Monday, December 31, 2007

Curried Winter Vegetable Soup

Curried Winter Vegetable Soup
From Rachael Ray
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium eggplant, peel half of each one and chop into bite-size pieces (we don't care for eggplant, so subbed zucchini)
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced into about one-inch chunks
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped (we subbed green)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock plus 1 cup, divided
  • 2 rounded tablespoons mild curry paste, more if desired (we use Penzey's garam masala and hot curry powder)
  • 1/2 cup mango chutney
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas
  • 1 28-ounce fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 10-ounce bag spinach, thinly sliced
  • 1 bag pita chips

Place a large pot over medium-high heat with 3 turns of the pan of vegetable oil, about 3 tablespoons. Add the eggplant and cook stirring for about 2 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and potatoes, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and add the red bell pepper, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, adding a little more oil if necessary the mixture seems dry. Continue to cook for 5 more minutes, stirring every now and then. Add stock and bring up to a simmer.

While the stoup is coming up to a simmer, combine 1 cup of the stock with the curry paste and the mango chutney in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add the curry mixture to the pot along with the chickpeas and tomatoes. Season with some salt and pepper, bring the mixture up to a bubble and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes and veggies are nice and tender and the flavors have melded together. Fold spinach in at the end.

To serve, ladle up a good amount of the stoup into a serving bowls and top with some pita chips.


Naan from Trader Joe's

Thursday, December 27, 2007

G's Birthday

My husband is now 39. That is all :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

The "it's too early in the morning" photo:
Actually, the kids were the LAST ones up this morning! I got out of bed around 7:00, and the kids got up between 7:30 and 8:00.

Here's M., building a tower with all of her unwrapped gifts:
G., modeling the hands-free flashlight he got:
And the BIG hit of the day: Guitar Hero III for wii:
C. also got Dancing with the Stars for wii, and M. got Big Brain Academy--all three are really fun!

I got some cool laptop accessories, Uncle S. got a remote starter for his truck, and Grandma K. got an iPod!

Best of all, we have nowhere to go on Christmas day. :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas with G's side of the family

Yesterday we drove through blizzard-like conditions to celebrate Xmas with G's side of the family--his parents, his sister and her family, and his brother and his family.

We all had a great time! I didn't get a lot of pictures, but here are a few:

Four of the boys, watching the train go around the tree:

Ready to open presents (all but the youngest):Time for presents??? All five grandsons:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Very Little Knitting Going on...

Remember last year when I knit something for almost everyone I gave gifts to? Well, that is not happening this year. :( The only knitting I've been doing (apart from working on a few bagstoppers as my go-to knit) has been on ornaments. Here's some of the stuff I made:

C. suggested that I put her cell phone in there to show the scale ;) I love the little sweaters on hangers made from paper clips. Tiny socks are a lot quicker to knit than big socks, and the mittens were just a little trial. I gave away several sweaters and socks that aren't pictured here, but other than that, there will be no knitted gifts this Christmas... :(

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Concert at the Elementary School

Today was the Winter Concert at T. and M's school. Pictures of them dressed up, before the concert:

M (and the rest of the K4 and K5 kids) sang Jingle, Jingle, Jingle; Lights on the Tree; and Patta patta pan. Here she is with the whole kindergarten crew (she's circled in each):

T (and the rest of the 4th graders) sang Deck the Halls; When the Winter Comes; and
T. even got to play the xylophone on When the Winter Comes.

Unfortunately, G. couldn't make it to either performance this year, but neighbors videotaped it for us. (We really need to get a camcorder that works...)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Cookies!

I thought it would be fun to post all the Christmas cookies that we made this year, along with recipes.

Gingersnaps (from Penzey's)
I make two changes/additions to the recipe. First of all, I chop up some candied ginger and toss it in, too. Secondly, I take the cookies out of the oven after 3 minutes and press the spheres of dough down with the bottom of a glass. It makes them more thin, even, and better looking, I think (you get the nice cracked look)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 Cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 Cup molasses - either regular or unsulphured
  • 1 tsp. GINGER, powdered
  • 1 tsp. CINNAMON, powdered
  • 1/2 tsp. CLOVES, powdered
  • 1/3 Cup granulated white sugar (to roll dough in)

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening and sugar until well blended. Beat in egg, molasses, GINGER, CINNAMON, and CLOVES. Add the flour mixture in two parts, blending well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350°. Shape dough into 11/2" balls for large cookies - smaller are fine too. Roll the balls thoroughly in sugar, place on ungreased cookie trays. The cookies spread out during baking, so don't crowd them. Bake 15 minutes. Cool for a minute, then remove from cookie sheets. Store in an airtight container for crispy cookies, or in a regular cookie jar for chewy cookies.

