Really Cheap Eats

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Just wheat flour, salt and warm water = deliciousness!!

Just wheat flour, salt and warm water = deliciousness!!

It may have been apparent from my last post that we are a bit cash strapped as of late. Fear not though, we remain exuberant and ambitious foodies and are undeterred by what some would consider a fairly bare cupboard. It was a gray and dreary night on Tuesday, and so blustery I was tempted to wish everyone a happy “Winds-Day” (my alter ego being Winnie the Pooh, you know). I had hungry children, an even hungrier pregnant wife, a voracious grampa, and my own growling belly to satisfy. A quick survey of the pantry revealed our usual staples – BEANS, rice, lentils, a whiff of quinoa, and spices, that’s about it. I had some lovely homemade chicken stock from our last roast chicken, tons of local apples, and some greens – spinach, kale, mustard greens from the cold frame. I went to Ye Olde Vegetarian Cookbook staple Moosewood and in its sister volume found recipes for both Chappatis and Spiced Lentils with Spinach and Apple. I did modify the lentil recipe slightly ( I was out of turmeric and wanted some rice in there too). I will also say my chicken stock was quite deliciously fatty, so if you use store-bought stock you may want to add some butter.

Both my wife and I spent time in India, so making Chapattis always lends itself to daydreams of smells, spices, and colors...

Both my wife and I spent time in India, so making Chapattis always lends itself to daydreams of smells, spices, and colors…

I made the dough for the Chappatis first, rolled them and stacked them between parchment paper so they were ready to cook, then started the lentils and when those were in their last 20 minutes of cooking I started the Chappatis, keeping them warm in the oven after cooking.

Chappatis (The Enchanted Broccoli Forest)

1 cup wheat flour or 1/2 cup white flour and 1/2 cup wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup water

Mix the flour and salt together, add the water and mix well until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface and with floured hands knead the dough for a few minutes. Divide the dough in to four balls and roll each one into a very thin circle (1/8 inch). Heat a large heavy skillet or griddle and add a small amount of canola or peanut oil to the pan. Cook the Chappatis for 2-3 minutes on the first side, until they begin to puff. Flip and cook for about a minute longer. Remove from heat and brush with melted butter!

Tip: Use lots of flour on your work surface! The dough is very sticky!

My wife remembers a nun in India who could roll Chapattis so fast they spun like whirling dervishes.

My wife remembers a nun in India who could roll Chapattis so fast they spun like whirling dervishes.

Spiced Lentils with Spinach and Apple (adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

1 large leek, minced

1 1/2 cups dried lentils

1 cup brown basmati rice

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 tsp celery seed

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dry mustard

1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp turmeric (I was out)

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 large cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tsp salt

1/2 pound fresh spinach, coarsely chopped

2 medium sized tart apples, chopped

Heat the oil and butter in a pan over medium heat and add the leeks. While these are cooking, add the lentils, rice and stock to a large saucepan or soup pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat when the lentils and rice come to a boil and simmer, covered. Meanwhile, the leeks should be softening, add the spices and a small amount of water, if necessary. When the leeks are softened, add these to the simmering lentil/rice pot along with the lemon juice and garlic ~ cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add the salt and apples and cook for ten more minutes. Add the spinach, mix, and turn off the heat. Leave the pot covered while you finish the Chappatis. Garnish with chopped roasted peanuts. Serve with Chappatis, Raita, and hot sauce!!

YUM.

YUM.

 

On Giving Thanks and My Irrational Anger At Not Winning PowerBall

I thought over the title to this post many times, I mean, I do realize that for most people who possess a relative measure of sanity the two just don’t seem to go hand in hand. And maybe they don’t and this post will only inspire you to consider my questionable sanity. Or you will agree and we can all be a little nuts together. Speaking of nuts, this post is not food related, though I have made and eaten lots of food in the past two weeks, I’m just not inclined to write about it right now. And somewhat ironically (with the topic of sanity and all) I am making spiced nuts as we speak. Pecans, to be specific, pics and recipe soon.

But back to me.

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I just stuck this cute picture of my son coloring in here to give the post more of a multimedia feel, and to maybe inspire you to keep reading. Isn’t he cute, though?

