Tuesday, July 31, 2012

blueberry torn-biscuit cobbler

We had a fantastic supper the other night.

At least I thought it was fantastic. I had almost a much fun making it as I did eating it. Maybe more.

It was four curses long:

1. Sliced radishes with butter to spread on top and coarse salt to sprinkle them with. And tomato slices with dollops of cucumber mint salad on top (mayo, capers, mustard, red onion, vinegar, mint, cucumbers, S&P).

2. Grilled zucchinis that were then relaxed in a lemon-olive oil-basil dressing.

3. Spaghetti tossed with Pumpkin Seed Pesto and fresh Parmesan.

4. Bubbling hot blueberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.


I did not plan this menu. I started thinking about supper a little before 4 pm, and it came together as I went along.


This cobbler is just a butter-and-sour cream rich biscuit dough that gets torn over a panfull of sugared, lemon-spiked blueberries. We feasted till we about popped.

And then my parents stopped by and I dished some cobbler into little ramekins for them.


My mother approved of the topping. She liked that it was so crunchy.

By the end of the evening, this was all that was left.


I put it into a little ramekin and ate it the next day, hunched over the counter, my back to the children.

And it was wonderful.


Blueberry Torn-Biscuit Cobbler
Adapted (but not much) from the August 2012 issue of Bon Appetit magazine

Next time, for more texture and flavor, I may swap out some of the flour for some oats or the multigrain mix.

1 ½ cups flour, plus 3 tablespoons
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
½ slightly heaping cup sour cream
6 cups blueberries
juice and zest of one lemon

In a large bowl, toss together the blueberries with the one cup of sugar, the three tablespoons of flour, and the lemon zest and juice. Tumble it all into a 9x13 baking dish.

In another large bowl, combine the remaining flour, baking powder, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, cut in the butter. Stir in the sour cream. Knead very briefly, just till it comes together. Tear the biscuit dough into bits and scatter it over the berries.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling merrily.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

***

In case you are under the impression that all my meals are seasoned, balanced, and finished off with a noteworthy dessert, allow me to set the record straight:

1. I can't cook hamburgers. The other night I tried, once again, to make a good burger, but I made the patties too thick (about an inch instead of a half inch) (my carpenter husband was appalled that his wife could be so measurementally challenged) and they were raw on the inside. We threw them back on the grill (all except for my youngest son's burger—apparently he likes to hear his supper moo), and they turned out yummy, but by then it was far too late for any possible cooking goddess glory.

Also, I bought American cheese (oh yes, I did) to top the burgers and made McDonald's special sauce to go on them. And we had Pringles and mushy watermelon.

2. And then another night we ate eggs and toast and everyone was still hungry when we finished.

Monday, July 30, 2012

the quotidian (7.30.12)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace 


Bits of a supper.

 

Rain drenched: lately, so many storms!
 


Beans, beans, beans!
 


Making more of my new favorite pesto (and taking pictures this time).
 


The pesto: it's good on pretzels, did you know?
 


Boys and sticks, a classic combination.
 


Lugging in yet another load: anybody want some?

 

Corn! It's what's for supper (again and again and again).



Leftover mortar: from a chimney repair.



Stocking the newly-built bookshelves.
 


When the wind blows, the kids panic.
They huddle by the door with all their blankets
and beg me to take them to the basement.
(To be fair, there was a tornado warning.)
 


Afternoon snooze (with his tooth fairy present close at hand):
he was scared of the wind and wanted to be with me,
but I didn't want to be with him,
so we compromised and he took his rest time in the hall.
Which, in retrospect, is kind of pathetic.
 


Napping: he claims that he can't snooze laying down. 

This same time, years previous: shrimp, mango, and avocado salad, experimentingsummertime pizza

Saturday, July 28, 2012

the boy and the bike ride

The boy wanted to ride his bike into town, but his mother and father were a little hesitant. It was a long ride—eleven miles—and much of it was on a four-lane road.

