Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Navigating a Sick Day

Imagine some lovely picture here, which I would post if my daughter hadn't broken the camera lens. :)

Just when I thought I was getting back into a routine, the germs have invaded. My son (age 6) is home from school for a few days while fighting a low grade fever. I'm trying to keep my daughter (age 4) on her regular schedule. She might have been sick last week, possibly, it's hard to tell with her. She's the one who brings the germs home and spreads them around the family yet doesn't get sick herself. Her medical history is the most boring form to fill out, but it's fast--there's never anything to report!

While I am writing this, my kids are running around throwing a large plastic shark at one another. Clearly, my son isn't sick enough to be tucked into bed, so I've been trying to figure out what is going to keep us occupied until he is fever-free and well enough to return to school, other than movies and computer time.
  • Playing Cards- My son would play cards with me all day if I would let him. His current favorite is Rummy 500, although he also likes Uno and a game that we call 'Slap and Tickle'. I'm going to teach him to play Gin Rummy tomorrow.
  • Thank-you notes- We have a few notes to finish up sending to friends and relatives after the kids' recent birthdays. (Will the germs transfer on the notes? Hmmm.... Maybe I should do the envelope sealing...)
  • Lego Sort- My son and I spent an entire sick day last year sorting his Legos by color, and then building one of his sets. He was in heaven.
  • Call Grandma- It's a great time to make some surprise midday calls to relatives to catch up--if they are retired, etc. Although if I get desperate, we may bother Daddy at work.
  • Puppy Show- My daughter and I may hold a Puppy Show (instead of puppets) to entertain my son if everyone gets particularly whiny and crabby.
After his fever breaks and before he returns to school, I have a few other plans in mind:
  • Clothes Shopping- My son is very picky when it comes to clothes. He is very sensitive to tags, collars, etc., and he is very particular about how clothes fit his body. I've been trying to figure out a good time to take him to the store to try things on and this may be the time!
  • Lunch Out- I know that both kids will enjoy going out to lunch one day, if it works out.
  • Baking- If we are making something just for our family, not to share, he can help me bake some cookies, bread, or muffins.
Again, I won't take him out and about in public until his fever breaks and he is fully on the mend. No need to spread his bug through the stores and restaurants if we can help it!

Many of these things are activities that we like to do but don't have much time for in the average week. Instead of viewing these Sick Days as a hindrance to my plans, I try to see them as an opportunity to spend some special time with my kids, providing them with interesting activities while their bodies rest and heal.

Summer Recap and Back to School... and Work

Our full school schedule is now starting its third week (we start school late around here, and preschool starts even later), so it's time for life to return to some semblance of normal.

I was expecting my summer to be productive time spent continuing my decluttering quest, in addition to keeping my kids entertained with fun summer activities. Based on the amount of decluttering I completed (very little), I need to adjust my expectations.

All I wanted to do this summer was hang out with my kids. We did numerous non-productive mundane activities, including swinging on our rope swing, chewing bubble gum and learning to blow bubbles, and occasionally making it all the way to the swimming pool. We also celebrated both kids' birthdays and went to the beach twice. For some reason I was expecting to get more done despite the fact that my kids were involved in fewer activities during the day. They were always around, standing between me and their coveted piles of stuff saying, "MOM, DON'T SELL MY BABIES!"

I did have some house projects going on; our masonry and landscaping project took most of the summer, and we had some electrical work done. It took a lot of time and effort to stay on top of these projects (which were hired out to contractors, I wasn't even doing the work myself!) as well as doing the regular tasks that need to be done around the house.

Now, at least I know what to expect of myself next summer: not very much! After my declutter challenge is over, I'll change to a different focus; instead of getting rid of items year round, I'll focus on purging once in the spring and once in the fall.

This means that I need to focus on October as my next big declutter month. My basement is filling up as I recently did Birthday Declutters on my son's room (1 large container full) and my daughter's room (4 boxes!). If it doesn't get decluttered in October, it probably won't leave the house until next year, as I already know I won't have a lot of spare time to work on the project in November and December.

