Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Menu: with links

Once again, this isn't for you....this is for me. Not to sound selfish or anything, but there you go. Of course, you are welcome to use the recipes and the links....but I need a quick reference guide while I'm in the kitchen.

My sister makes a spreadsheet with all her recipes, ingredients, prep work, times, etc. I have a list on the kitchen whiteboard and this post. (though I will add cooking start times and dates to the kitchen whiteboard list.)

Here we go:

Thanksgiving Day:

Turkey (The Jedi is picking up our pre-ordered smoked turkey from SmoQ on Wednesday afternoon.)
Gravy (I have no idea. Put out a plea on Facebook. Likely going to end up buying a jar. Yuck.)
Stuffing. (Stovetop. It's what my family likes best. I aim to please.)
Sweet potato casserole. (prep wed, bake thurs)
Mashed potatoes. (in the crock pot. I think I'll boil and mash them the day before and pop them in the crock pot to heat up the morning of. Also, the Jedi hates sour cream. Substituting velveeta cheese. I swear it will work.)
Snow Peapods (minus the mushrooms, cause I want my kids to eat them)
Rolls (prep and prebake Wed, finish Thurs)
Caramel Apple Nut Pie (the Jedi picked up a frozen one from GFS. I just need to bake it Thursday a.m. or Wed p.m.)
Pumpkin Pie. (I have a yummy recipe for deep dish pumpkin pie. but this year I'm just going to bake traditional pumpkin pie. Recipe on the can, because I'm not even baking it down from a whole pumpkin this year.)
Flourless Chocolate Cake

Day After (Thanksgiving Repeat with cousins who left us for Florida. The traitors.)

All of the above reheated, PLUS

GF version of Sweet Potato Casserole (yeah, I don't know. I'm going to use GF bisquick in place of the flour and cross my fingers and hope.)
Brazilian Cheese Rolls
Peach Pake

Two for Tuesday: GF Cheese Rolls; Snow Peapods

Both of these recipes come to me via Christopher Robin, who knows my google-fu skills are weak. I have no where she originally found them.

Sweet Tiff from co-op was kind enough to bring me a bag of tapioca starch (same thing as tapioca flour). That saves me from hunting it down at the grocery store!

GF Cheese Rolls....better known as
 Brazilian Cheese Bread
                                                                      ...who knew?

Simple and gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread, or Pão de Queijo, made with tapioca flour, milk, eggs, olive oil, and cheese.

The recipe as presented is fairly basic. Feel free to dress it up a bit with herbs or spices of your choice.
•    Prep time: 5 minutes
•    Cook time: 15 minutes

•    1 egg*
•    1/3 cup olive oil
•    2/3 cup milk
•    Scant 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) tapioca flour
•    1/2 cup (packed, about 66 grams) grated cheese, your preference, though we got the best results from Mexican farmer's cheese - queso fresco
•    1 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)
Special equipment recommended:
•    One or two mini muffin tins. Mini muffin tins are about half the size of a regular muffin pan. The muffin openings are about 1-inch deep, and 1 3/4 inch wide at the top.
*It helps when baking with eggs to start with eggs at room temperature. If you don't plan ahead (that would be me, usually) you can put the egg in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to gently take off the chill of the fridge.


1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a mini-muffin tin. Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth. You may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender so that everything gets blended well. At this point you can store the batter in the refrigerator for up to a week.

2 Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until all puffy and just lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes.

Eat while warm or save to reheat later.

Note that Brazilian cheese bread is very chewy, a lot like Japanese mochi.

Yield: Enough batter for 16 mini muffin sized cheese breads.


Mushrooms and Snow Pea Pods
When making this for my family on Thanksgiving, I think I will have to omit the mushrooms. I do want my children to at least try it! I'll half all the spices and broths and such to reflect the reduced volume. But what I'm posting here is the original recipe, with its original amounts.

