Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving (Week)!

Perhaps you'd like a little turkey-shaped sugar cookie to go with your icing and decorative candies? Like Genevieve does?


Quick update, you all.

Late last week my 100-year-old grandmother passed away after a very, very long (years-long) nursing home stay and slow decline. I will be busy the next couple of days with funeral stuff, relatives, and the like--not to mention the normal weekday routine for my girls. My parents are staying here and will go home on Tuesday....the day before my mother-in-law arrives for Thanksgiving (and my kids get off school for the rest of the week). So, it's safe to say I won't be writing here again before Turkey Day.

On that note, I just want to say Happy Thanksgiving, and to let you know how thankful I am for all of you who have read and supported me over the years. There are surely a lot of mean people out there on the Internet, hate-reading and such just to leave comments designed to take a person down, but goodness knows those of you who are nice, hilarious, fun, thoughtful, and kind make up for all the others. As Glennon would say, we're all just doing our best, and we belong to each other, so let's be kind this week (and always) and give thanks for our blessings and for knowing one another.

Now, go take that turkey out of the freezer, STAT.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Simple & Delicious Family Cooking: Pumpkin-Oat-Chocolate Chip Cookies


You're not sick of fall pumpkin recipes yet, are you? I'm a pumpkin fanatic; I never get tired of finding and trying new seasonal pumpkin recipes.

Here's one I made today. I based it on an old handwritten recipe glued into a notebook I've had in my kitchen for about 15 or 20 years, but I changed the original up with added spices, a dose of salt (always, people! it makes the other flavors pop), and chocolate (because of course).

What I came up with is a cake-y, semi-healthy cookie made with raw ("old-fashioned") oats and pumpkin puree, and studded with dark chocolate chips. (Chocolate chunks would be even better.) I made my cookies quite small for little hands at snacktime.

Note that I used all white flour, but I bet you could experiment with using up to half whole-wheat flour.

Easy, quick, and very kid-friendly. Enjoy!

Pumpkin-Oat-Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 4 dozen, depending on size

Ingredients:

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or from a fresh, cooked sugar pumpkin)
1-1/2 cups white flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3/4 tsp. salt
1-1/4 cups raw oats
2/3 cup (or to taste) dark (or semi-sweet) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and beat well. Mix in pumpkin puree.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add dry mixture to pumpkin mixture and combine. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake about 7 minutes, until lightly browned on underside but still soft and fluffy-looking. (Cookies will not spread.) Let cool on wire rack. Store tightly covered in Tupperware or similar container. (Can also freeze once cool.)


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Dessert


So, friends. Who here is hosting Thanksgiving this year?

I am, and I always do. However, our Thanksgivings are very tiny. Christopher and I have small and/or split-up/fractured/far-away families and neither of us was raised with a posse of extended relatives with whom we are close. (Christopher once stayed in the empty dorms at college over Thanksgiving, if that tells you anything.)

So, at most I have two guests at Thanksgiving, and often just one. I know! Crazy to most of you, I'm sure.

So anyway, it's not like I'm cooking for a truckload of people. On the other hand, to some degree, if you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner, you're cooking Thanksgiving dinner--whether it's for five or 15. The only significant variation is the size of your turkey, which translates into how long it takes to thaw. Other than that, you're kind of doing the same things whether your feast is for a few or a large group.

My menu is pretty traditional (although I skip the sweet potatoes for this small a group and do a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey): a relish tray, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, honey-ginger glazed carrots (no green bean casserole here, because we just got our CSA fall storage share and are up to our ears in root veggies), cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and pie.

Over the years, I've done all sorts of things for dessert, including a classic pumpkin pie and a marbled pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake (delish), and though traditional cheesecake may be my all-time favorite dessert, it's soooo heavy after an indulgent meal. So my favorite Thanksgiving choice is the simple cheater cheesecake recipe below, because while it will satisfy any cheesecake lover out there, it's also fairly light compared to most holiday desserts. Which means that, should you end up with leftovers because of a small Thanksgiving guest list like I do, you can enjoy next-day pie with nary a flicker of guilt.

Try it sometime--if not next week, then maybe for Christmas?

(Sorry there's no photo! Trust me; it looks AND tastes good.)

