Friday, March 26, 2010

Oh Me, Oh My, Sesame Noodles!

These were on the menu the other night to accompany some Soy Glazed Salmon and I have to say, it's one of the best things I've made in a long time. Joe had taken the kids to the park so they could run a bit and I was able to cook in peace, a rare thing indeed around here. I whipped up the sauce and poured it over the noodles, gave it a stir and then made the mistake of putting a bite in my mouth. I couldn't stop. They were divine! It's all I want to eat. I have a feeling there will be a bowl of these residing in my fridge very often this summer. The original recipe called for linguine but I happened to have some soba noodles in my pantry so I used those instead. All I can say is, if you can get your hands on soba noodles then use those, but if not just use linguine. Whole wheat would be great with this recipe. Just don't not make it if you can't find soba noodles. It would be a crying shame to miss out just because of that!

Sesame Noodles
8 ounces of linguine or soba noodles
3 cloves of garlic
3 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons vinegar (rice vinegar would be great but I used regular white)
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chile sauce (Asian chile sauce would be ideal but I used the stuff you find by the ketchup)
2 or 3 green onions
1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, toasted if you have time

Boil the noodles following the package instructions, drain and rinse to cool them. Soba noodles always have to be rinsed. Combine all the other ingredients except the onions and sesame seeds and simmer a few minutes. What you are aiming for is to cook the garlic a little. Raw garlic a bit much. When the noodles are drained fairly well, stir the sauce into them in a roomy bowl. Mix in the onions and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Taste at your own risk unless you are lucky enough to be making them just for yourself otherwise there won't be any left to share. Don't say I didn't warn you, these are addictive!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stop the Insanity!!!

This photograph pretty much sums up my day if you can imagine this as a 31 year old mama instead of a pitiful cute baby with a scrape of his forehead. There was rampant crying, weeping and gnashing of teeth. All seven of us took turns at the crying, weeping and gnashing of teeth. So that's the way some days go, sometimes lots of days in a row go that way. By God's sweet grace and the promise of bedtime to come, we get through them. I've been thinking about Ecclesiastes 3:1 and that there is a time for all things, for every purpose under heaven. Two parts grabbed my attention; a time to gain, and a time to lose, a time to keep, and a time to throw away. Over the next few days I'm going to be thinking of what God wants me to gain and what He wants me to loose. What I need to keep and what to throw away. I know there will always be a good deal of insanity around here, what else could there be with 5 (soon to be 6) kids under the age of 7 but I keep praying and trusting that I'll be able to keep up with it all and come out on the other side in relatively one piece. I hope so anyway!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Homemade Pasta

If you are looking for a special treat, try making some pasta. It's not difficult at all, just requires some time. Pasta dough is a mixture of flour and eggs or flour and plain water. You can use white flour, whole wheat flour, semolina or a combination of these to make a pasta that is just how you like it. A combination of these flours seems to work great but the last batch I made was 100% whole wheat and it was delicious. Semolina is made from ground durum wheat which is a hard wheat that is used in Italy for making pasta. The flour has a lovely golden color similar to cornmeal and can be found at natural food stores or online. I've actually bought it before at our grocery store but haven't seen it there in years. Most recipes in Italian cookbooks call for eggs but I have made it with water and liked it just a well so I guess it's up to you and if you have several eggs laying around. So get out your rolling pin and some flour and let's get going!

Homemade Pasta
3 cups flour (which ever you want to use)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water
3/4 to 1 1/2 cup water

