Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Payoff

So it's only right that the hard work of summer freezing and canning results in some easy and lazy winter meals . . . but it feels almost too easy.  This sauce just involves me getting a big frozen block of diced tomatoes (cooked with basil), a can of tomato sauce (canned by the generosity of my mother), some dried herbs (hanging in my kitchen), some frozen roasted red peppers (roasted on my gas burners on my stovetop in summer), and fresh onion (from a large bag in my kitchen).  Viola!  Easy, schmeasy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Abigail Landmark

Thar' she rolls!

How did I end up on my stomach again?
Saturday, Abigail turned over onto her stomach for the first time.  Were her doting parents watching with held breath?  No, her doting mother found her on her tummy under the rocking chair, a considerable distance from where she had been laid.  Why did her mommy find Abigail?  Well, after a few minutes of noisy complaining, she felt compelled to investigate.  It took a while for Abigail to really claim this skill, but as of today, every time we lay her down she flips herself over.  Unfortunately, Abigail doesn't really like being on her tummy.  So she isn't able to fully enjoy her new skill.  But her mommy is both excited and teary-eyed (well, considering getting teary-eyed, but busy with the boys and Christmas decorating and baking), realizing that her daughter is zooming into toddler-hood.  Once they start moving around, it's all over!  Micah and Jesse . . . get ready!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tree Lighting

A New Christmas Cookie for the Davis family

I was very excited to find a recipe for pumpkin applesauce cookies with oatmeal & raisins posted on (If you want to see the webpage, click here).  I was going to spare you all the results of my healthy cookie search, but then the cookies were actually really good.  (Especially with the nuts and chocolate chips I added.)
Pumpkin Applesauce Cookies with Oatmeal & Raisins
Start to finish: about 45 minutes

2 cups, all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups, quick oats
1 tsp, baking soda
1/2 tsp, salt
2 tsp, cinnamon
1/4 tsp, ground cloves
1/2 tsp, ground ginger
1/2 tsp, ground nutmeg
1/2 cup, unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup, natural applesauce
1 cup, packed brown sugar
1 cup, sugar
1 cup, canned pumpkin
1 large egg
1 tsp, vanilla extract
(note: cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg quantities can be increased if stronger flavor is desired.)

3/4 cup raisins

PreparationPreheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, salt cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg and mix well. In 2nd larger bowl, beat together butter, applesauce, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract and mix in. Then add flour mixture and mix well. Gently stir in raisins. Drop teaspoons of batter onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until light brown on bottom. Let cool on wire racks, then store in an air-tight container.

(note: these are cake-light in texture and will not crisp up.)

They were amazing, but I highly suggest stirring in nuts and chocolate chips when you stir in the raisins--and we added extra raisins, too.  My helper-chefs are below:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My December Beauty

There is something so breathtaking and unexpected about such amazing flowers in the cold, dark days of December.  After another year of neglect (all I do is water it) and not really enough soil in the pot, this resilient Christmas cactus has wowed me again.  A gift of grace, truly.

Pumpkin Muffins Revisited

I have a bunch of squash I need to use that I bought at the farmer's market.  Here they are, aren't they gorgeous?
I actually started with sunshine squashes, a pumpkin relative.
I thought I'd revisit an old recipe I tried last winter for pumpkin muffins.  Here's the link if anyone's interested in trying it:  pumpkin muffin recipe

I hack the squash in half, then roast both halves side by side in a roasting pan.

The batter, with the raisins this time.
My helpers really surprised me at how capable they were.  Apparently I've been underestimating them!
The helper, one of two.  This guy did almost ALL of the stirring, my least favorite part; greased the cups; and filled the cups.  It was so much better actually letting go of the process and letting him really help me.

The finished product: they were really good with the raisins!

Holiday Scavenger Hunt

If you're decorating with kids around, you could always opt (as I did) to let them do most of the decorating for you.  My kids are crazy for scavenger hunts (which, in our case, are really just checklists of things to do).  So I gave them a list of things which included hanging stockings, setting up the wooden tree, drawing Christmas pictures, making Santa beards, setting up nativity scenes, putting my Christmas cards into envelops for me, and singing songs for me while I made supper.  It really milked the decorating for all it was worth . . . I think it took the kids about an hour and a half to finish it.  And it made me do all of the decorating at one shot instead of dragging it out like I know I would have. 