Simple Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
serves 8

Ingredients:

1 nine-inch reduced-fat graham cracker crust
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 eight-oz. package Neufchatel cheese, softened & at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 eight-oz. tub Lite Cool Whip (thawed)

In a large mixing bowl, beat the pumpkin, Neufchatel, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice with an electric mixer on medium speed until fully incorporated and smooth.

Fold 2-1/2 cups Lite Cool Whip into the pumpkin mixture and stir gently until combined.

Spoon pie mixture into the crust, mounding the filling nicely. Chill 4 hours or overnight. Serve with additional Cool Whip, if desired. (A drizzle of warm caramel sauce is good too!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Few Random Things

 Carbs.

These things are not necessarily related, nor are they guaranteed to have anything to do with kids or motherhood. They're just a few interesting things bouncing around my head these days.

1. Glennon over at Momastery is doing her Holiday Hands project again this year. Remember this? It's a HUGE service project that pairs folks with something to give (money, time, gifts) with folks who have holiday needs. Check it out. It's a great way to feel connected with the larger web of human beings out there, each of us trying our best, each of us sometimes in need (not always for money or toys but maybe for love, strength, friendship, prayers, or hope) and sometimes able to give.

2. Speaking of giving, an independent, mama-founded running-gear business called Active Bands has organized a "Virtual 5K" as a fundraiser for Philippines typhoon relief. For $15, you can register to run 3.1 miles anytime between Wednesday and Saturday this week--on a course, on a track, in your neighborhood on a route you've mapped out to be 3.1 miles, whatever--and 100% of the entry fee goes to a relief group helping typhoon victims. You also get a free Active Band running headband just for registering! And when you're done running, you email your time to Active Bands to have your name put in for drawings of donated prizes. Are you a runner? Do it. I am! (For more info, check out their Facebook page.)

3. Here's why those of us from these parts are so crazy about where we live. (I'm in a small town an hour out of the city now, but it's basically the same down here, only with more cows and farm fields.)

4. So, carbs. A month or so ago I experimented with avoiding bread products (so, not carbs like those in vegetables or yogurt or even potatoes and rice; just things like bread, cookies, tortilla chips, cake, buns, muffins, crackers, scones, etc.) to see if what everyone says is true (that doing so will magically melt away any pesky extra lbs. and belly bloat that have seemingly permanently affixed themselves to your mid-section, decrease your snack-food cravings, and make you feel great).

Well, guess what. It totally did. For the roughly two weeks I sustained the effort. Then I fell off the wagon (several birthdays in one week = cake & lots of it), regained the lbs., belly bloat, and raging snack-food cravings, and now: upcoming holiday cookie exchange. Goddammit.

(This book is really good, very compelling, and tried-and-true in that I have a good friend who has followed its advice and benefited greatly, health-wise, as a result.) I was amazed at how great I felt when I wasn't eating so many starches, though. Who knew that eating that stuff makes you crave chips, sugar, and junk?? And that NOT eating that stuff makes you feel really energetic?

*****

So there you go. Enjoy. What's on your mind these days??

Friday, November 15, 2013

What Do You Do All Day?


 I guess the question of the day today ought to be, Where have I been?

I'm sorry I've been missing lately. I haven't felt like there's been all that much to say, but more than that I've just been wrapped up in my spinning daily life.

What's keeping me busy in my daily life, you wonder? (I'm sure you don't, but I'm going to talk about it anyway.)

Well, lots of random things.

I've begun the two advanced-readers book groups that I'm leading at my daughters' school, which takes an entire afternoon once a week plus prep time in between.

My family had a big event for my grandmother's 100th birthday, and my parents came to visit.

I solo-parented while my husband went on a business trip to New England.

My girls are taking tae kwon do, and it meets two nights a week. (Fodder for another post: how much I FREAKING LOVE EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT TAE KWON DO.) We have never done weeknight activities before, so this is a huge change. The concept of eating dinner extra-early and fast in order to rush out the door to a sports activity at a time when I'd normally be contemplating pajamas is foreign to me.

Last year I began doing some after-school childcare for a friend, and I'm still doing that.

Yesterday was our farm's annual one-time "storage-share" pick-up, so I spent much of the day procuring and then finding homes for mountains (mountains! you should see my kitchen!) of root vegetables.