“You need to ride it with an adult a couple times first,” they said.

So over the course of a few months, the boy rode to (or from) town with a good friend from church who happens to love biking.

Gradually, the boy’s parents warmed to the idea of him riding the route by himself. The boy was a big kid, and he looked older than his age. He was certainly strong enough to do the ride. Also, he had a fairly level head, though as is the case with most boys, he was inclined to do stupid things on occasion.

“Shouldn’t he have a cell phone with him?” the boy’s father wondered.

“Nah,” the mother said. “If he gets a flat or crashes, he can flag down a car or knock on some door. It’s not like he’ll be in the middle of nowhere. And,” she added, “if he crashes and dies, well then, in that case he wouldn’t be able to call us anyway.”

“Did you really just say that?” the father gasped in (only semi) mock horror. “I can’t believe you just said that!”

The truth was, the mother was pretty nervous about the boy riding his bike while cars sailed past him at 60 miles per hour. One little mishap and the unthinkable could happen—

So she didn’t think about it.

Despite her cool-headed logic, when the first opportunity came for the boy to have a non-adult accompanied ride, the mother said no.

The boy had been spending the night at his friend’s house in town, and just before bed, the friend called the mother. “Is it okay if we ride bike out to your house tomorrow?” And then he launched into a carefully thought-out recitation of all the pros and cons.

But the mother politely explained she’d rather an adult accompany the friend on the first long ride,  not her son, a peer. And then they hung up.

“Why did you say no?” the father said.

“Huh?” the mother said, incredulously. “You think I ought to have said yes?”

“The boys are both good riders, and level-headed. I think they could do it.”

So the mother called back and said yes.

The mother was in town to see them off (she had to pick up her other children from their swimming lessons), and she lectured them heartily on road etiquette. “Ride in single file at all times. Keep your heads up. Don’t do anything stupid. No goofing around at all BECAUSE IF YOU DO YOU COULD DIE! And remember, drivers are stupid so assume they can't see you."

"Does that mean we can ride all over the road?" The boy's eyes twinkled.

"NO!" the mother roared.

And then she finished her death-and-doom speech with a cheery, “Have fun!” and sped off in the van.

An hour later, the boys called home (on the friend's mom's cell phone). “We’re almost there but we’re stopping to take a break before the long uphill stretch and didn’t want you to worry.”

And then they were home, glowing from pride and sweat, exhausted and elated.






The end.

Afterword
The boys reported that when they had stopped for that breather, a kind man came out of his house and offered them cold drinks. They said no, they had water with them and had to be getting home soon. The man offered to transport them in his pick-up if they were too tired to make it. They said thanks, but no, they were almost home.

Some people might freak out over this exchange—stranger danger! eep! eep! eep!—but the mother found it quite reassuring. It reinforced her belief that the world was full of good people (at least one, anyway), and it showed her that the boys weren’t flighty little whippersnappers, eager to dash off with any random person who treated them nicely.

This same time, years previous: blackberries and Glee, Indian pilaf of rice and split peas

Friday, July 27, 2012

the girl and her friend

One afternoon, the girl and her friend went out to the barn to play. They were gone for several hours before the mother noticed that it had been quiet for an exceptionally long time. So she went out to investigate.


Even before she reached the barn, she could hear the friend’s voice droning on and on. She followed the sound and discovered the girls nestled down into the passageway between the two barns—outside the new barn and inside the old barn. The friend was reading a chapter book about dragons.


“Is she making you read to her again?” the mother asked the friend.

“It’s okay,” the friend assured her. “It’s a good book.”


And the mother’s heart swelled with gratitude for the sweet friend who never once made the girl feel Less Than simply because she couldn’t read as well.


The end.

This same time, years previous: a July evening

Thursday, July 26, 2012

the girl and the tea party

The girl’s mother had been so busy with applesauce and cucumbers and green beans that she had mostly been ignoring the girl. So one summer evening the girl decided to surprise her mother with a tea party.

