Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ideas for Dinner with Chicken Pictures

But not pictures of chicken for dinner....

Tonight, for some reason, I find myself with the urge to write a blog post.  I'm sure it's been over six months this time.  But events have conspired to make tonight's post possible and I'm going with it.

First, kids are all in bed.  Second, I have some recently uploaded photos to share.  Who wants a post without photos? Third, I have a new homemaking thing that is working for me.  Innocuous, non-judgemental.  Just potentially helpful.

John loves animals.

I've tried many approaches to meal planning.  There's the "pour over cookbooks for hours searching for the perfect recipes" approach.  Not very time efficient.  And you can't have your favorite dish (anything in white sauce) every night.

Or the "use someone else's 52 weeks of completely different menus for each night of the week approach."  Actually, although you don't really know what you're going to get with this second one, I do recommend it if you are just starting out. (With planning or cooking.)  I did a Saving Dinner Menumailer for a year and it was like going through a cooking course.  I just went ahead and did everything on the mailer.  I go to know many different cooking techniques and foods.  Who knew I would end up liking a dish with sour kraut?

Maggie was very brave.

There's also the seasonal menu approach: one week of meals repeated for six to eight weeks.  I appreciated the predictability and really getting to know the recipes.  One of the frustrating things about the menumailer was that I never knew how long the recipe would really take me to make or how much we'd have left over.  When you make the same meal once a week for six weeks, you know.  Plus, buying in bulk was easy.  You need all the same ingredients next week. And it was nice to plan for the different seasons. (And with our Orthodox fasting seasons, what we eat changes drastically every few months.)  But a little boring, no?

But I am a busy homeschooling mother of four.  I need to move toward simplicity in the kitchen.  No more than one "fancy" (or complicated) dinner a week.  If that.  Single ingredient dishes beckon.  Steamed vegetables (and microwaved frozen). Potatoes.  Rice.  Low brain-power cooking.

We got to borrow our friends' chickens.

I wish I could remember all their names! 

I tried to use all crock pot meals for a while.  There are pluses and minuses.  The pluses: all the prep is done way before dinner time.  That leaves time for cleaning up before dinner and setting the table.  Dinner may be more likely to be on time.  That is, if you get it done early enough.  If not (this is a minus), you may find yourself converting your crock recipe to a stove-top version. And probably if you are feeling rushed to cook in the afternoon, it is likely that your morning is already filled as well.  Where is one to put the cooking time?  And anyway, it all starts to taste, feel, and look the same.  There are only so many ways to prepare meat with carrots, onions, and celery in a sauce.  But there is certainly a place for this machine in my kitchen.

He's in heaven.  Not sure about the chicken.

So one day, I jotted down a two-week rotation of categories of meals.  I'd recently discovered a couple of different recipes in Bittman's How to Cook Everything that were basic techniques with long lists of variations.  Bittman is great for this.  Often after the variations, he adds on another list with even more ways to spice up the recipe.

I've seen people do this daily themed menu before.  Sometimes they go for ethnic themes.  Or a certain meat on a certain day.  Mine lists the type of meat (or main dish) and the cooking method.  I didn't list any sides.  I figured I'd let the main dish or my laziness on that particular day determine those.

Boys and birds.

Curious?  Here's what I've got:

Week 1
  • Sunday: Broiled Chicken Breasts
  • Monday: Crock Beef
  • Tuesday: Baked Chicken Parts (Bittman—lots of variations)
  • Wednesday: Shrimp
  • Thursday: Meatloaf or meatballs (my note: make double!)
  • Friday: Pizza or Pasta
  • Saturday: Brunch (mid morning) and Leftovers (or something just as easy) for dinner
Week 2:
  • Sunday: Broiled Sausages
  • Monday: Crock Chicken (or pork)
  • Tuesday: Stew Beef (Bittman—lots of variations)
  • Wednesday: Tuna
  • Thursday: Roast Chicken (my note: roast 2!)
  • Friday: Pizza or Arabic
  • Saturday: Brunch (mid morning) and Leftovers (or something just as easy) for dinner
Those chickens were very forgiving.

It's working well!  To some extent, I can work with my mood and the ingredients I happen to have on hand—it's more flexible than listing a specific recipe. But it's specific enough that I can more easily defrost the right meat at the right time or jot down a grocery list for my husband (who, yes, does all the shopping for me—I thank him all the time).  It also allowed me to plan for what nights need a reeeeeeally easy dinner and what night I have a little more time to work (on a moderately easy dinner or to stockpile the freezer).

