Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Things I Love This Week

This time, these are things I would not be making it without....

My sling. I bought it with my first baby at The Nurture Center in Lafayette, CA, and hardly ever used it because I never mastered how to put the baby in it correctly. Now, with three babies, I pulled it out of the drawer in a desperate attempt at daily survival. Without this sling, I would be huddled in a dark corner muttering to myself and pulling out my hair.

The Miracle Blanket.  I have two, but really need three, because E often spits up on one before the other comes out of the wash. I don't use them the way they are meant to be used, but have made my own modifications. I double-swaddle E, not just to keep him warm, but because it seems more secure and he sleeps better when he's double swaddled. I do a regular swaddle with a blanket, and then use the Miracle Blanket over that. It doesn't come loose this way.

Three washers and two dryers. That's right, I said 3 washing machines, and 2 dryers. When I was a little girl, my parents took in half of their two-car garage and made a second laundry room, complete with two washers and two dryers (because with four kids, my mom was drowning in laundry). When the kids and I moved back, I brought my washer and dryer with me, which we stored in the old laundry room. The washer hook-up was still functional, but the gas line had been shut off, so I can't use my gas dryer. We have all three washers going every single day, and even so, it is hard to stay on top of the laundry. I feel so blessed to have this convenience! It makes life so much easier!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holy Frijoles! Two great cookbooks and a recipe: Lentil Vegetable Soup

I love cookbooks, and I have two that I am currently obsessed with: The Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics cookbook (which I picked up for less at Sam's Club), and the simply-stated Beans by Aliza Green. Because we've been having frosty weather lately, I am enjoying a lot of soups, and the Barefoot Contessa makes some good ones! Everything in Back to Basics sounds delicious, and the Potato-Leek Soup that I made was especially yummy! (in fact, that was what I ate the night I went into labor, along with some crusty French bread). I also have my eye on the recipe for dinner-sized spanakopitas, which combine two of my favorite ingredients, spinach and feta cheese, in a phyllo pastry.  As expected, a lot of the recipes are French in origin, but this is simple cooking using fresh ingredients (my favorite kind of cooking!).
Beans, on the other hand, has 200 recipes from around the world with one thing in common (you guessed it!): legumes! Nearly every recipe is vegetarian, and the few that aren't have vegetarian options. It just came in today, so I can't yet speak for how tasty the recipes are, but judging from the ingredient lists, these recipes are richly spiced and cover a wide range of complexity and skill level. There are recipes traditional to Africa, India, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, South America, the Middle East, as well as classic American recipes, like Boston Baked Beans. This book is also rich with information on how to choose beans, cook beans, bean history, their nutritional values, as well as sources where you can buy them. It's pretty much EVERYTHING you need to know about the bean except how to grow them yourself.

The recipe I want to share contains French Green Lentils, and is one of my favorite soups. Although it is incredibly easy to make, all the fresh ingredients requires A LOT of chopping, so if you are a slow and steady chopper like I am, it does take a while to do the prep. This recipe is an Ina Garten recipe, but contains my alterations (is it possible for me to make something without putting my own touch on it? Probably not.) This recipe, however, is not in her cookbook, but can be found on the Food Network website, here.

4 c chopped onions
4 c leeks (clean well)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
2 cups lentils, covered in boiling water for two minutes then drained
3 cups carrots, diced
3 cups celery, diced
3 cups French fingerling potatoes, diced (I simply wash well and leave the skin on)
3 quarts chicken stock 
3 ounces tomato paste (I use roughly half of a 6-oz can)

In a large pot, saute onions, leeks, and garlic together in olive oil until tender and just translucent (not brown). In a separate pot, bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil, add the lentils and boil for 2 minutes, then drain. To the onions mix, add chicken stock, drained lentils, and the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.

Notes: sorry that the links don't work yet. Somehow my settings have gotten screwed up in Firefox and I can't log in to Google in that browser. I'm still trying to figure out the commands in Safari. I can copy the link in another window, but it will not let me then paste the link when I am editing my post. Hopefully I'll be able to come back and link everything once I get my cookies straightened out in Firefox, or figure out to copy/paste successfully in Safari! That's what I get for being so clueless about computers.