Yield: 40-60 cookies
Prep. time: 10 minutes plus chilling
Baking time: 30 minutes total (2 sheets at a time for 15 minutes each)

Chocolate Chip Cookies made with mini Hershey bars and/or Cadbury Milk Chocolates with a Crisp Sugar Shell

No matter how many fancy cookies I make, classic chocolate chip cookies are always the first gone.
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • chocolate chips or M&M's or whatever
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chips or other additions. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Andes Candies Surprise Cookies

Andes Mint Surprise Cookies
Recipe from: 101 More Things to Do With a Cake Mix
by Stephanie Dircks Ashcraft

1 white or yellow cake mix*
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
30 to 36 individual Andes mints, unwrapped (we took one package and broke them in half)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. With a spoon, mix cake mix, eggs, and oil together in a bowl. Flatten a ball of dough around a chocolate mint. Make sure candy is completely covered with dough.

  3. Bake 8-12 minutes or until light golden brown around edges. Remove cookies and place on nonstick rack to cool.

  4. *Chocolate cake mix can be used, but increase vegetable oil from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup.

(you need a pizzelle iron for these)

I've tried many recipes, but this is my favorite! Cook on a preheated pizzelle iron until steam is no longer escaping from the sides and the pizzelles are nice and golden.

6 eggs
1 c. butter
2 t. anise extract
4 c. all-purpose flour
3 t. baking powder
2 c. sugar

Beat eggs until smooth. Melt the butter and allow it to cool briefly while you blend and mix the sugar and anise extract into the eggs. Add the melted butter into the mix, sift the flour and baking powder in, and blend vigorously to insure uniformity. Bake according to pizzelle iron directions.

Better than Reese's Peanut Butter Bars

Classic Spritz cookies
Rugelach Pinwheels

From the
Sweet On You Bakery via The Martha Stewart Show
(I found via Smitten Kitchen)

Makes about 50 cookies

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups sifted bleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup golden raisins, chopped (I used a mix of raisins and craisins)
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup apricots preserves, heated and cooled slightly

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and continue processing until fully incorporated. Add flour and pulse just until dough comes together. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

2. Meanwhile, make filling. In a medium bowl, mix together granulated and brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and walnuts; set aside.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Spread a thin layer of preserves over dough; sprinkle with filling mixture. Roll dough into a log beginning with one of the long sides; wrap in plastic wrap. Transfer dough log baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining piece of dough. Place dough logs in refrigerator; let chill at least 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping; set aside.

5. Slice chilled dough logs crosswise, about 1/4 inch thick. Toss each cookie in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place cookies 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Lift parchment paper from baking sheets and transfer to a wire cooling rack; let cool.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The feeding of the Schwa

Last time I posted about C's pet snake, we were having trouble getting her to eat. C. called the local (wonderful) pet store, Hoffer's, and they suggested that we try fish. That day we bought 5 rosy red feeder fish, took them home, and Schwa snarfed them down in no time flat.

This time we took photographs (so skip the rest of the post if you don't wish to be "entertained" by watching a snake eat....)

Here she is BEFORE we put the fish in her dish:
Once she smelled them, she made her way over...
I love this picture of her tongue, as she's smelling where they are:
She carries it out of the water to eat:chomp, chomp...
And then back for more...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Working on "what I want to do when I grow up"

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with my life :) once M is in school fulltime and the cost of having three older kids catches up to us, but I took a few steps toward something recently.

I applied for, and received this:It's a substitute license that allows me to substitute in any grade K-12 in any school in Wisconsin for up to 20 consecutive days. I can also take a long-term (over 20 days) position in any of the fields I was previously certified in (Biology, Chemistry, Broadfield Science).

I also have an interview with the personnel director for our current school district on Thursday. If all goes well, I'll fill out all the forms and will get a password to be able to check and self-assign subbing positions. Since G. will have his between-semester break in January, and his semester ends a month before the kids get out in May/June, PLUS his Spring Break never coincides with the kids', I can get a few days in of subbing, I hope. (at least enough to pay for my license application). Maybe I'll love it, and I can do that as my "permanent" job next year or the year after. Maybe I'll hate it, and know that I need to figure something out next year (schooling-wise, so I can start the following year). And maybe I'll decide that being a teacher fulltime wasn't so bad after all! :) Either way, it's a start, right?

