Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week-old rabbits

Well here are the rabbit babes at 1 week!  As you can see they change a lot in a week.  It has been so fun to watch how well their mama takes care of them - she is finely attuned to their needs and very attentive.  As nighttime temperatures dipped below freezing this week she kept them toasty in their little nest, buried in the fur she pulls from her own belly.  As it warms in the day, she partially uncovers them to make sure they don't overheat.  She is always nearby, watching - though she doesn't sleep in the nest, apparently so as not to attract predators.

It's been hilarious for me to watch pregnancy, birth, and nursing in this little creature.  As her pregnancy progressed, she became large, slow, and uncharacteristically grouchy.  (Sounds a little too familiar...)  She was very secluded around the time of birth - and soon afterwards, her chipper old self.  She's had an unbelievable appetite while nursing, also.  I guess us mammal mommas have more than a few things in common!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cooking for Carnivores: Any Way You Slice It

So tonight I learned why my cookbook doesn't show a picture of Beef Stroganoff.  Tasty it may be, but it's just not all that photogenic!  See what I mean?  Or maybe I'm just not cut out to be a food photographer.  I was kind of in a hurry to eat it....

Oh well.  The main point is this: a good way to stretch meat is to cut it up and serve it with a starch.  There are a million ways to do this:

  • Fried rice
  • Creamed chicken and biscuits
  • Pot pies
  • Chicken and dumplings
  • Greek style pork with rice
  • Chicken and rice
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Cowboy chili
Just off the top of my head.  There are a ton more.  I haven't included any ground beef recipes with this; I think of that as a whole separate category.

For the Beef Stroganoff, I took two lbs of petite sirloin steaks (bought on sale, of course!), partially froze it and sliced it very thin:

Stirred together a lb of sour cream, 1/4 c flour, 1 cup of water, 4t beef bouillon granules, and some pepper.

Cooked half the beef in olive oil in a medium hot skillet, removed from the skillet, then cooked the other half of the meat with a lb of sliced mushrooms, one chopped onion, and a heaping teaspoon of bottled garlic.  Mind you cook the onion long enough, or your 11 year old might ask what the crunchy bits are...not that I undercooked the onions this time, or anything.

Added everything back to the pan, plus the sauce, bring to boiling and cook for a minute or two more.  Serve it with noodles. We had it with a green salad.  This version served 6 with generous leftovers.

Speaking of the recipe, it's adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens again.  I use that book all the time, it was wonderful to have in my early married days when I didn't know much about cooking.  It's still great, because it pretty much has a good recipe for any basic dish.  Here is my very well-loved edition:

Don't mind Super-Mouse there in the corner...

Everybody liked the stroganoff.  Not counting my five and three year olds, because they are in a bit of a phase and don't like anything.  So everybody who likes anything liked it!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Weekly Challenge: 4 Girls, One Room - Week 2

Wow, it's already been a week, and I get to show off some amazing progress...accomplished with some amazing help.  Grandma caught the scent of an organizing project and rushed to my aid.  I am betting now that finishing this will take a lot less than a month.  (Thank you, again!!)  Here's what we did:

 First came a shopping trip to Ikea, where we decided to get their reversible bed, complete with the cool canopy.  (Sorry about the links being in pounds sterling...couldn't find the beds on the American site!) For now we can store a lot under it, and when baby Abby is ready for a big bed, another mattress can be placed under it to make low bunk beds, perfect for a toddler bed.  To me, it saves space now and money later - can't beat that.  (Except that it took three long, tortuous hours to assemble...probably someone who knew what they were doing could do it a bit faster!) 

As you can see we managed to keep the dresser, thanks to everything that fits under the bed. Not done yet, there is still a lot of tedious sorting of tiny toys to be done...

But here is the closet...that big white bookshelf that was by the window is in there now, and the toy chest that was in the closet is under Becca's bed.  That will help use the closet space more sensibly.  I didn't bother taking a picture of the other side of the closet, the bunk beds, or the portable bassinet, because they haven't changed. The closet doors do move now, though.  The kids are amazed to find that the closet can be closed...

 Looks enormously better, due to a great deal of clearing out, rearranging, and vacuuming.  There is more left to do than it looks like - there are several bins, boxes, and baskets hidden here and there, and they all look like this:

So that's what I'm doing for my little challenge this coming week.  I bet you are terribly jealous.  I'm tempted to just leave them hidden away...but I know what will happen.  Suddenly one day someone will remember some long-lost treasure and go digging...and then more long lost treasures will be found...and then in the avaricious pursuit of even more plastic wealth, the whole bin will be carried off and dumped out at the top of the stairs.  Bits and pieces of games we don't even own anymore will percolate down the stairs and throughout the house, and no one will know where they belong, so when I say, "clean up!" my merry little tribe will pile the lot of it on the kitchen counter.  Before we know it there will be dinosaurs and Legos in the tuna casserole...

So I guess I had better head off trouble by sorting it out (and probably throwing half of it away) this week.  I hope this has given you a few ideas for your own spaces!

4 Girls, One Room - Week 1 
4 Girls, One Room - Week 2 
4 Girls, One Room - Week 3
4 Girls. One Room - Week 4 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Easy and mostly healthy: 10-Grain Waffles

One of my favorite ways to feed the ravening horde that tromps down the stairs every morning is to fix a double or triple batch of pancakes or waffles, hope for leftovers, and freeze them for busy days.  I just use a standard pancake recipe out of Better Homes & Gardens, but I substitute 100% whole wheat pastry flour for the all purpose flour and add a wee bit more baking powder.

