1. This has been a great month for meeting up with internet peoples. A couple weeks ago, Nell (who lives a few miles from us) hosted Haley from Carrots for Michaelmas and some other awesome friends Jacqui, Laura, Anna, Nancy, and more at her house for a ladies evening. I haven’t had that much fun hanging out with ladies in a long time. T and I stayed out past my bedtime, and even then I did not really want to leave. But responsibility and limited time to sleep at night finally called me home. 2. Tomorrow, sweet Nell is hosting people again. (She is very generous with her awesome house.) The Blessed is She Minnesota brunch is tomorrow morning! There are supposed to be over 50 ladies coming! We are going to be doing small group discussion, and apparently I get to be a leader…so, hopefully I can pull that one off. I have not had to be a small group leader since college, but I was just telling M that one of these days someone is going to discover that I used to lead all sorts of things (like in college) and make me do it again…I am very excited for the brunch, especially since I am bringing watermelon, which I don’t eat very much since G is allergic.
3. It would not be a summer quick takes without a discussion of the garden. I made my first roasted tomato sauce. Turning these:
Into this: It was delicious. And in case you were wondering. Three pounds of grape and cherry tomatoes makes about a three and a half cups of sauce.
4. I was so excited about this sauce that I impulse bought a 25 lb box of Roma tomatoes at the farmer’s market last Friday and turned it all into roasted tomato sauce. We have 27 cups of sauce for the winter in our freezer. And my advice to you is, make sure you have some ventilation besides the A/C running if you are going to run both gas ovens for 2.5 hours on a hot summer morning. Otherwise you might set off your carbon monoxide detectors…
5. Speaking of freezer, we finally got around to buying that deep freeze. You may remember my photo of the packed freezer from before T was born. This was our normal upper freezer above our refrigerator. And it was packed full of freezer meals.
As we ate the meals, I started adding fresh summer fruit, and with the decision to buy a 1/4 cow this Fall, we knew it was time to get a deep freeze. Plus, we just had a boy and one day he will be a teenager and eat lots and lots.
Lots of frozen fruit, and still room for the cow! Hooray!
6. There is a legend on my father’s side about two of my aunts. First, I have to provide a bit of background. On my father’s side there is Lebanese ancestry and Irish and Scots ancestry (and a number of others), so of him and his 6 siblings, 3 of them ended up looking more Lebanese and the other 4 had a more Irish/Scots look. Well legend has it on one day when one of his sisters was sick another one went to get her work for her, and the teacher was in complete disbelief that they were actually sisters because their complexions and hair color were so radically different. Well, I think the same thing might happen to these two:
She has all the Greek and Lebanese, and he has all the Scots/Irish/English. Those eyes of his are so light, but I am not sure they will stay blue.
7. We are doing a three day school week starting Monday, but are also in the midst of three weekends in a row of visiting family. This weekend is my father’s sister and her husband. Next weekend is my sister, her husband, and her three girls plus one boy. Labor day weekend brings in my in-laws. This will make up for the lack of road trip this summer! And then it will be school full time until Christmas (school full time means 2 hours a day…)…
2. Tabbouleh I love Tabbouleh; maybe it is my 1/8 Lebanese coming out. (I also love Falafel, and the garlic sauce at the Maronite church fish fry…) I finally made it. This is not the exact recipe I used, but close enough. You really just need a lot of parsley, and then the other stuff: burghul, garlic, lemon juice (lemony is essential), oil, tomatoes, and cucumber. Any ratio that you like will work.
3. Carrot Top Pesto… I was determined to use my nice green luscious carrot tops. So, I made this pesto despite rumors that carrot tops might be poisonous? I think it is the same issue the presence of alkaloids in vegetables like raw spinach. So, basically, don’t eat tons of it everyday, and you won’t have a toxic build-up.
As for the pesto, the kids loved it because of the garlic and parmesan… M thought it was very similar to basil pesto, which I didn’t quite agree with. Next time I might do half carrot, half basil. Or parsley…. or oregano. We have a ton of oregano.
