Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recipe reviews

Thus far, we've made three of this week's recipes.

Reviews, as promised:
  • Chard and Swiss Cheese Strata
    • Changes: Subbed chard for the spinach, used Swiss instead of Gruyere, added in tomatoes, skimped on eggs a bit (we only had seven—I need chickens!!), and used a mix of (many) day-old bread. 
    • Comments: Everyone liked it well enough to eat it, but it wasn't magical. Also, needed to cook for a long time, but that's probably because the liquid-to-egg quotient was higher than in the original recipe.
    • Overall rating: 3 out of 5
  •  Pasta with Butternut Squash and Parmesan Sauce
    • Changes: I wouldn't roast the butternut squash; instead I'd just peel it, chop it, steam it like I usually do. The roasting was a PITA and didn't add anything. I'd sub balsamic for the lemon juice. Truthfully, I think I'd just pass on the recipe.
    • Comments: Nora more or less refused this dish. She even spat out a few bites, and she's not a dainty eater. I thought it was bleh, Greg thought it was "pretty good for squash," and Sidamo ate it with a moderate degree of enthusiasm.
    • Overall rating: 2 out of 5
  • Vegetarian Pot Pie
    • Changes: Upped the carrots, potatoes, and shrooms, but not the fennel. Chopped everything pretty finely (including the shrooms, excluding the potatoes) to make it more kid-friendly. Seasoned with thyme. After sauteing everything, added a bit of Marsala and cooked it down. Skipped the vinegar. Used this pie crust recipe instead of the puff pastry (skipped the sugar and subbed in some whole-wheat flour).
    • Comments: Huge hit. I doubled it and gave half to a friend who had a baby an embarrassingly long time ago (I swear, I meant to bring a meal two months ago!), so we'll have to see if she concurs, but in this household it was loved and devoured.
    • Overall rating: 4 out of 5
I'm hoping for good things from the gigantes (which will actually be Great Northern beans, since apparently gigantes exist only on the coasts) and sweet potatoes. Oh, and if you have any suggestions on what to do with the remaining 15/16ths of a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, please pass them along.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Menu planning

I'm living dangerously these days. My gas light went on two days ago, and I haven't filled up (granted, I've driven approximately 3 miles since then, but still). And my fridge is just about barren, save for a dozen eggs, a bunch of scallions, and half a stick of butter. The snack drawer has nothing in it but popping corn. The pantry has about half a million jars of canned goods, but I can't bring myself to break into them yet. The garden is still providing a couple of things (butternut squash, chard, and beets), and I have many pounds of green tomatoes ripening in boxes around the house. All good foods, but hard to eek a dinner out of them.

I hate to do it, but I think I'm actually going to have to go grocery shopping. And so I'm menu-planning. Here's what's on the lineup, and I'll try to post reviews after it's all been made:

Okay, so that's not a full week's worth, but it's a start!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thank you

Thanks to everyone for the support and kind words (and to one someone in particular for the cookies). It means the world.

Sidamo is doing great. We've been spending a lot of time indoors to prevent further head injury, and that has led to a rediscovery of train tracks. We've also done some more painting (really, why do I bother giving Nora paper?), reading, and a bit of driving each other crazy, just for good measure.

The weather is absolutely gorgeous, and he'd much rather be outside tackling his friends and doing other unsafe things than staying cooped up in the house. Which, I presume, is what led him and his friend to SNEAK OUT OF THE BACKYARD and go to the neighbor's house to ride scooters yesterday. He got seriously mad at me when I had to physically remove him from the scooter and, of course, lecture him about not leaving the house or yard without notifying an adult. I (and the whole neighborhood) heard an awful lot about what a "not nice mommy" I am, which, to be honest, made it a little difficult to stick to my "be a nice mommy" resolution from the other day.

Here's hoping that the weather holds through Thursday, which is when he's allowed to get back to his normal activities. And here's hoping our patience with each other holds through then as well.

Thanks again for all the love!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


If: Your employer (or, in this case, your husband's employer) switches from pretty awesome health coverage to a plan with a multi-thousand dollar deductible

Then: You will, two weeks later, ride in an ambulance for the very first time in your life.

If: You have your only can't-miss meeting of the month, coinciding with your husband's only meeting of the day

Then: Your child's school will be trying desperately to get in touch with you to tell you that he needs his parents.

If: One evening, you tell your husband you wish you could have a single minute of quiet from your very, very talkative kiddo

Then: You will, the very next day, spend six hours in the emergency room begging that child to say something—anything—to let you know he's okay.

Sidamo suffered a pretty severe concussion at school today. He and another boy were running and chasing the same ball. Sidamo dove for it and hit a brick wall with his forehead. His teacher (who is incredible—she came to the emergency room, in tears, to check on him) said she heard the most horrible sound and turned to see Sidamo on the ground. He got up, cried, asked for ice, and seemed coherent for a while. Still, she took him up to the office for attention, and for a call to mommy and daddy (neither of whom answered; see above). While he was there, he went from being a bit dazed to being completely unresponsive. When he started vomiting, they called the ambulance.

I got off my conference call and saw I had missed four calls—including one from Grandpa, who is one of our emergency contacts. I listened to the voicemail and heard "Sidamo … head injury" and raced out of the house as fast as I could. Luckily we live less than a mile from school, because I was able to hop into the ambulance before it took off.

