Commonplace Book, 39 (Week 36)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • I forgot to mention last week I FINALLY BRAVED THE INSTANT POT. And by “I,” I mean, a friend sent me a recipe for which I had all the ingredients, then I waited for J to get home from work and made him do all the seal stuff. The result was Indian butter chicken so good J proclaimed it better than anything I’ve ever made in the slow cooker (should I be offended, y/n) but also almost ended with us giving Scout steam burns. So. I’ll probably use it again but keep making J operate the pressure cooker bit.
  • BEEF WEEK. J bought us a quarter of a cow and brought home the goods Sunday, so we’ve been eating all beef all the time to celebrate. (And, you know, build my iron for childbirth? Can we justify it that way?) So far, I’ve made:
    • Taco salad: My MIL makes this for us. I used her recommendations of kidney beans and Catalina dressing, skipped tomatoes and sour cream, and used a slaw we had because I knew we’d have leftovers, and I don’t love wilted romaine.
    • Beef daube provencal: another recipe from the Indian butter chicken friend! Mine was the lazy third trimester version: no searing (does that even make a difference?! The jury seems to be out), slow cooker, dried spices. Also, I did not use the recommended wine because it cost $45. So much for a “princely dinner.” I’ll settle for a ducal dish with wine my sister homebrewed us last winter.
    • Best ever meatloaf with balsamic vinegar glaze: Because vinegar makes everything fancy. It’s basically BBQ sauce in the end, but SO GOOD.

What I’m reading:

  • I finished Gilead and as usual was left not knowing what to share. It’s all so perfect, right? I could copy out about 80% of it, the rest being bits I still don’t understand. Abbey wrote me out passages of encouragement for labor and the newborn days, and that’s even better, because it saves my waffling.
  • Ina May’s Guide to ChildbirthI still haven’t reread my Bradley book, but this one is helping me get in the zone just the same — some of the mantras from Spiritual Midwifery really helped me in Pippin’s labor. It’s ridiculous, and then I’m sure I’ll go into labor every night when I go to bed, but I’m hoping it’ll stick with me, even if I have another lightning fast labor.
  • O Pioneers! This is my third Willa Cather, and I’m really loving diving back into her peaceful world — it may be the gentlest transition from Gilead possible.

This time last year:

  • Rethinking Running: which you will perhaps be unsurprised to learn I have not rethought it in, you know, 36 weeks.
Getting a lot of mileage these days from park leaves
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Commonplace Book, 38 (Week 35)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

Almost Certainly Inauthentic St. Michael’s Bannock

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour flour
  • 1/4 c old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c rye flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 scant c cream + 1 Tbsp plain white vinegar (to make buttermilk substitute)
  • handful of raisins — I used a mix.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in cold butter as you would biscuits – with a pastry knife, two forks, or your fingers. Add buttermilk mixture. Mix until mostly combined. On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, then pat into an 8 inch round loaf, and bake on a greased cookie sheet for 40 minutes.

  • You can put french fries in the bottom of your frittata and it’s pretty good. This has been a third trimester PSA.
  • You can put olive tapenade on frozen cheese pizza and it’s also pretty good. This has been a third trimester PSA.
  • Things are rapidly degenerating here on the culinary front, obviously.

What I’m reading:

  • Baby’s cells can manipulate mom’s body for decades. Even with the potentially creepy sibling ramifications at the bottom of this piece, I just find the idea so comforting: that however briefly you get to know your child earthside, she stays a part of you. That even when your child is totally exasperating you and you feel such distance, you still carry evidence of him in your body. It’s beautiful, and worth remembering this month, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
  • Vindication! Study says parents aren’t to blame for picky eaters.
  • The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, which was given to us as a gift from Scout’s godparents last fall, and which we started to read aloud to each other, but then I got pregnant and sleepy (story of my life). Now I’m listening to it on Audible, and while there isn’t a lot that is revolutionary for me, Inklings nerd that I am, the passages on Oxford are dreamy and it’s nice to use my brain, at least moderately, in this sleepy chapter of life when I’m often reaching for the remote or just going straight to bed.
This is what happens when you take a nap and neglect the ciabatta dough.