This Thanksgiving was the first holiday I have worked in a long, long time. To give you a bit of background, I am a nurse by training and up until two years ago had gradually advanced through the ranks of middle management until I was making a comfortable salary and working a gajillion hours a week. I could spend all I wanted to at Whole Foods but it didn’t seem to balance out the creeping feeling that my soul was being sucked out of my body by an endless time vacuum of meetings and spreadsheets and more meetings and more spreadsheets and agendas and again, more meetings. It’s not that I wasn’t thankful for my job; I worked with great people, I worked for great companies. But I am a doer and a thinker, and my creative juices just weren’t made any juicier sitting in a board room while someone read off a Powerpoint. And I had recently been through a sudden and catastrophic divorce, so I suppose that might have had a bit to do with my jaded outlook. 

A few months later, emboldened by a few wine soaked heart to hearts with friends and also desperately and newly in love, I quit my job as a manager and went back to clinical nursing in the ICU. To say I saw the grass as greener is an enormous understatement; I was living in the desert and this new job was an oasis, so much that I overlooked the potential detriment of an over 50% pay cut.

Now I deal with a different sort of crap…this is clostridium difficile *shiver*

Fast forward to this Thanksgiving, which I spend working 5pm to 5:30 am. Luckily or not my selfish whining is upstaged by the numerous patients attempting to die on Turkey Day, and I can’t sit down long enough to contemplate the family time I am missing. My job now makes me thankful every day; thankful I don’t have a breathing tube down my throat and especially thankful I have chosen not to smoke cigarettes, ever. I am thankful for my sanity, that I am not so sad I take 500 Tylenol and 50 Amitriptyline and turn my liver into a sodden mess, I don’t have terrifying and unexplainable sudden dementia that makes me scream at all hours as I am attacked by my own ghosts. We are so LUCKY and we don’t even know it! We are lucky we can swallow, that we don’t need our liquids thickened into disgusting slurry like consistency, nothing tastes good “nectar-thick”. We are lucky to have family, and love, and the beating of our own good hearts that aren’t limping with ischemia. We are LUCKY.

So why, why do I feel so angry?

I fell into the trap I always do this week when the lottery jackpot gets this big; I convince myself that i am going to win and that the universe has heard my pleadings and knows I will use the money for only good things and in two days I will never have to work again and I swear I won’t buy anything extravagant, I just want a new Volvo for the safety ratings and maybe a little apartment in Montmartre and of course a little cottage for my mother and then I swear I will give the rest away.

Of course, I didn’t win, and I found myself irrationally pissed at the universe for not awarding me my rightfully deserved prize. Then I felt exceptionally foolish for wanting such a ghastly sum, when I really don’t. Which got me thinking about what I really want, what I really need. 

I need to write.

I need these books in my head to stop whirling around like an endless spin cycle, I want to stop my musings and daydreams and let those words tumble out onto the page for more than just an hour here and there when I can spare it. I want my bills paid and food on the table and a year off to spend with my chronically ill child who just keeps getting sicker, I want to feed her and love her and always be here at night when she is crying out in pain. I don’t want to be the absent other mother, caring for the sick while my family suffers. But there is no other way to do it, I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, despite the challenges and the stress and the lack of time, I have to write despite the obstacles and hope that one day writing will help me clear them.

As I write this my daughter is awake clutching her poor sick belly, and all my whining seems futile. I just want her to get better, no matter what the cost. And I want to be there dammit, I want to be there for her always.

 

Avocado Dreaming….

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It may be well into fall, but this plate tastes full of summer!

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is almost here! November seems to have forgone its customary creep and these brisk days have flown right by, hustled along by the hurricane perhaps? I am usually thankful when summer ends, but this fall has been wet and dreary, the bright leaves we usually admire for weeks were washed off the trees in a matter of days. So while I try to eat as seasonably as I can, I have found myself still craving fresh greens and citrus flavors, the rest of my family seems to feel the same way as well. The other night, in search of a quick supper and with a yawningly empty crisper I devised this cleaver little salad, quickly devoured by 69 year old grandfathers, an almost 7 year old and a veggie obsessed two year old. I served it with a winter squash soup and some fresh bread and it was an absolutely perfect light meal. The soup was a bit of a disappointment, though, I usually use butternut or kabocha squash but all I had was this gigantic blue hubbard…even though I roasted it first the soup texture still seemed a bit off, though the flavor was fresh and light, which was a nice change.