  • 6 oz mushrooms, button, fresh
  • 6 oz pea pods, fresh or frozen
  • ½ t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t sherry
  • 2 T chicken broth
  • 2 T cooking oil

  1. Stir fry oil and pea pods for one minute.  Add mushrooms and stir fry additional minute.
  2. Add salt, sherry, and sugar, stir fry one minute.
  3. Add broth, stir fry one minute.
  4. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cincinnati Dayscapes: Arcade Legacy

Looking for a fun, reasonably priced, indoor activity for the family to enjoy?

Let me recommend Arcade Legacy in Cincinnati Mills mall.

Arcade Legacy is packed full of lots of old and new arcade games, a row of pinball machines, three tables of console games, two 'big screen' projections (one with a console game and one with guitar hero...i think...), plus a ddr machine, a ping pong table, and likely a few other things that I'm forgetting. ALL the games are unlimited play included with the price of admission.

Friday nights are family nights. The whole family (everyone living in the same house) gets in for $20. You can also add in a few friends for $5 each.

How long can you stay? As long as you want. Can you leave and get something to eat and then come back. Absolutely. You get a wristband when you pay that's good for the whole day. (I even saw one family bring in Little Ceasar's pizzas and eat at a big table that looked like it was set up to be a snack/food table....but I would recommend calling them and verifying that outside food is ok before you plan on it.)

We went tonight and met our Florida cousins who were in town for Thanksgiving and friends and cousins of cousins. Toa of Boy got to hang out with his Minecraft posse.

We stayed for three hours and had a great time. Absolutely a win of a place!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Daybook: Shoeboxes and Tetnus Shots


Outside my window...the birdfeeder needs to be brought in, cleaned, and refilled. The TWO birdfeeders need to be brought in, cleaned, and refilled. I think I'm beginning to see the downside to this hobby.

I am thinking...that I am not coming out from my little penguin blanket cocoon until the temperatures are once again consistently above 60. Also, cocoon is a weird word to spell.

I am thankful...for the fifty-eight Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes a small group of co-op students packed up today.

In the kitchen...I stopped by Aldi's on the way home from the shoebox packing party. I picked up a refrigerated pizza, a box of hot wings, a box of sweet bbq wings, and a box of chicken tenders. Move over Martha Stewart.

I am wearing...a penguin blanket. Under that is my pink turtleneck with the pretty little snowflake necklace a Brunswick elf made for me, jeans, and unicorn slippers. I am a living fashion plate.

I am creating...shhhhhhh....it's a secret.

I am going...to the dentist sometime this week I hope. Toa of Boy has a loose tooth. The loose tooth looks suspiciously like a permanent tooth and not very much like a baby tooth.

I am wondering...can I make my Thanksgiving rolls on Wednesday? They won't be warm on Thursday. But, they'll be done....and that's worth a lot. Also, we have six people for Thanksgiving. And two pies and one cake. And I think I need to add another baked good. Ooooo....I know! Peach pake! 

(Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey footnote here. I went to bed at this point on Monday evening and am writing the rest of this daybook on Tuesday morning. Thus change in tense and day and what not.)

I am reading...haven't started Ender's Game yet. I am doing a Bible study on the life of Abraham called The Magnificent Obsession. I'm just using the participant's guide, not the book by Anne Graham Lotz.

I am hoping...that this week comes together as easily as the last couple weeks have. I've gone off my 'to-do' list and am trying to take a Mary approach to life rather than a Martha approach. But, that's hard to do on Tuesday morning when all I can think of is all the stuff that needs to get done.

I am looking forward to...my cousin and his family coming over the Friday after Thanksgiving. They moved to Florida last fall and we haven't seen them since. Sweetling and Toa of Boy really like getting together with their kids and we really like getting together with the grown-ups. We used to get together at least once a month....but alas, those good times had to come to an end.

I am learning....that my pediatrician's office doesn't have Toa of Boy's shot records on file. I kind of think that in the five years we've been a patient there, someone should have asked me about that on one of our well-child visits. Instead I find out when I call to make sure Toa of Boy is up to date on his tetnus vaccine because he took a nasty fall in the woods last night. I'm a little miffed about this.

Around the house...don't ask me about the house. The house needs vacuumed. The laundry needs done. The dishwasher needs unloaded. The bathroom needs cleaned. The tub needs scrubbed. The house is not in a good state this morning.