We then started celebrating advent, which we do each night of December by lighting candles, reading part of the Christmas story, singing a Christmas carol, putting one of the advent items on the calendar (we actually have two calendars, so the boys take turns each night), eating a chocolate (I know, wonders never cease), and then blowing out the candles. 

Come on Christmas, we're ready!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Easy, "Christmasy" Fish

I actually took this picture before putting it in the oven, since it was so pretty (it was still pretty when I took it out, but not quite so vivid).  I made up the recipe and it took about 10 minutes to prepare, plus 30 to cook.

Christmas Tilapia

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Wash tilapia filets and spread them in the bottom of a glass baking dish.
Salt fish and drizzle with olive oil.
Cut orange(s) and onion into thin slices and arrange over the fish.
Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over that.

Bake 30 minutes at 350.

Once it's served, have each person tear out pieces of the orange from the slices to eat with the fish.

Abigail Baptism

 Abigail was our church's first infant baptism.

Abigail Elizabeth Davis, whose name means, "Our Father is Joy," was baptised on Sunday, November 28th at our Living Water Church.  We are so happy and blessed by her and pray that the joy of the Lord will be her strength.  Thank you to everyone who was able to attend or sent their love.  Sorry to everyone who was not told about the event (we're not too organized over here these days).  :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Granola Gone Wild

So I've been mixing up my granola in a four gallon pot (which is bigger than the eye on the stove, to give you an idea).  It cooks soup for serving 20 or so.  Anyway, I started using that because I couldn't find a bowl that was big enough to satisfy me.  My family eats granola almost every day.  And my first interaction with Jesse is typically, "Mommy, what are we having?  Granola?"  Especially after having oatmeal for a few days--he starts to get a little antsy for granola.  It's just too heartbreaking to say no for that fourth day in a row.  So I started making enough to last for a few weeks. 

This time it got a little out of control.

I have an old recipe I used posted on the right of the blog, but I've actually changed the way I make it.  I no longer measure, but I do about one part liquid ingredients to 12 parts dry--enough so that the oats clump together some when you squish them together.  Here's the basic mix:
Val's Granola
Mix dry ingredients, including any or all of the following--use raw nuts when possible:
rolled oats
walnut pieces
pecan pieces
almonds (or almond pieces)
brazil nuts (broken up slightly)
cashew halves
about a cup of flaxmeal (or ground flax seeds--same difference, or buckwheat flour, etc.)
shredded coconut
Heat up wet ingredients on the stove in a saucepan:
mostly honey or maple syrup
considerably less olive oil
very small amount water
cinnamin, a lot
The wet ingredients are ready when they're about as thin as water.  Pour them over the dry.  Stir (and squish with your hands, if you like those bigger clumps of oats).  Spread it on a baking sheets with raised sides and bake at 275 deg. for half an hour.  Then add some raisins and scrape the granola off the bottom of the baking sheet and stir.  Put it back in for another 15 minutes. 
 I had my dry ingredients half-filling the pot and mixed up the wet.  But then I realized that I had a little more wet ingredients than usual.  So then I added more oats to my dry ingredients, but then I had to add more nuts because it didn't look like the right balance anymore.  And of course I forgot that I had roasted almonds so I wanted to add them with the raisins near the end.  And the raisins at the end . . .

I think I ended up with at least four gallons of granola.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Fall Garden

Welcome Fall!  Fall is welcome after such a hot summer--particularly since we've still been able to get a few crops in that are thriving (quite honestly, we were able to get in only the barest few since fall planting corresponded with Abigail's birth--and these got in a little late, so we're barely getting ripe crops as the weather is getting colder).

Radishes are beautiful this time of year--not too many vegetables can beat radish for vivid color.

 Arugula grows like a weed at our house--it is, in fact, our weed of choice.  Considering how much they charge for it at the grocery store or farmer's market, I'd say arugula growing is a well-kept secret.  I literally scatter seeds onto raked earth and then rake a little more.  Viola!  Crop!

The winter lettuce I planted is so beautiful, I just wish I'd planted more of it.  This little patch is perfect and healthy (just too little).

Since my nursing daughter is up at night if I eat cruciferous veggies, I'm trying to maximize on these last few days of green beans.  We've got a beautiful crop just coming in--I'm trying to let them get just a little longer. . . but I feel like I'm playing chicken with Jack Frost.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I was encouraged by Rachel on her blog ("My Imprecise Life" ) to write about the meal I made on Saturday.  I will, though I invite my far more knowledgeable Korean friends to write comments on it.  The basis for the recipe was in the cookbook "Dok Suni," written by a Korean-American woman who learned from her mother and now runs a restaurant.  It's a great cookbook. 