The squash soup. Looks tasty enough but it was pretty blah.

Avocado, Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Avocado, Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

1/2 European cucumber

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1 avocado

2 tsp fresh cilantro, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 Tbsp lime juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tsp honey or agave

salt and pepper

Cut all the veggies into 1/4-1/2 inch chunks, depending on your preference (I did 1/2 inch). In a medium sized glass bowl mix all the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add the veggies and gently toss, refrigerate for one hour, tossing gently every do often, so flavors meld. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy alone or over beans on a tostada, with tortilla chips or over poached chicken!

 

 

Night Noshing for the Nocturnal (and Nurses!)

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When night-time hunger strikes I have been known to use any utensil available to dig into my snack stash…

Look up the definition of a night owl in the dictionary and you might ind a picture of me next to it, wide-eyed at 2 am, writing fervently or ensconced in an ambitious craft project. Given my tendency for night-time productivity I thought it would be a piece of cake when I went back to a 3rd shift schedule about a year ago. I’m a nurse by training but had been out of regular clinical practice pushing paper for a few years, so diving back in (to critical care in an ICU) was quite the leap of faith. I found I not only loved the job, I loved the rhythm of the hospital at night. Nights allowed me to focus on my patients and work closely with the hospital doctors while avoiding the chaos of daytime tests and case managers and PT and administration and NOISE. My body, however, was not so sure about this new schedule. I had difficulty juggling my daytime family life with sleeping enough, and I soon found myself yawning at 2 am, mainlining coffee and scarfing candy or snacks to keep me awake. These new habits not only plunked on unwanted pounds, they made me manic at first and then downright sedated, and nobody wants their nurse to be having a sugar crash when THEY’RE crashing. I always want to give my patients the best I have to offer; the clearest head, my full attention, energy to lit and bend and God forbid do CPR. Over the past year I have developed some key habits and eats that help me get through those wee hours smiling and with plenty of energy to spare for the ride home.

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Me. Post shift. Sometimes I try to play with the kids when I get home before I sleep. That’s always amusing…

My normal shift is from 5 pm to 5:30 pm, this usually means I get home between 6 and 6:30 am depending on how long it takes to give report and if I am charge nurse for the night. Generally I either go to bed as soon as I get home or   at least by 8 am. I wake up most days between 2 pm and 3 pm, unless I am not working the following night and then I wake up around 11 am or noon. 

Survival Tips

  • I ALWAYS eat before I go in for my shift. You never know what you’re walking into and getting stuck in a code situation for hours with no fuel on board is asking for trouble. I make sure this first meal has plenty of protein to sustain me, but I also make sure to get some slow release carbs in there too…egg whites and veggies just don’t cut it when you have to run up and down three flights of stairs getting blood products and wheeling your 350 pound man to CT. I also make sure I have some veggies and/or fruit, my body craves those vitamins! A typical pick for me might be plain Greek yogurt with flax meal, honey and fruit and nuts. Eggs or egg white omelets with roasted or steamed veggies and a little cheese or avocado are another favorite, I usually have some whole grain toast or almonds to go with it.
  • Pack things for work that you can eat FAST. As much as we would all like to think we’ll get a break, it’s never guaranteed and what you eat needs to give you energy fast and shouldn’t make you feel heavy and ill.
  • Drink, drink, drink. Bring a water bottle and fill it at the beginning of your shift and then DRINK it. If your unit feels like the Arctic Circle, as mine often does, bring herbal tea. I always bring a variety; ginger, peppermint, Yogi Tea Positive Energy, Raspberry Leaf, and Chamomile are some favorites.
  • Pack more food then you think you will need. This is my general rule otherwise I find myself snacking on the graham crackers and peanut butter that are so appetizingly displayed ( and meant for PATIENTS).
  • Don’t eat the food in the break room! It’s rarely healthy, usually there are large quantities of it, and if you’re like me, once you start, you can’t stop. So unless it’s a veggie platter, stay away!!

