Monday, September 24, 2012

Meal Planning Mondays: An art form.

My Mom always said that Home-making was very different from House-keeping.

"Homemaking is an art form."

I agree.

I like to apply that rationale to many different avenues of my life.

As far as home/dinner is concerned: Did you ever think the act of gathering around a table to eat could be considered an art form, a place for expression and expansion?

Eh, me either. 

but I'm starting to. 
And as time goes on i am fine-tuning it a bit. I have this lovely vision of a big table bathed in warm light on a dark evening, surrounded by delightful aromas and loved ones anxious to unwind and share stories and break bread. I imagine ideas discussed, feelings shared, and hopefully: lots of good laughter.

In the mean-time, we're starting basic, beginning with:


2.  Taking our time eating and relaxing a bit. Twenty to thirty minutes. No big, right? WRONG. I was AMAZED that we actually spend on average around 6 minutes from start to finish on dinner. And if you think that puts a real dent in the social aspect, just imagine the post dinner digestive tract of this house....eeeeehhhhhhhhh!

3. Conversation. So...everybody has to wait for mom to actually sit down AND we have to spend like TWENTY WHOLE MINUTES working on our food so WHAT IN HEAVENS NAME ARE WE TO DO WITH ALL THIS OVERWHELMING INTERIM?????

Converse! Try it folks!
Let's practice with each other!

Here's a snapshot of our average nightly conversation. We like to go around the table  and say the best and worst parts of our day to each other. 


Lily: "OKAY OKAY OKAY everybody I AM starting. So London, what was the best part of your day?"

London: "Katy was mean to me when we was playing bawbies."

Dad: "Lundy, Lily asked you what the BEST part of your day was?"

Mom: "oKAY well, while London about Lily?"

Lily: "I helped to clean up after lunch and Principal Ernst gave me a gator bite [school reward dollar] and i was like whoa this is crazy and then i was like wait a minute connection BAM i got three gator bites last week and BAM another connection three gator bites plus one gator bite equals FOUR gator bites. London, I'm going to tell you about the rules, are you listening to what I'm saying here? The rules. R. O. L. S. Ruuules. The rules. Okay you say: Alyce Taylor Gators are ready to learn CHOMP CHOMP and then you clap on the CHOMP CHOMP part so do it when i say it okay.....ALYCE TAYLOR GATORS ARE READY TO LEARN----

Dad: "UM...well we're not going to yell the Gator chant right now at the table Lils - - London please sit down and don't stand on your chair..... why don't we let everyone finish the best/worst parts of their day first...."

Lily: "K, but can I be in charge?"

Mom: "Fine, but we need to go back to London."
Ellie Jane, we don't throw that. Put the potatoes down. Eat your potatoes. EAT . YES! YUMMMMY."

Lily: "Ah hem, so London what was the best part of your day?"

London: "....and I'm not gonna be fwiends anymo with Gwace cuz she was being like so wude (rude) to me and i wanted to be the pwincess but she said i had to be the sista...."

Mom: "London, YOU CAN TELL US THE BAD PARTS AFTER YOU SHARE THE NICE PART OF YOUR DAY. You had a good day and we want to know the sad parts but let's first focus on the happy ones. What about when you got your favorite popsicles this afternoon, remember that?"

London: "Well Lulee jus got the colah (color) i wanted."

Mom: "Okay we're done. Your turn Daddy. Seriously what chapter did I miss in The Happiest Toddler on the Block? What is with Debbie Downer over there?! And why am I already done with all my food? Why do they say you should chew each bite like THIRTY times? Is that even POSSIBLE? Who are these people who do that, and WHAT are they chewing? LIQUID? How can you technically continue to CHEW a bunch of fully masticated liquid? Are they mouth swishing it around? Are they IMAGINING that there is food still in their mouth? How did they come up with that number?
So... what was Daddy's favorite part of the day?"

Daddy: "My best part of the day was coming home to all of you...."


Yeah, like I said, a real art form. 


I offer these two as ideas for that first day when the weather turns real nice and crisp-like. Sweet Autumn, welcome.

1. One of our favorite soups. It's got bomb flavor, and is just as good vegetarian (substitute the chicken with black beans).

Chicken Sweet Potato Soup

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 large onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 to 2 chipotle chili in adobo, finely chopped, plus a spoon of sauce from the can
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme, eyeball it
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry white wine, eyeball it
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3/4 to 1 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite size pieces
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, a generous handful, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish, optional


Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, about 2 turns of the pan.
While soup pot heats, chop carrots in half lengthwise then slice into thin half moons. Add the carrots to the pot while it heats, stirring to coat the carrots in the oil. Chop and drop in celery and onion, chopping as small as you can, but don't make yourself crazy. Add the garlic, chipotle, and adobo sauce and stir to combine. Season the veggies with salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook the veggies together 1 minute. Add the wine and reduce a minute. Add the stock to the pot, cover the pot, and raise heat to high. Bring the stoup to a boil, remove the cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into quarters lengthwise, then thinly slice into bite size pieces. Add the cut chicken and sweet potatoes and simmer 5 minutes until sweet potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn the heat off and add the scallions and cilantro. Serve each portion of stoup with a dollop of sour cream on top.

Recipe adapted from Racheal Ray. 


2. Can't beat the smell of warm pretzels in the activity for the kiddos too.

Homemade Pretzels

For the Pretzels:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
Make the pretzels: Warm the milk in a saucepan until it's about 110 degrees; pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let the yeast soften, about 2 minutes; stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup flour with a wooden spoon. Dice 2 tablespoons butter and soften; stir into the mix. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups flour and the fine salt to make a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a large baking sheet. Punch the dough to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. (If the dough seems tight, cover and let rest until it relaxes.) Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll and stretch each piece with the palms of your hands into a 30-inch rope, holding the ends and slapping the middle of the rope on the counter as you stretch. Form each rope into a pretzel shape.
Dissolve the baking soda in 3 cups warm water in a shallow baking dish. Gently dip each pretzel in the soda solution, then arrange on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Mustard Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
Mix above ingredients and use as a tangy dipping sauce for a regular salted or plain pretzel.

Cinnamon Sugar rub:
1/4 cup cubed butter
1/2 cup sugar
cinnamon to taste

Blend together to form a good paste. Add as much cinnamon as you prefer. Rub on pretzels before baking.

Garlic Butter:

2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cube melted butter
dash of kosher salt

Mix garlic and butter together and brush onto pretzel dough forms. Bake and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt (to taste). 

Recipe adapted from Food Network.

Enjoy your art forms!!!

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