Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Meat Dishes

I have, at last, done a little more work on the cookbook blog. Check out
littleredhencooks.blogspot.com
for my meaty dinner recipes.


And also, I'm reposting this greatly entertaining statement I read:
"Before [promises of ease in the kitchen took hold in the 1940s and 50s], books about cooking largely admitted what every homemaker knew to be true: that feeding people was backbreaking work, and then you died."
(It came from an article in the Atlantic, here.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Picks of the Year


Today, instead of menus, I'd like to look over my favorite books from last year. I had my best reading year ever, at least according to my stats on Goodreads; I finished 36 books, and rated 14 of them at 4 out of 5 stars.


Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry, was one I never would have read without my book club 'making' me; but it turned out to be wonderful. Really very sentimental, despite its Wild West façade.

The best part about it, though, was reading large chunks of it out loud with my husband. He'd read it before, of course, but it had been a while and it was a tender experience to go through it together. And maybe we both cried, I won't tell...

Then we had a movie marathon night as book club ladies and watched the miniseries, which was also just delightful.

Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith, was another stellar book, though it was probably R-rated. But it was just so good, and again, it was one my husband and I found to read out loud and really enjoyed. During that book, we looked forward to bedtime like never before, and scrambled to get the kids down and go relax and read together.

The story is a police procedural-type mystery set in 1980's Russia, and it was really hard to put it down and go to sleep when every chapter felt like a cliff-hanger. The main character is well-drawn and intriguing, and both S. and I have now read the next two books in the same series, though not out loud. There are 3 or 4 more with that main character, and I plan to get through all of them eventually -- though it's good to take breaks between such intense books.

Post Captain, by Patrick O'Brian, is another book that's part of a large series; in this case it's book #2 of the Aubrey & Maturin epic, which runs to 21 volumes. It's basically my husband's favorite series and author in the entire world (closely followed by Elmore Leonard), and he's wanted me to read some for years.

I tried a time or two but couldn't get into it, though we read #3 (H.M.S. Surprise) out loud ten years ago, not long after the movie Master and Commander, and I found it all right with his company helping me enjoy it. I didn't take up the series on my own, however.

But it seems that for some reason, this author's style and flow is much better when spoken aloud with your favorite person, because I thought this recent book was so interesting and funny. We laughed out loud often and heartily, and still can make each other instantly smile with inside-joke quotes from the story.

This particular volume is set mostly on land, though it's a naval series, and S. likes to describe it as Jane Austen-esque in its attention to dialogue. All the naval officers (Napoleonic era) who are so comfortable commanding a ship, braving the seaman's life of danger and uncertainty, are completely out of their element when 'peace breaks out' and they're subject to a gauntlet of debt-collectors and ladies in upper-class drawing rooms. Though of course, there are still great sea battles in the story to round things out as needed.

I won't go into intense detail on the rest of the books I might recommend from my 2015 list, but here are a few more, both fiction and nonfiction.


Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal -- A lightly magicalized version of Pride and Prejudice.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple -- A funny send-up of suburban mommyhood, with a little bit of a mystery woven in.
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr -- A surprisingly good addition to the WWII historical fiction genre, this book has won so many literary prizes that it can be quite a wait to get it from the library. Worth the wait.

Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order, by Steven Strogatz -- This went right along with some of the online courses I've taken in chaos theory and dynamical systems, but even aside from that, a good and interesting layman's read as well.
The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law, by Ward Farnsworth -- We had to get this one on interlibrary loan, but my husband and I both found it very clear and insightful. (And he's already a lawyer!)
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert -- This was fascinating and eye-opening, and I found myself talking about it and thinking about it a lot in other contexts while I was reading it.

Oddly, I only read one food-related book in 2015 (if you don't count cookbooks) -- The Third Plate, by Dan Barber. I only rated it 3 stars at the time and felt like it was a little too, I don't know, esoteric and on the fringes of what average citizens like myself could care about. But then throughout the rest of the year (I read it in January), I kept seeing news and ideas and farm philosophies (as I got my new job at the farm) that went right back to a lot of what he had written. So it turns out the book had more relevance than I expected, and I'd say it's a decent pick to read.

