Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Door Knock Pot Roast

Remember that old Food Network show, Door Knock Dinners? Where a chef like a then-unknown Paula Deen would show up at someone's door and make dinner out of what was in the house? I suck at that.

I am trying to "cook without fear," to quote my sister. That is, cook with what is in the cupboards/fridge/freezer without running to the store for ingredients. I am slowly getting better at this. I can bring myself to make a recipe if I don't have all of the ingredients. But I am still learning to invent something using what we have. By nature I am not the kind of person who says, "Hmm, water chestnuts, Craisins, sardines, and peanut butter... Ah ha! Stir fry!"

Yesterday I tried this technique with pot roast, and... it was good! I share my triumph with you.

Door Knock Pot Roast
1 chuck roast
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 can cranberry jelly, leftover from Thanksgiving
1 package dairy-free dried onion soup mix
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 cup water

Brown pot roast on both sides in a skillet. Meanwhile, mix together all other ingredients in a crock pot. Add the roast to the sauce. I'd probably add some sliced onions next time, too. Cook according to your crock pot's directions for the size of your roast. When the meat is finished, remove to a cutting board. Thicken the sauce in the crock pot with arrowroot and season to taste with seasoned salt, such as Crazy Dave's. Slice meat and serve with the sauce.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Advice, please

I have been asked if I would be interested in a babysitting job. Like, a full-time babysitting job. Or possibly just a couple days a week. Do I want to do this? Watching someone else's kids is not the same as just being with my own. But there would be money involved. And, I might have my choice of opportunities. What's happening is that one very well-loved, very qualified caregiver in town is going back to her job as a nurse. I have been asked by one family about their children, and I am also friends with some of the other families who go to this sitter. Also, another caregiver in town doesn't take care of newborns, and I've also been sort-of asked about a baby coming in July to one of her families.

I am a person who likes my space. I can get a little weird about people who are not my family being in my space. Maybe this is because I was an only child for 9 years. I don't know. Starting my own daycare is totally not my dream, and I do get a little crotchety at the whole "since you're home anyway" attitude, even though I shouldn't. I have a friend who watches other children, but adding 2 children to her six for 2 1/2 hours a day doesn't seem to phase her. We don't own a vehicle large enough for me to tote 4 children around ("Maybe we could get one with the money you'd be paid," says the voice in my head.) Would my kids hate it? Would I hate it? Am I dumb to just pass up the opportunity to make money without having to pay for childcare myself? Have any of you done this? Help!

Second Breakfast: Steel-Cut Oatmeal

This recipe takes a little while, so we don't find it to be the best choice at 6:30 or 7 in the morning. Eat a piece of toast, and then enjoy your oatmeal a little later. Or on Saturday.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal
1 cup steel-cut (pinhead) oats
dairy-free margarine
brown sugar
salt, if desired

Equipment: steamer

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add one cup of steel-cut oats and boil for three minutes. Be careful, as sometimes they boil over. While they are boiling, fill the bottom of the steamer with water at the lowest level. When the oats are finished boiling, drain as much water from them as possible and put them in the top of the steamer. Steam the oats for 12-15 minutes. Mix the oatmeal with dairy-free margarine, brown sugar, and salt to taste.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Aw, shucks

I just got my first mention in someone else's blog; thanks, theflyingmum! I'd better start brushing up on my photography skills, since right now I'm better at photographing plastic food by accident instead of real food on purpose.

Oooh, black and white film. A daring choice for the plastic frankfurter.

Um, the lack of focus makes our vintage kitchen counter look less repulsive?

Broiled Grapefruit
1 grapefruit
2 tablespoons melted dairy-free margarine
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Cut grapefruit in half crosswise. Cut each section of the fruit to loosen it from the membrane. Remove seeds. Pour one tablespoon of the margarine on each half and top with one tablespoon brown sugar. Broil for 5 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Makes two servings.

P.S. As for the blogs I'd tag, officially or unofficially, the ones I'm reading are listed to the left.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Roast Your Own Coffee? Make Mandalas?

I was just reading Mary Hunt's column in today's paper, and she talks about roasting her own coffee. She says it's cheaper and tastes better. She has a couple articles on her site about it, but I can't figure out how to link directly to them. Type "roast your own" in the search box, and the first article will come up; it has a link to the other one in it. Has anyone tried this? Or know anyone who has? I'm intrigued. Maybe I'll do it after I make my own baby wipes!