And the crock pot night is the night when I don't have time to cook in the afternoon at all.  I knew there was a place for that thing in my rotation.

I've also found that the kids prefer foods that are one main ingredient or a couple, rather than a big mixed up, chunky soup.  I happen to like lots of textures all together.  But it really does make me happy to see them clean their plates.  Most of them eat pretty well these days.  So what if they prefer things separate?

He's either putting them back in their house or trying to lure them back out.

A budding animal lover.  She is currently begging for a dog.  She says she'll help walk it in the backyard.

So, to the few people who tell me they occasionally check my blog, there you are.  Maybe I'll even check back in with an update for an Advent Fast version of my two-week rotation.  Wish me luck with that idea.  :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Seven Months

Well, I never meant to go that long without blogging.  Life is just so full right now.  And I'm really not that good at taking pictures of it.

Olive Oil Lime cake with Crystallized Ginger Glaze, for our housemate's birthday in January

It was Lent, and then I had a baby, and then I had four kids and was homeschooling, and now it's Summer and I was homeschooling but I think we're on vacation until September now.  Gotta have some semblance of Summer Break, right?

Had my first water birth! Definitely soothing "down there" after all the pushing.  Not sure if it was worth the extra money, though.  I didn't even have time to labor in it!

This morning, some sweet friends drove the older three to Vacation Church School, so Isaac and I are chilling at home.  It's so quiet!

Newborn Isaac

And I have so much to do!  This week was supposed to be The Great School Room Clean Out.  But as it takes too long to get downtown for VCS and come back here and then go back there, I haven't done anything yet.  And what better way to procrastinate than by writing a blog post?

We actually put one of our kids in a crib.  He's doing well with it!  Sometimes he reads in bed.

You know what having four kids has finally done for me?

This is about what I see when I'm nursing.  I had a cozy little spot set up next to our bed upstairs with my rocking chair, tables for beverages, trays for breakfast my Mom so sweetly brought up to me during the time I was supposed to limit my trips up and down the stairs.

It's made me realize just how much there is to do in a week to just live day to day.  Laundry, cooking, cleaning (even the very little I can manage), homeschooling, getting outside (once in awhile!!).  I think it's taken me this long to figure out that just because I'm home doesn't mean I kind of have a free day.  Not that I wouldn't have done things in the past or thought I could sit aroundwatch movies all day or anything like that.  I made meals, did laundry, attempted to clean, played with the kids, took them on outings.  But I didn't do it with any sense of urgency.  As in, I have to do the laundry right now, today, because if I don't, I won't be able to do all the other things I have to do this week.

Maggie's still baby-crazy.  John is following in her footsteps.

This one is rather head-over-heels herself.  Thing Two, here, puts up with it.

I literally sit down and plan out my hours lately.  Or half hours—but that usually makes me rush around too much from one thing to another and I am a little too slow for that!  Now, I don't always sit down and do this until around 10AM or around noon, after John's down for his midday nap.  And I don't usually even follow it very well.  I just need to know there is some kind of expectation for my time.  Seriously, it's taken me having four kids to get even the slightest bit organized.  Because if I can't be a little organized now, I wouldn't survive!

Pascha Baskets for four!

Pascha dresses and our family basket behind the girls.  They were off to the midnight service, once again without Mama.  I think I go about every other year these days!

So, if I'm not posting very often these days, that's why.  I have very little time I consider "free" any more, and frankly, blogging is not high on the list of things I want to do with that time.  Hanging out with my wonderful husband watching some Alfred Hitchcock or Deep Space Nine after the kids are (finally) in bed?  Yes.  Going out for coffee with him with probably just Isaac (and maybe not even him) while someone watches the rest?  Yes.  Sitting outside with the kids while they play in the kiddie pool in our backyard?  Yep.  It's Summer!  I'll have plenty of time to sit around in the house in a few months!
"Sling view" on one of our first outings to a launch party for Josiah and Julia Go to Church, written by a friend.

Looking more himself.