Enjoy!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Artisan Breads

I've still been experimenting tons with various fancy-shmancy artisan loaves. Today I baked a batch of white-with-poolish. 

I know, what a name, I had been procrastinating trying it because I almost felt embarrassed to be working with something so strange- and foreign-sounding. But it turned out fine, though I still prefer the richer flavors of real sourdough levain. My kids, however, love what we're starting to refer to as 'restaurant' bread.

Here are a picture or two. To go with all the soup this week.


This was the poolish bread. If you look closely in the holes, you'll see the glossy crumb of a long-risen, well-fermented loaf.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Menus -- Soup Season!

We finally got our first snowfall, with more on the way, so we've been enjoying hot cocoa, slippers, and our long weekend to hibernate. Also, soup.

Monday: Asian chicken salad, tapioca (the most amazingly creamy homemade, large-pearl batch we've ever made)
Tuesday: Caldo verde, beets
Wednesday: Mulligatawny
Thursday: Sesame noodles
Friday: Corn chowder
Saturday: Chef's salad
Sunday: Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Menus

Monday: Split pea soup, beets
Tuesday: Carrot soup, bread
Wednesday: Tuna melts, tomato soup
Thursday: Dhal makhani
Friday: Spaghetti carbonara, garlicky green beans (this has been one of our favorite menu items lately)
Saturday: Taco salad
Sunday: The usual pancakes

Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday Menus

Monday: Crispy pan potatoes-and-turnips, salad
Tuesday: Tostadas
Wednesday: Salmon burgers, cooked carrots
Thursday: Asian chicken salad
Friday: Pizza, frozen veggies
Saturday: Minestrone
Sunday: Pancakes, etc.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday Menus

Monday: Rice, frozen broccoli/carrot mix
Tuesday: Ham and Swiss quiche, salad
Wednesday: Frijoles and cornbread
Thursday (New Year's Eve!): Wassail, bacon-wrapped chestnuts, fruit and veggie trays, tapioca pudding, chips and dip
Friday: Niçoise salad
Saturday: Grilled cheese sandwiches, green beans
Sunday: Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday Menus

Monday: Pan-fried potatoes, corn
Tuesday: Tuna-rice casserole, green beans
Wednesday: Pasta with pesto, savory squash
Thursday (Christmas Eve): Shepherd's pottage
Friday (Christmas Day!): Sausage and pannetone for breakfast;
Ham, salad, roasted Brussels sprouts, salt-boiled potatoes and rich tomato soup for dinner;
Risalamande as dessert
Saturday: Chef's salad
Sunday: Pancakes, etc.


On a humorous note, I recently read an article (here) bemoaning the fact that our modern gourmet expectations are rarely compatible with actual available home cooking time. In particular, I loved this statement: 
"Before [promises of ease in the kitchen took hold in the 1940s and 50s], books about cooking largely admitted what every homemaker knew to be true: that feeding people was backbreaking work, and then you died."

Merry Christmas and happy cooking!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Monday Menus

Monday: Stir-fry
Tuesday: Pasta with pesto, carrots
Wednesday: Soup baked in a whole pumpkin
Thursday: Bean soup, biscuits
Friday: Popeye's Chicken for everyone! It's our family's 'Birthday' (our 17th anniversary)
Saturday: Tuna-noodle
Sunday: The Usual

Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Menus

Though we didn't provide the turkey for this year's Thanksgiving, the other ladies let me take the carcass home to get the stock out of it. (Both other families we dined with have pretty tiny new babies and didn't think they'd get around to it.) So I'm currently in the process of divvying up some of the finished broth to share with them, but am also gratefully looking forward to a deep and warming soup tonight. 

Monday: Turkey-rice soup, baked sweet potatoes
Tuesday: Pumpkin mac n' cheese
Wednesday: Chili, cornbread
Thursday: Barley salad
Friday: Lasagna, green beans
Saturday: Niçoise salad
Sunday: The Usual

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Breakfasts

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

Muffins

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.







Menus

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

Menus

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

Menus

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