I made Bibimbop.  It's a build-your-own kind of creation.  Your table is covered by bowls of prepared veggies and proteins. 
Everyone starts with a bowl of rice, and adds from the bowls.  Here's what I had:

  • Shredded carrot (blanched or sauted for just a minute and lightly salted and maybe a dash of sesame oil)
  • Fried egg (one per person)
  • Ground beef
  • Sauted zucchini (with a touch of garlic and sesame oil)
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Hot sauce (with garlic, sesame oil, rice vinegar)
  • Bean sprouts (sauted)
  • Shredded daikon radish

Math in Every Day Life

If you stay home with little kids, your math skills might generally be used only when factoring one of the following scenarios:
  • If the gas light has gone on, giving me 30 miles before empty, how many minutes in city traffic and stoplights does that translate to, considering there's no way I'm stopping to get more gas--will I make it home?
  • If I'm running 4 minutes behind for picking up from pre-school, how may lights do I need to catch green to make up the time?
  • If I have two apples, one half-rotted, for our dessert tonight, how many slices does each family member get, taking into account the size and nutritive needs of each individual?
  • If both of Abigail's morning naps were interrupted and she's miserable as a result, what is the earliest possible time I can put her down for her afternoon nap without risking that she'll wake up too early from that nap?
But if you really want to stretch that math part of the brain, just contact a farmer about buying a cow and a pig and then get 11 families to commit to buying them.  Then try meeting everyone's needs while working with a very rough estimate of how much meat you'll actually end up with.  My friend Rachel helped me start a spreadsheet, which I then wrote addition programs into to explore such options as, "If such and such family gets x amount of this cut of meat and y amount of this cut of meat, blah, blah, then how many steaks should this family get--and how much bacon?"  Not exactly an exact mathematical equation.  But to get whole cow and pig costs of butchering and packaging from "hanging weight" into a comprehensible "This is how much you'll be paying for a pound of ground beef" kind of explanation to give the families involved took a lot of work for both me and the butcher.  I had to call the butcher enough times that I actually feared that I was becoming a nuisance (I know, crazy thought, me, a nuisance).

I thought I'd share some of the charts I was working on in case anyone was interested.  (The sketches of coral were at the request of my oldest child.)  At the very least, it makes you appreciate your meat in a whole new way--every free-range, antibiotic- and hormone-free pound of it.

Disclaimer: I've Been Sick, Not Just Lazy

I have been wanting to blog for quite some time, but I think the cold I got a week and a half ago just kicked my tail so badly that it just sapped my leftover mental energy.  The other day I sat down to blog after cooking a big meal for good friends, and I managed several unintelligent sentence fragments in a half hour and gave it up.  It was only today that I felt like I've been myself again with normal energy (which is ironic, since I slept really badly last night).  Anyway, after two weeks of not blogging, the pressure rises.  I feel like since I waited this long, I have to present something impressive to break my blogging "fast."  So this blog is simply to take the pressure off--it's my warm-up.  Here I go again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Pete!

Meredith and Pete, our firefighter friends (and former "employers"--we used to babysit Jonathan) had us to Pete's firehouse.  Here are some pictures of the three boys hanging out and being junior firemen.

Great fit, Micah!

Pete Junior

Fire fighter, or praying mantis?

Too cute, Jesse!

Happy Halloween from the Davis Barnyard

Monday, November 1, 2010

A TIMEly Reminder

For parent of babies and toddlers, this Sunday is one of the hardest mornings of the year--the end of daylight savings.  To translate, this means that those young children or babies who were waking up at 6:30 in the morning will suddenly be waking up at 5:30, an appalling prospect.  I know many will find it bizarre to consider, but I actually like to plan ahead.  I start at least a week in advance and adjust meals and bedtimes by 15 min. for a few days (make everything 15 min. later).  Then every few days I move it another 15 min.  So my goal is to get them later before it means waking up obscenely early.  Just an idea for any new moms out there or anyone who's gotten burnt in the past by daylight savings.

Happy dark days of winter, everyone!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shea Butter and Aloe Extravaganza

Still going strong with the hair gel/body lotion/lip balm . . .