Commonplace Book, 37 (Week 34)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • Ciabatta Pizza. I make good ciabatta. Everyone likes pizza. Which my family should have loved, but one kid wouldn’t try it and one didn’t like it. But you know what? That meant we grownups had enough leftovers that I didn’t have to cook the next day (and I could doctor it with kid-unapproved soppressata), so I’m going to count that as a win. Sort of. Picky eaters, phew.
  • Chicken pot pie. I thought this would be a good idea because it’s delicious and I needed to double a recipe for a friend with a newborn, but also I got v nervous halfway through since I went into labor with Scout on a day I was on my feet for hours making chicken pot pie. That time, the chicken pot pie was the first thing I was making to freeze for a postpartum stash, and it was undersalted with undercooked vegetables, and it seemed like we ate it for weeks after Scout’s arrival. Ugh. Ridiculous, I know, but I could breathe a little easier this time when it was all done, and it was good, after all. I use this recipe as a sort of basis, but change up a lot: I roast vegetables that look good (this time potatoes, carrots and mushrooms), often use rotisserie chicken, sub homemade stock if I’ve got it, etc.

What I’m reading:

  • I FINISHED MIDDLEMARCH. And it was good! I enjoyed it infinitely more than my endless reread of Brothers Karamazov. I don’t know that I will ever seek out George Eliot as fun, comfort reading as I do Jane Austen (not that she doesn’t have very wise and severe things to say herself, just that the huge scope and cast of Mm felt more demanding), but I also don’t think I’ll easily forget it, especially some of the truths mentioned here. (h/t Dominika, maybe? My brain is cheerios.)
  • The Catholic Table. I might write more about it later, especially as book club discusses it and those ladies bring their sage insights, but I’ve already done a little reflecting on it.
  • An Everlasting Meal. I’m not sure I’m an unpicky enough eater for this one (don’t talk to me about tongue, pls), but I enjoy many passages, which are almost Annie Dillard-y. But we disagree on food safety:

“No bacterial treachery lurks in vegetables once they have spent some time other than in the refrigerator or oven. Nor does it necessarily in anything that is a few days old, or spends the night on your counter. … I am fairly sure he wasn’t right, and I am completely confident he was spiritually wrong.”

I can’t help my indoctrination on food safety.

  • Gileadmy third go round. If I copied out all the passages I loved and savored, this would be a Gilead appreciation blog. But seriously. So good. It’s making me a better mother while my children appear to go through simultaneous pregnancy-related (?) regressions.

Last year I was thinking about:

  • Determining one’s trademark food — what one is known for serving or gifting.
Absolutely a standard uniform for him these days

Commonplace Book, 36 (Week 31)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • Refried Black Bean Soup: Note: it looks sinister in prep. It looks a little better when you’re done, but mostly like sludge. Delicious, delicious sludge.

 

 

Yum. Right?

 

 

  • Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole: I made some rookie mistakes that made it salty: I used too many pre-seasoned hash browns and subbed breakfast sausage for plain bulk sausage, which I couldn’t find. But it was still a small miracle: a food-safe, hot, hearty breakfast ready for a breakfast potluck right when I woke up. Highly recommend, just follow the recipe more carefully than I did!
  • Elephant ears. We are baking something most weeks for Police Preschool to fit with the letter of the week (last week was dog biscuits) and WHY CAN’T I MAKE ELEPHANT EARS? They are puff pastry, sugar and cinnamon, rolled out and baked. I’d say I’m an intermediate baker and these are categorized as easy and we ended up with kids wildly gobbling sugar and the dough not slicing as thinly as I wanted and not a single convincingly elephantine ear. But hey. Sugar and cinnamon and puff pastry still tastes good, no matter the travesties committed against it.

What I’m reading:

  • Always and Forever Lara Jean. Fluff, but just the kind of teenager I kind of was, and wish I knew, in high school. And set in Charlottesville just up the road!
  • “Our favorite audiobooks” at LMLD: Pippin has been listening to hours of audiobooks each day. Is this normal?! Is this OK?! Mostly he’s been working through Karen Savage’s Librivox ouvre, so E. Nesbit and the What Katy Did series, and I’ve been trying to encourage him not to meditatively chew on the old iPhone while he listens.

Last year I was thinking about:

  • I was making pizza, apparently, and not sleeping nearly as much. We are pretty solidly in a frozen pizza season much of the time now, especially when we were sans kitchen sink.

Police Preschool in a nutshell: a worksheet from Children’s Church with PRAY FOR POLICE scrawled in.

Commonplace Book 35 (Week 27)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • Cheesy Lentil Mushroom and Rice Bake: something strictly vegetarian J likes, and coming just after an indulgent vacation, it makes me feel a little more wholesome. I would probably be wholesomer if I didn’t eat it twice a day, though, starting, usually, at about 9:30.
  • Sheet Pan Mustard Maple Salmon is not actually a very good recipe, as it gets the cook times all wrong, but makes good food. Another one going into our meatless Friday night rotation. (See the comments at the bottom of the recipe for revised cook times, or, you know, use common sense about how long it takes to cook potatoes.)

What I’m not fixing:

  • Jackfruit the Vegan Miracle Food. I saw this as a vegan barbecue option on a menu in Jackson City recently and thought maybe they meant some other jackfruit but NO. To be fair, I’ve only had ripe jackfruit, which is a big deal in Uganda, but it’s weird and almost foamy and decidedly not good. Maybe underripe, as they suggest here as a substitute for pulled pork, is better, but I’m not taking any chances.

What I’m reading:

  • It’s been awhile since we’ve talked children’s books, and J and I got an excellent laugh/cry out of the illustration below one recent evening. Way to sear the Lord’s Prayer into a kid’s memory, right? I usually really like Tasha Tudor but find this terrifying:

Whoa, wait, do I spot a mushroom cloud? Is that a corgi corpse in the second picture, or some kind of mutant hell hound? These are questions that will haunt us all.

Commonplace Book, 34 (Week 24)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • So, I’ve been on a quest to feed us more healthy fish this pregnancy, and every few years I get the wild hair to try canned salmon, nutritious and inexpensive. (The last madness was salmon mac and cheese that had a horrifying number of bones. Do not recommend.) This recipe finally made me and J believers, though: Salmon patties with creamy garlic sauce. Also: I bought bone-free salmon this time, because I’m a fraidy cat American.
  • 30 Minute Chocolate Cake for Two: Maybe I’m just running out of tummy capacity 24 weeks into this pregnancy, but this fed four easily. The key here, mentioned only in the comments, is to use 4-inch diameter mugs or ramekins. (My first layer was tin can-shaped as a result of not following these directions, but the other two layers, made in small Pyrex, were lovely.) It was just enough to split with a third trimester friend, her husband and J.
  • I don’t think we’ve ever talked about lenticchie con ditalini, which sounds fancy but most emphatically is not. Years ago, I started with this recipe as a base, and bastardized it shamelessly, so that I generally sub chives for scallions, tomato paste for fresh tomatoes, and bacon for prosciutto. And J likes it better with shredded cheddar than mascarpone, which I adore but don’t usually have kicking around the house. But the original is great, too!

What I’m reading:

  • Middlemarch, forever — I think I have 27 hours left on the audiobook. Still good, though, at least.
  • I didn’t love Children of God as much as The Sparrow — it felt like it got a little theologically shaky and equivocal toward the end — but I still loved it a lot.

“‘God made the world and He saw that it was good,’ Sofia’s father had always told her when complained of some injustice during her brief childhood. ‘Not fair. Not happy. Not perfect, Sofia. Good.'”

and

“‘A God with quirky, unfathomable rules, a God who gets fed up with us and pissed off! But quick to forgive, Sofia, and generous,’ D.W. said, his voice softening, eyes full of light, ‘always, always in love with humanity. Always there, waiting for us — generation after generation — to return His passion. Ah, Sofia, darlin’! On my best days, I believe in Him with all my heart.'”

and

“Maybe when you’re frightened, you can hear God better because you’re listening harder.”

Reading instead of cleaning our clearly filthy sunroom

 

 

Commonplace Book, 33 (Week 23)

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.

What I’m fixing:

  • My granny visited! And it was her birthday! And Pippin is obsessed with baking birthday cakes he refuses to eat! And Scout is obsessed with eating “party cake” she refuses to make! So we made a molasses spice cake with buttercream icing and it was pretty delicious, if unusual for a July birthday. It makes just one 9″ round — I just love small cakes, instead of leftovers lingering for days to reproach me (or be consumed in a fit of heartburn). Also, question for readers: do you think I could sub butter for shortening next time?
  • Almost not a recipe at all but in case you’re craving what I’m craving in large quantities with minimal work: pesto mozzarella chicken in the slow cooker.

Granny humors me and smiles with her (Pippin-decorated) cake

 What I’m reading:

When I come to town with my kids, the table is extended to its maximum size and my dad makes a quintuple batch of crepes before sitting down to drink a few cups of strong coffee with  splashes of cream. When he brings the mug to his mouth, he overlooks a table full of two generations of his making.

We only have a few pieces of really grownup furniture, but one of them is the dining room table J’s grandma bought us when the original homeowners were selling it along with the house, and we already have so many happy memories gathered around it.

  • Children of Godthe sequel to The Sparrowwhich is making me excited and full of dread at the same time because I’m so invested. Also, let’s talk about The Sparrow — this piece is a good starting point.
  • Middlemarch as an audiobook read by Juliet Stevenson and I’m actually enjoying it this time! Like, excited for dishes-washing and tooth-brushing, when normally I’m just counting down till I can flop over.
  • A Severe Mercy for a book club. I’ve read it before and enjoyed it back in college, but to look legit I should probably stop calling it A Separate Peace.