Yes, that is a quart of cold press concentrate…
4. Cold Press Coffee I can’t believe that I did not try this sooner. So good. I also drink mine with milk and a little bit of simple sugar syrup sweetener departing from my normal black hot coffee. It almost tasted chocolatey.
5. Easy to Peel Hard Boiled Eggs Not exactly new thing for us, but I wanted eggs that I could peel easily. This technique nailed it. I have been eating a ton of salads since T was born, because we had a lot of lettuce, and a hard boiled egg really tops them off nicely… especially on meatless days.
1. Send your husband to Hudson, WI to purchase the Georgia peaches that have been shipped in by Tree Ripe Citrus Co (a wonderful company that makes living in the north less bleak by bringing amazing fresh southern fruit, plus Michigan blueberries). Try to keep four kids aged six and under happy while he is gone.
2. When the bushel arrives on your dining room table, lay the peaches out in a single layer on cardboard to ripen for two days. Bounce the fussing baby in one arm while doing this.
3. Sleep in later than planned the day you want to can because the newborn kept you up for too many hours in the middle of the night. Attempt to set up for canning once everyone is dressed and fed. Tell the 6 and 4 year old to play with the 2 year old and stay out of the kitchen. Nurse the newborn.
4. Nurse the baby. Soothe the baby. Watch your husband: wash the rings, wash the lids, wash the jars, fill the canner and bring it to a boil, make light sugar syrup, wash and blanch peaches. Put sleeping baby into carrier and help.
5. Peel and pit a 1/4 bushel of peaches. Re-soothe baby who is fighting the sling but wants to be asleep.
6. Fill jars with peaches and hot syrup. Place screaming baby in bouncy seat while hurrying to get load in canner. Place lid and ring on each jar. Process in boiling water canner for 30 minutes.
7. Order pizza for lunch. Nurse newborn. Get the older children into their quiet times and the 2 year old down for nap.
8. Repeat steps 5-6 until peaches are all canned. Optional: After lunch lay sleeping baby in cradle swaddled for an afternoon nap.
9. Clean kitchen and happily greet friend who is bringing you dinner for that night.
10. Boil the peach peelings for 30 minutes to make peach juice. Leave out overnight. Ask your husband to help make peach jelly the next afternoon.
Stats: We canned 3/4 bushel of peaches into 21 quart jars and froze 4 quarts of slices. We made 11 pints of peach jelly with the juice. The last 1/4 bushel we have been eating for a week. Yum!
1. Tomorrow is the last day of the novena to Bl. Louis and Zelie Martin! I will post a link to a litany for their feast day. I had forgotten since last year how powerful and realistic the daily reflections are on marriage and family life. When these two are canonized, they are going to be an even greater example for marriage and family life.
2. I had a birthday since we last did quick takes, with my traditional chocolate peanut butter cup pie. Also, here is the only photo of me and T since I was in the hospital.
3. My sister asked for more baby photos. I have not really been able to take many photos of the baby. Here is one from last week.
But today I got his FIVE WEEK old self dressed in his first 3-6 month outfit (he is in a cloth diaper), fed him, and he was happy. I set him down to snap a photo and he did this. This is why we don’t have lots of photos of the baby.
4. Garden update! Our lettuce harvest was massive and delicious. There are still a few plants that have not bolted. And I am trying a second planting in a shadier spot. The cold crops don’t like the heat of the summer. The peas are still going strong. The chard has been delicious. The carrots, cabbages, and leeks are still coming.
Here is the first of our cucumbers.
5. Other Garden: These nine tomato plants (in front of the lilac bush) are covered in grape, cherry, or yellow pear tomatoes waiting to ripen. We are going to have tomatoes coming out of our ears soon. The pepper plants are not really growing, so we will see. The herbs are doing well. And those are potato plants in the far back.
6. We did some peach canning yesterday, but I am going to give it its own post next week, because a days worth of canning deserves its own post. For real.
I want to share this article from the blog Like Mother, Like Daughter about newborn feeding. It is really good, especially for new and nervous moms. But if you want a summary of it, I have a few lines from the children book author P.D. Eastman for you. (If you prefer a less practical work of his see the existential piece, Go, Dog! Go.)
