The Perfect Day

Greetings from the end of a wonderful day. The weather was perfect today, and we made the most of it.

We started our day at Center Grove Orchard, about 40 minutes from our house. Calling it an orchard doesn’t do this place justice. It’s full of entertaining options for little kids. We got season passes this year, so we will be there often.

We visited last year, but the kids were a little too young. This year Audrey is loving every part of the orchard. The jumping pillows were a hit with her.20180911_104239(0)1244462636535434436.jpgShe even braved the huge slide – all by herself!

We took a hayride to the train. Elliot was terrified of both rides. He has no issue with the train at the zoo, but this one was too much for him. Audrey liked it. She got to blow the whistle at the end, which she thought was very cool.

After the ride out with a terrified Elliot, I decided we would take the trail back to the farm-yard. It had a couple of hills that were steep for little legs, but it was worth it because we saw a turtle on our walk. After our walk we headed home for lunch and naps. We will be back again soon – we didn’t even play in the corn pit or feed the goats or ride the pedal tractors or visit the three little pigs houses. I think we’re really going to enjoy having season passes.

This afternoon we headed to our neighborhood farmers market for the last market of the season. I really wish the market would go later in the year, it’s still nice in September, and there is still plenty of produce to harvest. I picked up a tote bag (I have a tote bag addiction – they work so well as project bags) from the neighborhood association. I love being able to get a new tote bag and justify its purchase because I’m helping the neighborhood association.20180911_1924323089708464773164937.jpgWe had a picnic feast of all sorts of foods – a falafel wrap, a bean and cheese papusa, egg rolls and pad thai. We brought baklava home for John. The pad thai was awful, Elliot ate the eggs out and we threw the rest away.

I love it when we are able to spend most of the day outside. Warm, sunny weather and fresh air are good for my soul. So is not having to cook dinner. I hope your Tuesday was as joyful as mine.

Souper Sunday

It was a beautiful weekend in Des Moines. It was sunny and in the low 70s. Perfect for playing outside. 20180908_1200113724318053747865800.jpgWe visited a park every day. This afternoon we went on a family bike ride to a park for a picnic and play time. Audrey was so excited she didn’t want to take off her helmet to eat. Elliot, meanwhile, refused to eat any food. He was not happy that we made him eat a few bites of chicken before he could run off to the playground.

Tonight, once the kids were tucked in, I got started on dinner for John and me – Pasta e Fagioli. I found the recipe in the latest issue of Cooks Country. Until I read the recipe the only think I knew about pasta fazool is that it was mentioned in the song That’s Amore. This soup is hearty and complex. John even liked it.

The soup is not pretty. I skipped the pancetta and chicken broth and used vegetable broth instead. I found that looking at knitting patterns while eating this soup was a perfect accompaniment. John preferred to pair the soup with buttered toast. To each their own.20180909_203136963013175523699679.jpg

I intended to have an ice cream sundae for dessert, as earlier in the day I made some of my Grandma Runchey’s hot fudge sauce. Sadly, I am too full from soup, so the ice cream will have to wait until tomorrow. 20180909_1443307785815614861291406.jpg

If you are craving a deep chocolate sauce on your ice cream I recommend this recipe. If you are looking for something chocolatey you can have a spoonful of when you have an intense craving for chocolate, I can also recommend this recipe. I use butter instead of oleo, because margarine isn’t my jam. 20180909_1443408989533592918399867.jpg

Well over 20 years ago my sister Mary-Claire gave me a cookbook with family recipes in it. She must have been in Jr. High at the time. I love that I get to see her writing when I make a recipe from the cookbook.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I hope your week is filled with delicious food and beautiful weather. Let’s make this week a good one.

Welcome to Souptember

Welcome to September. It doesn’t feel like fall yet, but after all of the running around we did this summer I’m ready to settle back into a routine. Being busy all summer and not wanting to cook in the heat has led to an unused kitchen and a vegetable deficient diet. I want to get back to cooking and eating healthy again. I’ve decided that September will be Souptember in our house. I’m committed to making soup at least once a week. I love soup. No one else in my family does. At the end of this month they will either be converted or I will have had soup for lunch every day. I’m OK with either outcome.

I made one of my favorite soups today: Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup. This spicy soup is filling and reheats well. It does not look pretty, but it tastes pretty great.20180902_1658435685430293364624463.jpg

The recipe is from Rachel Ray’s Veggie Meals. It takes less than a half hour to put together, which means I can throw it together even when I’m in a time crunch.

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

1 T vegetable oil

1 T butter

1 chopped onion

1 can vegetable broth

1 can diced tomatoes (undrained)

1 can black beans

1 can pumpkin puree

1/2 c heavy cream (I use half and half)

1 1/2 t curry powder

2 t ground cumin

pinch of cayenne pepper

Melt butter into oil over medium heat. Sautee onion until soft. Add broth, black beans, tomatoes, and pumpkin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add cream and spices. Simmer 5 minutes, or until you can convince your kids to come to the table.

I hope you had a Souper Sunday.

