worth repeating often, but it was a resounding success. My favorite sauce ever. (Credit to Pioneer Woman for the recipe.)

Hopefully coming soon, pictures of what I'll make with the 10 pounds of organic potatoes we harvested together last night.

Friday, September 25, 2015

By the Numbers: Motherhood

I have a strange fetish with keeping track of motherhood in unusual ways. When I'm at small gatherings with other women I know, for example, I'm constantly amused by adding up our collective number of children. I have one good friend with 10, so if she's part of the bunch it can be an astronomically high total. What can I say, I'm a nerd.

Yesterday evening, as I was coming home from the last school open house this year (or back-to-school night, meet-the-teacher, whatever the various titles), it occurred to me to count how many of those I had been to, and how many I had left. That was a new way of measuring the pace of motherhood for me. So today, for the end of the week, I'm going to list all the silly ways I've devised to mentally record my progress through this crazy game of life.

BIRTHDAY CAKES: To date, including for my husband and the kids, I've baked 78 during my marriage. Plus one batch of birthday doughnuts, and one fake mashed potato 'cake'.

SCHOOL OPEN HOUSES: Shall I include both the general ones (where you take your kid to find their classroom, schedule, etc. before school opens) and the curriculum-specific ones (where you sit in your child's seat and hear about the teacher's plans for the year)? I'm not sure I can remember both categories accurately, but I'll make a good guess. I think I've scrambled for street parking, fought through the thronged hallways full of parents, and picked up stacks of flyers I won't likely look at again 55 times.

YEARS IN DIAPERS: Those are past! There were 11 of them, consecutively, between my four kids.

YEARS DRIVING SEMINARY: These are just beginning, but presuming they continue through each of my kids, they will also add up to 11. In case you don't know what 'seminary' entails, it's an early-morning (6 am) religious class that our high-schoolers attend before school each day. My job is to get them there on time, while my husband generally takes care of our carpooling responsibilities in terms of after-class travel to school.

YEARS UNTIL EMPTY NEST: 15 down, an optimistic 10 to go. If modern adolescence stretches out further, as a few books I've checked out recently insist it probably will, then maybe more like 15 still left. But either way, I'm at least halfway! I'm pleased beyond punch.

I don't know if this was interesting to anyone else, but these little mental games help remind me that the often invisible and cumulative work I do adds up to real benefits, and gives me a little bit of confidence that I can make it the rest of the way.

How many birthday cakes have you baked?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


I'm still a little sad and surprised by the ethical dilemma my raw milk post generated, brief as the post was. Looking further into the details behind it, I discovered that while my entry itself was borderline in terms of a legal issue that might reflect badly on my lawyer husband, that I am currently restricted in some other definite ways. For example, in previous, more prosperous years, I've personally been a member-contributor of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. I discontinued that for budget reasons, but it seems that if I wanted to pick back up where I left off, because of S.'s career progress I should actually go and get a bank account in my own name so that it was clear I was acting on my own convictions, not his. Luckily, I also have a few of my own paychecks now, for the first time in forever, so that could be an appealing option that I hadn't previously considered.

Anyway, I probably haven't helped anyone's curiosity by expounding on this, but I'm trying to find a way to express my feelings (which were poignant) without putting someone I love in a difficult position. Being a member of a family, a community, a profession, and a religion, many of which overlap in different ways, can certainly be tricky for any of us to navigate. May we all find the right balance! And in the meantime, eat good food.

Monday: 'Grub Mountain' (mashed potatoes, vegetables and gravy)
Tuesday: Mini kukus (a Persian frittata), with eggplant and zucchini.
Wednesday: Sesame noodles
Thursday: Curried potatoes, fish, salad
Friday: Pizza, frozen veggies
Saturday: Chilaquiles with chicken
Sunday: Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs