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

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 made this Zucchini-Potato Frittata before, and it’s delicious, but it really struck home this time just how much work it is. It takes forever. Help me make it better:
    • Do you think I could use a bag of frozen hashbrowns in lieu of cutting all those potatoes and onions? The potatoes are the most hateful part — you have to mandoline them, then cook them forever and then they stick to the skillet. Enraging.
    • Or tell me your cheesy, meaty summer squash recipes? I need it not to taste like squash.
  • Because we had someone dairy free for dinner, Copycat Carrabba’s Herb Oil for Dipping Bread. Good, but then, so was the cilantro garlic compound butter I cobbled together for naan the other night.

What I’m reading:

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” –Haldir of Lothlorien

  • The Sparrowa.k.a. JESUITS IN SPACE. Lots of imaginative ideas, deep characters, and juicy theological questions:

“What sticks in my throat is that God gets the credit but never the blame. I just can’t swallow that kind of theological candy. Either God’s in charge or He’s not.”

Helping with beer bread

Commonplace Book, 31 (Week 18)

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:

  • She lives! The usual brownies and this Indian stew and my go-to cobbler with my trusty cobbler sous-chef, and this cornbread which will henceforth be considered my standard cornbread recipe. (Not for those who like a nice, sweet cornbread. Also, can we agree that corn kernels in cornbread are repugnant?)

What I’m reading:

  • The Fellowship of the RingI missed the Well-Read Moms book group meeting that discussed it because we’ve had a quick progression of houseguests and all my reading time has gone to visiting — a welcome change from the slow slog of first trimester. This is, I think, my third pass, and I love it more each time. Can I confess, as a woman with a child named Pippin, that I didn’t enjoy it much the first time, reading it in high school to impress J? My love for the brave melancholy that imbues it has grown with age, though. As someone says (Aragorn?) — my notes are pretty bad — “It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts.” Also, how is this for #homemaking goals?

“Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all’. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.”

She’s two tomorrow and they’re becoming friends and it makes my heart so glad

Commonplace Book 28 (ish)

So, my last Commonplace Book posted, but was backdated, and when I tried to fix it, I deleted it. It was all very livejournal circa 2004. So, picking up where we left off:

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:

  • Sausage barley spinach soup. (Slow cooker, obviously, or are you new here?) You can add the onions and garlic and sausage in raw, but I’ll warn you that the ground sausage will fuse into a strange puck you’ll have to chop haphazardly with a wooden spoon later on, so consider wisely…
  • Scallion pancakes. These are kind of a major pain, but not really hard: just labor-intensive. But the payoff! Almost exactly like the cheap Chinese dive version I love, but with a certain something reminiscent of the hot “chapat” we used to get at the hospital canteen for breakfast in Uganda, warm and wrapped in grease-spotted notebook paper. Is this not helping to sell them? Seriously. Delicious.

What I’m reading:

  • Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and MeThis one is doubly personal for me, because a.) I am an Anne devotee and b.) I married into a family that also includes an adopted mother and adopted Korean little sister. I had expected to love the reflections on Anne but often I find them prone to dull summary, which may just be loyalty or jealousy  — I can nearly quote the original. But parts of the personal storytelling ring like Shauna Niequist’s essays, which is never a bad thing: sensory details and bustling families and warm, intimate friendships.
  • Dumplin‘: I had read a recommendation for this from, I think, Annie of The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia (who I knew casually in high school, and who is now a real-like Kathleen Kelly), and audiobook is definitely the way to go on this. J doesn’t like the profanity emanating from my iPhone as I wash dishes in the evening, but the narrator, a prickly, overweight teenager from rural Texas named Willowdean Dixon reminds me of some of my favorite Southerner college friends.
  • Someone tell me if it’s worth reading all of The Well-Trained Mind right now all at once. I’ve made it to middle school and I’m losing steam because my oldest child is, in fact, four. But I’d like the big picture! Please advise.