If you aren't familiar with whole wheat pastry flour, you should really try it.   It can be subbed in for white flour pretty much anywhere, no need to mix with white flour.  It is milled finely, has a very light texture, and makes lovely 100% whole wheat pancakes, waffles, biscuits, muffins, cookies, etc.  (Not so hot in cakes, though.  I suggest you just take my word on that...otherwise you, too, might have a story about an Infamous First Birthday Cake that follows you for the rest of your life.)  I like Bob's Red Mill, it is fairly economical and widely available in whole foods stores and some grocery stores.  Of course it is more expensive than white flour, but the payback in terms of health is real.

Yesterday I tossed together a batch of my Oat Bran Waffles...except I was out of oat bran.  I have a little bit of an Achilles' heel in the kitchen - I'm terrible at keeping staples in stock.  I'm better than I used to be..which isn't saying a whole lot more than, "we don't usually run out of ketchup any more."  I dislike buying something unless I know specifically why I need it, so I can't convince myself to replace something just because it's running low.  It causes a world of trouble...but it's also forced me to learn to make creative emergency substitutions in recipes!  So the Oat Bran Waffles became 10-Grain Waffles, just like that.

10-Grain Waffles  (Adapted from a recipe for refined grain waffles in Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1996 edition)

1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c 10-grain hot cereal (dry)
1 heaping T baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 eggs, separated
1 3/4 c milk
1/2 c oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl; mix the egg yolks, milk, and oil in another.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix till just combined.  Clean up the mess from your three year old trying, and failing, to balance a jar of peanut butter on his head.  Beat the egg whites till stiff, then fold lightly into batter.  Leave a few fluffs of egg white.  It should look like this:
Waffle batter...
Bake according to your waffle baker's instructions.  Serve it up with butter and real maple syrup, or, more healthy, with plain yogurt and applesauce (no, seriously.  It's good.  I promise.).   Freeze the leftovers - they reheat gorgeously in the toaster.  My children all devour these - and finding something that ALL of them love is pretty rare.  Variations: For the original oat bran waffles, use 1 1/4 c flour and 1/2 c oat bran.  For whole wheat waffles, just use 1 3/4 c flour.  For pancakes, you could probably just skip separating the eggs and put the whole eggs in with the wet ingredients.  I've never tried that - if you do, leave a comment and tell me how it went!

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Hearth & Soul Hop

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Like trees in November..."

Aspens last year
The title is a quote from one of my favorite books - Watership Down by Richard Adams.  If you haven't read it, you should.

Anyway, it came to mind today as I was looking out the window for some fall colors (and yes I know it's not November yet.  It's just a quote, after all.).   If it's fall where you live, I hope you are having some beautiful colors.  The trees here seem reluctant to turn this year.  I'm sure if I went looking I could find some, but around the neighborhood, most of them are still green; the ones that are turning are kind of dull.  Then there are a few that seemed to drop all their leaves overnight!

I got to thinking that people can be very like those trees; we go through so many different times in our lives and it affects how we feel and act.  We can have times when we are happy, healthy, and ordinary, green in the summer sun.  We have brief seasons where we are in our element and we just shine - or when we could have, but for whatever reason the conditions just weren't right, and we just sputtered out instead.  We all have winters when things are bleak and dark, and we just shut down to try to make it through till spring, when against all hope we begin to bloom again.

We ought to expect this, and be ready for it.  We are made this way, and we live in a fallen world where winter comes. If we understand this about ourselves, it's a lot easier to be gracious to others who may be in a different season from us.  I think we moms in particular are tempted to compete and compare ourselves to each other; let's pray for softer, stronger hearts that can build each other up, instead.

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." ~ Proverbs 27:17 NKJV

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cooking for Carnivores (on a budget) - sandwiches

One of my favorite ways to stretch meat is with hot, BBQ style sandwiches.  Pulled pork, BBQ chicken or beef - once you shred the meat, simmer it in a good homemade sauce, and throw it in a whole grain bun - a little goes a long way.  I am always amazed by how far this method will stretch meat.  You can bulk it up with veggies quite easily too.  Of course sloppy joes are a classic variation, and so cheap and easy to make from scratch as well.

Onion and celery - cooking in the butter my five year old made!

I planned to have BBQ chicken sandwiches on Friday.  It was to be a hectic day, so in the morning I thawed and shredded four cooked chicken breasts, and chopped and sauteed some veggies.  I tossed it all in a bowl and added a shredded carrot for good measure -

Then I stuck it in the fridge.  The day was hectic as planned - so much so that we ended up eating leftovers that night.  So on Saturday - which was also hectic (I spent the day working on the girls' room) - I was able to put the whole mess in a pan with a cup of salsa, a cup of ketchup, and some brown sugar, vinegar, Worchestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.  It was ready in all of twenty minutes, and made plenty for all with leftovers.  It was especially quick served with a salad prepared by my daughter.

What, no picture of the finished product?  Umm, sorry, no.  I decided not to...or I forgot, because I was too busy tearing out my hair trying to assemble Becca's new bed from Ikea.  One of those.

Linked up at Feed Your Family for $0.50 a Person: 4 Moms

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Arrivals!

They're here!  Five strong baby rabbits arrived this afternoon.  It was a tremendously exciting event.  I actually missed it...dashed out to the grocery store.  I was gone for all of half an hour.  Fortunately Erin took pictures for me!

Here they are being counted.  Totally counter intuitive to me, but you have to distract the mom with a treat and snatch the whole nest box, and take the kits out and look them over.

 Here is a picture of the nest shortly before the birth; she has it dug pretty deep.
 This is the nest with the newborn kits inside.  The mother tears the fur from her belly and uses it to line the nest and cover the hairless babies to keep them warm. You can see her pulling out mounds of fur below -  

The new mom with a well-earned bowl of oats.

Quite an adventure!  So glad Erin gets the opportunity to do this.  I'll put up more pictures as they grow!