Wednesday, February 27, 2013

dirt cups and spring adventures! {rhythm of the home}

The spring edition of Rhythm of the Home is out today! I have two articles to share with you.



dirt cups: a recipe

The first is a recipe for dirt cups, a snack tradition (like with haystacks) I've been keeping up since my summer camp days.

spring adventures

The second is a list of spring adventures we love to experience again and again. I hope they inspire you to get outside and enjoy the thaw!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

{on the range} week 8: still winter

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."

Grandpa and Groovy Girls: a match made in heaven.

On the Range
February 19-25, 2013

Milestones
  • Charlie has had an ear infection, and it's tough to parse out which of the tantrums are pain-related, but the knowledge of how uncomfortable those can be keeps me (mostly) tolerant and patient with her.
  • Vivi has discovered fort-making; I'm kissing our half-organized living room pillows and couch cushions goodbye for the next five years.
My week...
  • I attended a wonderful birth this week! It was an all-nighter, so it's taken me a few days to feel back to normal.
  • Dad visited this weekend, and we had a great time together. Never long enough, but that's the price we pay for living so far away.

Moods
  • TIRED.
  • Grossed out. A few days ago I went to put a bag of garbage in the big can and noticed a large frozen clump of something unidentifiable in the bottom. Care to know what I did in case you should encounter such a thing in the Boston winter? I dumped out said clump, got out the shovel, and covered it with snow. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Ready for spring! Which is unfortunate because we're still an entire month away from the first crocus. Just when I think I can't take another day of winter, we get a pretty sunset that reminds me of the good part.

Meals

frugal living

Welcome to the February 2013 Simplicity Parenting Carnival: Finances
This post was written as part of the monthly Simplicity Parenting Carnival hosted by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM. This month we are discussing how we balance finances, family, and simplicity. Be sure to read to the end to see a list of the rest of the excellent carnival contributors.
***

When we bought our first Mac laptop seven years ago, it helped us in many areas of our lives. Perhaps the biggest way was that we started using Quicken. I smile when I ponder the pre-Quicken days of writing down every expense on a paper tablet, but that is one instance when I can say for sure I don't long for the Good Ol' Days.

Although Quicken did help us establish our first budget, it wasn't until we took on a frugal living challenge last year that we really began to analyze closely our needs versus our wants and attempt to make cuts to family spending. The frugal living challenge was a 23-day experiment in which we redefined "enough" and discussed the merit of each individual purchase we make on a regular basis.

We altered our lifestyles greatly after the challenge to be more frugal. For instance, we got rid of cable (for a year; we're back on cable now in our new house). One area that took lots of time and soul-searching to change was grocery-shopping. I realized in doing the challenge that so much of my coupon-clipping was to purchase items we didn't really need (e.g. toilet bowl cleaner can be made at home for pennies on the dollar!). Upon that realization, I decided once and for all to cut out coupons from our lives; I shared the results and my tips for shopping frugally without coupons on the blog.

 I have written several posts about living frugally, so if you're pondering how you can live more simply and within your means, come pull up a chair and learn from my foibles and follies on our path to frugal living:




How do you live frugally? What does frugal living mean to you?

***
Thanks for reading the Simplicity Parenting Blog Carnival! We hope you’ll take time to read these other great contributors’ posts (Note: Links will all be live by 3pm ET on February 26th): SimParCarButton150x150
  • Keeping Finances Simple - Becky at Crafty Garden Mama shares how using the Neat scanner, price books and setting a budget helps her family keep their finances simple.
  • Living Within Our Means - Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM discusses how her family attempts to simplify their financial life by not spending money they don't have.
  • A Confession: I'm a Cheapskate - Jade at Faith in the Shade confesses her frugal nature and shares the stresses of simplifying her budget in all areas of the home.. even the most hated- groceries.
  • frugal living - Justine at The Lone Home Ranger recaps how participating in a frugal living challenge last year changed the way she approached family spending.
Thanks to all the fabulous writers and readers for being a part of our simplicity parenting community! Stop by The Lone Home Ranger and S.A.H.M. i AM to see how to join us for a future carnival.