The basic premise of the book Flap Your Wings is that a boy accidentally put an alligator egg in Mr. and Mrs. Bird’s empty nest. They decide to hatch it because it is in their nest. When it hatches, they decide to raise it.
Then after the baby alligator’s hunger seems insatiable:
“What kind of bird eats so much?” said Mrs. Bird. “It doesn’t matter,” said Mr. Bird. “He’s still hungry and we have to feed him.” Weeks went by. Junior never stopped eating. And he never stopped growing.
And that is what it is like to feed a newborn. It never stops, and you just do it.
1. Now at the end of May, gardening can really begin. I have spent months planning in my head, several mornings at a plant nursery, attempted to grow things inside from seed, and successfully grew things outside from seed. And since the garden is a big part of my summer experience, you, my friends who read my blog, get to see and hear all about it.
2. This week M planted my annuals for me. I have never attempted flowers beyond bulb perennials, but this year I am giving it a go. We are at that awkward tulip stage where the flowers are gone, the stems look headless and silly, and the garden is just waiting for some annuals to flower all summer.
My neighbor, who has been flower gardening for years and years, told me that I can tie up the tulips with twine or daffodil leaves until they are brown. This way our other flowers can start to grow and get some sun. I did that today while tailor sitting and leaning over my massive pregnant belly (Dr. Bradley of Husband Coached Childbirth insists on tailor sitting). The flowers we planted along the house are: marigolds, lobelia, alyssum, and browalia. My mom used to plant alyssum, and the smell of them reminds me of being a little girl at the local produce stand picking out flowers.
3. Along the shady side of our driveway, we put in some hostas (which are perennials) and impatiens in from of my daffodils that are refusing to bloom. My neighbor promises me that they take a couple of years to establish themselves, and they do look heartier than last year, so hopefully we will get some flowers eventually. We also have a nice variety of green weeds and helicopter seeds from the maples next door.
4. The seeds I directly sowed back in early-April have really taken off. We had about four nights in April that we covered the seedlings to protect them from frost, but otherwise the weather has been warm enough for them to flourish.
The peas are much bigger than last year, with big leaves, and are shooting up like crazy. No flowers yet. The lettuce looks close to being ready for us to harvest some exterior leaves. The carrots came up. The cabbage and the chard are doing well. And we stuck a cucumber plant in the back corner of the garden that I got from the nursery. Again there are a lot of small weeds that I am too pregnant to bend over and pull up.
5. I had one vegetable impulse buy last week, and that was leeks.
The leeks look like grass. The plant in front is green cabbage.
They will go really well with the potatoes a friend gave us to plant.
I love leek and potato soup, especially in the Fall.
6. I purchased ten tomato plants this year and basil. They are a little small, so hard to see. We still plan to transfer the only from seed plants that have survived inside this Spring, our peppers, when they are a little bit bigger to the front row of this garden box.
Notice the massive oregano plant from last year. What can I make with lots of oregano?
I am excited for pesto and pasta salad this summer. Yum!
7. M aggressively trimmed back the lilac bush bordering our yard this morning, to ensure that our tomatoes get sun. But in the process he uncovered a nest of baby robins.
We are glad that Mama Robin has not given up on her babies even though the nest is a bit more exposed.
My friend Jacqui, who is due in four weeks, asked me to give some freezer meal ideas, so here they are! At 33 weeks pregnant, I have not put one meal in the freezer for when baby comes, but I plan on getting the freezer stocked by the time I am 37 weeks. I usually have one or two things in the freezer, but Lent was an emptying things out of the freezer phase.
While I do some freezer cooking, I am not an expert, like my sister who has whole cookbooks devoted to it. I probably should have her write a guest post with her favorite ideas. She does things like freeze whole casseroles, while I am a bit lazier initially and am satisfied with thawing and heating a sauce and throwing it on noodles I cook the day we eat the meal (also, pasta is something that my husband is expert at cooking). A note on freezing: You should never freeze warm or hot foods, wait until they are room temperature or stick them in the refrigerator overnight. My favorite way to freeze things is in freezer quart bags in stacks. Like this:
Some meat dishes I precook and freeze the meat, while other meat dishes I throw the raw, cut meat into a marinade and it is all ready for cooking when it thaws. So, without further ado, I give you the dishes I plan to cook/prep in the next four weeks. I will probably make at least 2 dinners worth of each dish to make my efforts more productive.
