Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Queen of Collards

I feel like I've Discovered Greens this fall.  We've been eating out of our garden for eight years now, but I don't think I've ever fully appreciated the potential for cooked greens.  They are so scrumptious and satisfying.  And so wonderfully cold-hardy.  When nothing else is left, there's always kale.

We are having an elongated autumn this year - it has been lovely. (And unusual.) (I've realized that I wish it was like this every year.)  There hasn't been a hard freeze yet, so the cruciferous vegetables are still going strong: collards, three kinds of kale, red and green cabbages, broccoli, and parsley too.  We would have probably had celery too, if I hadn't harvested it all in preparation for a cold snap.

I feel like I just can't get enough of kale and collards. How have I not flipped for them before?

Here's my favorite dish thus far.

Sauteed Greens and Squash

1 large onion, sliced
A couple of dollops of fat (goose, chicken, lard, tallow, etc.)
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
Half of a cooked, dry squash
A giant basket (or stack) of kale or collards
1 cup stock or dry, white wine
Salt & pepper to taste

:: Slice the onion and start sauteing in the fat of your choice in a cast-iron dutch oven
:: Don't bother de-stemming your greens - just chop and add the stem part first
:: Roll the greens cigar-fashion and cut into swaths, then chop the sections into smaller pieces
:: Add greens, mixing to stir with the onion
:: Add the stock or wine, then cover to allow the greens to steam
:: Meanwhile, chop the cooked squash and add it to the pot
:: Lastly, smash and mince the garlic and add it to the pot
:: Stir periodically and let simmer for 10-15 minutes

It is also very good with a grating of nutmeg added in.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Quick peek

Our Little Guys: Eliah and Jamie 
They were watching the heating guy check out the furnace.
I love their sweet faces and Jamie peeking out from behind Mama's apron.
The furnace had stopped working from the chicken bones
Diego had inserted into the venting system "two years ago".
Good grief.  Thankfully, everything panned out just fine.

Truen turned eight the week before last.
He had a whole day of special meals, snacks, and desserts planned out --
He was very excited about his special day.
His favorite present from Da? Snap Circuits. Obsessed.

And finally, Diego's recently-invented pose for pictures --
This is what most snaps look like these days.
 In this case, he was dressed up to play "the old man" 
in a musical production of an old Chinese folktale
with our homeschool co-op: Tikki Tikki Tembo

Monday, October 26, 2015

Jamie's babe

Last week the younger two went through a day-long "doll phase", where they were exceedingly pleased by carting around their own little baby dolls and fussing over them.

I realized that Jamie, out of all the boys, has played with dolls the least.  He has never cared for his own little "baby" before.  Diego tended his Baby Air-Pump and Truen had Baby Lamby.  And Eliah has his little Tiny Baby that he is so pleased with.

(Though I should remember, Jamie has snuggled and tended to real babies outside of the family more than any of his brudders.) (And very tenderly I might add.) (Conversely, let us also not forget his "Attack Baby" phase between the ages of 12-24 months when he assailed any baby smaller than him.) (I had to hover to protect any babies within range.)

So there the Littles were, tending their babies.  Jamie had to change untold poop diapers and Eliah was so proud to carry his baby around and snuggle it.  It was such a novelty that I took pictures and helped make little diapers and outfits for each of their babies.

By afternoon, Jamie started wrestling with his doll (a freaky-looking old one of mine, totally bald, with plastic arms and a big plastic head).  Wrestling turned into brawling and brawling turned into a full-out assault on the doll, who was pinned down and pummeled.  He was absolutely beating it up.  With deluxe sound effects.

Not too long after that, he was holding it by the arm and leg and pretending it was an underwater bazooka, shooting big missiles across the room, spittle flying out of his mouth with the force of the sound effects.

I tell you.  Nature vs. Nurture?  I just don't see any way around it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Year 4

I'm still getting up early each morning, though the time has settled in right around 5:00 AM.  I realize that I needed to get up at 4:30 AM for a couple of weeks to decompress, but find that I am satisfied with a little later time.  It feels right.

We started school last week and it is going really well.  Adding Circle Time was Phase I.  This is when we sing, recite our motto and poetry, and do some reading aloud.  It is right after breakfast, lasts about a half-hour, and the boys get 20 minutes of free-time afterward.