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Why not save yourself and bring these to work?

What To Bring

Below is a selection of my favorite things to bring to work; these foods not only give me energy, they’re delicious and keep me away from the naughty treats.

  • Nuts. I choose almonds usually, or cashews…I love the ones that are roasted with cocoa or cinnamon. However, if you are inclined to get a bit nutty (heehee) and eat the whole bag, dole them out in snack bags or small containers and just bring that amount. Or share them, that’s also nice. 
  • Kale Salad. I use this recipe but feel free to find your own, just make sure the kale is finely shredded and well massaged. This is my favorite snack because it makes me feel like Popeye, like I ate all this green stuff and now I am a super nurse!
  • Seaweed. Perfect for night-time noshing because it satisfies those potato chip cravings without giving you jiggly thighs. Just check your teeth before you go check on your patients!
  • Birdseye Steamfresh. They didn’t even pay me any money to endorse them, but these bags are perfect for work. Stick them in the microwave for 4 minutes, go check your patients, then come back to a bag of perfectly steamed veggies! I bring a bag almost every night I work. 
  • Greek yogurt. I am not particular but I do like the Chobani pineapple. Gives me a boost of protein and only takes about a minute to eat.
  • Raw veggies with hummus or dip. Carrots with ranch dip or garlic hummus are delicious!
  • Veggie chips or pretzels
  • Leftovers, especially soups and roasted veggies
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter, hummus or cheese
  • Cheese sticks
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Veggie burgers

What are your favorite healthy things to nosh at night?

Secret Spy Grub

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“Secret” Pumpkin Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Chips

Ah Fall…when a young girls fancy turns to thoughts of…pumpkin? Well, if you’re my almost seven year old daughter it does, she’s been begging my for the last week and a half to make her pumpkin bread, and this evening I surprised her with something even better when she got home from Zumba-ing her little butt off. Frankie helped me make these and he firmly insisted we “put some choco in it” so of course I listened and I have to say I am grateful for that two year old palate because these lovely cupcakes wouldn’t be the same without “choco”!

Mmmmm….pumpkin and chocolate…..

Before I made these cupcakes with my underoo clad assistant (“I mix it Mommy!”) I threw together this black bean soup, including one of many monstrous yams I bought at the market last week. These yams, despite their daunting size, have been totally awesome and delicious, and I can’t help but be impressed by a potato that feeds me for THREE meals. And yes, they’re local and organic too.

“Secret” Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

These two dishes have something in common, a secret ingredient or two. Some ingredients come from years of trial and error in the kitchen, some I just thought of today when I opened the fridge and said; hmmm, what ELSE should I put in these? So enjoy! And tell me, what secret ingredients do you like to use?

My “Secret Signature” Black Bean Soup

There are actually a couple secrets hidden in this soup, but most important is cooking the beans to perfection and not adding them in until the soup is served.

  • 1 cup dried black beans
  • 2.5 cups veggie broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • 1-2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into medium dice
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp Chocolate syrup (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • chopped cilantro and sour cream and avocado and fresh chopped tomato

Cook the beans. There are a couple different ways to do this, I put the dried beans, the veggie stock and the bay leaf in my pressure cooker for twenty minutes and they come out perfectly. Alternatively you can soak the beans overnight and cook them on the stovetop in the stock with the lid on until tender. Or use canned, but rinse them well. For all beans, after cooking, drain and set aside.

In a large stockpot or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic and cumin and a little salt and pepper, cook for about 2 more minutes, reduce heat if things start looking too brown. Add the sweet potatoes and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the veggie stock and water and bring to a boil, simmer with the top on until sweet potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Take the lid off and continue to simmer for about 20 more minutes, until broth is reduced. Add the beans, chocolate syrup, lime juice and chopped cilantro, turn off the heat and let the flavors meld for about five minutes. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh tomatoes and more chopped cilantro on top!