Peaches & Cream Oatmeal

Last weekend, over bland oatmeal at the hotel breakfast, Kathleen and I were waxing poetic about instant oatmeal packets. Sure, they are gluey and loaded with sugar, but in my memory they are amazing.

I wanted to make something that recreated that flavor, but with less sugar and more real food. So this morning I made easy peaches and cream oatmeal.

1 c water

1/2 c rolled oats

1/2 c frozen peach slices

1/4 t cinnamon

2 t brown sugar

1 T half and half or milk or milk substitute

Put water, oats, frozen peaches, and cinnamon in a pan and bring to a simmer. Once the peaches have softened a bit use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller pieces. I suppose you could take them out and do that with a knife, but I found it easier to cut them up in the pot as they simmered away. When the oatmeal is done (I think it is supposed to be 3 minutes, but I usually cook them until the eggs are done or the table is set and it turns out fine), stir in sugar and half and half. 20180821_1025038344897483415556342.jpg

These are as good as the oatmeal that I remember, and they contain a full serving of fruit. The sugar can be adjusted based on  your mood or the sweetness of the fruit you are using. I like that I always have these ingredients on hand, so I can whip it up whenever the mood strikes. I’ll be making it again soon, as Audrey is suddenly a big fan of oatmeal.20180821_102456(0)8158907589725980936.jpg

Dude Dinner

Once a month we have my friend Tim over for dinner. Tim is really easy to cook for. He doesn’t cook, so everything I make impresses him. He is recently divorced and his wife didn’t cook either. I once made crock pot white chicken chili for him and he was impressed (the hardest thing about making that dish is chopping the onion). I love that the bar is low.

Today I decided to really wow him. I made Cook’s Illustrated’s version of Juicy Lucys. A juicy lucy is a cheeseburger with the cheese on the inside. You bite into the burger and cheese oozes out. It’s delicious. It’s also something so bad for us that I only make it once or twice a summer.

At 5 o’clock, as I was getting the kids their dinner I realized I had been so excited about the burgers I didn’t think about the sides. I had nothing planned. I was worried I was going to have to pull a vegetable out of the freezer and pretend it worked with burgers.

Amazingly, my refrigerator provided me with two sides! I had a salad in a bag forgotten in a drawer that somehow wasn’t spoiled (I buy a bagged salad almost every week, I also throw out a spoiled bagged salad almost every week. Will I ever learn?). 20180719_191313421691303129252299.jpg

I decided to throw together some Baja bean and cilantro salad. I have been living off of this all summer. In a shocking turn of events I had cilantro in my produce drawer. I also had 1/4 of a red onion in my fridge, the perfect amount for the salad (also the first time I’ve ever used all of a leftover onion instead of throwing it away a week later). 20180719_1913166680663210320592023.jpg

This salad is easy to throw together, and a great side to bring to a pot luck. It couldn’t be easier to make:

1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 can red beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1/4 chopped red onion
2 T chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
1/4 c chopped cilantro
Mix that stuff all up. In a measuring cup mix together 1/3 c red wine vinegar and 3 T sugar. Pour it all over the salad. Put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to meld.
It is good for a week.

The sides were well received by Tim and John, but if I was really being honest I think they would have been fine with a big burger and a few glasses of wine.

Do you ever get so excited about a main dish you forget about the rest of the dinner?

Pudding Pops

I’m kind of a food snob. I think it’s because John and I spent so many years in our 30s with good jobs before kids. We went out to eat a lot. When I cooked I had the luxury of quality (expensive) ingredients and time. The things I loved as a kid I no longer like. Things like cool whip and boxed pudding don’t appeal to me at all.

I believe pudding should be homemade. It should involve egg yolks, whole milk, half and half, sugar, and corn starch. It should be a project. I also believe in having the kids help me in the kitchen (well, mostly Audrey because Elliot can be a challenge in the kitchen). Fancy shmancy pudding and kids don’t mix, so for the sake of kitchen help I occasionally reach for things I don’t particularly like. Like boxed pudding.

Do you remember back when Bill Cosby wasn’t a sexual predator? I do. We watched him every week on the Cosby show and we ate pudding pops. They were delicious. They still are, and they are also really easy to make (Step 1: make pudding. Step 2: freeze it).

Audrey helped me pour the milk and stir. She took the job very seriously. At one point she stopped stirring because she forgot to put her apron on.20180713_1618042333065902660222817.jpgElliot taste tested the pudding. He took his job seriously too.20180713_162242826647738028744168.jpg

I poured the pudding into the molds. I think I waited too long, as the pudding had started to set up and it was a very gloppy job.20180713_1625457881662914017156109.jpg

When we were done we ran to the store. Audrey was so excited about cooking she wanted to wear her apron. She was very proud of herself.20180713_170709(0)-12986365372933638748.jpg

I hope that having the kids involved in cooking now will keep them interested in cooking. Elliot really wants to help, but he destroys so many things. I need to find something easier than pudding for him to help with. Do you have any ideas?