Fleeting

Silence and peace.  Samantha and Seth are eating.  Simon is in the shower.

I am standing over the sink, eating lunch, staring out the window into a beautifully sunny day, pondering the mysteries of life in this tiny slice of mental space.

Seth moves from stuffing his belly to deconstructing his lunch, crumbling his biscuit into the floor, and rubbing the slice of turkey in it on his chest.

Simon appears in the kitchen door, water sluicing down his stark naked little self.

He grins at me, as the water mixes with Seth’s crumbs.  “I left foot prints.”

 

Chicken Soup

fiddlehead bowlsHomemade chicken soup.  It’s tasty, sure, but why bother when chicken soup comes in a can?

Canned soup is fast and easy, but it has some significant problems.    Canned chicken soup lacks veggies.  It is not much help in eating the rainbow.  Then processing and long term storage strips what food there is in the can of most of its nutrients.    For a final hit, the cans are lined with toxic chemicals, including BPA, that leach right into every spoonful.  It’s a convenient concept, but canned food just doesn’t nourish growing bodies the way that I want, and can cause significant harm.

Homemade soup gives you more control over the ingredients, is appropriately nutritious, and just plain tastes better.  I try to make a full pot every week, and reheat as needed for quick hot lunches.  It freezes well, and makes a great dish for postpartum or sick friends.

Ingredients:

Chicken broth or stock – It comes in shelf stable boxes.  It is available frozen.  It can be made fresh from boiling whole chickens, chicken pieces, or even rotisserie or roasted chicken that is already been cooked and picked mostly clean.  I don’t have a favorite method, and do it differently every time.

Chicken – Use the bits reserved from making broth, or cook a breast or a couple of tenderloins in the broth while you’re prepping the veggies, then pull that meat out and shred it while the veggies are cooking.  Dark meat in particular works well in soup, and is thrifty.

Onions – 1 to 3, depending on size and preference

Celery stalks  – You can even include the leaves.

Carrots – Three to five large ones.

Garlic – Powdered will do.  Fresh is better, about three cloves worth.  I used to put it through my garlic press, before it mysteriously disappeared from the drawer.  Now I smash the cloves with the side of a knife and chop through it until I get bored with the effort.  I add a lot more garlic when the children are sick.

Thyme – Fresh is great.  Dried is fine.  Ground thyme will flavor the soup, but it will also turn it gray.  The children don’t notice that, but I do, and I don’t like gray soup.

Bay leaf

Noodles – Most types work.  Egg noodles are a great choice.  The noodles can be a part of the strategy to get more vegetables into each bite, too.  Twisty and curly noodles tend to hold on to the veggie bits, particularly when the veggies are finely diced.

Salt and pepper.

Method:

Fill the stock pot with an inch thick layer each of the veggies, more or less, depending on what your children will tolerate.  You can start small and work up to more vegetables later, if necessary.  You can include more of their favorite vegetable, and add less of the ones they don’t like as much.  The veggies need to be chopped, but how fine is entirely up to you.  Big chunks make for a shorter prep time, but can also make it easier for children to leave the veggies in the bottom of their bowl.  Fine dicing gets more in each mouthful.

Add at least four cups of broth, then fill the pot the rest of the way with water.  Add the seasonings.  If you put a lid on the pot while it’s heating, it’ll come to a boil faster.  Boil until the veggies are starting to get soft.    Add the noodles and the cooked meat, continuing to cook until it’s reached the tenderness you prefer.   Salt and pepper to taste.  I add red pepper to my bowl, but not the whole pot.

If you’ve got a great stock base in this soup, it may turn to gel when it gets cold.  That’s a really great sign of a truly nutritious broth.  When it’s reheated, it’ll go right back to a thin liquid.

We do sometimes make this soup with no meat in it, and just call it pasta soup.

Purple Sweet Potatoes

I made purple sweet potatoes today.  I baked them, as that’s the simplest way to make them with a clingy nursling.

Simon watched as I scraped the purple out of the skins, onto a plate.  “YUCK!” he said.  “I don’t have to eat that!”

“Simon, it’ll be tasty.”

“No, it will make me yucky.”

He left the kitchen at a run.  I’ll try him on it again later.  Maybe next year.