Secondly, does anyone know anything about making mandalas? (Mark? Apparently Carl Jung used them.) Catherine Newman wrote a column about them on babycenter, and I read an article about making them in Views and Voices this week. There's going to be a mandala conference nearby this summer, but it costs $720! How can I learn about them for less?

Friday, February 23, 2007


...with healed tooth.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Funny... Not Ha Ha Funny

So in rereading my last post, I noticed a glaring omission. What kept us busy all week? What could it be? It couldn't be that Katherine whacked her mouth against the side of the bathtub on Tuesday night in the middle of a gigantic snowstorm, causing her front tooth to be torqued at an odd angle and her gums to turn blackish-purple. Nope, that couldn't be it at all. Or that we couldn't get to the dentist's office on Wednesday because his snowplow guy broke an axle and couldn't shovel out his parking lot. Finally Thursday's x-rays revealed an uncracked baby tooth. Yay. They also provided a glimpse into the future: there were Katherine's grown-up teeth, waiting patiently. And as a preschooler, you can't beat the excitement of your dentist telling you to eat lots of popsicles and (soy) ice cream for the next two days to help your gums.

Funny event number two: a few weeks ago I went to one of those ubiquitous "home" parties that are all the rage out here in the sticks. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Pampered Chef, but sometimes I feel obligated to attend and order something, and it turns out to be for one of those slightly off-brand companies. "Like Southern Living at Home? Then you'll love Mid-Atlantic Ideas for Your House." (Or whatever. If that really does exist, don't sue me.) Anyway, I found what I thought was a small, tasteful black metal cross accented with several fleurs de lis in the catalog. It was in my price range, and we have a closet full of black metal accents that I plan to hang in our living room and dining room someday, as well as a print of a French wine label actually hanging in our living room. (A member of my book club asked me, "Are you of French heritage?" Um, no. It just looks pretty with our second-hand furniture.) So I ordered the cross. Well, it arrived yesterday, and... that sucker is big. It looks like I want to crucify Frenchmen, tastefully, in my living room. I know it's my fault for not paying attention to the dimensions, but, dude.

Finally, my sister sent me an email describing a two-piece, quarter-length-sleeved bridesmaid gown she had found for me, and then she linked to this picture:

For the sake of all of those attending the wedding, let's hope this isn't the dress.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Love is in the air, or something

Good grief! How did a week go by so quickly? I know how: my baby sister got engaged on Saturday, and she and her wonderful fiance, Jarred, are planning an August wedding. August! (Although that seems much more doable than Jarred's original suggestion of a June wedding.) Suddenly, wedding plans are all our family can talk about. Which is great. We love Emily, and we love Jarred. And I love being the only bridesmaid, so I can choose a dress that is not strapless, spaghetti-strapped or mini-skirted. With Em's approval, of course.

In other news, all of the thrifty, crafty blogs I've been reading lately have inspired me, so when I saw an ad in the paper for a free upright piano, I called. Said piano is now waiting a few towns over for us to pick up. I think we'll wait till the snow melts, though.

So, in honor of snow, of winter, and of Emily, here is her favorite recipe of our mom's. (As soon as our digital camera is up and running again, I'll be inserting some pictures.)

Sweet and Sour Meatloaf (Dairy free, egg free)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together:
1-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
1 cup dairy-free breadcrumbs*
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
Put in a greased loaf pan, cover with foil, and bake 45-50 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the sweet and sour sauce:
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons prepared mustard

When the meatloaf finishes cooking, uncover and drain off fat. Pour the sauce over the meatloaf and bake for 10 more minutes, uncovered.

*Most prepackaged bread crumbs have dairy. I usually make my own by running stale dairy-free bread through the food processor. Another option is to purchase a dairy-free stuffing mix (such as Brownberry) and crush it into breadcrumbs. Very therapeutic.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Overnight Oatmeal Cookies

Wow- I never realized how many February babies I know. Happy Birthday, Kathryn! (Or, as she's known in our house, "Big Kathryn.") And, Happy Birthday, Grandad!