I'm hosting a sleepover for my daughters and their friends tonight, and in case you didn't know, sleepovers have morphed into pseudo-birthday party-type events these days, with planned activities and cutesy crafts and fun food and maybe a movie and fancy breakfast and some fun little "favor" to take home the next morning. I'm happy to do it (very infrequently. ha.), but my point is: Keeping me busy.

What else? The running, the walking, the Jillian Michaels circuit-training. The baking of the cozy fall treats. The kiddos' dentist appointments. The visiting my friend Jen's new baby and bringing homemade gingerbread to the postpartum mama. The constant laundry. The supervising homework. The errands. The usual.

Add to all that the fact that I'm hosting my mother-in-law for Thanksgiving again this year and that means I am responsible for every speck of planning, grocery shopping, preparation, cooking, and baking.

Are you still awake?

If you are, check out this recent piece on Salon.com. Ignore the sensationalistic "bully" word/angle (most likely "suggested" by an editor for its attention-getting ability) and just read it for the main idea. I found it very thoughtful and interesting, and that it articulated much of what my BFF and I have been struggling with and talking about this fall.

The best part was the comments of my friends when I posted the link to Facebook. ("Sometimes I say I'm retired. I just married better than most people." "People who are satisfied with their own lives don't go poking around in others'." "I decided LONG ago that I don't need to live my life or justify the choices I make to anyone outside of my husband. . . and he only gets to state an opinion, not make the final decision." (That one from my wise 60-something neighbor, a woman who has raised a gang of kids and is now a happy grandma.)

My own open and honest FB comment regarding the piece was this:
"Thinking about this issue a lot this fall... I think if a working parent asked me what I do all day, in addition to mentioning the obvious (being available when the kids aren't in school), the optional (volunteering at school, cooking and baking from scratch, dealing with all the farm-share produce), & the atypical (promoting a book), I'd also say, "...and I do all the family and household upkeep and management that you have to do in the evenings and on the weekends, so that our family's evening and weekends can be free for relaxation and recreation." That's really what we SAHMs do, and that is something that benefits the working spouse/partner in a HUGE way. Just a thought."
It's true. If I had to do all the things I listed earlier in this post--along with all my usual daily chores, tasks, and activities--only after six p.m. on weeknights and all weekend long, I'd a.) never have time to sleep or read; and b.) go nutso. As would my fam. 
Cheers! Have a good, and not too busy, weekend, dears. :)


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Early-Morning Questions

Sorry for the bad photo. I just wanted you to see the cute curvy ponytail. And it's not even my best!

An eternal question: Why do I always achieve the best, swingiest, most perfect ponytails when I'm just going running (and what my hair looks like doesn't matter at all, plus it will get messed up soon anyway)? It seems like I can't ever get my ponytails to look that good otherwise.

Also: Why do I ever think that I'll get any sleep at all with two children in my bed with me? LOL. Deluded! (But still worth it.)

And: Have you read this new piece by Catherine Newman in the magazine "Brain, Child"? If not, go read it, post-haste. But be warned: It will either make you feel very happy and blessed with your current circumstances as an early-forty-something mom of school-age children, or it will make you teary with nostalgia for your former life as a stay-at-home-mom of wee littles and regret over not having that third baby a few years ago, now that you are beset with an early-fortysomething-mom-of-school-age-children-type identity crisis. Possibly both.

Relatedly: two of my recent favorite bloggers announced pregnancies within days of each other earlier this week. Congratulations, ladies! I look forward to many future posts about newborn hijinks.

Finally: Do you think I should take down my welcome-home banner, now that I've been back from Toronto for nearly three weeks? Probably.



Monday, November 04, 2013

Better Late Than Never


Belatedly, the girls' Halloween costumes: Hermione and Dumbledore. (She ditched the beard for trick-or-treating because it wasn't comfortable.) As you can see, we follow the less-is-more, scrounge-around, make-yourself, buy-nothing-new-ever philosophy when it comes to Halloween costumes. Seems to work okay.

And now it's November. Time to brush the Butterfinger crumbs off your lap, get up, and get started burning off all that Halloweeny sugary excess before Thanksgiving gets here and it's time to eat pumpkin pie ice cream. All of it, that exists in the world. Because I've heard this year there is a new product, the Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream BAR.