Monday, October 25, 2010

It's all my fault

The snow is dropping in fat white flakes. I had hoped for another year where we dodged the white bullet until November but today I opened my big fat mouth & suggested that HM get on with getting the Christmas lights up since next time he's home it will surely be snowy. He got out the ladders and started laying out the lights but then we had to get to school to finish a project there and retrieve kids - and of course the flakes began to fall. So I officially apologize to all my Alaskan friends. It's all my fault.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chard in Lard

Tonight's supper was certainly not a Meatless Monday but, since we try to do our meatless meals on Wednesdays and Fridays I'm going to skip the side dish of guilt. That is what Lent is for...

The whole menu was roast lamb with garlic, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram; baked potatoes; roasted acorn squash; green salad; and chard in lard. If you are one of the dozen people who regularly read my blog, you may recall that I have something of a love affair with lard.

This is a super simple side dish, loaded with nutrients and flavor.

1 bundle of fresh organic red or rainbow chard
1 puck of lard (about 3/4 of a cup)
a clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced
a little butter to finish

wash and dry your chard, cutting off the biggest, woodiest pieces of stem then chopping it coarsely (I lay mine out on the cutting board all stacked up and hack it about every 2-2.5 inches)

melt your lard in a large skillet over medium flame. When the lard is melted, toss in the chard and let it cook until well wilted. Then add the garlic and salt. You want the garlic to cook but not burn. pop a pat of butter on top and serve hot.

Honestly, sometimes I make this just for me and eat the entire bundle. It's so, so good.

Gnocchi with Squash & Porcini

This is one of my "Failed to Plan" meatless favorites. Be warned: It takes advantage of a processed item- ready made gnocchi. As processed foods go, it certainly doesn't fall into the same category as something like Spaghetti-O's but it does come in a box and it does have a few iffy ingredients at the bottom of the list. One can make gnocchi from scratch and freeze them and, perhaps, on a day where I have an abundance of energy and the urge to be covered in flour I'll stock up on some. I've done it before and I love them but the work load and mess factor can get out of control. Maybe I should try again now that I don't feed 11 people every night and see if it's as bad as I recall.

All the kids love this, the squash hating husband even likes it. It's creamy and cheesy - what's not to love?

To feed 7:

3 boxes packaged gnocchi
1 bag frozen organic cubed butternut squash, thawed and drained
4-6 T butter
1/2 cup cream
3 T porcini powder
salt to taste
fresh sage
grated parmesano reggiano or grana padano cheese or some good raw cheddar

In a very large skillet, melt your butter and add the sage ( a leaf or two). Saute for a few minutes but don't brown the butter. Remove the sage.  Stir in the cream and porcini powder. Hold at a low heat.

Drop the gnocchi, a package at a time, into a pot of boiling salted water. When they float to the top, scoop them out with a strainer and let them drain for a second before adding them to the skillet and stirring gently, just to coat. Repeat with the other two packages. 

Add in the squash and stir gently to avoid turning the chunks into orange goo.  Check for seasoning and salt as needed. Top with grated cheese.

Serve with a big salad and a nice Reisling. As with nearly everything, the addition of pork products would be heavenly.

Linking to Laura's Meatless Monday

Hey What's For Dinner

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why yes, I have lost my mind. Did you find it?

So the secret is out- I'm a freak all the way across the board. Not only do I disdain the standard American diet and purposefully (happily!) drive a 27 year old car, now I'm advocating a radical plan financially. You thought "No corn syrup" was nutty, wait until you hear this one: "No mortgage".

Yep. None.

I hope to sell our over-sized, over-mortgaged  house in the spring and downsize radically into something we can afford to actually own, rather than rent from the bank until just before we die. The plan goes in phases: first  build a very small cabin on bare land (like 16 x 20) for cash. As soon as the house sells, move all of our belongings except for the bare minimum into storage and move us into the cabin for the summer. Take the equity from the house sale and build like crazy, knowing there will be another infusion of cash in early October. If it becomes obvious that we're not going to have the house done and habitable before Christmas, then we can move into a rental for the winter & continue to build the following summer.