So I don't know why, but shea butter hair gel always turns out to be an early morning creation for me.  The kids were all (all--yes, Abigail is finally sleeping through the night!!!) still asleep, I woke up early, we were out of lotion/hair gel, and I decided that today was the day.  I can't find the original site with the recipe I used the first time, but apparently this isn't exactly a secret formula, because I found the same basic combo again easily on another site (and I don't follow their recipes anyway, I'm not a measuring kind of gal). 

You basically need shea butter, which I bought in an excessively large quantity from a somewhat dubious website that came through for me, aloe, and a drizzle of olive oil.

I dug out about a two cup solid chunk of the shea from my "bag o' shea" and put it in a small metal bowl (one that fits over my saucepan).  I filled the saucepan with about 2 inches of water and put the burner on high.  Then I set the metal bowl with the shea over top. 

I squeezed the juice out of three or four big aloe "leaves" from the plant in my kitchen.

Then I added a drizzle of olive oil and stirred briskly with a fork as the shea melted into a liquid.

I poured the blend into the jars you see above.  I use this as a lotion for myself and the kids.  I put it on Abigail if she gets diaper rash.  And Owen uses it as hair gel (it's great because it doesn't flake and build up like over the counter hair products).  My hair is too fine, so I don't usually use anything in my hair, though I've used a scant amount (left after applying to my hands) to smooth a ponytail on occasion.

I don't know if you've seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," one of the funniest movies of all time, but we use this lotion like her father in that movie uses Windex.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mom Joke


How do you know when you took too many kids to your adult doctor appointment?


When you have to explain to them at check-out that you don't have the sign-out paper because it fell in the toilet, and when they chase you out of the office to tell you that you forgot your crayons.


Avoid my doctor until those people forget me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Does it get any cuter?

OK, seriously, wow!  Is she a cutie or what?! 

(You're pretty cute, too, Owen.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot!

We've been growing jalepenos, and I have no idea what to do with them because Jesse complains that food is to hot if I just add black pepper.  If he gets a speck of actual hot pepper he does a real performance: "Too hot, too hot!" (grabs at mouth wildly, mom and dad in the background shouting, "Drink water, drink water!").

So while I can't resist growing hot peppers, I haven't been able to figure out how to use them in anything.  So they have sat and withered on my counter.  On an inspiration, I put them one on the back of my stove while the oven was in use and left it there (it gets pretty hot on the back of the stovetop when I use the oven).  It dried out.  So I put a few more back there until they were all shriveled up and dried.  Tonight for pizza night I decided to test my dream: I thought I'd make some hot pepper flakes.  I put the shriveled dry peppers in the food processer and made flakes!  Look!

The container is borrowed, the flakes are mine.

Harvesting Limas in the City

So how many urbanites could report picking lima beans last weekend?  I mentioned it in a previous post, but felt that pictures were needed to capture such a cool event from our fall.  We didn't get too many (for some reason, heat? stinkbugs?) we didn't get any crop until October.  Here's the harvest and a picture of the boys in front of the overgrown lima bean teepee in our neighbors' backyard (they offered to let us extend our garden into their yard--we split the booty).  Fun times, I still can't believe it!  Do you know how much they charge for these in the farmer's market?  I figure we grew at least $10 worth, even with most of the season being a flop.  Urban gardening . . . gotta love it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Unusual Dinner Inspiration . . . to a Seasonal Feast

I forgot to take a picture of dinner . . . but it was really rather a local seasonal veggie feast, if anyone would care to try to replicate any of it without visual stimulation.  I realize no one cooks from recipes they can't see a picture of, but I'm going to describe it anyway, and just kick myself for taking no pictures.  I mean, really, when the three and five year-old are carrying the plates and glasses (full) and silverware to the dining room table, and I'm running into that scary too-late-the-kids-will-probably-wet-the-bed dinner hour, and Owen's getting in later than usual, and the three month-old is about 15 min. past ripe for a nap, I can't imagine how I forget to photograph our food before we eat it.

The Background . . .

So we actually grew some lima beans this year in my neighbor's yard (thank you, Jean and Scott).  They watched me frantically cultivating my 1/1000 of an acre (or so) of land and offered to let me use part of their garden (their yard is about four times larger than ours).  I said, "Hmm, how about lima beans?  We could split the crop."  And lima beans it was.  My mom started the vines from seed, and we planted about five plants at the base of big poles making a teepee.

