June 23, 2013


 I received a new cookbook for mother's day (I gave it to myself) called "Family Meals."  It is a lot of fun.  I learned how to make ricotta cheese (yummy!) and now I've successfully made a sourdough starter and sourdough bread.  Actually, it wasn't just me.  My son Cowen needed to fulfill a church requirement to plan and prepare a nutritious meal for his family.  He chose a sourdough panini and thus we embarked on our sourdough adventure together.
 There were a few false starts with the starter (ha).  It was doing exactly what it should do but I didn't realize it so I threw a lot of perfectly good starter away before I recognized my mistake.  That was a good thing though because it caused me to sit and watch a bunch of youtube videos about sourdough.  Cowen was there watching with me and we learned a lot about yeast.

FYI: there are no good short videos about yeast on youtube or good books about yeast at our library.  If you know of any good resources, please shout them out.  We liked these videos the best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-GmnAD4J7E and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYXjURcBk98.  We also really liked this one on how to make a sourdough starter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmLmpJhumSM, although we didn't make ours like he did.  We used grapes.

I was nervous about doubling the recipe as I had never used sourdough before, hence the two bowls.  Sourdough is a lot more forgiving than I thought.
 One of the first two loaves of sourdough bread Cowen and I made.  It was delicious!  A triumph!
 Dinner time.  Blackened green beans with ham and gruyere cheese paninis.  YUMMY!  (We don't actually have a panini pan so I grilled them on the outside grill.)
 A small note on gruyere cheese.  It is crazy expensive.  The recipe called for it but I never would have purchased it except I found a block half off at Smiths.  Fortuosity, that's me byword (name the movie).  I loved it.  The cheese is tangy but subtle and absolutely delicious.  My children, on the other hand, said it reminded them of swiss and they wished I had gone with mozz or something else less tangy.  It did not, however, keep them from scarfing down the sandwiches.

Another sidenote.  I have now made sourdough waffles and used the leftover batter the next morning for sourdough pancakes.  This adventure into the land of sourdough has taught me that I prefer my regular waffles as the texture of sourdough waffles is a little rubbery.  I liked the pancakes more.  I also learned that sourdough is alive and continues to grow so put leftover batter in a big enough container to control the growth.  Otherwise, you wind up cleaning out your fridge.

Happy eating!

June 13, 2013

Ancient Roman Food

I love to cook so naturally we had to make a recipe attributed to Ancient Rome.  We tried this one:

Modern Roman Libum Recipe (serves 4)

I cup plain, all purpose flour
8 oz. ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
bay leaves
1/2 cup clear honey

Sift the flour into a bowl.  Beat the cheese until it is soft and stir it into the flour along with the egg.  Form a soft dough and divide into 4.  Mold each one into a bun and place them on a greased cookie sheet with a fresh bay leaf underneath.  Heat the oven to 425.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown.  Warm honey and place the warm buns in it so that they absorb it.  Allow to stand 30 minutes before serving.

(Full disclaimer: I forgot the bay leaves and we didn't wait 30 minutes to eat them.)

I chose this recipe because I just learned how to make homemade ricotta cheese (HEAVENLY) so I had some on hand.

 This is a good recipe for kids because it is pretty simple.  We doubled it so that all the kids would get a good taste.
 Sadly, I wish I had tried a different recipe and used my luscious ricotta for eating plain with a little honey drizzled on top.  The buns were good, mind you, but not as good as the ricotta on its own.  I thought the buns had a gorgeous texture--just the right chewy moistness--but needed something.  Salt, perhaps?  The bay leaves I forgot?
 This pic has nothing to do with Ancient Rome and everything to do with present day snails.  Snails that eat plants in the garden.  Miriam is mashing egg shells to put around bean plants.
 Goopy hands from forming the buns.
 I like this recipe for kids because the buns are shaped in your hands and don't require rolling pins and other items that cause bickering.  Plus, the clean-up is minimal.
 There are the buns soaking in honey.  I might make these again (with salt) because they do have that lovely texture and they don't need to rise. If I do, I'll make them smaller so more of the dough gets honeyfied.  Honified?
 The buns are sticky from the honey so didn't feel like finger food and yet they are buns so they didn't feel like they should be cut in pieces.  My boys improvised.

Another delicious day of Ancient Rome study!  

June 2, 2013

Getting Back Into It is PAINFUL

 I have decided that there is no casual, friendly, painless way to get your children and yourself into a routine after several months of a free-for-all.  Everyone is happier when on a schedule but that initial adaptation to the new environment is challenging.  Oskar is now three months old, absolutely adorable, and on a pretty good schedule.  It was time for school to start again.
 I planned, I prayed, I thought, and I hoped that the transition wouldn't be as grim as usual.  It was.  It still is.
 The messy house is just going to happen.  While you're reading with one child the others are going to be getting into things--especially the two year old.  Take a deep breath, let it out, repeat as necessary.  (All advice in this post is for myself.  I'm sure you all have magical powers that make this easier at your own homes.)
 Patsy, the Flying Poodle, learned how to climb our 6 foot fence and race away to freedom.  She contributed to the general chaos and I was less than impressed. She's currently living, in disgrace, with her godmother (my hubby's sister who trains search and rescue dogs).

I think the hardest thing for me is to really commit to getting up early.  I make my schedules and write down all the good things I want to do with my children and then I sleep in, we get behind from the get-go, we only accomplish the most critical tasks like reading, grammar, math, etc., and I get frustrated because the kids could do all those things at school.  I want to get up and going early enough that we get to all the fun extras.  I consider history a "fun necessity" and look forward to all our Ancient Rome projects.  We've worked on Rome two days.  We've had it in the schedule for six.  Grr.

The other hard thing is the infernal whining.  I'm sure your children never whine, but mine suffer from whinitis whenever we pull ourselves back into a good school routine.  "I don't want to read!" "I hate math!"  "I did Spanish for 15 minutes.  It was 15 minutes, it was!"  "When is it my turn?"  "I'm not rewriting this paragraph ever, Mom."  And on and on it goes.

Once we've had a schedule in place for about three weeks my children accept it and are generally happier with the increased structure.  They value play time because they know it is limited.  They start to feel a sense of accomplishment as they move from one section to the next in their math books.  Grandmas get called to hear new piano pieces and Dad can have ever more complex conversations in Spanish with the oldest.  It is human nature to be happier when progress is being made and the kids reflect that universal truth.  The getting there, though, is hard.
 I'll be writing more about our Ancient Rome unit.  I tried to keep things fairly simple as we are still working around an infant, plus the other demands on my planning time.  I found a lot of fun ideas on pinterest (yes, I finally learned how to pin things) including a whole folder thing on it.  (Okay, my brain is fried--what are those things called when you open up a fancy folder and there are lots of little flaps and envelopes and things??  The unit I looked at is one of those.)
 I'm not using the entire unit, but there were several cute ideas and we've never done a folder-thingy, so I thought I'd give it a try.
 So far we've filled out a little flap thing on the Romulus/Remus legend.  The kids were thrilled that they got to use a stapler and loved decorating their folders.
Harriet's in a slightly easier stage now as she is willing to join us for some things.  While we did our legend and our maps she made her own.

Do any of you have any brilliant tricks to getting your family back in a good routine??  I think we're past the worst of it, but we've had some distractions the last few days so I'm a little worried that all our hard work on the routine will have to be done again.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  For those of you done with school for the summer--have fun!!  For those of you who homeschool year-round or need to make up a baby break, I'll be posting this summer.  We'll forge on together.