1. Tomato Sauce. I used a modified recipe from this edition of the Joy of Cooking: Some people buy this canned, but my husband is a sauce snob. He actually prefers home canned tomatoes made into a sauce as opposed to store-bought canned tomatoes.
I love having tomato sauce in my freezer, because I can use it on all sorts of things like meatless cheesey pasta, pizza, “pizzadillas” (cheese, sauce, and toppings baked between two tortillas), spaghetti and meatballs, etc. I only make the sauce in huge batches, so I will probably make four dinners worth, and maybe serve it for dinner the night I make it.
2. Meat Sauce. I used the recipe from the Joy of Cooking. I also make this in huge batches. I plan to use 2 lbs of meat for 16 cups of sauce.
This will last us about 8 spaghetti dinners, or maybe I will get adventurous and freeze a lasagna. I also love St. Louis style “mostaccioli” which is layered sauce, tube noodles, and lots of cheese.
3. Chicken and Biscuits. I use my mom’s recipe. This is basically chicken pot-pie filling baked in a 9×13 pan with biscuits on top. I will make my favorite freezer biscuits (I use half whole wheat flour) and freeze the filling cooked in it’s entirety.
On the day of cooking I simply thaw the sauce and raw biscuits, and bake them all at 400°F for 15-20 minutes.
4. Bow tie chicken. Another recipe from my mother. I have never freezer cooked this before, but I am going to do it this time. The sauce is diced chicken cooked in garlic, then added chicken stock with peas and shredded carrots, and the sauce is thickened with cream cheese and finished off with Parmesan. It is served with farfelle/ bow tie pasta. I am going to freeze everything but the cooked pasta.
On the day we eat the meal, I will simply thaw and reheat the sauce and cook the pasta. 5. Fajita chicken. I use the marinade from the Joy of Cooking. I know I am supposed to use strip steak for real fajitas, but the chicken is soooo good and much more affordable. For this meal I will simply cut my chicken breasts into grillable size pieces and freeze it in the marinade.
On the day of eating, we will thaw the chicken, cut up sweet peppers and onions for our grill basket, and gather other toppings. The hardest part of the meal is prepping the chicken.
6. Marinated chicken for salad or rice.I am not sure which marinades I will use at this point, but I am going to find a few that look good and prep them in the same way I did the fajitas. If you have any favorite marinades, I am up for suggestions!
On the day of cooking, my husband can thaw and grill and decide if he wants to do grilled veggies with rice or a green salad.
7. Brown sauce stir fry chicken. A recipe from my MIL. This recipe involves coating the chicken in a cornstarch-soy sauce mixture and letting it sit, so I am going to throw the diced raw chicken into this mixture and freeze it. Then I am going to pre-make the brown sauce that goes with the recipe and freeze it adjacent to the chicken.
The day of cooking we will simply have to thaw the sauce and the meat, prep and cook whatever veggies we want, make rice and cook the chicken. Once again the labor intensive step of prepping chicken and washing raw chicken dishes will be skipped.
8. Sesame chicken. I found this sauce online and we really love it. I will prep the chicken and freeze it raw and make the sesame sauce and freeze that separately.
On the day of cooking, I will thaw the chicken and cook it, prep a veggie to stir-fry (I always add veggies to this), and cook rice. This meal is already really quick and easy to begin with.
9. Steak kebobs with pita. Not sure what recipe yet. My plan here is to find a good steak marinade, and cut the steak into kebob size chunks and freeze it in the marinade. If I am feeling motivated I will make my favorite homemade pita from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and freeze them in family size portions.
On the day of eating, we will thaw the steak, and cook it with mushrooms, grape tomatoes, peppers, and onions. And eat it on thawed pitas or rice.
10. Beef Stroganoff. A recipe from my MIL. This recipe has two steps. The first is cooking mushrooms, onions, and browning the beef and mixing them with the sauce. The second step is baking it for 40 minutes. I am going to prep it up to the point of baking.