The teepee soon became covered with leaves and vine, occasionally even flowers.  But by August, we had nary a bean.  It wasn't until September that we started seeing some, but they weren't big enough to pick.  But on Sunday we finally realized the beans were big enough to pick.  So the neighors banded together for a good ol' city-dwellers bean pickin'.  We got enough for about a small pot of beans each--and there may be about that many in two weeks again.  Anyway, these beans were in very different size categories, ranging from babies to big chokey pig food (as Owen described some of them).  Jesse and I separated them into two piles and combined them with some we had bought from the farmer's market.  I was left with a small pot of big hoggy limas that I knew I couldn't just boil (well, ok, I tried to anyway out of laziness and they were gross).

The Inspiration . . .

So the inspiration for the entire meal was basically chokey lima beans.  I realized that the "big ones" were probably tasting close to the rehydrated dried ones they put in baked lima beans, a dish they sell at the local grocery store in Lancaster.  So, unable to follow a recipe to save my life, after browsing through recipes of baked lima beans and not liking any of them, I made one up:
Baked Lima Beans

Boil fresh (or overnight-soaked dried) lima beans in salty water for about 20 minutes or until soft. 
While boiling, cut up leeks or scallions (I used leeks) into thin slices.
Strain and put beans into a small casserole dish.  Add leeks.
Pour tomato sauce (homemade or store bought will work) over beans.
Add a dollop of maple syrup and stir mixture.
Bake for at least an hour.

I don't measure, but I had a small pot of beans, and I added 2 leeks and about 15 oz. of sauce and a few tablespoons of syrup.
The Spaghetti Squash

Now it so happens that I bought a spaghetti squash about a month ago, and while it looked very fall-like sitting on my counter, I thought I might just want to go ahead and cook it with the beans.  So that I threw in the oven whole, with holes poked in it, with the beans.  I will say that next time I will revert to hacking it in half and removing the seeds first and baking faces down in an inch of water like I did last time, it took too long this way.  It's really easy to remove the strands of squash with a fork and it really does look like angel hair pasta.  Hmm, maybe they should call it angel hair squash.  I salted the squash and tossed it with butter, parmesan cheese, and chives.

The Roasted Potatoes

Not too profound.  I wanted a starch.  I cut up small red and yellow potatoes in small chunks, put them in a roasting pan (uncovered), tossed them with olive oil, salt, rosemary, and a few tablespoons of water, and roasted them next to the squash and the beans.

The Main Dish . . . 

Then I thought, oh dear, I'm running out of time and I need a main meal.  Luckily, I had meatballs in the freezer.  My friend Rachel had wowed me with a meatball in barbecue sauce kind of dish, so I thought I'd wing it and try for something similar.  The meatballs were made of ground beef and cornmeal and onion and egg, and they'd been in the freezer for a good long time since I'd made extra with spaghetti some months back.  I took them out of the freezer, and put them in a small glass baking dish.  I covered them with tomato sauce.  Then I sauteed red onion and green pepper in a saucepan and mixed that in with the sauce.  Finally I sweetened it with a little maple syrup.  I put it in the oven until it heated through.

We ate all this in the dining room, the height of fancy living at my house.  The kids call it eating at a restaurant when we do it.  Sad commentary on our kitchen-centered life perhaps.  :)  It was great!  I thought I'd share it in case anyone else wants to try something similar.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pizza Night!

Seasonal pizza, here we go!  So, I've highlighted the seasonal pizza Fridays in the past as a really great way to eat local and with variety (I got my idea from the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver).  With the birth of little Abigail, pizza night was abandoned.  It's returned now for the second week in a row.  Here's tonight's, play by play:

Step One:  Slice up tomatoes (while we've still got 'em) and spread over a raw pizza dough (this one is stone ground whole wheat from Trader Joe's, refrigerated section).
These were Mr. Stripey yellow tomatoes, two of the few that escaped the clutches of my squirrel arch-rival.

Step Two:  Fresh basil (still going strong in the garden)

Steps Three and Four:  Mozzarella cheese, torn and arranged; red peppers.

Step Five:  Red onions sliced as thinly as possible (sweet when baked).

Steps Six, Seven, and Eight:  Broccoli; Mushrooms.  Bake at 425 deg. for ~15 min.

Yum!  Serve!