Why would anyone want to do this to themselves? Simple answer: Freedom. Security. As an example to my kids.

Right now, HM works 14 days at a time. 3 days for the government, 1.5 days for insurance and 401K , and 5.5 days for the house payment. We only get to really live on 30% of his earnings. There's little I can do about the government or insurance parts but we can free ourselves from servitude to JP Morgan Chase. We can build something on a smaller, more human scale and similarly reduce our contribution to the borough's tax account. We can spend less to heat a smaller home, have fewer electrical gee-gaws to power, be free of neighborhood covenants restricting chickens, live closer to friends and church, and let boys and dogs romp freely with other boys and dogs. We can say 'yes' to things like trips outside, musical instruments, visits to Kodiak, h2Oasis, and museum memberships. A few years of hassle, hard work, and sacrifice will buy us 20+ years of freedom and limitless peace of mind - not to mention a retirement where my go-to cookbook isn't "101 Ways with Alpo".

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Friend Went to BlogHer Food and All I Got Was Some Floury Hair....

I'm not even making this up. Last night as I was about to walk out the door to pick up said friend, T2 started hollering about how we had no peanut butter and how he hates that nasty healthy other butter (almond- little weirdo). I was certain that I had a stash of peanut so I went into the pantry to look for it. And there it was! On the top shelf, behind something else and mostly being hidden/squashed by the self reproducing 5lb/18 cf bag of dried apples*.

So I- being the tallest person in my house- reach up to get the kid his peanut butter. In doing so, I bump another container to the right which sends a plastic canister containing 5 lbs of flour crashing down on my head. We all know the lid didn't hold..... So then I  had to vacuum up the flour and then I had to go take a shower and wash all the flour out of my hair. Twice because the minute it got wet, it turned into paste. Makes me think those no-grains people may have something of a point.

Once out the door, 15 minutes late, wet hair, socks that don't match, I zoomed over and picked her up in my awesome new retro ride and then we jetted into Anchorage for 'old lady painting'. No, I am not painting old ladies as either subject or canvas. I went to learn rosemaling, an art now practiced pretty much entirely by little old ladies. I was told to come empty handed and Laura tagged along for a ride to the airport after. I'd been to the place once before but I'd had children and a GPS with me and come in from another direction. Finding it was a touch spotty this time since I had no GPS and the road was closed & a giant backhoe sitting in front of the building.

"Old Lady Painting" was just that. Laura just barely prevented me from being the youngest person in the room by 20 years. If you discounted the one lady in her early 60s, I would put the average somewhere in the mid 70's. Was I any good? Yes! I did exactly what I was told and I was brilliant at it!!! A triumph, in fact. Unfortunately, what I was told was to sit and watch what she did. No brush entered my hand. Next week, I get to sniff the paints.

After watching intently, trying to avoid offensive political discussions, and giggling over Laura's shock at a septuagenarian casually dropping an F bomb, we popped over to the airport so that she could run away for a fantastic week in San Francisco at BlogHer Food. Great food, bags of swag, and she gets to speak on the panel about feeding children, stay in a hotel room without children, and go to fabulous cocktail parties and schmooze with Food Network stars. Yeah. I'm jealous.

By the time I stopped for bread and yogurt and got home, it was nearly midnight. Miss V was trying to be disgruntled but you could tell she was amused over the antics of her small brothers earlier: T1 chased her around the house, squirting her with water from what we refer to as "the snot sucker" to make it look like she wet her pants while she tried to talk to her boyfriend on the phone. Not wanting to be left out, T2 started just tossing water from a cup. I suspect the boyfriend was unfazed- he's one of 7 brothers.

Lessons learned yesterday:

1. Relocate the snot sucker to an undisclosed location
2. Do not keep flour on the top shelf of the pantry
3. I really want to go to BlogHer Food next year

* those apples: I bought a 5 lb bag of apples last march (dried apple rings). I've tried to use them but I swear they magically replace themselves. Every time I use some, the bag just returns to its previous size. I am never going to get through them all. Ever.