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and water or plain water. I know there is a big range of water given, just start with the smaller amount and add more as needed to get a dough that sticks together but doesn't stick to your hands. Put the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until it is smooth and satiny. The Italian guide is to knead until it's as smooth as a baby's bottom! Cover the dough (I usually set the bowl upside down over the dough) and let it rest for 30 minutes to allow the gluten in the dough to relax. This will make it easier to roll. If a dough ever resists rolling just let it rest for 10 minutes or so to relax it.
After resting, divide the dough into 4 pieces and work with one while the others stay covered. Flour the surface and roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 10 inches long. Fold the ends in like a letter and re-roll it into a rectangle, fold it again. Now roll it out for the pasta. Roll and roll, flouring it as you need to until the dough is as thin as you can get it. The traditional rule is that it should be thin enough to read print through but I don't worry about getting it that thin. It takes some practice to be able to roll it out without it sticking or tearing but every time it gets easier. When it's thin enough, cut it with a sharp knife or pasta cutter (a pizza wheel would work also) into strips as wide as you want. You can also use this to make ravioli although I've only done that once and am still scarred from that experience. Usually I make this for lasagna, it's really divine and worth the extra effort. But this week I made fettuccine and it was great. I loved how it looked in the wooden bowl but I didn't love how it stuck together in a clump after sitting for a while. So, if you aren't cooking it right away, lay it out on floured towels or a counter top. It's fine for it to dry out a bit before cooking. Any leftover cut pasta can be thoroughly dried and stored in a airtight container, it doesn't need to be refrigerated. Also, if you are cooking it to serve with a sauce, only boil it for 2 or 3 minutes then start checking it for doneness. It cooks very quickly and if you turn all your lovely pasta into a pot of watery mush then you will be sad indeed. I challenge you to try it out, at least once. You will be glad you did!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Avocado Grapefruit Salad

Ah, wintertime with it's citrus fruit! This is one of our top salads to brighten those gray winter days. It's not even really a recipe but more of a divine combination of flavors and textures. Cover a platter or large bowl with fresh baby spinach, scatter ripe avocado slices over the spinach then top that with pink grapefruit sections. Grind some fresh pepper over all and serve. The juice from the grapefruit makes a perfect light dressing and keeps the avocado from turning brown, not that this salad last long enough for them to turn brown anyway.

My only note is about sectioning the grapefruit. I cut the top and bottom of and set it upright on the cutting board. With a sharp knife, slice down the side of the fruit, removing the peel and the white pith. Do this all the way around until you have a naked pink grapefruit. Holding it over the salad (or a bowl if you are just sectioning it) slice right next to the membrane between two sections. Do this for both side of each section and a neat slice of fruit should come right out. In a few minutes you should have a handful of grapefruit membranes in your hand and a luscious pile of juicy sections. Obviously this works for any citrus fruit and makes a special addition to a fruit salad. Yummy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Girl and Her Doll

Twenty seven years ago, a mama set out to make cloth dolls for her three little girls. Not only did she make dolls, she made each one a dress with a matching bonnet and pinafore. Under the dresses were petticoats and bloomers. Each doll had a flannel nightgown with matching nightcaps and bloomers and a flannel robe that matched the robes the mama made for each girl. After the girls dressed their dolls in their nightgowns, caps, bloomers and robes they could tuck their dolls into their own wicker basket beds with mattresses, pillows and quilts. Of course, at the time these girls didn't realize what a treasure their sweet mama had lovingly sewed for them but now the youngest girl, that would be me, has been honored to carry on the tradition with her little girls. For Christmas last year, I made a doll for each of my daughters though I only got as far as a dress for each one. Unfortunately, Big Sister had given her doll a hair cut so recently I set out to fix the poor thing.

Here is the doll after she got her hair shaved. I always hate to do anything like this in front of my darling offspring so of course this step was accompanied by the lecture on how only mama could cut the doll's hair with scissors and no one else could.

Here is her new hair after being handsewn on. It's much smoother to sew it on by machine when the doll is being made but it was a little too late for that. I used a cotton yarn that hopefully will hold up to all the loving this doll receives.

Sister had been informing me quite often how much her doll "needed" some bloomers so these little numbers were put together.

Here is the doll wearing her pink lace adorned bloomers and the dress and pinafore from my doll who is still in circulation. You never know when you will need to change dolls so Sister keeps them all at the ready. It's amazing to me how many years of playing and loving these dolls have survived and I love to think of my granddaughters playing with their mama's dolls along side their own dolls made my their adoring grandmother. One can never have too many dolls!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