I am pondering...there have been a few other 'glitches' at my doctor's office. Every time one of those happens I think about switching to a pediatrician for the kids. But, I don't really want to wind up in a group of pediatricians where its spin the wheel to see who sees your child. I like having a family doctor that sees both me and the kids, who knows my family, who supports homeschooling, etc. So, I never switch doctors. I like my doctor; I don't like her office staff.

A favorite quote for today...elephants. It's not a quote, but there is a herd of elephants escorting Sweetling around the house this morning. Last night the discussion was, if we had access to a shrink ray and could make elephants small enough to be house pets, what would a good size be for a pet elephant?

One of my favorite things...God's hand is on my day and on my life. I don't have to worry about the big picture. I just have to be faithful moment-by-moment. That's hard enough in itself.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
Tuesday: tetnus shot? Call the dentist. Call Lazer Kraze and pre-pay to save our spot for Wednesday. Vacuum and clean.
Wednesday: laundry? school. Lazer Kraze.
Thursday: grocery store. school. Y classes.
Friday: Week TWO of the Jedi's holiday time! We might be going to the range. Also, I need to bake and decorate cake for a first birthday.
Saturday: Vaya's baby's first birthday. Dr. Who's 50th anniversary special. Originally a souffle was to be made that morning, but the birthday party preempted that.

A peek into my day...
No peeks. No peeks for you. Some horrible person forgot to take a SINGLE picture at our shoebox packing party. That horrible person could kick herself for that right now :(

---Format courtesy of The Simple Woman's Daybook.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Week in Review: Achoo!

Of all the great weeks with the great projects that I didn't take the time to write about, it's the week where a cold kicked our butts that I'm blogging about.

We limped through this week.

On the plus side, Sweetling has a new weekly schedule that seems to be working really well for her.

Last week she got everything done, including the first art lesson from her Artistic Pursuits curriculum, something that hasn't happened yet this school year.

(This week, not so much, but I'm counting the new schedule as a win.)

For Toa of Boy, I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Minecraft is the best thing that has happened to Toa of Boy's education. Usually, he flies through his schoolwork so that he can get on Skype with his Minecraft buddies. Again, this week, not as much. This week both Toa and I struggled to function through sinus congestion. We skipped fractions altogether. We spent extra time just reading.

But, since it's been a while since I've blogged, let me take this chance to do a quick update on one change we made to Toa's curriculum that I really like.

A few weeks ago, we started using the book Spelling Power.

It promises spelling in just 15 minutes a day (which was my selling point to get Toa of Boy on board). It doesn't lie.

We start with a quick pre-test of spelling words. We set a timer for 5 minutes. I read the word from the awesomely organized word lists. Toa repeats it (so I can check his pronunciation. If he doesn't pronounce it correctly, he won't have much of a chance of spelling it correctly.) Then he writes it, and we check his spelling. If he can spell it correctly, we move on to the next word. If he can't, we immediately spell it correctly in the 'words to learn' column. We get through a good amount of words in just five minutes. When the timer goes off, we are done with that section.

Generally, Toa only has a couple of words in his "words to learn" column, so we don't do the 10-step study sheet every day. (That's not how the program is designed, but Toa feels rewarded by not having to do the middle section every day.) So, when Toa has accumulated at least five words in his "words to learn" column, we take 5 minutes and do the 10-step study sheet. It's fast; it's simple; and it's effective.

Lastly, I write his 'words to learn' on small cards that accumulate in a little plastic box. (I take 3x5 index cards and cut them in quarters.) He picks an activity card (lots of different hands on activities) and spends five minutes practicing a few of his word cards. Each time he practices a word card, I mark it with a little penciled x. When he has practiced a word card three different times I clip it in a 'completed' stack. When he has about 15 or so 'completed' cards, we retest those words during the first 5 minute spelling block. If he spells them correctly on that second go round, I throw the card in the garbage. (Again, this is a little different than how the program prescribes. The program suggests retesting the words to learn the very next day. I find that delaying a few days really helps to guarantee that Toa has mastered the word.)