Editor's note: This post was shared with The Homestead Barn Hop.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

redfish pomodoro: the pro fisherman's choice

Learning to fish was one of my favorite childhood experiences. As when gardening and pulling fresh carrots out of the ground, it is truly amazing as a child to pull a fish out of the water and know that you caught it yourself. My own experience and memory of it was enhanced by being taught by the best, my Uncle Ronnie, who just so happened to be a professional fly fisherman.

If you go to my Uncle Ronnie's house, you'll leave with a full belly of some locally, sustainably caught and humanely killed grub, and you'll also leave with plenty of hilarious stories. Two of my personal family favorites are 1) how he convinced my trusting grandmother to stand up in front of my dad's entire wedding rehearsal dinner party and tell everyone her dress came from a bargain bin; and 2) how my Auntie M insisted he stop for food on the way to Ted's ranch in Montana (yes, that Ted), thereby missing a personal invitation from Jane to attend dinner at the big house.

All that background is to say that when Uncle Ronnie gives me a recommendation for a fish recipe, I sit up and listen. And you should too! Uncle Ronnie originally got this recipe from Chef Peter Sclafani of Ruffino's Restaurant in Baton Rouge; you can see Peter make the dish on the Louisiana Sportsman. I kept Uncle Ronnie's wording on the instructions, for authenticity.

A few words (of mine) about ingredients: If you want to eat seasonally and avoid fresh tomatoes and basil this time of year, I find that the dried ingredients themselves--with some chopped greens--work great in winter months, making this a great year-round recipe. Although the title is "redfish," you can use any sustainable fish with a steak-like consistency and taste that isn't easily overpowered by other ingredients, i.e. Pacific cod yes, tilapia or Dover sole no. If you want to stick with redfish, I suggest looking for the sustainable deep-water red snapper from the west or vermilion snapper from the east.

Fish pictured is wild Alaskan cod


Uncle Ronnie's redfish pomodoro
serves 4

1 c. cherry tomatoes, sliced/quartered
1 c. sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted in hot water and chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
handful of fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 redfish filets
Creole seasoning

Toss ingredients above (tomatoes through olive oil). Double heavy duty foil and cut a large heart shape, or parchment paper if you’re uppity. Creole seasoning on redfish, or whatever fish you’re using (farm-raised fish prohibited!). Throw on a half cup of tossed concoction on opened foil and put fish on top of veggies, presentation side down. Start at the top of the foil hinge and fold and press a seal all around the edge. Flip over and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Open top of foil and eat. We’ve done a variation of this that was served to us in Belgium. On it was some onion slices, fish, sliced tomato, spices, and provolone cheese on top. Simpler but also very good.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

{on the range} week 7: Cinderella ate my daughter

{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."
Genevieve: Climbing mountains wherever she can.
Charlotte: Proving that gearing up to go out in the snow is still a good time for a gal to accessorize.


On the Range
February 12-18, 2013

Milestones

  • "Charlieisms" are suddenly sprouting up every day. Last night she said "Burrrrrrt, Mommy. It's cold!" and "My tutu didn't fall off yet!" (she meant to say 'tattoo').
  • We're having February vacation week, and Vivi went to winter camp yesterday. Unlike with the school report (i.e. "What did you do today?" "Nothing"), she was aflutter with news of the morning, including brushing wool, feeding sheep, climbing "Bird Hill" and spotting deer and wild turkeys, and cracking her own eggs when cooking a snack. Winter camp is a great success!

Media

  • I just finished Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and it was an eye-opening page turner. I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up for moms questioning the place of pink plastic Barbies and pants that read "JUICY" on the bottom in their daughters' lives.
  • Thanks to this Splendid Table episode, I got a new book from the library called The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook. I've already tried a recipe for "biscones," a cross between biscuits and scones. Ah-mazing. I give lots of thought to a new cookbook purchase before pulling the plug, but this one is a serious contender for 2013. Next recipe up: savory chicken cobbler. Mmmmmmm.

Moods

  • Meditative. We got another six inches of snow on Saturday morning. For most of the day we got the thick flakes that resemble the paper cutouts we grew up making in grammar school, so it was a beautiful sight.
  • Frustrated. I learned this week there's a setback in my doula certification paperwork, so I feel like I'm back at square one, just waiting with nothing I can do to speed up the process.  


Meals

Friday, February 15, 2013

{this moment}: love seat

{this moment}. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.