“Secret” Pumpkin and Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup hard cider ( I used Woodchuck Ginger Hard Cider!)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup flax seed meal
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease a 12 cup muffin tin with canola oil or butter or whatever other oil you have lying around. In one bowl combine all of the wet ingredients EXCEPT the hard cider. In another bowl sift and combine all the dry ingredients. Make sure your pan is ready and mix the wet ingredients with the dry, then mix in the hard cider and the chocolate chips. Stir just until mixed and then fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes, cooling in pan 5 minutes and then on a rack. These are delicious as is or can be frosted with;

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (reduced fat is fine)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla.

Whip the above ingredients with a stand mixer until fluffy and then frost the cooled cupcakes, dust with cinnamon…yum!

Falling into Change

Painting Frankie’s room with homemade milk paint!

Mixing the paint.

Well, I wish I could say my lack of posting means we have been just way too productive to even post, but sadly, that is not the case. A lot has happened since our last post; we moved to the country, did many renovations on our stinky fixer upper which took much longer than anticipated, ended up with a gorgeous new bathroom, got pregnant, cooked and made lots of yummy food, worked and gardened and started school and soccer season and are now eagerly planning some new ventures involving food and farming and sustainability.

Whew! I’m tired already! A couple highlights from our summer and early fall…

For Frankie it was a summer of tractors..

This summer despite the wet weather we had some gardening successes, and failures. Our early green beans did poorly but luckily we planted a second batch which made the yummiest, largest fall green beans I have ever had! We also had a bumper crop of summer tomatoes, which we canned on their own and in salsa along with some home grown tomatillos (also a surprising success). One major disappointment was our lack of good cucumbers and the poor performance of our winter squash, I’m not sure if the dampness got to them or the lack of sun…but we do have some fall/winter kale growing valiantly in a cold frame! We have plans to turn our former workshop into an indoor gardening space, our hope was to install a large greenhouse window but lacking the funds for that we will be using indoor lights this winter, we’ll keep you posted on how that goes. We are blessed with a plethora of south facing windows, so natural sunlight is thankfully available to us all year.

We had a lovely summer birthday fire surrounded by zinnias…

Now as summer has wound its way into fall we are spending our time gathering and splitting wood, planning winter crating and Christmas projects and looking forward to next spring when our many plans begin to actually take form. On the agenda for the farm; pigs, chickens, and expanded gardens. I recently read an article in Mother Earth News about planning a garden around what your family eats, which seems simultaneously practical and inspiring (think of all that tasty food!). We also have a baby due in May and a surprise venture coming in the spring that you will just have to wait for! Keep checking back! This blog will be much more current and filled with recipes and ideas! Like the one for this Southwestern Chicken Soup we just made…warm and cozy like chicken soup should be, but with some unexpected and zingy flavors of lime and cilantro.

Take a look at our tomatoes!!!

Southwestern Chicken Soup ~ recipe soon!

When Life Gives you Lemon Pie…Eat It!!

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The best lemon meringue pie EVER…and gluten free!!!

In the midst of all this renovating and moving and cleaning and tiling and painting and gardening and planning a pig farm there has actually been some LIVING going on as well. Those of you who know me well know that my passion for lemon meringue pie is unmatched…I would rather have lemon meringue pie then any other dessert in the entire universe. Izzie, it seems, has inherited this same tart addiction…alas, the task of making gluten free pie crust is daunting and fraught with failure, so we haven’t made one.

I can’t remember why we all started craving that slice-of-sunny pie…it must have been a combination of a series of unseasonably warm days filled with outdoor rambling and impromptu lemonade stands and the overabundance of physical exertion brought on by the renovation…but one day I found myself combing the internet for that perfect gluten free pie crust topped with tart lemon curd and swirls of golden brown meringue.

Izzie’s impromptu lemonade stand to benefit “kids in Africa who don’t have food”. She earned over $20 for Project Hunger!

Among the scrumptious snacks-for-sale; crunchy chicken fingers, double chocolate brownies, hodge podge trail mix, fruit skewers and homemade seltzer!