Toa likes using a timer. He likes knowing that each section of spelling only takes five minutes. He likes that he is only spending time studying and practicing words that he needs to learn. This is by far the most successful spelling program we have tried. It has been so successful, that Toa of Boy (whose most hated subject for years was spelling) has come to me and requested words to be added to his spelling list because he wants to learn how to spell them. That, my dear friends, is a successful spelling program.

Despite limping through the school work, this week ended on a spectacular note. Every year, the Jedi spends some of his unused vacation days (those that won't roll into the next year). He manages to take every Friday off in December, and many Fridays off in November. This week was the first of those....so from here until 2014....we have three day weekends!

To kick off our holidays, we packed today with fun activities. We went to an 11 o'clock showing of Thor: The Dark World in 3d! That was awesome!

After the movie, we came home for 'specialty' sandwiches. I make a habit of grabbing yummy loaves of flavored bakery bread off the discounted day-old bread rack at the stores. We slice them and load them with ham and turkey and cheese (and veggies for those who want it). Then I slather them with butter and grill them and serve them with a side of fresh fruit. It's like a gourmet deli sandwich.

The Jedi got a little yard work done and I got some co-op emails done. We had time for a nap. Then we had spaghetti for dinner and went to see Despicable Me 2 at Danbarry dollar saver theater.

We capped off the night with dessert at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse. (Delicious pizookies and strawberry beignets.) Back at home, everyone wound down by spending time on their own computer activities. (Toa played Minecraft; Sweetling is probably on some forums chatting about Thor; the Jedi is leveling up a rp character; and I blogged.)

Perfect, perfect start to the holiday season!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Simple Woman's Daybook: Jumping Back into Blogging

I know. Months without blogging and now, what, three posts in one night?

I wanted to write this on Monday at co-op....but, co-op is a busy place.

I really want to get back to blogging regularly. Ideally, I want to have at least two posts a week...a Two for Tuesday and a Week in Review.

But first, I need to get over my guilt at having let my blog slide, forget all the posts that I meant to write, but never did...and just start blogging again.

Easiest way to do that is with a Simple Woman's Daybook. Don't worry about my "to-write" list. Just focus on the now.


Outside my window...
Last week I put up a bird feeder. Two in fact. In my front yard on a double shepherd's hook. I can see them from my kitchen window. (Yes, my kitchen faces the front of the house.) I got two bird identification guides from the library and signed up for project feeder watch. So far it's attracted several house sparrows, three cardinals (one male and two female), a pair of house finches, and at least one chickadee. In my backyard, I think I saw a Northern Flicker.

I am thinking...
Writing is hard. Writing is so hard.

I am thankful...
For how well school is going with both kids this year. This is what homeschooling should be, I think. Sweetling has a really, really heavy workload, but it's mostly things that she wanted to learn. Her new weekly schedule seems to be working well for her. And Minecraft is the best thing that has ever happened to Toa of Boy's education.

In the kitchen...
Fish tacos were not as yummy as they sounded. Oh, the fish tacos Sweetling made a couple of years ago from scratch were delicious. The frozen fish stick tacos I tossed together after a long day at co-op were about as good as one would expect frozen fish stick tacos to taste.

I am wearing...
Jeans, unicorn slippers, an old college honors society sweatshirt, a wool wrap. I was wearing electrically heated gloves that plug into a usb cable or something while I type, but I took those off to facilitate the nose wiping. Sexy, I know.

I am creating...
Germs. Maybe a year of pies. Not at the same time though. My pies are germ free. Thus I prove that I am sexy and have great marketing skills.

I am going...
To see Thor: The Dark Planet on Friday. The Jedi is home every Friday for the rest of the year. It's one of my favorite parts of the Christmas holidays. Agents of Shield next Tuesday has a Thor tie in. Thus, a movie trip is in order.

I am wondering...
Where I can buy an inexpensive elf on the shelf. I need an elf. I've given up on a house elf, but think an elf on the shelf is withing my power to acquire.