I remember when they first started forming the sisterly bond about a year ago, and it's so wonderful to see it continue to blossom and change.

via SouleMama

Thursday, February 14, 2013

hand pies: the world's most perfect travel food

I LOVE PIE. The lack of discussion about pie on my blog--one lonely post--does not adequately reflect my adoration of the dish. Pie is just about my favorite comfort food. Apple pie reminds me of being a kid and baking with my grandmother. Chocolate cream pie reminds me of 2 a.m. post-concert ventures to Waffle House. Blackberry pie reminds me of the best pie I've ever tasted at a restaurant back home.

Just as there is no one season for pie, there's no one filling either. You can fill a pie with anything--from "chocolate to blackbirds," so says Urban Dictionary. I especially love pie with a surprise filling inside like rhubarb--sweet, tangy, and unexpectedly pleasant. Pies can be great conversation starters that way.

I love the history involved when baking pies. It's not a fad or fashion to make pie; simply making a pie is in itself an homage to generations past, even if the recipe didn't come over on a boat to the New World. The pie tradition has been around since the need for easy-to-carry, easy-to-store foods arose. I reckon that in the modern-day fast-paced world we live in has more of a need for pie than ever before.

In my opinion, there aren't enough savory pies in my world (p.s. I really, really want to go to this restaurant when I visit Seattle. Okay, Al?). Whenever I ponder this dilemma, I am confronted with the fact that there are savory pies--think empanadas, samosaspanzarotti, down under meat pies, and Cornish pasties--there just aren't many American savory pies (one exception I know of being the Nack-a-tish pie in Louisiana and the other obvious one being chicken pot pie). I don't count quiche, both because it's French and because I've never had one I truly enjoyed. This dearth is a tragedy because there is nothing more American than pie.

As we learned while living in Britain, the Brits love their meat pies--steak and kidney pie, Guinness pie, fish pie, pork pie, Scotch pie, shepherd's pie, and I could go on from there. Sweet pies are popular there too: banoffee pie, mince pie, lemon pie, treacle tart, and so the list continues (don't get me started on the horrid Bedfordshire clanger). I grew to expect a pie on a menu at every British pub and restaurant, to the point where I daresay pie could be deemed more British than American. A tragedy indeed!

The best part about savory pies is that they are typically pocket pies, the perfect shape for eating out of hand wherever you you happen to be. Well, except maybe if you happen to be at Bloomingdale's.

Maybe.

Call it what you want: hand pie, pocket pie, empanada, pasty. Whatever you call them, they are quite simply the most versatile hot food around. You can put whatever flavors you want into the pocket (including pie flavor?). You can make however many you want, freeze them for later, then heat them and wrap them, and they'll stay warm for hours. Thus, I believe we need to step up to the plate and start cranking out more savory pie. I intend to start you on your that journey today, so prepare to pack your foodie hobo sacks bags.

First we need to start by building your trust in me. I am not out to frustrate you with a complicated recipe, I swear. While the crust might seem intimidating, is both the most delicious and easiest part of the pocket-pie-making process. Plus, the recipe lets you be creative in using up what you have on hand; you can put 2 Tbs. of literally any filling you'd like. Although I use lard to make my crust, you can of course substitute butter if you're vegetarian. If you're vegan, use sunflower oil.

Speaking of using lard, I told you all about my experience yesterday. Well, almost all about it. I forgot to mention that our lard-rendering was actually a highly comical event that involved us not realizing that it was going to take all day and stink up the house. Oh, and did I mention our in-laws were in town? Luckily they are used to us pulling shenanigans like this one--we are the Lucy and Ricky of real food calamities--so they laugh off such adventurous food errors.



hand pies (adapted from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World)

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. lard (or butter or oil)
1/2 c. cold water
2 1/2 c. filling of your choice*
1/2 c. milk, or 1 egg & 1 Tbs. water, for brushing

Mix the dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor. Add lard in small pieces and pulse after each addition. Drizzle in water slowly, while the machine is running, until the dough comes together (Note: you might not need all of the water. You want the dough to be dry). Turn the dough onto a floured surface and kneed for a minute unti it is smooth.


Divide the dough in half, then divide each in half again; those four sections should then each be divided into thirds so there are a total of 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and set aside under a tea towel for 20 minutes to rest. (Note: You can also refrigerate the dough for a day at this point, but let it sit out until it comes up to room temperature before using it).