Well, that's a quick overview of 2012 so far.  There are tons of photos in my album that would lend themselves to posts, and if I get a chance, maybe I'll try to catch up a little.  With all that free time I have when I start homeschooling again this Fall.  Ha!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

That After Christmas Glow

Or is it more of "burn" than "glow"?  As in "crash and...."

Either way, I am up.  "Too many kids in the bed and too much mess in the house," I told my confused husband when he woke up for work this morning.  Of course, by the time he was down, I was online instead of whirling around the deserted (and yet stuffed beyond recognition) school room.

We have more than this today, but this was the first a few weeks ago.

I awoke sometime before 5 AM and lay there trying to be sleepy.  Mad at myself for making too many bedtime exceptions probably leading to all of them being in the bed this morning.  Resolving to be better tonight.

First taste of snow.  Literally.

Truly, it has been better lately.  They stay in their beds after we put them there.  Stay, but do not necessarily sleep.  Some kind of tweaking of the process is definitely in order.  In a little over two months, another will be added to the mix, and then I will have even less patience and energy, at least for a time.

Definite approval for this white stuff.

Why is two months nearly always the magic number?  Doesn't matter how old the older child, but it seems that two months before the next sibling arrives, I feel a sense of order, routine, peace with my household duties.  The meals get made regularly, the kitchen cleaned.  The "nearly former baby" has some semblance of routine, naps well, is cute and cuddly.... All to be displaced and upheaved in such a short time.

Why is eating snow the first thing they want to do when it starts falling?  Not that there was enough or the right kind for snowmen.

I'm getting to the stage where the baby seems to be pushing its way out... but through the wall of my stomach instead of the usual process (which is, of course, just fine since it's too early!) so that I have a large lump that I suppose is a foot sticking out of my side at odd times.  Getting crowded in there, baby?  Let's not continue the upward trend in birth weights, though, OK?  Nine pounds and 13 ounces is quite enough.

My nearly ten-pounder, all grown up into a toddler.
These photos make him look ginormous!

Back to that school room: if I can get it in order and pantry cleaned out (my brother is installing shelves in there for me for my Christmas present) by Thursday, I'll be satisfied.  Then we can celebrate Theophany that evening and Friday, and get back to school on Monday.  Which also means I'll have to look over what we need to be doing in that area.  Our Friday co-op classes resume next week as well, so it will feel like a "real week."

Watching how it's done.

And goodness, before the ten weeks of classes are over, God willing, I will have another baby.  I'll be a confirmed "crazy person Mom of four."  There's really no hiding the fact that you desire a big family and are OK with "lots" of children once you cross the line to four, is there?  I mean, two is not a big family.  Three is big to most people, but then, maybe #3 was "unplanned."  We have the added excuse that the first two are girls and the third is a boy, so maybe we were just "trying for our boy."  Surely, now we can "shut down the factory"?  (I kid you not, a man at a rest stop asked me if I was going to do that—in those words—a few weeks after we had John.)


Well, it's been about an hour since I stopped glowing with cleaning fervor.  Time for second breakfast, another cup of coffee, and another go.

There's big sis.  She was moving so fast from project to project out there and plenty far from me (as far as you can get in our little yard) that she didn't end up in many photos.  Plenty more opportunities for snow photos in 2012, I'm sure!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

{phfr} A Few Nights Before Christmas...

...and all through the house...


I've been a little lacking in {pretty} or at least, I've been lazy about photographing it.  But I do think this is pretty.  Actually, there's plenty of it in progress, only we aren't finishing our decorating until tomorrow when Fr. Andrew is off and it's right before Christmas.  We don't like to decorate too early, in order to maintain the spirit of preparation and fasting for Advent.  (Sorry about the quality of these photos.  It really is time to replace our camera instead of making do with the iPhone, isn't it?)

Playing church.
We were babysitting some boys and the youngest just loves church things.  He went around the house and collected as many crosses, icons, and church things as he could find.  Then he set up this little altar to "play church." He actually wasn't satisfied with this amount and wanted more "Jesus stuff."  I'll be very surprised if he doesn't end up serving behind the altar in some way later in life.  Isn't his lectionary stand creative?  (It's a nursing footstool.)


You'll notice a theme here:

All three cuddled in, watching something on TV.

She just loves babies.  Good thing, too, because there will be more in her life!