Commonplace Book, 26

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:

  • It’s possible I’ve shared this before: pesto bread machine bread. I’ve found if you add something like pesto or pureed pumpkin to your dough, it often tastes less “bread machine-y” than a more basic recipe. Do you have any favorites?
  • Everyday chocolate cake from Smitten Kitchen. But I forgot to sift the flour, and it mattered.
  • Add to the vaguely ethnic slow cooker recipes: vaguely French slow cooker cassoulet.
  • Quick tip obvious to everyone but me: if you do a whole chicken in the slow cooker, if you stick it in the oven for a few minutes at 400 degrees before serving it, you will make the chicken-skin eaters in your crowd really happy, because the oven will crisp the skin, while the slow cooker leaves the white meat tender and lovely.

What I’m reading:

  • Minimalism gets it wrong: This is something I’ve been thinking about a bit since reading some of the Little House books with Pippin at the end of last year. It’s not that we should have fewer things because the material world and everything bodily is bad; it’s that we should have fewer things because we only acquire those that are good and useful and beautiful — not to pass the time, or keep up with trends, or any of the other reasons we accumulate junk. The Ingalls family values their meager possessions, from the beautiful impractical ones, like Ma’s china doll, to the direly essential ones, like the horses that transport their wagon. An orange, or scattered Indian beads, are noteworthy treasures for Laura, and as our Christmas approached, this struck me all the more. A truly lovely Catholic church, like my college church, manifests this truth: it is in no way minimalist, but there is nothing trendy or junky or extraneous, either. I guess Marie Kondo hints at this, talking about things that bring you joy, but that’s not quite the same, is it?
  • A Tree Grows In Brooklynthis is the first time I’ve read this, and it’s beautiful and lyrical but so sad that I’m not enjoying it as much as I expected. I wanted something like Shadows on the Rock or Little Women, with lots of light amidst its lyricism, and this is much grittier than I’d expected —

    “The sad thing was in the knowing that all their nerve would get them nowhere in the world and that they were lost as all the people in Brooklyn seem lost when they day is nearly over and even though the sun is still bright, it is thin and doesn’t give you warmth when it shines on you.”

  • Housekeeping (audiobook) because I think it’s the only Marilynne Robinson novel I haven’t read yet. I don’t love it as much as Gilead but that’s not to say I don’t love it, if you see what I mean.
  • Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating because, you know.

Commonplace Book, 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:

  • You’re overdosed on fancy Thanksgiving stuff, I get it. But that’s all I have to report: the yearly construction and consumption of my annual pumpkin praline trifle. Because if someone gives you a trifle dish as a wedding present, you might as well employ it.
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Thanksgiving ain’t over till you cook down the bones.

What I’m reading:

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“Helping” the artist

 

 

Commonplace Book, 21

This picture is fancy because it was taken by a more skilled photographer at the baby shower I threw last weekend.

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:

  • Daddy brownies. I said I’d post it, so here goes:
1 c butter
4 Tbsp oil (I KNOW. You can use coconut oil if it makes you feel healthier.)
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c cocoa
2 c sugar
1 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 c nuts (optional)
1 c mixed chocolate chips 

First, this is one where it helps to use a metal pan or even aluminum, and to make the brownies a day before. It’s hard to get them to set well enough to cut cleanly and these precautions help. Or else embrace gooey falling apart brownies and serve them with ice cream. Who am I to judge?

So grease your 9 X 13 pan and preheat to 350. In a big pot over low-to-medium heat, combine butter, cocoa and oil, stirring constantly. 
Remove from heat. You can transfer to a bowl at this point but life is is short and death is coming (LOOK AT ALL THAT BUTTER) and why make more dishes for yourself? Add sugar. Cool slightly. Add eggs, beating till well blended. Stir in vanilla, salt and flour. Add nuts and chips. 
Bake 30-35 minutes. The toothpick test doesn’t really work. As the old recipes say so infuriatingly, “Cook until done.”
  • Freezer-Friendly Frittata Sandwiches: because I like to have frozen meals ready to go for J’s lunches. Not because he’s incapable of making himself a sandwich, but because he may actually be in capable of making himself a sandwich AND remembering it all the way to work.
  • Bread Machine Naan. It needed more butter and salt, but frankly, what doesn’t?

What I’m reading:

Teaching them how to design lives brimming with meaning, connection and value is a monumental challenge. We’re still learning how to get there ourselves.