Starting to fill some with chorizo; cheese will follow

Preheat the oven to 375 degF. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a 5-inch circle. Top with 2 Tbs. filling, then dip your finger in water and lightly wet the edges. Fold the pocket in half and seal the seam by pressing it together with the tines of a fork. Place each pocket on an ungreased baking sheet (if you plan to freeze them, do so now; freeze a few hours until solid, remove from tray to an air-tight bag, and leave in freezer for up to 6 months). Brush pockets with either an egg wash or milk. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

*Traditionally, empanadas are filled with shredded chicken or pork, chorizo & cheese, or corn; if you want to stick to the authentic method, you can also add a pinch of smoked Spanish paprika and substitute 1/2 c. of the flour with masa harina, but I don't and it tastes fine). I personally adore Martha Stewart's chicken pocket pie filling. The Kitchn compiled a bunch of other filling ideas too (spinach and cheese! sweet potatoes and black beans!). I love the idea of vegetarian pies so am planning to make this one with chard and French lentil filling next week.

Author's Note: This post is part of Real Food WednesdayTasty Traditions and Fight Back Friday.

Update (8-26-13): Last night we made our first sweet hand pies using fresh local nectarines and following Martha's guidance (except substituting lime juice for orange). They were so delicious!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

on making our own lard

{Secondary/Alternate Title: Yes, We are Those People}

My plan was to publish a post today about pocket meat pies. That post will need to wait a day because to make a meat pie, you need a sturdy savory crust. I believe that crust should start with one surprising but important ingredient: lard. I've gotten on my lard soap box before, so rather than beat it to death, I'll simplify the conversation today and boil it down--so to speak (hardy har)--to a few quick paragraphs.

Why lard?

In the middle of the last century, well-meaning scientists told us saturated-fat-containing ingredients like lard caused heart disease, and law-abiding citizens ran fleeing from it. Since then, we've learned that the replacements for lard--like vegetable shortening--contain trans fats, which are much worse for you than saturated fat. Not only that, but lard also contains monounsaturated fat that is necessary for brain function. Even leaving health out of the discussion for a moment, I am sold on the idea of lard because I am a firm believer in nose-to-tail cooking. Hence, we actually eat tail from time to time.

In a nutshell, lard is not your enemy, and the people who want you to go on believing it is have ulterior motives.  Set aside what you think you know, do your research, and make your own decision.

Where can you buy lard? 

To make lard, you need to get your hands on pork kidney fat called leaf lard. The reason you want leaf lard is that you can render it into a neutral fat that doesn't taste of pork, assuming you cooked it low and slow enough. I'll get to that part in a minute. We get our leaf lard for a $1/pound from a cooler at our monthly meat CSA. If you don't have a CSA, I bet you can strike up a deal with any pork seller at your local farmer's market if you're friendly. Heck, you might even be able to get it already rendered from your butcher if you're lucky.

Remember how I said I was going to start saying yes to ideas, even if they sounded scary or impossible? Ahem. To be frank, the rendering process is not as pleasant as I'd like it to be. But then, with a process called "rendering fat," did you expect it to be pleasant? For one thing, it's messy, in that "fat gets on things and won't come off things" way. For another thing, it doesn't look good. Mine wasn't even photographable. For a third thing, it's smelly. Not "I'm frying up some bacon" good smelly, but "I've been working in the kitchen of a 24-hour diner" bad smelly. I advise you to make a giant batch in one day, then hang on to it in your freezer for the next six months. Let it be a warm enough day that you can crack a window--for us, that's around 40 degF, but our standards are influenced by the chilly Beantown climate.


Nourished Kitchen
Image credit: Nourished Kitchen

How do you render lard?

Now that we've gotten the purchasing and caveats out of the way, let's get down to cooking. The actual directions couldn't be much simpler, so rather than reinvent the wheel I'm connecting to blogs that have already written them. If you are making a batch of savory lard and you don't mind a slight porky flavor--in fact, you might even be going for that--you can make it in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. If you want it for sweet pie crust and don't want it to taste like pork at all, then you should probably make it in a slow cooker. For either method, you'll want to start by chopping the fat into small pieces (Note: if you're getting it from the butcher, you can ask to have it ground, or you can do the grinding yourself if you have one of those sausage attachments on your stand mixer).