She loves to read to John too.  Here they are cuddled around the board book basket.
It's a good thing my eldest likes babies, because she will be their second Mommy!  Most of the time, she does an excellent job—especially when anyone needs cuddling.  It works out well for her because she's such a touchy person.  I just don't have as much cuddling to hand out as she wants from me.  So she gets a lot of it elsewhere.  And it makes for some pretty cute photos.

Oh my.  I almost forgot {funny}!

So, one day, I gave the kids a bath.  I put John in his jammas.  I began to let the water out of the tub, and then I turned my back.

A tiny bit of water remains....
Guess who jumped back in.  Necessitating new PJs.

Oh, but he was proud of himself.


Anyone recognize this meal?

It's a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving lunch.  With added fish.  This was the weekend after Thanksgiving, I think.

I think the toast went largely ignored.

A new tradition?
OK, back to the Christmas prep.  I'd also like to get out of the house with the kids today.  They've been kind of cooped up all week.  I think a trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory is in order!  Let's see if I can make it a quick one!  (I'm not very good at that.)

A blessed final days of Advent to you all!

round button chicken

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

St Lucia Day Swedish Meal

Hot Mulled Cider
Sparkling Pear Cider

Cold Course
Smoked Salmon
Vinegar Potato Salad
Pickled Cucumbers*
Pickled Mustard Herring
Cole Slaw
Lingon Berry Preserves
Limpa and/or Flatbread

Hot Course
Broiled White Fish with Dill
Lingon berries
Boiled Potatoes
Roasted Beets
Swedish Brown Beans*

Vegan Rice Pudding* served with lingon berries
Saffron Lucia Buns*

*We'll see if I get around to linking any of these to recipes, but a lot of it is self explanatory and possibly even prepackaged.
**This meal would contain more meat and cream sauces, etc., if it were prepared outside of the Orthodox fasting season of Advent.  In fact, we'll have something similar to this as our main Christmas dinner, which will include a mustard cream gravy, potato sausage, and pot roast.  But I'll stop there!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Daybook: Mid-Advent

I don't often do a Daybook post.  I'm really wanting to keep up this blog, but I just don't have any great epiphanies at the moment.  Too much to do!  Must keep doing the next thing!  I'm getting to the point in my pregnancy where I cannot make it very far into the evening without a nap during the day.  This usually happens while John is napping, which is a little bit of a shift to me because I had that time slotted for Maggie and Susannah's Math and Handwriting.  However, recently, they've been insisting on doing these on their own.  This is a part of homeschooling I'd love to get into, the self-taught thing.  I mean, in addition to schooling them, I have babies to care for, the house to clean, the food to cook.  If they could get into the habit of doing some school on their own (with my checking over their shoulders, of course), that would be just fantastic.  So, maybe the timing works out....  (Ha.  I just suggested to Maggie that she do some school by herself—"I can't do it by myself!"  We'll see!)

Daybook: Monday, December 5

Outside my window...

The gray-ness of impending Winter.  Do I want to open the blinds completely to let in as much light as is available, or keep them down (but open) to somewhat mask the color of the sky?

I am thinking...

That we are over halfway through (Orthodox) Advent.  I awoke this morning, my mind buzzing with Christmas preparation lists, grocery lists, school lists.  It's a list day, for sure.

I am thankful for...

My husband's jobs.  He works hard and provides for our family.  May God help me to manage what we have well.

From the school room...

Regularly, we do prayers, reading (Bible or saint story, poems, a fable, and either Beatrix Potter or James Harriot), handwriting and math, and a focus book.  (I'm not sure what else to call it.)  Right now we are working through Paddle to the Sea.  Oh how I would love to finish it before Christmas!  It's the part of the day I so often forget to do.  Maybe we should do it first for a while?

From the kitchen...

Fasting food:  Tuna Tettrazini, veggie pizza (cheese-less, which my weird kids actually prefer, although, theirs doesn't even have the veggies), hummus (so much hummus), pasta with red sauce (Johnny's favorite), broiled salmon and baked sweet potatoes, tomato soup, mushroom shrimp pasta.  This week?  Hmmm... I think everything on my menu is missing a vital component, which means I either need to go shopping or make a new menu or both.  Low on tp, here, so the shopping is a must!

I am creating...