I am reading...
Ender's Game. Or re-reading it. Toa and I are reading Michael Vey and the Prisoner of Cell 25 together as his literature read aloud. I've read all three of the Michael Vey books, because it was my job to pre-read them, of course. Not that I got sucked into the story line and had to find out WHAT HAPPENED. That never happens to me.

I am hoping...
To get over this cold soon. Toa of Boy has had this lingering cough for at least a week now.

I am looking forward to...
Fridays. I love having the Jedi home for several three-day weekends in a row.

I am learning...
That I can't tell the difference between a black-capped chickadee and a carolina chickadee. Personally, I think it's very unfair that an Ohio girl should have to worry about a carolina chicakee, but apparently Cincinnati is graced with both varieties. Lucky me.

Around the house...
Clutter. I suffer with severe flat-surface syndrome. Fortunately, there is a medication derived from the cocoa tree that can relieve my symptoms.

I am pondering...
Why, at 11:10, I just got an email from my daughter whose school night bedtime is supposed to be 10:30.

A favorite quote for today...
"I shot a superior officer in the chest." (Simmons, Agents of Shield).

One of my favorite things...

How quick the Jedi is to help me, fix things for me, and take care of me.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
Wednesday: pick up Sweetling's holds from the library. Bellydance class at the Y was on the list, but we'll see how much energy the cold leaves me with.
Thursday: Y classes, if the energy is there. Though, I think I can do the stretching class and skip the stability ball/core strength training.
Friday: Thor.
Saturday: house cleaning party at a friend's before her surgery, shoebox packing at church, gaming :)

A peek into my day...

Slept in. Fed the dog. Stared at the snow on the ground. Snow. No birds at the feeder. Made my breakfast. Started my devotions. Got a shower. History and Bible with Sweetling and Toa. Vacuumed. Swept the kitchen floor. Sorted and started laundry. Made and ate lunch and watched Code Lyoko prequel with Sweetling. Transferred laundry, straightened my hair, took Jupiter for a walk. Not a jog. I'm not jogging in the cold. I can't figure out how to stay warm and not sweat. Did school with Toa. Figured out the bird I saw in the backyard was probably a northern flicker. Wrote two blog posts. Let my family scrounge for leftovers in the fridge. Played hookey from evening Y classes. Watched Downton Abby and ate tacos. Watched Agents of Shield with Sweetling and the Jedi and drank hot chocolate. Ignored the laundry still in the machines and wrote this blog post instead.

(add your picture here)
You'll note there is no picture. I think I should make another goal for Friday be "ask the Jedi to teach me how to get pictures off of both my phone and the camera. I can't do either.

Two for Tuesday: Gaming Recipes

This first recipe was discovered by the Jedi at a potluck at work. It was appropriately called "Crack Dip" for it's additive qualities. He brought the recipe home along with an injunction that we must make it on our next gaming night.

We did.

It was well received. And very well named.

It isn't healthy. Not even remotely. Don't come here for healthy recipes.

Crack Dip

  • 1 lb. Bob Evans sausage regular or hot (red wrapper)
  • 2 blocks cream cheese cubed – do not use low or no fat (why would you even consider that?)
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes with diced chilies – do not drain
  1.  Brown sausage in pan. (Usually grease is cooked off but drain if needed.)
  2. Add cream cheese and Rotel tomatoes.
  3. Blend until creamy smooth. (Can be transferred to a crock pot to be kept warm.)
  4. Serve with tortilla chips. (The 'scoops' variety works very well.)
I don't have a picture. Sorry. Don't come here for pictures either.

This next recipe I have for you comes from ShugarySweets, which is my new favorite source of dessert and snack recipes. I didn't change anything, not a thing, from her directions. They were perfect and the treat was sinfully good.

So, pretty much, I'm bringing you crack and sin today.

I 'm just going to give you a link to her outstanding recipe and steal a picture from her blog so that you know how much you need to visit her blog and make this recipe. It does make a lot, so be prepared to take it to a pot luck, or cut up the leftovers and make little thank-you presents for teachers or secretaries or something.

Trust me, you won't regret making these. Your waistline might regret it, but I can't help that.