This week is Phase II.  After their short break, we recommence with Morning Lessons at the table.  Copywork and Math.  I am using MEP Math, our first time delving into a math curriculum.  We are on Lesson 5 and so far, so wonderful.  I am exceedingly pleased.  I knew they were ready for it and both boys seem intrigued and excited.  Me too.

Phase III will be adding in Phonics and Reading Practice.  I'm not quite sure where to add this in, as they are ready for a break again by the time we are done with Math.  I am taking my time to get a feel for our new routine.

Phase IV is going to be doing a larger household chore.  They already do their Morning Chores (empty dishwasher, cat litters, clear the table, load the dishwasher, sweep), but I want to add some household maintenance to their daily routine.  They fold laundry on Mondays and clean the bathroom on Fridays, so I'm thinking that vacuuming various rooms Tuesday through Thursday will fit the bill.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The beautiful crook neck squash and her cousins

I've been learning all kinds of interesting things in the kitchen this past year, but the biggest accomplishment is broadening my abilities in making meat stretch.  I regularly feeds all six of us with one pound of ground meat, which is a great relief to our budget and a good way to make our beef half last most of the year.  Most of the year.

The key is using the right kind of additions to make it virtually undetectable and my favorite vegetable to do this with is summer squash.  The humble zucchini. And his other favorite cousin, the lovely crook neck squash.

I remember a woman in years' past almost-squealing about her love for zucchini while expounding on her garden, how hard it was to wait for it every season.  I didn't quite understand it, as I hadn't explored zucchini much at that point, but man . . . now I get it.

I just used it this morning with sausage.  I salted two medium zucchini and let it sit a bit, squeezed out the water, added a pound of ground sausage with my own seasoning, grated a couple of apples in with it, and we had EIGHT sausage patties for breakfast instead of last weekend's six when I had used only the apple.

[Incidentally, I am also frying apples in the fat left from the sausage with a sprinkling of whole sugar and serving it with breakfast.  Oh. my. goodness.  Why haven't I done this before??]

The sausage patties were delicious, moist, and there was room for a second helping for hungry little tummies.  A win-win all around.

Another way I've been using summer squash the last two summers is in taco meat.

Taco Salad (called "Haystacks" in my family growing up) is everyone's favorite meal at our house.  As our children are growing older, I bumped into the stark reality that a pound of meat just won't be enough for this meal anymore . . . until I added the magic ingredient.

Zucchini-laden Taco Salad Meat
  • 1-2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4-6 medium summer squash, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, etc.
:: Start with the onion - chop and add to the skillet with a dollop of lard
:: Then chop and add the zucchini in bite-sized pieces
:: When everything is melty and sweet, add the ground beef in good-sized pinches
:: Cook the meat with the vegetables, stirring and moving around the mixture until nicely browned
:: Add the seasonings and let cook, stirring now and then, until it looks right
:: Add the garlic and let cook another couple of minutes

It is delicious, I'm telling you.  It is also a great filling for stuffed peppers topped with red onion marmalade.

What makes zucchini so amazing is its ability to suck up all the flavors around it, which makes it perfect in meaty dishes.  It isn't bland, it is juicy and flavorful and meaty.  And fried zucchini?  After it has been salted and squeezed out?  Almost as amazing as hash browns.

We had SIX summer squash plants in the garden this summer and we have eaten or I have chopped (or shredded or sliced) and dried every last one.  So, it's official.  Zucchini is my second favorite vegetable, in a head-to-head competition with the amazing cabbage.

I'm already sad about missing it this winter.  No fresh zucchini??

Monday, September 28, 2015


I've been working in the kitchen this morning and putting together split pea soup.  The boys are right with me, playing peacefully with giant mounds of playdough at the kitchen table. 

Some of concepts they've tossed around --
  • The rainy season
  • Lakes drying up
  • People groups moving in and out
  • Top predators
  • Carcasses
It is so interesting to hear their schooling come out in their play.  I love that so much, seeing the fruit of my labor and the blossoming of their little minds.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Group shot

I love these pictures . . . the colors, all of us together, Blaine's beautiful hair, Truen's sweet face, Jamie and Eliah's little poses, Diego's quickly-disappearing little boy years.  My grandma took them with her iPad, so they're a little blurry.  But sweet nonetheless.

We were in Wisconsin last weekend to visit my grandparents, see my cousin's new baby, attend Blaine's grandpa's 100th birthday celebration, and spend time with my SIL and the cousins.  It was a 4-day weekend and very nice to spend time together away from the onslaught. We definitely enjoyed ourselves. 'Twas good.