Poor Sidamo was completely out of it when I got to him. He was in a neck brace, strapped to a stretcher. He could barely keep his eyes open, and he was slurring his very limited speech. He looked awful, and I was terrified. The paramedic told me his concern level was only a 4 out of 10, and that was why they weren't turning on the sirens and lights. About 5 minutes into the ride, Sidamo started vomiting again—and profusely. The concern level rose; sirens went on, and we blazed to the hospital.

Greg met us there. Sidamo had a CT scan, and we sat and waited. And waited. And watched. Sidamo remained unresponsive, sleepy, and miserable. He vomited some more. In my gut I felt like he'd be okay, but then I had these terrible thoughts about long-term brain damage. He was just so not himself. If you know Sidamo, you know his smile, his verve, his light. None of that was there. He was a shell. For six hours. And I worried, at least for a little while, that he mightn't come back.

Praise Jesus, Allah, the universe, or whomever: The light returned. By late afternoon, we had the scan results and everything looked good. I left to get Nora, and Greg waited by Sidamo's bedside. While I was gone, Damo perked up, drank two Gatorades, took a little walk, and watched SpongeBob. By the time I got back to the hospital, he was demanding food, making jokes, and negotiating for screen time for the coming week (which he'll spend under very close supervision, and, probably, helmeted).

Any parent who has ever been through a scare with a child knows that it shakes you to your core. It's exhausting and terrifying and awful in ways I certainly couldn't have imagined before having kids. But it also was a huge reminder to celebrate the beautiful children we've been blessed with. They are such fantastic, lovely, vibrant individuals, and we GET to be their parents. How freaking lucky are we? So yes, they talk. A lot. And yes, sometimes I long for a single minute of peace. But after being confronted with a silenced Damo for a frighteningly long time today, I'm making a commitment to enjoy and celebrate the vibrant (and noisy, and inquisitive, and mildly demanding) light that he is.

God, I love this kid.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rainy day

It's so rare that we have a rainy day here that it took some effort to dig out raingear for everyone—and there was some relief to discover that we actually do own raincoats for both kids (hooray for hand-me-downs).

Nora looked at her raincoat as a total novelty and asked repeatedly, "What's this thing called, Mommy?" She asked the same thing about her tights: "These are like socks? But they also are like pants?"

Every so often I think I'd like to move to a lusher climate (usually when I'm experiencing garden or ocean envy). But it just takes one gloomy day like this to remind me how much I love our 300+ days of sunshine a year.

Unfortunately it looks like this rain might bring with it the season's first frost, so I'm frantically scouring garden websites to determine what needs to be pulled from the vine today and what can stay. The tomatoes and peppers are coming in, but I'm not sure about the beans, which I've been leaving on to dry. Feel free to weigh in.

Damoisms, version 4.8

First his words, followed by his definitions of them (yes, these are direct quotes):

Shookalax = Making bad choices

Shaboodles = Another way of saying shookalax. It's just a figure of speech.

Channering = Eating (editor's note: this applies specifically to computer games, though he's now claiming he sometimes channers his dinner, too.)

Trucking = That means just hanging out. 

Pumice = You'll have to ask Julian; he knows. (So does the editor: It means to pummel. Not knowing what it means didn't stop Sidamo from saying it approximately 534 times yesterday.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Favorite Tomato Sauce

Since Christina's request a few weeks ago, I've been thinking I'd document the making of my favorite tomato sauce. Unfortunately, I've come to grips with the fact that no camera is safe in a kitchen where the cook is already hanging on by a thread. So while pictures of the process would likely make you drool into your keyboard (or shriek in horror at the calamity in my kitchen), I'll instead have to offer a text-only version if I ever hope to fulfill Christina's dreams. This is a very simple, versatile, light sauce. Just the way I like it.


Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes or the equivalent of fresh, peeled, seeded tomatoes (Note: It's very important to use the best tomatoes you can get—the fancy, expensive Italian brands are worth every penny. And as a subnote, if you've ever grown and canned tomatoes, you'll realize the good ones are actually worth about five times what we grudgingly pay for them.)
1 can or 2 cups veggie broth
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste
Fresh basil, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In an oven-proof pot that has a lid, saute onions in olive until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two more.
  3. Add tomatoes, broth, and bay leaves and bring to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced by about a third, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cover the pot and bake for 30–45 minutes, or until the sauce is chunky and delicious and begging to coat your pasta. That's not a euphemism.
  5. Salt to taste and stir in chopped basil.
As you can see in the photo above, I've canned this sauce (with the addition of citric acid). I think it's OK since it's not such a huge variation from canning expert–approved sauce recipes, but if it gives you botulism please don't sue me.

Very Hungry Caterpillar

Our neighbors recently brought over a box of handed-down books, and in the stack were two tattered copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, bringing the total TVHC population in our house to three. In the past couple of weeks, these three books (among the approximately 1,875,323 books we own) have become Nora's constant companions. She brings at least two of them with her just about everywhere. When we finish reading one, she says, "Umm … This book next," and hands us another copy.

It's almost like she's a little obsessed or something.

Here's a video of her reading the book. Apologies for the unfortunate camera angle. I was trying to be sly, since she clams up when she knows she's being recorded, and I didn't consider the whole squatting-in-a-dress factor.