Unfortunately, I will make LESS subbing one full day that I would make tutoring for two hours. Is it really worth it? At least I'd be home in the evenings...

Lots to think about.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Gifts That Money Can't Buy

T's teacher (who was C's teacher for 4th grade, too) gives the kids a writing assignment this time of year. The assignment is to write about gifts that money can't buy. I remember C's... I might even have it saved somewhere electronically. T. wrote his last night. I love the rambling tangents, but especially the sentiment:

Gifts that Money Can’t Buy

By T

You don’t need money to be wealthy in heart. Money might buy you fun toys, but friends are free and keep you happy longer, not to mention a lot more fun. So, if friends don’t cost money and are more fun, why not make friends instead? Also, love and nature are free. The best things are free and don’t come in boxes, for that matter. Heck, other than food and water and shelter, you hardly need to buy anything, whether it gets you teased for being Amish or not. So what if you see a commercial for a remote control hovercraft, you still don’t need it. A common way people waste money is museum souvenirs. People buy lots of things because it’s a certain brand. The worst waste of money is electricity. People think that if they leave lights and electrical appliances on while they’re away that it will ward off burglars. Unfortunately, overnight it doesn’t go off. And thieves usually figure out they used that type of remedy once the T. V. runs for two days straight. It also costs a lot of money to do that, so it’s pretty pointless. Money only gets you temporary fun, and I mean things like toys and television. It’s lots of fun to have play dates, another reason to have friends.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Remember me?

Yikes! I am SO out of the habit of blogging. I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post. Apologies galore...

So here's the month in a post:

I got a new computer--a laptop! The kids' computer completely died (the motherboard on a crappy eMachines) and when I went to find a replacement, they had this Compaq Presario with a dual processor on clearance for $399--which was cheaper than any of the desktops they had.
I have always wanted a laptop ;) I haven't taken it out of the house (to cool coffee shops or wherever) yet, but just the fact that I OWN a laptop is cool. I didn't realize how much I used the number keypad on the right until I no longer had it! I also am not a huge fan of the touchpad, so have a mouse connected when the computer's at the desk. Still, going from a half dozen plugs (CPU, monitor, speakers, etc.) down to one makes the desk area a lot neater, too. And now C. wants one of her own for Christmas--she's thinking of saving her money to get one. With five people currently fighting over the internet connection on two computers, I am not discouraging her.

T. had his half birthday, so he's now closer to being ten than being nine. YIKES!

And here's a picture of C. and T. wearing the Halloween tees I bought them on clearance:

C. has been enjoying Schwa. Schwa is very cuddly and friendly and loves to be held. She isn't a big eater, though. We think she's maybe eaten two worms in the month + that we've had her...

And Grandma K. retired! She had enough vacation saved up that, although her birthday isn't until January, her last day of work was November 2nd. She's been down to visit already twice (and will be here for Xmas)--which is more than she often can make it in a year! The kids are loving it!

Besides that I've been tutoring like crazy (sometimes 7 times a week). I have a great bunch of students this year, and I am helping most of them with double subjects (both Science and Math). G. is on bedtime duty most nights and it's so nice to not worry about things like that. Even if he has an evening obligation, C. can watch the kids while I'm gone.

I also have sent in my application to substitute teach. I'm not sure if that's something I want to do for long-term, but if M. really does go to school fulltime next year, that opens me up (for either subbing or taking classes so that I can go back as a regular teacher). G. will have a few weeks off in January, and his semester finishes almost a month before the kids are out in June, so between that time (and actually Spring Break, too), I should be able to get into the schools enough to at least pay back my application fee and maybe I'll decide that I love subbing!

I've been helping out a lot at the elementary school (not many opportunities at the Middle School), and between M. and T's classrooms, plus the social events (coffees with other moms), I'm seldom home in the morning while M's in school. It's both good and bad!

We had teacher's conferences for all three kids, that overall went well. For the first time, C's conference was the harshest. All her teachers love her, but the disorganization and general sloppiness is catching up with her. I'm hoping that she'll figure things out before high school.

It was our turn to host Thanksgiving here for both families, but we lucked out in that my brother didn't come, so it was only my mom from my side, and G's brother and sister went to their in-laws, so we only had his parents! G's sister's family did come later, for dessert, but the actual meal was pretty simple.

And now I'm off to tutor, so I'd better post this, or it'll take another week to get anything on the blog! :) I'll try to do more keeping up.