I'm a little embarrassed to say... friendship bracelets!  No, actually, I am not embarrassed at all.  It's just that I don't have anything much to do with what I create.  I was at a fabric store for something else and was wandering the aisles (very dangerous, however, turns out they have a lot of nice wooden toys and other creative, longer-lasting type toys... who knew?), and I happened to spot a friendship bracelet pattern book for about $6.  I used to do these when I was a kid, and I am enjoying the repetitiveness of making something with a pretty pattern.  I would love to be working on something more useful (quilting, please?  Someone teach me!!) or trying to knit or crochet, but there's a lot of sharp things involved.  Friendship bracelets only require the thread, a pattern (most likely stored in my head), and a safety pin.  That's about all I can handle with my little kids running around right now.  I'm hoping it will lead to bigger and better things in time.  At least, I can use them as bookmarks.  We always need another bookmark.

I am going...

Not many places.  There is so much to do around my house that we go to church, an occasional store, and we stay home a lot.  Not for everyone, but it works for me!

Well, actually, I take that back.  This week, I'll have a prenatal on Wednesday with a stop at Trader Joe's afterward, a trip to IKEA for some Swedish Christmas fare (family tradition) and some household basics, and hopefully, I'll be able to make it to Vespers on Wednesday.  I decided last week that I'd like to try to get our family to weeknight Vespers, at least for the season of Advent.  There are no extra services at our parish like there are during Lent, and I think the kids are all old enough (and going to bed late enough) that we can manage this.

I am reading...

Hmmm.  What am I reading?  Most often, Like Mother, Like Daughter and Praying With My Feet.  But I think of this question as referring to a book or some type of great literature.  Most recently, I finished Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, went on to Little Men, and finished with Jo's Boys.  Very much enjoyed them all, though I think I preferred the first.

I am hoping and praying...

For Mat. Anna in the loss of her baby at around 12 weeks gestation.
For a families at church going through deaths, extended hospitalizations, and other hard times.

I am hearing...

The pitter-patter of John's little feet as he runs around the house.  He was sick for a couple of weeks and it makes me appreciate having him healthy again.

In the music department, we've been playing hymns to St. Nicholas, the Akathist of Thanksgiving, Handle's Messiah, and other Advent-y type things.  Right now, though, it is silent.  That might be the first thing I'll need to do today is pick a soundtrack for the planning I have to do today.

Around the house...

Oh the house.  This is an exhaustive list, isn't it?  Bathrooms need attention.  The floors need to be swept.  The girls room needs to be sorted once again.  It takes so much upkeep, and while they can help, I am the one who needs to spearhead the organizing efforts.  Make me want to hide it all in a closet.

A few plans for the rest of the week...

Monday: Lists and planning; laundry/housecleaning; school.
Tuesday: Possible visit from a friend; or IKEA trip; school
Wednesday: Prenatal, with glucose test.  Blech.  At least I get to drink real juice instead of that watered-down orange pop stuff; Trader Joe's; Vespers.
Thursday: Bulletin; school.
Friday: Possible visit from a friend; school.

Here are some picture thoughts I am sharing...

Sorry this is soooo blurry.  Maybe we'll replace our camera soon.  The iPhone camera is just not cutting it.  Anyway, this is Susannah asleep in a chair, and Maggie cuddling with her while watching TV.  It's the only way Susannah will consent to cuddling with Maggie (most of the time)—by being asleep.  :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Home again, home again...

No jigs, though.  Just sickies again!  Thank God for a mid-week Liturgy in celebration of Thanksgiving!  I wondered about whether to go (the kids were fussy, we were trying to pack to leave town that night or the next morning), whether to receive communion (we were somewhat late, was I prepared enough?), but ultimately, the reality of Winter with three kids who are passing around colds and fevers hit me with enough force for me to think, "Who knows when I'll have the opportunity again?"

And as I'd suspected, we're home again this morning.  Susannah had a slight fever last night and hives.  She slept in a lot (after tossing, turning, and itching through parts of the night), has lost the fever, but the hives remain.  Anyone have any magical ideas on how to convince a picky four-year-old to take benadryl?

Thankfully, my little guy is mostly back to normal.  Fever's been gone a week, and I finally get the sense he has slept and eaten enough to make up for being sick for several days with a high fever.  His giggly, inquisitive personality is back, he chatters up a storm, and he tries to scale various pieces of furniture once again.  Just now, he crawled into my lap and nursed to sleep.  Cutie.

Well, I'm off to try some more tactics on the benadryl front.  Wish me luck!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...