Here again are links to the two methods:

Tomorrow, we'll delve into the fruits of our labor and discuss delectable meat pies. I promise it will all be worth the stinky effort.


Author's Note: This post is part of Fight Back Friday, Tasty Traditions, Real Food Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, and Whole Foods Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

{on the range} week 6: blizzard grub


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."
Genevieve: Dreaming of superheros as she gears up to play in the snow.
Charlotte: Couch-bound for much of the weekend, my poor sick baby didn't get much of a chance to enjoy the fluffy white stuff.

Monday, February 11, 2013

how big is your snow plow?

I could probably fill in material just from the snow days for the next week, but I'll try to be editorial in determining what makes the cut. Just in time for the storm, Netflix dumped a slew of episodes of their new show, House of Cards, in our lap. Throw in some chocolate chip cookies, knitting, and a fire, and you've got the picture of how we've been spending our evenings. Whoever said Boston in February stinks is nuts. Boston in February is wonderful. It's April and May that are the pits.

Can you believe that it's business as usual again already around here? These people know how to recover from a storm. Quite an accomplishment, I must say.


World's largest snow plow (see video below)

"Mah cheeksh are shtuck."

She's not standing at the bottom. That's about half-way down. If I'd kept digging, she wouldn't be able to get out!
video

video

Sunday, February 10, 2013

lingua vernacula

An interesting change in rhythm happens when it snows. Yes, we eat all the carbohydrates in sight and snuggle in to watch the fire, but that's not all. Whether we are shoveling a path with neighbors or postulating on the odds of outdoor play, our native dialect becomes one of winter weather. We talk of snowman snow and snow angel snow and igloo snow, and suddenly I understand why the Samis have 180 words to describe the substance.

For Vivi, I imagine the highlight of watching the snow come down was that she spotted a solitary puffed-up robin tucked in some branches outside our window. As she is out there now trudging around building castles and digging trenches, I hope she is tucking away little memories of our days together.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

we found Nemo

Nemo the blizzard showed up yesterday and is still coming as of 7:30 this morning! Apparently we're going to keep getting snow through about 10am. I haven't gotten up the nerve to bundle up yet, but when it stops I will so you can see better perspectives of how much snow we have.

Most of our windows look something like this...


But the ones you can see out of have a view like no other...

This is the backyard as of this morning. That black thing to the right is my 4 ft. compost bin.
For comparison, here's our backyard the last time we got "lots" of snow. Pshah. (Look at the fence line)
Somewhere out there is the street. AND our car.

Friday, February 08, 2013

{this moment}: snowpocalypse


I'm sure we'll have our own pictures of the snow soon enough, but for now, here's a painting from the Museum of Fine Arts showing Boston, circa 1908. Bring on the blizzard!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

orange ginger glazed sablefish and collards with potlikker

This post could also be called "how to kill a bird and a fish with one stone" because most of the ingredients in it are also found in local kitchen's fantastic Chinese orange chicken recipe. I submit this recipe as a delicious dish to make in the same week as the chicken. Simply make the sauces together at the same time; the orange chicken sauce can be easily stored and used multiple times. Although it has its humble origins on the side of a package of Trader Joe's fish, this recipe is elevated to restaurant-quality status when paired with collard greens in a spicy vinegared potlikker to counterbalance the sweetness of the fish.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

{on the range} week 5: salty dog



{On the Range} is my weekly series where I discuss what we're doing, reading, and eating. It's a little bit 52 project and other photo projects, and a little bit {Did you Read?} and {In the Ranger Kitchen}.


On the Range
January 29 - February 4, 2013

Monday, February 04, 2013

call for February carnival submissions: {finances}


Thanks to everyone who participated in the November Simplicity Parenting Carnival! It was a great success! We hope you'll join us again, Justine at The Lone Home Ranger and Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM, for another simplicity parenting carnival. If you’re joining us for the first time, feel free to check out the May, June, August , October, and November 2012 carnivals as well! Read more about our carnival and future topics here.

February 2013: Finances
How do you handle finances while living simply? Are your finances complex despite your simple living priorities? Do you wish your finances were simpler?

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