Samantha, in the meantime, was hollering from the table.  “What is it?  Bring some to me!  Bring me my food!”

She finally found a more polite way to speak and receive her lunch.  She eyed the plate as I set it down.

“So, what do you think?  It’s purple sweet potatoes.”

She stared at the plate some more, mouth twitching.  She finally grinned, “Um, it’s too much purple.”

And boy howdy is it ever.  It’s the most purple I’ve ever seen on a plate that wasn’t a finger painting.

The girl child gave it a go anyway, and declared it delicious.  It is thoroughly sweet potato, and definitely delicious.  I’m going to have to find a more attractive way to serve it, though.  Even in the best light, it makes me think of brightly colored school paste.

Get it away from me!

The children were playing, unaware that I was making their lunches.  Samantha was the first to figure out that something was up.  She appeared at my elbow.  “Is that for me?”

I was not in the mood to cook, so I was making peanut butter sandwiches, with a new sandwich cutter beside me.  Hearts.  Twin hearts.  Isn’t that sweet?

Samantha isn’t always keen on peanut butter sandwiches.  She would not have been pleased to be told that it was all there was for lunch.  So, I told her, “No.  These are mine.  Why do ask?  Are you hungry?”

I could feel the frustration.  “Yes, I’m hungry.  Are you going to make that sandwich into hearts?”  I was cackling inside.  “Why yes, I am.  You’ll have to get something else.  These are for me.”

“BUT, MOM!  I want one!  I LOVE hearts!  Did you make it with honey?  Please may I have it?  Please?  PLEASE!?”

“Well.  Okay.  You can have my peanut butter and honey sandwich.”

She left cackling over her prize.

I took Simon his sandwiches.Two beautiful peanut butter and jelly hearts, arranged just so on the plate.  He loves peanut butter.  It’s his very favorite food, after oatmeal.  Unfortunately, I had underestimated how long it was taking him to finish his oatmeal, and how unimpressed he might be with hearts.  The oatmeal was still there in front of him, just a spoonful left.

I showed him the sweet pb hearts.  “Simon, would you like these?”  I got a very firm no in response.  “Okay.  I’ll just put them right here, in case you change your mind.”

Simon glared up at me, wrapped his arms around his oatmeal bowl and shot back, “NO!  Get it away from me.  And get it away from MY OATMEAL!”

When the boy says no, he means it.  There’s no wishy washy gray in his life.

Banana Pancakes

I made banana pancakes for lunch today.  They were originally for breakfast, but there were so many interruptions that breakfast became “cereal in bag” while I doggedly worked away at the pancakes.  My children think “cereal in a bag” is a special treat.  Their very own portable ziploc of cereal.  They have no idea that it’s my “take this and get out of my hair” trick.

The banana pancake recipe was a complete experiment.  The idea was originally Samantha’s, and though I’d never heard of banana pancakes before, I decided to make it happen.  I won’t be sharing the recipe.  They were edible, with maple syrup.  Samantha loved them enough to eat three platefuls.  That counts as success, right.  If you ever find or invent a banana pancake recipe, please share it with me.

I tried to freehand a banana shape for the first two.  Banana pancakes!  Get it?  I’m just brilliant!  Yeah. Samantha looked into the skillet and said, “Mom.  Get me a banana, and I’ll show you what a banana is supposed to look like.”  I’m not going to tell you what they looked like.  Definitely not bananas.

So, I tried pouring plain round ones next.  “Uh, Mom?  That’s not a good look for a pancake.”  Seth is beginning to get tired of his toys, and telling me about it.  Breathing.  Breathing.

Now I remember why I don’t make pancakes when Josh isn’t home.  And it’s not about the kids.  Pancake cooking mystifies me.  Skillet after skillet of misshapen sticky pancakes in varying shades of doneness, from slightly raw to slightly burnt, continue to pile up on the plate.  “Oooh, that one looks like a fish!”  Samantha switches into fish voice, and narrates the rest of my disaster.  “Noooo!  Don’t flip me!  Why did you do that to me?  What about my family!?”  Seth is getting louder.  I have no idea where Simon is, but I’m getting nervous with his silence.  I am so thankful I decided to go with half the recipe.

By the time all that was over, I declared it five o’clock somewhere.  I am hiding from the dishes, and wishing dinner time could wait until tomorrow.