She got all the wine bottles out of the fridge and lined them up on the table. She filled an old glass bottle with water and stuck a cork in it. She got two wine glasses out of the cupboard. She got the pan of leftover gingerbread and set it on the table, too. And then she showed her mother.

The mother paused for a minute, thinking (and internally sighing, just a bit), and then said, “There’s whipped cream in the fridge,” and she poured herself a glass of wine and sat down.


They ate their cake and sipped their drinks. The mother asked the girl what the best part of her day had been and the girl asked the mother what the best part of her day had been.


They chattered about This and That, and all was most pleasant. But then, as she is wont to do, the girl announced she didn’t want to take her allergy medicine anymore and the mother said she still had to, and of course the girl squawked and moaned most dramatically.


But then she mostly got over it and they cleared their dishes and went out onto the porch to snap the green beans.


The end.

This same time, years previous: classic bran muffins, banana bran muffins, spicy Indian potatoes, blackberry cobbler

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

the boy and the tooth

The boy had a couple of loose teeth. Maybe even three. He begged his mother to pull them, but it gave his mother The Queasies to even think about tugging out a still fairly-firmly attached tooth.

But the boy was persistent.

So the mother compromised. She said she would hit his tooth out with the telephone.

Oddly enough, the boy thought that was a great idea.

So the mother thwacked the tooth.


The method wasn’t very effective, however. Probably because they were both laughing so hard.

Over the next few days, the tooth grew looser as loose teeth are wont to do, until one morning at breakfast the boy exclaimed that he could lay the tooth down in all directions.

The mother, fed up with all the loose-tooth chatter, grabbed the dish cloth off the counter and said, “Fine, I’ll pull it. Open up.”

The first few tugs were tentative (The Queasies, though suppressed, were present), but finally she gripped the tooth and yanked hard. And out popped the tooth.


There was much cheering and high-fiving and only a bit of blood.


The boy's mother put the tooth in a mini tart pan and set it on the windowsill. It would go under the boy's pillow that night.
 
And just like that, the little boy was all grown up.


Amazing.

(Actually, the final picture was taken before the other two, so the order isn’t exactly honest. But the mother declares that the final picture illustrates exactly how she feels about the little boy. So in that regards, everything is truetrue.)

The end.

This same time, years previous: roasted corn with lime and feta

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

pumpkin seed pesto

Sometimes, writing feels like an insurmountably difficult task. I have the ideas and the thoughts in my head, and I know how the finished words ought to feel on the page, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to line the words up to get to where I want to go.

Bugger.

When I’m in this holding place, this dead zone (but with tons of ideas ricocheting around in my head), I feel depleted and empty, tense and anxious. So I tap out a few sentences before scrapping that project in favor of trying an altogether different story, and then, when that doesn't work either, skipping out on that one too and writing a blog post instead. Because writing a blog post is the equivalent of walking around in my underwear: relaxing, free, fun.

Notice I didn’t say “walking around naked.” I reserve that analogy for private journaling.

I’ve been doing a lot of stuff with food: reading about it, preserving it, cooking it, eating it. These days, I’m inspired in the kitchen, energized and productive. I’m having fun.

However, kitchen tasks extend into my evenings, that sacred time when I like to read or watch movies. Some nights, come 10 o’clock, I’m still standing at the sink blanching beans or washing up dishes. Mornings, my other sacred time (in other words, any time the kids are sleeping is considered sacred time), I find myself again in the kitchen, mixing up bread dough, pouring boiling water over the cucumbers, checking the seal on the latest batch of canning.


a mighty sea of sauce

And then, in the heat of the day, I end up in the garden picking more cucumbers, a few zucchinis, a tomato or two. I check on the basil, and, oh dear, it’s time to make more pesto.

Because pesto is awesome and you can never have too much of it. Can I get an amen?



