28 July 2011

Popping the Question

Dear Lissy,
Good morning, Lovebug!  It's taken me many years to learn the lesson I want to teach you today, and I'm still working on it.  
"Hi!  How are you?" is probably the most familiar greeting in our society.  We expect a positive reply in response, and almost always get a "fine" or "can't complain" even if we find out later the person has recently undergone amputation because of third degree burns sustained trying to get their dying mother out of their flaming home.
But there's a better question to ask, and learning how - and when - to ask that question is an art that takes a lifetime to master.

26 July 2011

(Neat) Sloppy Joes

Dear Lissy,
I've been cooking with ground beef for 20 years when WHAMMO! a new cut of beef shows up at our grocer that's rocking my recipes to a very happy place.  I am quite smitten with Carne Picada, a shredded beef product that gives the flavor and feel of steak but is less expensive than either steak or hamburger.  I've used it in spaghetti sauce, Philly cheese steaks, loaded nachos, chili, beef stroganoff and now (drumroll, please) Sloppy Joes.  "Neat Joes" are a kid favorite because of their mild, pepper-free flavor.  I like them because the thick sauce makes less of a mess (notice I didn't say no mess).  If you can find Carne Picada where you live it's worth a spin in this recipe; but regular ol' ground beef is almost as good.

23 July 2011

My Favorite Apron Modification

Dear Lissy,
We love our aprons around here!  The cotton duck cleaning apron that holds our tools, the baker's aprons (white, no pockets!) and even the gardening apron that keeps tools close at hand. But in order for an apron to be functional, you often have to modify it a bit.  Sometimes it's as simple as adding a seam to make a narrow pocket for a pen or pencil, other times it's moving or removing a piece that catches or gets in the way.  But my favorite apron hack makes my aprons twice as useful and costs less than $1.
Love it?  Buy it at flirtyaprons.com!

20 July 2011

Mennonite Grilled Chicken

Dear Lissy,
I have long admired the spirit of the women in the Mennonite community.  This recipe is from the Mennonite Girls Can Cook! blog, one of my web "hot spots" for both inspiration and education. MGCC is one of the few sites devoted to feeding larger families with men who physically work hard all day long and has an entire section of recipes for feeding a crowd of thirty thrown in for good measure.

 Mennonite Grilled Chicken is a deceptively simple recipe:  
all of the ingredients develop complex flavors when exposed to heat.
The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts!

16 July 2011

Finish the Job, Finish the Job, Get It DONE!

Dear Lissy,
We worked hard today!  The boys and I trimmed all of the grass and pulled weeds on the narrow strip outside the fence, and then we reworked the area where they pulled out the sidewalk last year.  Moving rocks is good exercise!  We spent a little time in the garden weeding and harvesting, too.  You and I banked over 60 cinnamon rolls for the freezer, and pushed through Saturday housework.  I'll touch up our Sunday clothes and pack totes for the trip north before I turn in this evening.  As we worked and cleaned, I thought about this simple principle I learned when I was first trying to keep house.

11 July 2011

Plan B

Dear Lissy,
Well, I've done it!  Daddy's convinced me to take a few hours a week to bake artisan bread for a new restaurant opening up in the historic district.  I'm excited and nervous all at once.  I  know it will be easy to take my focus off our home as I start something brand new (bread) and return to our schoolwork in a little over six weeks. Time for Plan B.