These little feet, what can you say. Is there anything more darling than baby feet. My littlest one often sleeps with his feet folded up under his diapered bottom. I can't remember if any of his siblings slept like this but then again there are a lot of things I can't remember lately. A lack of sleep and chaotic days can do that to a person. Quite often people ask me how I manage with five little ones under six years of age and the truth is that I don't always manage very well. By the grace of God and lots of help from my husband we make it through every day with a minimum of bumps and bruises, physically and emotionally. Today I was able to spend some time alone at my mother-in-law's lovely home while she was out of town. Something in my crazed eyes must have tipped my husband of that I needed a break. Most of the time I was able to rest and found myself thinking about expectations. Much of the stress of my day comes from expectations that are not realistic or even humanly possible in this time of my life. I would venture a guess that I am not all that unusual as a mom in this area. I want kids to play peacefully and share their toys, to be content with their food and not always ask for snacks, shut cabinet doors and not suck on the tube of toothpaste because I told them not to. How hard could that be? So I was able think about what my expectations should be. That life will be messy and loud, people will fight, they will be constantly hungry, I won't be able to have meaningful devotions every day without interruptions, I should check the toilet seat before sitting down. Part of life with kids, part of the gift I have been given. My prayer is that I can rejoice in my gift instead of asking for the receipt. His mercy is new every morning, even if that morning starts long before the sun comes up!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lemon Fish with Cherry Tomatoes

I haven't posted too many main dishes due to my obsession with baked goods and desserts but this is a dish we enjoyed recently and I thought I'd share it with you. All my kids loved this except for the two year old, she still has some texture issues. Now, none of them liked the roasted tomatoes but I was happy to help them with that. Typically we eat tilapia since it isn't too fishy tasting but this was ocean perch and it was very mild tasting. There really isn't a recipe so just gather some fish, a lemon, butter, salt and pepper and a handful of cherry tomatoes.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Lay the fish out in a single layer and season with salt and a good dose of black pepper. Zest the lemon evenly over all the fish then squeeze the juice of the lemon over each fillet. All that is left is to dot each piece with a small pat of butter, scatter the tomatoes around the pan and slide it into the hot oven. It's hard to give a time for fish since it depends on how thick each fillet is but 10 to 15 minutes should do it. Check it after 10 minutes and see if it is white all the way through and flakes easily with a fork then it is done. Arrange all the fish on a platter and if by some coincidence you happen to have fresh parsley in the fridge like I did, snip some over the top for nice color. I hope you try this and enjoy it as much as we did.
A weird little thing about me is that I have a phobia of fish scales. It's not as much an aversion as a true phobia. My little brothers delight in talking about fish scales around me just to see me squirm and beg them to change the subject. Now your day is complete!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Run for it!

What do you do if you find half a loaf of Sourdough Walnut bread your mom stashed in the pasta pot in your favorite cabinet? Grab it and run! At least if you are a ravenous one year old you do.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bluebird of Happiness

I love this little bird. A few miles from my home there is a glass and pottery studio that makes these blue glass birds. You would be riveted to watch the artist blow the glowing red glass, then shape it with iron tongs. If the area set up for watching wasn't also used to showcase hundreds of blown glass figurines, we would go there more often. "Bull in a china shop" doesn't really describe what it would be like to have my brood milling around the showroom. But once when my second was still in a stroller, we did go see the artists making the birds. It takes them maybe 3 minutes to make each bird. The whole time I was sure a blob of molten glass was going to fall on their arm or foot. Of course, they are experts who are very good at not melting off appendages with molten glass. Such a relief!
The first time I saw one of these birds was in the one room log cabin we stayed in on our honeymoon. It was a very old cabin that the inn-keepers had purchased and moved onto the property. Perched in a small window, high in the wall next to the fireplace were two bright blue glass bird that glowed when the rising sun shone through the window. Eight years later for our anniversary, I found one of the birds at an antique mall and bought it for my husband. Now it sits on my kitchen window to remind me of eight sweet years and a thousand moments that have flown past. It reminds me of how many things are in my life right now to bring me happiness. Things like my sixth child growing in my belly, a wonderful midwife who will help us have our baby at home, a very wonderful chiropractor who made my hip stop hurting (big happiness there), a home filled with laughter and squabbling from siblings who are learning to live together, a husband who loves me, even likes me, days where I can't seem to do anything productive but it's still alright, a bag of really good chocolate chips that the kids don't know about, another bag of pecans cracked and shelled by my dad who is one of my special friends, a beautiful pink journal from the Valentine's package my sweet mom sent me, a brother who turns 16 tomorrow(!!!), really I could go on and on. What a blessing to have blessings that bring happiness! What is bringing you happiness today?