So, we'll see what I can complete next month!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Soup of the Week: Minestrone Soup

I actually made this soup two weeks ago. :) I have two frozen packages left; it is really good! Now that summer is over, I want to get back into the routine of making soups and stocks on a regular basis. I like to have a stash of prepared soups in the freezer to have for lunch or as part of a quick dinner.

This recipe is for Minestrone alla Milanese (from Cooking Class Italian Cookbook) and I got it from my grandmother, who likes to add whatever is on hand, saying, “This is the way Italian cooks make it, using whatever is on hand and using up small amounts of leftovers.”

• ¼ lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
• 2 med zucchini, ½ inch cubes
• 1 large potato, ½ inch cubes
• ½ lb cabbage (I omit this)
• 1/3 cup olive oil (I use less)
• 3 Tablespoons butter (mandatory for the flavor!)
• 2 medium onions, chopped
• 3 medium carrots, chopped
• 3 ribs celery, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced (I used 2)
• 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
• 3 ½ cups beef broth (I use chicken bone soup or vegetable stock, see * below)
• 1 ½ cup water (or use additional stock if you have enough)
• ½ tsp salt
• ½ tsp dried basil
• ¼ tsp dried rosemary
• ¼ tsp pepper
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 can cannellini beans (white kidney) drained and rinsed
• Baby spinach leaves 1-2 oz (I added this to the recipe)
• Orzo pasta (I added this to the recipe-found whole wheat orzo at Whole Foods)
• Grated Parmesan

Prepare vegetables, make vegetable stock (see * below). In a large stockpot, heat oil and butter. Saute onions 6 min, add carrots and potato, sauté 5 minutes, add celery and green beans, sauté 5 minutes more (stirring often during these times). Add garlic, stir to combine.

Add broth/stock, tomatoes, water, seasonings, and stir well to scrape vegetable bits from bottom of stockpot (umami). Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low, simmer for 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cannellini beans, cook 30 minutes more but uncovered this time to reduce somewhat, then add orzo and spinach, stirring to combine, and cook 5-7 minutes, or just until pasta is cooked al dente.

Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve w/cheese. Makes about 12 cups.

*Vegetable stock: clean your vegetables well. As you cut up what is needed for the soup, throw the trimmed ends into a large pot full of water. I add onion ends/outer layers, carrot ends, peelings, and tops, celery tops (the more leaves the better), zucchini ends, a bit of parsley if I have some, etc. (I usually don’t add the potato peel but just wash well and leave it on the potato.) Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-45 minutes (while you are chopping everything else and sautéing the veggies for the soup in another pot). Place a strainer over a large pot (I use a large pitcher) and carefully pour the stock through the strainer into the pot. Discard boiled vegetable bits. Measure the amount needed to add to the soup recipe above. You can also freeze vegetable trimmings to make stock at a later time, or add the vegetable trimmings to chicken bones to make chicken stock—but that takes 7 hours, better to do on another day.

Recipe Index

Here is an index of the recipes I've either mentioned or posted on this blog, organized by the following categories:
  • Breakfast/Brunch Recipes
  • Barely a Recipe
  • Appetizers
  • Salads and Salad Dressings
  • Soups and Stocks
  • Entrees
  • Vegetarian
  • Desserts and Snacks
 Some recipes are listed more than once. I will add new recipes as I discover links to them online, or as I post more of my own recipes. I recommend all of them. Enjoy!

