Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baking Bread and a Soup Recipe

The girls and I went to Florence this weekend to spend some time with Nana and to learn how to make this...

Every Sunday when I was growing up we would go to church and then afterwards to my great grandmother's house for lunch.  Grandma lived with my great aunt, Cissie, in a wonderful old two story white farmhouse with a huge grassy yard.  Cissie grew up in this house and then became a caretaker for my great grandmother in her later years.  Here is a picture of Cissie with a "on her way to her morning nap" Lily...

Behind Grandma's house was a small garden where she and Cissie grew many of the vegetables that they used in their cooking.  Our Sunday lunches were always completely homemade and always included fresh baked bread.  I have really fond memories of these lunches and have been hoping to find a time when Cissie could share Grandma's bread recipe with me.  Both of our calendars happened to be open this past Saturday and so Cissie came over early for breakfast and then afterwards the bread making commenced.  I was warned that this would take some time because the bread has to rise twice.


I only have a couple of pictures because as you can imagine taking photos with sticky, gooey hands is a little difficult.  Hannah was invited to help but after warily touching the dough with the tip of one finger she announced that her hands might get dirty so she was just going to watch.  She is very particular about having clean hands and so I forged on alone.  Making bread is actually very easy but letting the dough rise is a little time consuming.  The rising dough was a good excuse to sit and visit with a cup of coffee (for Mom and Cissie) and tea (por moi).  Cissie left us to do the actual baking ourselves and I took Hannah and Lily outside to play while the bread was in the oven.  When I came back inside Mom's house smelled exactly like Grandma's house had so many years ago.  The bread tasted just like I remember and we all agreed that it was way better than any store bought bread. 

I think the bread would be great with this...


Bekah has been constantly bothering me asking for Matt's vegetable soup recipe.  After several requests Matt finally typed it out and I thought I would post it here...

1 lb Stew meat
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
½ cup Flour
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s

1 large Onion chopped
3 stalks Celery chopped
1 Bell pepper chopped

1 can Tomato paste
1 can Rotel tomatoes
2 cups water

1 large bag frozen Mixed vegetables
1 small bag frozen okra
1 bag of cabbage slaw mix or one head of cabbage sliced
Salt, Pepper, Italian seasoning, Tabasco to taste.

Note:  I don't really measure amounts or follow a recipe so the quantities listed are an approximation.  Once the tomato paste is browned you can vary the ingredients.  I prefer frozen vegetable mix without potatoes and will often chop up and throw in older vegetables from the refrigerator.  I will say it twice in the recipe, but DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH WATER, it will ruin the soup and you can’t take it back out.

Place the flour, Tony Chachere’s seasoning, and stew meat in a Ziploc bag and shake it until the meat is thoroughly coated

Heat the oil in a large soup pot on medium high heat

Add the flour coated stew meat to the pot and stir until all sides are browned

Remove the meat from the pot and add the chopped onion.  Cook until it starts to soften.

Add celery and bell pepper and cook until everything is softened and water has begun to cook out of the vegetables.

Stir in tomato paste and continue stirring until the paste starts to brown.  Be careful not to let it burn to the bottom of the pot, you will have to scrape it off the bottom every few minutes. 

Add the rotel, stew meat, and enough water to thin the tomato paste to tomato sauce consistency. 

Add the mixed vegetables, okra and cabbage and a half cup of water.  I usually just fill the rotel can with water, swirl it around and pour it in.  You may need to add a little more water, but it should not look like soup at this point.  Do not add too much water, the water will cook out of the vegetables as the soup cooks.

Bring the pot back to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium low.  Continue cooking for several hours until the cabbage begins to cook down.  Add water and seasonings to taste as the soup cooks.  I already said it above, but do not add too much water. 

I highly recommend this recipe. It makes a lot but we freeze part and have it whenever the mood for veggie soup hits.  It is dee-lish!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

So Fortunate

We had reason to celebrate this past weekend. Matt turned the big 3-4 and so to celebrate I made him his favorite Chinese dish, moo shu pork, and topped off dinner with homemade fortune cookies...

I am very fortunate to have such a great husband and so I thought this would be a very appropriate way to end our meal.  The cookies were really simple to make and I found the recipe here.  I personalized my own messages but you can use the ones Alpha Mom provides if you like.  It took a couple of tries to get the shape right but once I got the hang of it it was a breeze.  They would be a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day or Chinese New Year with your family.

Being the great dad that he is, Matt wanted to spend his birthday with his girls so we went to the McWane Center, our local science museum.  Hannah and Lily had a great time playing...


and Hannah got to meet one of her all-time favorite monkeys...


I think a happy day was had by all!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Night Blogging

Blogging about our day this week has seemed a little silly given the sadness that has been going on with our neighbors in Haiti. I typically listen to the news via satellite radio in my kitchen while I am cooking or cleaning after the girls have gone to bed or when they are napping. This week more than once I have found myself in tears listening to the stories of death and desperation by so many who have been affected by this terrible earthquake. I have several times stopped to say a little prayer of thanks that I can stand in my warm kitchen and make a casserole or have a cup of tea. So many others are not that lucky and I can only pray that peace, health and some comfort will return to their lives soon. Some of my tears were for a poor Haitian mother who is standing vigil by the ruins of whatever building she and her four year old were inside when the earthquake occurred. The mother was able to get out but could not find her child. She is just standing there helplessly waiting for someone to help her move the heavy remains of the building to try to find her child, praying that he is still alive. I cannot imagine the pain and fear that she must feel but my heart broke for her. I don't know how her story turned out but please say a little prayer for that poor mother and her child and for all those suffering in Haiti.

It was hard not to feel guilty enjoying the past several days with my family when there was so much devastation not so far away.  I have been saying prayers of thanks more often for my blessings...


Sunday, January 10, 2010

One Word

I have one word for you and it is C-O-L-D.  That's right cold.  I am a bit of a wimp with it comes to the cold but I really do think that with wind chills in the single digits you all must agree that it is too cold to even step foot outside.

We have been drinking a lot of this...

and eating a lot of this...


There is nothing like some good hot chocolate and veggie soup to keep you warm on the inside. 

The forecast of snow kept Hannah and Lily home from school last Thursday and they patiently waited...


and waited...


and waited...

for the snow to arrive.  While we waited we made a snow globe with an empty jar and a Christmas ornament...

 and read one of our favorite books...

Finally on Friday the snow arrived...



While Lily took a warm and cozy nap inside, Hannah and I slipped outside to play...




I don't know what would have happened if the snow had not arrived.  Hannah had talked about it for days and she really was so very patient.  It was worth the wait for her.  She twirled, ran and jumped - making the most of the little time we were able to spend outside.  Our hands were about to fall off they were so cold so we quickly headed back inside for another cup of hot chocolate to warm us up. 

The snow didn't last long but the cold certainly has...


We are keeping our fingers crossed for warmer temperatures very soon. 

Wishing you a warm and toasty start to your week!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Say cheese!

I just remembered that I have not posted the link to Lily's 12 month photo session with Jennifer Hagler.   This was our final session to document her 3, 6, 9 and 12 months of life.  It is such a great way to look back and see how much she has grown over the last year.

PS...You might recognize the picture above from our Christmas card...it was taken at this session. Hope you enjoy!!