The talk at Catherine Newman's blog and Wondertime column has been all about an awesome overnight bread recipe. While you're trying that, how about some overnight oatmeal cookies to go with? Carbs galore!

Overnight Oatmeal Cookies (Dairy Free, Wheat Free)

The night before you bake, mix together:
4 cups quick oats
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
(I like to refrigerate this mixture, but you don't have to.)

The next morning, mix in:
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Drop from a teaspoon onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes and remove promptly from the oven. Let cool just 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a cooling rack.

If you want to be extra fancy, melt some dairy-free chocolate chips and dip the cooled cookies into the melted chocolate. Let harden on wax paper.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Monkeys and Bananas

We have been on a Curious George binge lately. Thank goodness our library seems to have everything H. A. and Margret Rey ever wrote about the little guy. The George books have made a nice change in our library book rotation, though, which usually goes something like this: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Clifford, Clifford, Disney Princess, Clifford, Clifford, Frances, Clifford, Clifford.

Katherine received the C. G. movie from Uncle John and Aunt Lala for Christmas, along with a C.G. 'buddy.' We've also been enjoying the new PBS show, narrated by William H. Macy. Love him. K. now wants to be George for her preschool's literary parade instead of recycling her Halloween costume. I'm thinking... brown hooded sweatsuit with some brown felt ears tacked on. Who's with me?

All of this monkey activity (Yeah, I almost typed "monkey business" but, no. Just no.) has resulted in the purchase of many bananas and the dusting off of our favorite muffin recipe. It's our take on Fannie Farmer's banana bread. Adding chocolate chips and whole wheat flour evens out health-wise, doesn't it?

Banana Muffins

3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin cups with papers or spray with oil. Mix the bananas and eggs together in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the chocolate chips if desired and blend. Put the batter into the muffin tins and bake 15-20 minutes. Remove from the pan to a rack to cool completely. Makes 18-24 muffins.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Let Them Eat Cake

Here's a photo of the dairy-free birthday cake and dairy-free food craft we had yesterday. We had a construction theme for the party, so the craft was making traffic cones to put on an icing road. The cone idea was inspired by gingerbread house trees. (Good idea, Gramma!) To make the cones, spread icing on sugar ice cream cones and roll them in colored sugar. Our traffic cones are yellow instead of orange, but you get the idea. For the base, spread icing on a paper plate or piece of cardboard and decorate it with icing and more colored sugar to look like a road and grass. Thanks to Miss Heather and Miss Renee for leading craft time! Next time we'll have to make some cars or trucks for the roads.

I used Food Club yellow cake mix and white icing for the cake (available at Bilo for anyone who lives in the GC area.) County Market's Flavorite brand is also safe, as long as you don't use the white cake mix. The same goes for Food Club - chocolate and yellow mixes are Ok, but not white. For some reason I've always had better luck with generic food brands being dairy free. We also used store-bought icing for the craft so the kids could eat it. Enjoy!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Birthday Boy

Here are a couple pictures of "The Boy," as K called him before he was born. When she first met him in the hospital, she greeted him with, "Hey, little pumpkin head!"

Happy Birthday

Hard to believe that a year ago today Scott and I were watching Groundhog Day coverage on PCN (Pennsylvania Cable Network) at the hospital waiting for E to arrive. Now he's one! After wishing him "Happy Birthday" this morning, K paused and said, "When is he going to be really one? You know, and really know how to walk and talk?"

Here's a dairy-free, egg-free cake recipe in honor of Big E. I don't know who to credit for it because it's in at least three of my cookbooks and has been around a long time. Thanks to the original creator, whoever you are.

Cockeyed Cake [Dairy Free, Egg Free]

1 1/2 cups sifted flour
3 T. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 t. salt
5 T. canola oil
1 t. white vinegar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup cold water

Put the sifted flour back into the sifter along with the cocoa powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Sift these ingredients into a 9x9 greased, square cake pan. Make three holes in the dry ingredients. Pour the oil into one hole, the vinegar into the second hole, and the vanilla into the third hole. Pour the cold water over it all. Mix with a spoon until it's almost smooth and you can't see any flour. Bake at 350 degrees for half an hour. When cool, frost with frosting or dust with powdered sugar.