Breakfast/Brunch Recipes

Make-Ahead Strawberry French Toast
Peach Berry Crisp (Filling and Topping)
Pineapple Zucchini Bread
Potato-Kale Quiche or Frittata
Strawberry Bread
Summer Squash Frittata
Super Special Spinach Pie
Whole Wheat Banana Bread

It's Barely a Recipe

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
Black-Eved Pea Hambone Soup
Cucumber Tomato Salad
Fried Zucchini
Salt and Pepper Chicken
Salt and Pepper Potatoes
Smoked Salmon Appetizers


Basil Pesto
Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
Fried Zucchini
Gougeres (Cheese Puffs)
Mini Hamburgers/Sliders
Salmon or Tuna Cakes (Bouchons au Thon)
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Smoked Salmon Appetizers

Salads and Salad Dressings

Broccoli Salad
Cucumber Tomato Salad
Green Goddess Dressing


Black-Eyed Pea Hambone Soup
Chicken Bone Soup
Minestrone ala Milanese
Quinoa Vegetable Soup
White Bean and Kale Soup


Apple Sausage Risotto
Baked Chicken Tenders
Baked Ziti with Mini Meatballs
Beef with Broccoli--homemade
Chicken Casserole
Honey Mustard Chicken
Lemon Chicken with Carrot Orzo
Maple Balsamic Chicken
Marinated Flank Steak
Marinated Salmon
Mini Hamburgers/Sliders
Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs
Mom's Chili
Pot Roast (My Favorite!)
Pumpkin Seed Crust (for chicken or fish)
Roasted Chicken with Spinach Rice Stuffing
Salt and Pepper Chicken
Soy-Glazed Salmon with Sweet Potato Black Bean Salsa
Sweet Asian Chicken (Marinade)

Vegetarian Entrees/Sides

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
Carrot Orzo
Creamy Enchilada Casserole
Eggplant Stew over Couscous
Fried Zucchini
Kale Brown Rice Casserole
Lasagna (omit ground meat)
Lentil Rice Casserole
Lime Cilantro Soba Noodles
Potato-Kale Quiche or Frittata
Potato Salad with Picky Eater Option
Salt and Pepper Potatoes
Sesame Baby Bok Choy
Skillet Cornbread
Spinach Rice Stuffing
Summer Squash Frittata
Sweet Potato Black Bean Salsa
Super Special Spinach Pie
Whole Wheat Couscous with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

Desserts and Snacks

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!
Decorated Cut-Out Cookies Part I and Part II
Lemon Lavender Butter Cookies
Mini Sour Cream Pound Cake Cupcakes
Peach Berry Crisp (Filling and Topping)
Pineapple Zucchini Bread
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Shortbread Hearts
Strawberry Bread
Sweet and Spicy Pecans (scroll down to first recipe)
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Whole Wheat Banana Bread

You can find more recipe index posts here at orgjunkie.com.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: September 27th

Okay, I haven't blogged in a month, but I'm still here and everything's fine, just busy, which is why I should be planning these meals out in advance, hm?

4 Easy Steps to a meal plan:
1. Type out the days of the week.
2. Look at the calendar and see if the family is scheduled to eat out on any of the days (nope. Darn!) Also check to see what else is going on during afternoon/evening hours (appointments, meetings, etc.) that may interfere with the production or consumption of dinner. Figure out if/when a grocery trip is coming up.
3. Check the fridge/freezer/pantry to determine
                -what needs to be consumed quickly (leftovers, produce, meat, etc.)
                -what else is plentiful

 4. Despite these steps, still hem and haw while trying to figure out what to make this week!
  • Monday: Roast Chicken with potatoes, carrots, and green beans (grandma's recipe)
  • Tuesday: Leftovers (including Lasagna made on Sunday)
  • Wednesday: Apple Sausage Risotto with steamed broccoli
  • Thursday: New Recipe- Creamy Tomato Penne with Shrimp I'm planning to replace the heavy cream with evaporated milk as suggested here to reduce the saturated fat.
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: Potluck dinner, make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins with my wonderful fresh pumpkin puree
  • Sunday: Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs on the grill, roasted sweet potatoes, cucumber tomato salad
  • Monday: (my son's favorite) Spaghetti with whole wheat pasta and turkey meatballs, with steamed green beans
I am on the hunt for pumpkin recipes, particularly for some type of pumpkin soup or tips on what to do with pumpkin seeds. Please let me know if you have a good recipe source!

Find more menu planning ideas at orgjunkie.com. Happy Monday!