I stumbled across this post by Gluten Free Canteen and was immediately encouraged; I have made recipes off this blog before and have been impressed with the accuracy of their recipes…gluten free baking is such alchemy and Gluten Free Canteen does their research! In particular the pie crust recipe seemed impossibly simple and the lemon curd recipe–though labor intensive–seemed sure to yield good results.

Little hands make the best crust!

A side note here…

With nearly three years of gluten free baking under our belts now we have come to the conclusion the success lies in the right flour blend. If you are lazy…as we are…you don’t want to blend your own so we use this one for breads, pie crust, pizza and savory baking and this one for cookies, cakes, and muffins. This allows us to sub into most non-gluten free recipes using a 1:1 replacement for wheat flour.

Back to the pie…

Never have I ever tasted such a lemon pie…it was so delicious I actually ate SLOWLY because I didn’t want to ever stop eating that pie. Ever. The crust was light and flaky, the meringue perfectly toasted…but ultimately it’s the lemon curd that takes this pie from good to sublime. The process for this curd is quite different than any other curd I have made before, and involves cooking the curd to a certain point and then whipping in soft butter after the mixture has cooled. The result is a sweetly piquant curd with a lighter texture than most; creamy yellow and flecked with snappy bits of zest.

Yum.

Here’s the recipe in its entirety, full credit to Gluten Free Canteen:

Gluten Free Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust:

1 ½ cups gluten free flour mix

¾ cup COLD shortening or lard

¼ + ice cold water

Pinch salt

  • Measure the flour and salt into a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor.
  • Add the shortening and combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Add the ice water until the mixture forms a firm ball.
  • Press into a greased pie plate. Prick crust all over with a fork.
  • Bake at 350 degrees (filled with dry beans or pie weights) for 15 -20 minutes. Make the curd while it’s cookin’.
  • Cool. No really, it’s awesome.

Curd:

1 cup sugar

Finely grated zest of 3 lemons

4 eggs

¾ cup fresh lemon juice (4-5 lemons)

2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temp)

  • Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into a double boiler. Combine sugar and zest together between your fingers. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
  • Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring constantly with the whisk. Whisk the cream constantly until it reaches 180 degrees on a candy thermometer and the cream thickens and leaves tracks. Transfer to a blender and let cool to 120 degrees.
  • With the blender on high and the top on, drop in the softened butter 1 Tbsp at a time. Continue whipping until cream is light and fluffy. Pour into cooled and prepared pie shell.

Meringue and Assembly:

4 large egg whites (room temp)

Pinch cream of tartar and pinch salt

¾ cup powdered sugar

½ tsp vanilla

  • Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until stiff peaks form; continue beating in sugar SLOWLY and vanilla until meringue is glossy and stiff.
  • Mound over prepared pie and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until meringue is set and meringue peaks are a toasty brown.
  • Chill. Just hang out, relax, eat dinner. Then eat yummy pie!!

Then dance!! Because Pie is delicious!

 

Progress?

The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity, the majority of the time I have no idea what day or date or time it is. Working nights tends to have that effect on people, you start the shift one day…and end it the next. Add to this the pressure cooker stress of renovation; the accidental discovery of moldy bathroom walls, the backbreaking work of ripping/chiseling up tile, the clouds of dust and mold, the DIRT, the stolen naps in place of regular sleep, not to mention the shuffling of bills and the unexpected expenses (oh, this sink we were going to use just fell apart, guess we’ll have to buy a new one!). The result is that we are all existing in this in-between twilight zone, half in this apartment, half in the house, desperate for progress and yet conscious that if we don’t do things right we are the ones who have to live with it. But we have made progress…really awesome amazing progress.

Flooring:

This picture is not actually of our floor, nor our those our dogs, but this IS a picture of the floor we FINALLY went with. We abandoned the idea of the plywood floor when we did a bit more research and discovered that acoustically plywood is not that great, not to mention the fact that it is easily scratched and dented. We are just not a gentle family, and therefore the plywood wasn’t a good option. We tossed around other ideas; hardwood was cheap but labor intensive, laminate was easy to install but more expensive and couldn’t be refinished, linoleum just wasn’t right for bedroom spaces, carpet traps dirt and was as expensive as the hardwood.