Which reminds me. I have a new pesto recipe. A friend told me that she uses pumpkin seeds in place of nuts, so I tried it and loved it. The resulting pesto is just like normal pesto (no one will notice a difference if you don’t say anything) (also, I have no picture because it looks just like my other pesto recipes), but it has a deeper, nuttier flavor. I love it, and the last time I went to the grocery store, I bought two more bags of pumpkin seeds.

Basil baby, you are going DOWN.

Pumpkin Seed Pesto
With inspiration from Laurel

I no longer measure my pesto ingredients, but I’ll give it a go. Just to be accommodating.

2 packed cups basil leaves
½ cup salted pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 medium cloves garlic
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup olive oil

Blend up the first seven ingredients in the food processor. With the processor still running, pour the oil through the feed tube.

Eat pronto or freeze for later.

The end.

***

I just realized this wasn’t the post I wanted to write at all, but since it’s what came out when I sat down (and now the dog got sprayed by the skunk and the kids and my husband are melting down and I need to get a shower), I’m going to call it quits. Hopefully I’ll have a better writing day tomorrow.

This same time, years previous: mint chocolate birthday cake, limeade concentrate, brown sugar granola, Dutch puff

Monday, July 23, 2012

the quotidian (7.23.12)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace 


sweet pickles: starting another double batch today


bounty: these days, my counter is often cluttered with bowls of produce



apples waiting to be turned into sauce



trampoline visiting



she begged to take her rest time on the porch


pizza, also on the porch



what I'm reading now: I'm thinking I might buy it



supper up at The Property



rustic living: machete-hacked watermelon 



still making sparks: bigger and betters ones, too, now that he has a bigger flint




I refuse to be offended that she won't smile at me.



My green beans, on the other hand, go all out to be friendly with me.
(I did not doctor it up at all, promise.
This is exactly what it looked like when I pulled it out of the pile.)



huddling by the door during a rainstorm 

This same time, years previous: how to beat the heat, half-mast, a free-wheeling education, cucumber lemon water (I think I'll go make this now)

Friday, July 20, 2012

statements

My weather page has an “alert me when it rains” tab. I suppose I could click on it to sign up for their ground-breaking IT IS RAINING! announcements, but what, pray tell, happened to looking out the window?


***

Thunder storms are still rather traumatic experiences for my kids. The other day, while we were sitting at the table eating our lunch of fried potatoes and eggs and sausage, the wind picked up and the kids promptly froze, tense and watching.

“I saw a scar of lightening!” my daughter yelped.

That night we had more storms. I was reading to the kids when a boom of thunder caused me to involuntarily scream. Which is a really bad thing to do when your kids are borderline neurotic. So we all huddled even closer, some of the kids under blankets, and I continued to read, except that my kids kept interrupting to tell me things like, “It lightninged and my skin yanked!” and, “My tummy almost flew out!”

***

Upon hearing that his PA cousins were moving to TN, my older son said, “What? All our cousins are going to be extinct!”

***

At supper, I asked my husband, “What’s your biggest regret?”

“Marrying you!” the kids promptly chorused.

And then my older daughter piped up. “I know your biggest regret! Having us!”

Except she said “garet” instead of “regret” and we all busted up laughing.

***

A child’s no good, very bad day had deteriorated into a full-blown sob-and-bellow fest. Reasoning was pointless, so I sat down and took notes.

(While reading the following quotes, wail the phrases at the top of your lungs. You get bonus points for crocodile tears.)

(Also, keep in mind that this is a very small sampling. Yes, you may feel sorry for me.)

1. “You hardly ever feed me and every single day it gets hotter and hotter and that’s why I want to go to the swimming pool!”

2. “I only need one person in my family!” (“Who?” I asked.) “ME!” the child bellowed. “With two brothers and one sister, that’s complicated!”

3. “I’ve been waiting for so many things for my birthday which I’ll never ever get!”

4. “There are so many places that I’ve never gone to! Or that I’ve gone to and want to go back to!”

5. “I’m never able to do what I want and it’s no fair!”

***

And now, it's my turn to rant:

I have a beef with the library and it is this: when I, The Patron, mess up, I pay money. But when they, The Library, mess up, I still pay money.