On the day of, we simply thaw the sauce, bake it, and cook egg noodles.
11. Blackbean chili. I use an adaption of this recipe I found online. I add diced tomatoes and frozen corn (my husband loves corn). If I have ever brought you a meal post-partum (and on a Friday), there is a good chance that it has been this. What make it even better is that it is gluten free and dairy is optional as toppings. This I will cook mostly, but probably cut back on the flavor combining simmering, since the freezer will add to that.
On the day of we will thaw and reheat. We do at least the cheese and sour cream toppings and like to eat it with corn chips or on macaroni noodles.
12. Alfredo sauce. I found this one online. It may not be authentic, but it is sooooo good. This sauce takes literally 10 minutes to make. I am going to make a whole bunch and freeze it in dinner sized portions.
On the day of, my husband might grill meat or shrimp or do veggies in the grill pan, and we will eat it over pasta. Or we will use it as pizza sauce, because we love white sauce pizzas.
13. Macaroni and cheese. I use a recipe that I got from a friend. This is a stove top sauce that is mixed with cooked noodles and baked to brown the topping. I am going to make the sauce and freeze it into portions enough for an 8×8 dish, which still serves our family of five.
On the day of, I simply thaw the sauce in a bowl of water while cooking the pasta, combine, top, and bake.
And that’s it! I would love to hear of other easy freezer meals, especially hot weather friendly ones. If you really want a recipe, send an email and I will see about typing it up!
1. Happy Easter! We survived all three long liturgies of the Triduum! We were ready early, so it was the perfect time to take a family photo. Some children even fell asleep. I, however, spent the Easter vigil being kicked from the inside and squirmed on from the outside. Fortunately, after six years of little children, I have learned how to pray at Mass despite being bombarded with continuous motion. We had a nice time with our house guests, and a had a large group on Easter Sunday for dinner.
Our empty tomb awaiting the Easter egg hunt. We did inside, because Minnesota.
2. Also, Happy Feast of St. Gemma Galgani! She is my confirmation saint, so I made a chocolate cake (which I have been craving for a month) to celebrate. We decided the Easter egg sprinkles would be appropriate for the occasion. Her feast often falls during Lent, but not this year!
We have an icon I purchased at the church where she is buried in Lucca, Italy during my semester abroad, and a cousin gave us this first class relic of St. Gemma which he acquired in Rome. It is weird and cool to have a tiny piece of St. Gemma’s body in our home.
3. After we drove my sister to the airport on Tuesday, I took the children to get some seeds for the garden. I have never started seeds inside, but we thought we would give it a try. I hope this container I found works.
We are trying to grow yellow pear tomatoes, sweet peppers of various colors (hopefully we planted a seed for the purple variety–that is what they wanted), transplanted some basil seedlings, petunia seeds (I am planning on flowers for the yard this year!), and some sunflower seeds that came in Easter baskets.
4. And now that is is April, I am going to be updating about the garden. M got the garden all ready for me this week, and today I planted seeds outside that are supposed to be safe to plant in Minnesota in April. As long as we don’t get a hard freeze again, all these should grow nicely. The lettuce and peas of these varieties we had great success with last year, but the chard, colorful carrots, and green cabbages are all new for us. I am always nervous starting things from seeds. It is pretty neat that the tiny little seeds can make big tasty plants. (I actually planted the peas earlier than recommended, but I really want to eat them! If they fail to grow, I will try again in May). I am hoping that this early Minnesota spring sticks around.
5. Tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday, and we managed to pray the whole novena as a family. Since my retreat, I have been renewing my devotion to Divine Mercy. The chaplet is such a simple and powerful prayer. The kids picked up all the prayers within one time of praying it. G and L both were leading decades by the end of the novena.
6. In case you are wondering about how I am doing after my post about dreading a newborn earlier this week, I am feeling a lot better about it after processing my feelings. The best comment from a friend was, “You can do hard things!” And she is right; I do hard things everyday. I will adjust to having a newborn and the hard things will become easier. And this baby is not for me, but is for everyone, and is a unique human being created to be united with God. Anything I have to do for this baby will not be too much.
