Thursday, April 23, 2009

One more thing.....

We traveled to The Big City last weekend. Emmett needed to have an MRI to check on his cyst.

Good news. The doctor saw no change from last year. That, plus the improvement Emmett has been making with his speech means he is not a candidate for surgery at this time.


Oh, and the doctor also said that we need to do one more MRI next year, and if that one shows no change, then Emmett is considered stable and will not need MRIs after that.

Yay again!!!!!!!

(With all the good news I can put the fact that I held my screaming boy down for an IV behind me. Yes, I am a cold-hearted nurse who has held lots of kids down for various procedures without flinching, but when it is your own baby, your heart breaks into a million pieces anyway.)

Looking Forward.

My life has mostly revolved around babies in recent history. For six years I have been looking forward to a baby coming. This year is a little different. Instead of anticipating something I know how to take care of (a baby) I am now entering the trenches of what I am considering "real" parenting. You know, the stuff that helps you grow a person. A person that will someday leave home and be a grown up and do grown up things. Don't get me wrong, parenting a baby is not easy. Their needs are simple, but meeting them requires incredible stamina and mental fortitude. I also know you parents of teenagers are laughing at me. I know my daily battles with my three year old are just a warm up to the really hard stuff.

Now my baby is closing in on two. My oldest can ride a bike and just lost his first tooth. I am navigating uncharted waters. Birthday party planning. Tooth Fairy traditions. Teaching manners. Teaching reading, counting, colours. Having conversations about things like bullies, volcanoes and why we can't eat at McDonald's every day.

Last night I felt myself grow up a little. For the first time I only had to dress ONE kid to go to the park. AND he was able to bring me his shoes and then willingly sat down while I put them on. For the first time Emmett biked to the park without anyone holding on to the seat to keep the bike pointed in the right direction. For the first time, Charlotte pedaled all the way to the park. (Dad walked alongside to help steer.) For the first time I went to the park pushing my double stroller with only one seat occupied.

Several friends are expecting or have recently had babies. I am so happy for them and look forward to cuddling the new little ones. I do not have rose tinted glasses on. My sciatica and morning sickness and multiple-day labours are still pretty fresh in my mind. I am not wishing to be back in the Newborn Club. I am busy being initiated into the Kid Club now.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Crackers Crackers in my Soup.

I am sure everyone is aware of how much food prices are climbing. This reality plus my quest to drastically reduce my family's dependence on over-processed and over-packaged food has led me to making more and more of our food from scratch. I have mastered yogurt. I have a wonderful bread machine and am also well-versed in making bread with my bare hands. I can't remember the last time a baking mix has been in our pantry.

I think my new obsession with Laura Ingalls Wilder is partly to blame. Reading about how her family made everything from the ground up and considered canned peaches a rare treat (By the Shores of Silver Lake) really helped me shine a light on my consumerist ways.

This brings me to today.

Remember back in the 80s when microwave ovens were new and exciting? Countless cookbooks showed up in stores to help you make everything from simple steamed vegetables to complicated roasts and baked goods. Now we know that microwave baking comes out rubbery and spongy, and most meats need a good sear on them to really taste good. My microwave is largely used for steaming vegetables, defrosting, and reheating leftovers. Today I found that there is one more thing you can do really well in your microwave.


Crackers? But you can't bake in a microwave!!! Oh yes you can! Crackers don't really need baking--they just need cooking until they are dry and crisp. This is where the microwave is ideal. It is really hard to burn a baked item in the microwave -- not impossible--but hard. I spent the morning playing with a recipe from The Joy of Microwaving by the very offical-sounding Microwave Cooking Institute(copyright 1986). By my fourth batch I worked all the kinks out and am really happy with my results. The kids love them.

From start to finish, this recipe only takes about 20 minutes to make and calls for very common ingredients. Go ahead, try it!!!

Wheat Crackers

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon caraway seed*, or seasoning of choice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter (I don't recommend substituting--the texture is just not as flaky)
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
3-4 tablespoons water
corn meal or wheat germ

Makes around 30 crackers, depending on the size

  1. Combine flour, seasoning and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in butter and oil until particles are fine.
  2. Sprinkle water over mixture while tossing with a fork (or with your stand mixer on low speed) until dough is just moist enough to hold together. Dump mixture out onto your lightly floured work surface and gently form into a ball' Don't worry if it is a teeny bit crumbly.
  3. Roll out dough as thin as possible. Really. If you think it is thin enough, roll it a bit more--one or two millimeters thick is ideal. If you didn't overwork your mixture in the first two steps it will easily roll out. If it is getting too tough and elastic, cover the dough with a barely damp kitchen towel and go check your email. Let the gluten in the flour relax for 10-15 minutes and try again.
  4. Prick the dough all over with a fork and then cut into squares. I used a pizza cutter because I don't have a fancy crimped cutter. (Yet)
  5. Sprinkle a glass pie plate or pizza stone with cornmeal or wheat germ. Arrange the crackers on the plate. Don't crowd too many in the center--the crackers cook the fastest there. (Ignore the picture...I learned this lesson the hard way.)
  6. Microwave on HIGH 2-3 minutes , or until dry and puffed. If you don't have a turntable in your microwave, turn the dish a couple of times during cooking. Don't worry about over baking. Check the bottoms of your crackers. If there is any moisture, or the crackers are still flexible when you lift a corner, keep cooking them, checking every 30 seconds. If you use a baking stone you will find your first batch will take the longest, as the stone needs time to preheat. My first batch on a cold baking stone took almost six minutes, while a batch on a pie plate took 2 1/2 minutes.
  7. Transfer crackers to a wire rack to cool, and then try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting!!
*If you don't like caraway seeds, experiment with different seasonings. I have tried no-salt sun dried tomato seasoning mix and olive oil and Parmesan cheese and they were both delicious.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Treat.

I was sipping my morning coffee and perusing my favourite blogs, as I do most mornings. Suzanne McMinn is a regular stop on my blog reading list. I made the mistake of reading her latest post on an empty stomach. She was running through the steps needed to make home made donuts. (Click on her name if you dare.)

So, because I am easily tempted, my family had hot fresh donuts for brunch today. They are surprisingly easy to make and you really don't need any fancy tools at all. I don't have a donut cutter, so an egg poaching ring (why do I have those???) and an icing bag tip did the job nicely. Sure, they take a bit longer than making a run to Timmy's, but the result is really really worth it. Oh, and if you want to do things really old school, take a page from Ma Wilder's book, cut narrow strips out of the dough and twist them. When they hit the hot fat they will turn themselves when each side is done. Ma Wilder didn't have time to flip donuts so she didn't make the new-fangled circular ones. (She was Laura Ingall's mother in law. You learn about donut making in the book Farmer Boy)

I subbed one cup of whole wheat flour for one cup of all-purpose and used the Fruit Jam Cake glaze recipe on Suzanne's site as a topping.

Try it, you'll like it! (Well, your favourite jeans might not, but you only live once, right??)

Since we are talking about treats, the lovely and giant-hearted Kitten gave me this one. She is just the nicest person I have never met. I am happy to count her as one of my friends. She is one you want in your corner! She gave me this award because she said I add sunshine to her life. Well, the feeling is mutual!!
If you have any bloggy friends that brighten up your world, pass the award along.