Year of Pies

Back story:

Late last winter, I brought home from the library the book, A Year of Pies. Because, after all, my family needed a year of pies.

We tried three recipes from the book, and found that they weren't quite the sweet, old-fashioned flavors we were looking for. They were good and they were unique, but they weren't the comfort food that I expect in a pie.

(Sweetling called them "Hippy Pies." There was, in fact, a recipe for a fern pie made from freshly harvested fern fronds, but we didn't try that one.)

The book did have the absolute best recipe and directions for a pie crust that I have ever encountered. And that includes the personal instructions and tutoring of my Mammaw, who was the best of country cooks.

Those beautiful step-by-step directions and the clear accompanying photographs made the book a treasure of a find.

There is no way I can do those pie crusts justice by reposting any of them here. (And yes, pie crusts, plural. The book had butter-shortening or all butter traditional crusts as well as four different types of crumb style crusts.)

You must find, beg, borrow, purchase, steal a copy of this book to learn to make the most flavorful, flaky, perfect crusts ever:
Nevertheless, there was some disappointment in my home over the actual pie recipes. That, and Toa of Boy felt cheated that "A Year of Pies" didn't mean three hundred sixty-five pies.

This fall, when the weather was cooler and it was time to start baking pies again, I got the book back out of the library. I need that perfect pie crust recipe.

The return of the book sparked a dinnertime conversation about what "A Year of Pies" might look like. A pie a day is just crazy. A pie a week is possible. Very, very possible. But, a pie every OTHER week is much more realistic.

So, from now until I get tired of doing this, I bring you....

Mrs. Random's Year of Pies. 

I might even sweet talk the Sweetling into making a graphic for me.

Now, the first pie I bring to you is a crustless pie. This will give you time to find a copy of Ashley English's incomparable crust recipe. I'm serious about this. Don't settle for a crust that's adequate or even one that's pretty good. Go for the best. Ashley English is the absolute best.

In the meantime, I'll be super ambitious and try to share three crustless pies in November.

The first, and the best, was originally titled "Fudge Pie". I'll post the directions exactly as they were given to me, and add my notes in little parenthetical italics. (Like this.) The original recorder put in his own parenthetical comments. Don't get confused. Clearly mine are the wiser quips.

Here is the fudge pie recipe. It serves 8-10 people, or 1 chocaholic  The changes for the chocolate chunk variation is at the bottom.

It comes from a cookbook called "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen"

11 tablespoons (1 stick + 3 tbsp) butter or margarine + more for greasing pan
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (pecans are better)

Place an oven rack in middle position, preheat to 350 degrees. Melt butter and chocolate together in a double broiler, stirring occasionally. (Seriously, use a double broiler.)

Combine sugar and flour in a large bowl, mixing them together. Add eggs, mix well. Add vanilla, salt and walnuts (pecans) and mix again. Add melted butter and chocolate, mix until thoroughly combined.

Heavily rub bottom and sides of 8-inch or 9-inch pie pan with butter. Pour mix into pie pan and bake for 25-35 minutes. Insert knife into pie after 25 minutes, repeating every 2 minutes until knife comes out clean (or almost clean, as my knife never comes out totally pristine).

Remove pie from oven and let cool on a rack, then move pie to the refrigerator for at least several hours (I prefer overnight). Serve it cold, cutting it into slices. (Ok, it does need to chill some. It never survives overnight in my house. It's lucky if it gets to sit for a couple of hours before I'm serving it up.)

For the chocolate chunk variation, it is the same except for the following:

-- Instead of 1 1/2 cups of sugar, cut back to just 1 cup (I went to 1 1/4 cups.)
-- Use 3/4 semi-sweet chocolate chunks instead of 1 cup chopped walnuts (I like 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, because they are easier AND 3/4 cup chopped pecans. What is this 'instead of' nonsense?)
-- It seems to be ready right at 25 minutes, maybe a couple minutes longer, but no more than that.

Public Service Announcement: This pie is highly addicting. It might be concentrated magic. You can bring it to someone and garner their lifelong servitute after they have partaken in its amazingness.