7. Lastly, M and I wrote our first article together, and it was published on ChurchPOP this week. We spent all of the Autumn and a lot of the Winter watching films from the Vatican’s Film list “values” category, and finally got to reviewing and ranking them. We will be writing two more articles about the list soon! Check it out, if you have not done so yet!
1. I have been pregnant with and/or nursing my babies for just over 3 months shy of seven years. Since my first was born six years ago, I have had a three month, four month, and am in the middle of a seven month gap of not nursing anyone. Well, mothers of young children will know that it is not really possible to get nights away from exclusively nursing babies, so when they are weaned and there is no other baby out of the womb, there is a window of opportunity. For what, you ask? For a SILENT RETREAT. I am departing this afternoon for 48 hours of prayer and reflection without my family. This is the first time since I have been married that I will be away from all the members of my family for even one night. Further, I have not been on a longer than three hour retreat since my last semester of college seven years ago. That being said, please pray for me this weekend, because I am not sure I can really handle uninterrupted, prayerfulsilence for more than about 20 minutes. Yeah…
2. Not only am I abandoning my family for a weekend, but I am doing it on their birthdays. M has to celebrate his birthday (and real Pi day 3.1415) without me. I am sure he will have a lovely time with the girls. And let us not forget about the Ides of March, and the change it brought in our lives… I will be back for dinner for G’s birthday. And being the awesome person that she is with amazing taste in food, she has chosen this pie for her cake:
Which means I can take on some good old fashioned third-trimester laziness, and just eat peanut butter, chocolate filled pie goodness. Also, pizza pie for dinner. Is it okay to honor Pi day on the Ides?
3. In other news, where did all the snow go? It has been so warm here, that we have been grilling. M had an early birthday/traditional feast of St. Thomas Aquinas dinner last Saturday. We splurged on shrimp (which I cannot even smell comfortably while pregnant), and M grilled it along with vegetables and threw it all on pasta Alfredo.
It is in the 30s, so why not grill? I was told that I will not have to cook dinner again until the Fall if I just keep a steady supply of charcoal and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale on hand…
4. And here is my almost six year old looking like a reader. She says that she was “just looking at the pictures,” but it gave me a glimpse of a girl who might, like her parents, spend hours every day, curled up with a book. She has been doing really well with her reading lately, and I do not think this possibility is too far into the future.
5. If your mom is not big on doing crafts, you make your own:
G (6ish) and L (4) have been cutting out and gluing together surprisingly recognizable paper dolls, and other creatures. It is pretty fun to see them create. F (2) has been sucking on capped glue sticks while wearing socks on her hands. That is called being 2.
6. My basil seeds have sprouted, but only one has made leaves. I might have to do a redo with the other seeds. But since we started the plants so early, I do not mind:
7. Hello, third trimester! My earliest baby was born at 38 weeks… that is ten weeks away… yikes!
I think I finally have leveled out in size compared to week of pregnancy…
I love hummus, and I love saving money. I set out to find a recipe for hummus without the added most expensive ingredient of tahini. (I think that maybe I am allowed to do this, since I am 1/8 Lebonese–I mean it is in my blood!)
After a couple of years of toying with the recipe, I finally have something I am willing to share with the world. I love having lemony flavor in my hummus, so I go heavier on that. I also love the garlic standing out, so I put in three cloves. The lemon juice and garlic make up for the lack of flavor resulting from the missing tahini. Processing it for a long time makes it extra fluffy.
Easy Tahini-Less Hummus
2 15 oz cans of drained and rinsed chic peas/garbanzo beans (or 2/3 cup dried, soaked and cooked beans) 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice 3 TB Olive Oil 3/8 cup (6 TB) of water 3 whole, peeled garlic cloves 1/2 tspn salt (or to taste)* 1/4 tspn pepper (or to taste) *I really like having suggestions on what is a good amount “to taste”. To taste leaves me with no idea how much is enough for good flavor...
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process for 5 minutes straight. Scrape the sides down if needed. Add water or more seasoning depending on your texture and seasoning preference.
Enjoy! We really like eating our hummus on tortillas with vegetables (like cucumber, sweet pepper, and spinach) and some sort of cheese. It makes a great Lenten lunch or dinner.