THIS IS NOT RIGHT.

Recent scenario: I have a ton of books checked out and I faithfully call in to renew them because I certainly don’t want to risk getting smacked with a fine and each time that I call—and I do this for the maximum renewal times because we checked out half the library and it's taking us a long time to read them all—they tell me that the books have all been renewed and I believe them but then when I finally return (almost) all the books and arrive at the counter with the other half of the library's books, they say, Oops, it looks like one of the renewals, like, FOR AN ENTIRE CYCLE, didn’t actually go through and you owe us 24 dollars. This, my friends, is baaaaad.

There are other times when the library messes up and I-The-Patron get the brunt. Like the times (about 4-6 times each year) when they tell us that we have lost one of their books so we scour the house and turn the furniture upside down and reorganize the bookshelves and then I call them up and say in a wee small voice, Could you see if it’s maybe on the shelf? and a few seconds later the person comes back on the line and says, Yep, it’s right here, and I am half happy with relief and half mad with rage BECAUSE I HAD TO SUFFER THROUGH A FREAKIN’ BOOK TORNADO FOR NOTHING AND THEY DIDN'T EVEN APOLOGIZE!

Here's an idea. Maybe, in the cases when the library messes up, the patron could get an account credit, a we-are-sorry-we-falsely-accused-you-and-stressed-you-out-for-eight-days-and-so-at-15-cents-a-day-you-now-have-a-credit-for-1.20.  Wouldn’t that be nice?*

Or, maybe they could implement a tier system! Frequent patrons, the heaviest-and-most-faithful-users-of-books, could apply for a gold membership card (or some such snazzy thing) and its accompanying higher levels of grace, trust, and librarian-patron comradery.

Please note: I do not mind paying fines when they are mine. (I mean, I mind, but I’m a big girl and can take responsibility and learn from my mistakes and remember to renew my books on time in the future. Most times, anyway.)

Also, please note: perhaps these mess-ups are due to faulty computer systems? Perhaps all libraries struggle with this?

Then again, maybe there are some whiz libraries who have figured out how not to treat their patrons unfairly. Perhaps those libraries would be happy to share the enlightenment? Pretty please? With sugar on top?

Also, also, please note (i.e. PPS): Our library has some wonderfully friendly and helpful librarians, and for them I am grateful.

*My girlfriend’s brilliant idea, not mine.

***

One final note: the latest Kitchen Chronicles.

This same time, years previous: in my kitchen and barn, whole wheat zucchini bread (it's the best ever), homemade shampoo and conditioner, braised cabbage, salvation's chocolate chip cookies

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

a tale of two children

When my younger son visited the doctor for his potential tick-born illness, he had to have blood drawn. (The result were negative, but they want to do a redo in six weeks.) He sat on my lap for the procedure, and when it came time for the needle stick, he simply looked the other way. Not once did he move, not a flinch nor a whimper.

Afterwards, the nurses told me that they have a lot of kids come through there but they rarely see that sort of complete compliance and calm. They were impressed, they said.

I was tempted to feel proud, to think my son's behavior was because of something I had done, such as explained everything to him in detail, or acted matter-of-fact, or cuddled him on my lap while oozing lots of my exceptionally potent motherly charm.

But then I remembered my other child. You know, the one who kicks doctors. The one who didn’t get her teeth cleaned until she was seven years old because she refused to open her mouth. The one who cries and screams in rage, not only when a doctor’s appointment looms in the near (or distant) future, but also when we have to stop by the pharmacy for her meds.

I’m that child’s mother, too.

So instead of getting all I'm-such-an-awesome-mom-yay-me happy, I chuckled (but just inside, somewhere behind my sternum—you know the place), stomped down my pride puffs, and settled for basking in feelings of extreme gratefulness for the perspective-enhancing experience.


This same time, years previous: a birthday party, shrimp with coconut milk, the sex talk, alfredo sauce