We finally came across some literature on cork; eco-friendly, dampens acoustic noise, is forgiving of scratches and dents and cushions the inevitable tumbles of our wee ones. We contacted the fabulous women of Eco Friendly Flooring in Madison, WI and she walked us through the options. Not only did we come out of that conversation with some lovely unfinished Bambus cork tiles, but we also scored some gorgeous slate for the bathroom tile and received priceless tips on installing both. The flooring arrives today and will be in by the end of this weekend…we hope!

Bathtub Wars

** sigh **

Bathtub wars…

It all started when we examined the old clawfoot tub and declared it unfit for human bathing. My wife had visions of soaking in a clawfoot tub for hours on end, reading and eating snacks and blissing out, and I thought that sounded rather nice too. We checked out Vintage Tub and Bath and agreed that a double slipper tub with an old fashioned telephone faucet would be perfect.

Gorgeous, right? Unfortunately the space we have to fit this tub into is only 60 inches wide, and the smallest double slipper is 61 inches. So then we decided on just a double ended tub.

Somewhere along this path of bathtub negotiation I began to have chest pains, actually I think it was the moment when we got the quote for the tub. My chest pains blossomed into full scale angina when we realized how much work it was to get the old tub out, and when we surveyed the damage BEHIND the old tub. My wife found a guy in Vermont who would refinish the old tub, but unfortunately my father had already claimed the old tub for his space.

For a long, long while it seemed we were at an impasse. Finally, practicality won out when we both agreed we didn’t ever want to have to deal with that moldy, disgusting wall and floor again, and that meant we needed to do a built in tub. We found a gorgeous, affordable acrylic tub, kept the telephone faucet and found a matching sink…celebrating the end of our bathtub wars!

A note on toilets…Did you know you can get a dual flush toilet for less than $100? I also highly recommend reading the first review on this page, never have I heard a toilet praised for it’s ability to handle someone’s “large diameter colon”.

Painting
Medium Yellow Sun

In the last post we mentioned milk paint, and after much deliberation and You Tube video watching we decided to milk paint most of the house (except for the bathroom due to moisture concerns). There are premade milk paint mixes you can buy, but at $45 a gallon there was no way we were going to use those.

We found this great video from the Earth Pigments company, and decided to go with their amazingly beautiful pigments, saving over $30 a gallon!

The results are absolutely stunning, Izzie’s room is being painted in vary shades of blue and it looks just like the ocean, not to mention there is absolutely no odor. One note of caution; the first batch we used “room temperature” milk and were unsuccessful at getting our curds and whey to separate. We recommend heating the milk just slightly before adding the vinegar, and make sure to follow the tips on the video! We are also planning on using a finish over the top, one made with either wax or linseed oil, as there can be problems painting existing latex paint with homemade milk paint. A thorough sanding is absolutely necessary! Pics coming soon!!!

Renovation tally:
Demolition/disposal costs: $126 (two large truckloads including all the carpet and old appliances)
Flooring : $2,463 (product only for 850 square feet)
Flooring finish: $346 (for Bona Kemi Traffic HD – an eco friendly product great for cork!)
Bathroom tubs/sinks/toilets: ~ $700
New mattresses for kids rooms: $799
Paint supplies: $74.66 (pigment for 8 gallons of paint) plus cost of vinegar, milk, lime and brushes, an additional $5 a gallon.
$4528.66 – not too shabby for renovating an entire second floor!
We hope you keep reading, there is much more to come!

$15,000 we don’t have, for the stunning and stinky fixer upper we do have!

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Who needs a contractor when you have a hot wife with a crowbar?

For the last couple weeks we have been “pregnant” with the house of our dreams! Like eager first time parents we have played all over the internet painting our imaginary rooms on behr.com, researching eco-friendly flooring, and connecting with local companies. We’ve been bouncing with the joy of it…oooing and ahhhing over our shared love for the “french” style sink and the double slipper claw foot tub we imagine sinking into together, stars twinkling over our 11 acres of forest, orchard, and garden.

