Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Favorites

Caramel Apple Muffins

I don't know whether it's having a second baby (who still occasionally wakes up at night) or my new schedule that would put a rooster to shame (I'll have to write more on that later), but my ardor for making homemade baked goods from scratch has diminished. Fall is here, and it's my favorite time of year to bake, but my "to-make" list is much less ambitious than it usually is. However this week I've been busy, and I've made:

Sweet Potato Pound Cake, it would go really well with some Maple Cream like the one found here.

Caramel Apple "Muffins" (I think this would more accurately be called a cupcake.) Next time I would probably make my own caramel sauce like this one (very easy to do) rather than melt caramel candies- I think the homemade sauce would have a better flavor.

Next up:

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

And that may be all that I have energy for this year! But we'll see, it's only October.

Friday, October 12, 2012

You Know What Might Be A Good Idea...? if you could make life-sized wax figures of your children. That way when you want to take their pictures, you wouldn't actually have to deal with live children. Live children and photography, in my experience, are rarely a successful combination. I need the crew of Planet Earth to come take some pictures for me. Wildlife photographers are surely used to capturing unpredictable, moving creatures.

We went to the pumpkin patch at the zoo today. I love pumpkin pictures. I've planned several pumpkin patch outings in order to maximize the chances that I'll actually get a keeper.

Today I realized that it's  going to take more than just me to get some good pictures. I need at least one extra set of hands. I had to prop Isla up in the basket of pumpkins and wrangle John into place then shoot, shoot, shoot, hoping Isla wouldn't tip over. She didn't. Whew!

There were a few cute ones and a lot of outtakes:

Monday, October 08, 2012

Bed Head

Last week I went in to get John up from his nap. He had a cute case of bed head, so I took a picture. Now, everyday when I get him from his nap he says: "Please take a picture of my bed head."

You know, people go to fancy salons, pay good money and use a lot of product to achieve this "just rolled out of bed" style. And, depending on how much you end up paying for a hair cut, you might also acquire that crazed look in your eyes.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

15-Minute Meals

Gone (for now) are the days when I can spend an hour in the kitchen making spinach butternut squash lasagna complete with homemade marinara sauce.

I hope that I don't have to totally eschew butternut squash lasagna until my children fly the coop, but there's nothing about that dish that can just be thrown together in a pinch. And, right now, I need meals that can be thrown together in a pinch. If I do get to the butternut squash lasagna, which would be nice because it's delicious and nutritious,  it will have to be made piece-meal style ahead of time and put together right before dinner.

For me the holy grail of meals, is quick, cheap, healthy, and (this one is pushing it) can be made with local ingredients- this kind of meal is almost a culinary unicorn.

These days, though, the emphasis is on quick.

Here are some meals that truly are quick. I mean really, they can be put together in less than 20 minutes. They may not be the healthiest of fare- none of them feature arugula- but I think you could do a lot worse. And that's my motto for a lot of things right now: If I could do worse, then I'm doing pretty well!

Chipotle Bean Burritos

Spicy Chicken Quesadillas
This recipe calls for shredded rotisserie chicken. I used chicken that I had previously boiled, shredded and frozen. I thawed it the day I made the quesadillas.

Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce
This is really good, and very easy to put together, but only if you make the ranchero sauce ahead of time. I double the recipe and freeze a few batches of sauce. On the day I want to make the enchiladas, I thaw the sauce and then throw everything together (usually in a pinch). Peter suggested buying the ranchero sauce. I've not seen bottled or canned ranchero sauce in the store, but I haven't looked either. The homemade sauce has an excellent flavor, though.

Slow Cooker Enchilada Casserole
I make this every week for a pot luck that we have after our church service. You can totally skip step one. It doesn't make a difference in the end product whether you toast the tortillas or not. You can add whatever you'd like- maybe some additional veggies to make it healthier or ground meat to make it hardier. But people like this and it could not be easier.

Blackened Cumin-Cayenne Tilapia

You wouldn't know it from this list, but I do cook more than one type of cuisine. I guess the quickest ones happen to be (all but one) Tex Mex. Nothing wrong with that!

If you have any 15- minute meals, please share them!

Friday, October 05, 2012

More Free Things For Toddlers To Do: Water Pouring

One morning I found myself needing to clean the kitchen and needing some occupation for John so that I could focus and get it done quickly rather than distractedly working on it all day.

I opened my magical cabinet o' garbage, pulled out a funnel and some containers. I filled a few containers with water and let the pouring commence. I don't know if other toddlers are like this, but if so, by all means, take advantage! If your child loves pouring water, you have got a free, relatively mess free (a little water on the floor does not count as a mess in my book) source of entertainment that you can use over and over.

I showed him how to pour the water into the larger containers and then how to use the funnel to pour it back into the smaller containers. He did this for approximately 1/2 an hour. I'm not great at keeping track of time these days- it may have been 45 minutes. You can see he's very focused. He asks to do this all the time.

I periodically refilled the containers as more and more of it ended up on the floor. Once I asked him "where did all your water go?" He responded: "It's in the towel."

And, bonus! I searched the web for water pouring ideas one day and found that it is considered all kinds of  educational!

If he becomes a genius, I'm going to take credit. "It was all that water pouring you did!"

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

September Books

Room by Emma Donoghue
This is a really interesting novel. The premise, which is fairly quickly established, is that a woman and her son are being held captive in a one-room shed. That idea gives me chills. It's even more haunting given that similar things have actually happened recently, like Jaycee Dugard. But the book is well-written with incredible (I thought) insight. I knew the setting of the book before I stared it, but was intrigued with the directions the story took- you wouldn't think it could go very many directions when most of the story takes place in one room, but it does! One thing I didn't expect is that it ended up being a commentary on society and, among other things, the voyeuristic nature of our media.

Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jancovic
A tiny book packed with food for thought on being  a mother to little ones from a Christian perspective. One thing she said that has challenged me:

"If there is anything I have learned in the course of my fast and furious mothering journey, it is that there is only one thing in my entire life that must be organized. The kids can be running like a bunch of hooligans through a house that appears to be at the bottom of a toaster, and yet, if organization and order can still be found in my attitude, we are doing well. But if my attitude falters, even in the midst of external order, so does everything else."

There are all sorts of nuggets of wisdom like that. It was honest, well-written and engaging. I would recommend it.

The Art of Fiction by John Gardiner
Notes on writing. I enjoyed this. It was well-written- which I guess is a necessity if you're going to write a book on writing- and informative.

Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
The myth of Psyche and Cupid retold from the perspective of Psyche's sister. The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 is the bulk of the book, part 2 is an addendum. I could not put this down. Part one was riveting. Part 2, I'll be a monkey's uncle if I understood any of it. I'm going to reread part 2, pay closer attention, and then discuss it with my book club friend. I really liked it but don't yet have a great grasp of it's message.