This is what we have: a gift of a childhood home, just 30 years old, beautiful, and in need of new floors, paint, a massive clearing out, and a deep cleaning. We don’t need it fancy, but we do need $15,000.

Today as we were driving home Gree says, “I’m just worried about the money, about paying out money we don’t have, about us wanting to camp on the Cape this summer, and me needing to work more, or you needing to go back to work. I’m just worried we won’t be able to pay our bills.” Her face was quite still as she spoke, the way she gets when she’s nervous. I felt a little twinge of sadness…however selfish…

She went to work the night shift and after the children were asleep I discovered that maybe…maybe we don’t need $15,000. Flooring is one of the most expensive things… because we have 1,000 square feet of dusty moldy carpet to contend with. Here’s what I found.

  • We can do the “rip-up-and removal” and we may even be able to recycle the carpet.
  • There are awesome things one can do with plywood floors for about $1 a square foot, or less, depending on if you can work with your existing subfloors or if you want to lay down an additional layer of plywood.
  • Instead of paying $500 for the tile we had planned to install in the bathroom (not to mention the installation fees) we can have a copper floor for $50…or 5,000 pennies!
  • Who knew you could make paint out of milk!! Or flour?!

Feeling revived and pompously optimistic (we can make a bathtub out of recycled stones!) we descended on the house today extremely caffeinated and overtired and proceeded to dive right into renovating. Kamikaze-style.

With dull X-acto knives we ripped and shredded the grass green commercial carpet of my youth. We grunted and pulled and rolled that rug into dusty carpet burritos, throwing them out the front door with excessive flourish. We filled eight trash bags full of curious clutter; mouse-shredded Barbie clothes, a derelict dollhouse, forty-five faded stuffed animals, jars of shells from long-ago Florida vacations, dusty bottles of perfume, middle school journals, and a hat adorned with various buttons that betrayed my ill-concealed nerdiness. No, really, who has a button that says “I love Latin”. In Latin.

Bedroom. De-carpeted.

This is the point when we realized painting the sub floor really wasn’t an option.

Next we tackled the bathroom, where our ninja like precision suddenly morphed into Neanderthal brutality. We dismantled closet doors, stripped the walls of sagging towel bars and ancient cabinets, unceremoniously dumped out bottles of shampoo from 1982, and teetering on the edge of the rusting clawfoot bathtub ripped out shower enclosures with a miter saw and a crowbar. We both swiftly came to the realization that it is incredibly satisfying to destroy things.

This bathroom tile has got to go.

We spent the remainder of the day wandering through H*me D*pot, eyes as big as saucers. We waded through flooring choices; carpet, plywood, vinyl that looks like wood, laminate that looks like wood but really isn’t…or actual real wood. Like, from trees. We chose faucets and sinks and lamented over the lack of affordable clawfoot tubs. I was momentarily hypnotized by a fancy tub with jets, on display with the misty sort of backlighting that makes you believe that tub might actually be heaven…if heaven were a tub (and I am often convinced it might be). It took us an extraordinary amount of time to choose a toilet. I say this because really they all look the same, but somehow manage to have a gazillion different features, or so it seems. We picked out dishwashers, drooled over countertops and finally stumbled home with Frankie chanting “eat pease, ‘nacks pease, chex? chex with milk? EAT PEASE!”. Frankie munched his pizza while I whipped up a salad and now here we are…collapsed side by side on the couch, and still shopping for tubs.

At least we have a toilet.

The finished salad with braised greens, rice and beans, and a ginger sesame vinaigrette. Then we ate some ice cream.

We Have The Mini…We Just Need The Van

What are the odds that two women would even go to a website called “Lesbotronic.com” and that their two children would both be gluten-intolerant, and growth chart failures, and then that these two children would become best friends, and that these two children’s mothers would happen to live in a state where they can be sealed in holy matrimony, and that these two mothers would actually be the real-deal-soul mates?

It’s real people.

This blog started as a personal and family wellness journey, now it’s just really about life. What we eat, what brings us joy, our crazy crafting, homesteading, frugal living, finding new and sustainable ways of living, having fun, playing music, laughing…all in a multi-generational nest of family and created family and friends and community. Follow us, it will be quite a ride!

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