Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recipe - Hug and Kiss Soup

The formal name of this soup is American Potage, but as a child Warren loved this soup so much that eating it felt like getting a great big hug and kiss from mom and the term stuck.  I just glanced at the calendar and see that today is the perfect day to share a recipe that perfectly honors her legacy as a loving mother and wonderful cook.  Today is the 11th anniversary of her death.  Perpetual light shine on her and may she rest eternally in heaven above.

Hug and Kiss Soup
Brown slowly in a little fat in a heavy kettle....1 lb. ground meat.  Add and cook 5 minutes more...1 c. chopped onions.
       Add.....4 c. hot water
                   1 c. sliced carrots
                   1 c. sliced celery
                   1 c. cubed potatoes
                   2 t. salt
                   1/2 t. pepper
                   1 t. beef bouillon
                   1 bay leaf, crumbled
Mix thoroughly.  Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer 20 minutes.  Add.....1 28 oz. can of tomatoes.  cover and simmer 10 minutes.  Serves 6 (6 whole fresh tomatoes may be used instead of canned)

That's how the original appears exactly.  Here are my tweaks.
*I always use ground venison and when browning I cover and turn the heat a little higher than normal so the meat really browns and the juices brown significantly to the bottom of the kettle.
*When I add the water I scrape the bottom of the kettle to loosen the browned bits; this is the key to imparting that yummy "hug and kiss" flavor.(Thanks Jenny)
*I always add more potatoes because we all love potatoes in soup.
*I use a little less salt.
* I leave the bay leaf whole and then remove it before serving.
* I use my home canned tomato juice in place of the canned tomatoes because we love the flavor and the kids like it better without chunks of tomato.

Here in Wisconsin we're still in soup mode because winter will not leave!  Warren had to plow snow today.  Actually it was more of a frozen icy, sleety, snow mix.  Just for comparison and since I remember March 24, 2000 quite well I can tell you that March can bring any kind of weather in Wisconsin.  That particular March day was warm and sunny.  None of us wore coats or boots, the snow was gone.  Warren had been laying out pipe in the weeks prior, a sure sign that spring has truly sprung.  But alas it's not 2000, but 2011 and it's oh so cold and the ground is still covered in a thick icy snowy layer.  I better get cooking because soup is on the menu for tonight. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coming Next

My mind is reeling with ideas of blog posts.  I took a little blog break the last two weeks and now I don't know what to post first.  So stay tuned for what's to come.

Maple Sap Collecting Photos
Sign Language and Down syndrome
Pics and cute story about the Juncos
Recipe for Hug 'n Kiss soup
Review on the WriteGuide program
My attempt at using workboxes

I'm hoping to be back soon with lots more posts.

Homeschool Hint - Start with the Together Work

We've homeschooled our children from the beginning.  I know a whole lot now that I didn't know in my beginning years of teaching.  For statistics sake, here's the number of years I've taught.

Kindergarten - 5 years
1st grade - 5 years
2nd grade - 5 years
3rd grade - 4 years
4th grade - 4 years
5th grade - 4 years
6th grade - 4 years
7th grade - 5 years (2 yrs. at a public school)
8th grade - 3 years
9th grade - 3 years
10th grade - 2 years
11th grade - 2 years
12th grade - 2 years

I don't want to sound overly boastful, but after 5 tries as a Kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, I'm pretty good.  The other grades, well I still have a lot to learn.  I'm good with the material, it's the presentation and organization that could use a little work.  Anyway, after all these years of homeschooling I finally have a tip to share.

Start the day off with the "together work"

A typical day means everyone sits down around 8:30 a.m. to begin their day's work.  Each child works at a different pace completing math, spelling, language, foreign language, reading comprehension, map skills - whatever is on their list for the day.  I always have some "together work" planned as well.  For us history, science, art, bible story/prayer, writing are all possible subjects for "together work". 

"Together work" is any subject that we study together. 

The problem I've found with letting each child dive into their work is that we can never agree on when "together work" should be done.  One child says I only have 1 more math problem and so I let them finish and then the next child just has 3 more spelling words to practice so I let her finish and the first child not wanting to sit idle starts on their next subject and before you know it another hour of "just one more" has passed and now it's time for lunch.  We never get to our subject for that day. 

So to combat this, most days I try to start with the "together work".  Knowing we accomplished our history reading or science project first thing allows the kids the freedom to work at their own pace the rest of the day without the worry of wondering when will mom throw something else our way. 

Starting off with "together work" also forces me to stay on schedule in the morning so I don't fall into the trap of doing just one more thing while everyone starts on spelling or hides in their room listening to music because mom's not even ready yet. 

I hope this homeschool hint is helpful to you.  Do you have a totally boss homeschool hint to share?  Please share in the comments or over at FB.  My readers love a good homeschool hint.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cooking Camp

Lent has begun and I know exactly how many days are left:  32 days including the 4 Sundays leading up to Easter Sunday.  So technically only 28 days of sacrifice.  This year Warren and I gave up sweets which is a huge sacrifice for us.  I love baking and we love eating baked goods.  Since neither of us can partake in the baked goods I stopped cold turkey and boy did the kids notice.  No homecooked treats and a whole lot more casseroles.  I guess casseroles must be second to sweets as my comfort food.  I've been cooking a lot lately (fun for me) and trying new recipes (also fun for me).  The rest of the family though doesn't always appreciate my desire to try new recipes and eat casseroles day after day.  Here's our current menu I'm working through.

Beef and Potato Bake
sliced oranges

Chicken 'n Rice Casserole
Canned peaches

Cheddar Chowder

Hug 'n Kiss Soup
Homemade bread
Cranberry Sauce

Venison Stew
Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Pepperoni Pizza
Sliced Apples
Black Olives

Cheesy Spaghetti Bake
Garlic Bread
Steamed Cauliflower
Icy Lemonade

Pizza Burgers
Canned fruit
Black Olives

Pork Chops in crockpot
Green Beans

Crockpot Potato Soup

10-Minute Taco Salad (meatless)
Sliced Pears

Chicken Noodle Casserole
Clementines and Apples

fresh sliced apples and pears

I've tried a variety of menu planning.  Years ago I printed blank monthly calendars and then filled them in with menu options.  March menus included late winter/early spring type dishes.  A mix of hearty soups and stews for those days when March brings snow/sleet storms and grilled food and salads for those first warm spring days when a coat is optional and flip flops are worn for the first time again.  As I made a meal I checked it off with a pencil so I knew which meals were still available.  This system worked for me for over a year.  I don't recall why I abandoned this method; I still have the filled in calendars and do refer to them every so often when planning meals now. 

I also planned menus based on a particular cookbook or magazine.  While going through a Taste of Home I would begin a menu with a recipe I'd like to try.  For example if I found a recipe for Asian Noodle Salad I wanted to try I would create a menu around that recipe.  Pork chops, (new recipe), canned fruit would go on my list and then I'd keep looking.  I labeled the top of each notebook page with the cookbook name/magazine name and issue so I could easily retrieve the recipes when needed.  I became addicted to this at one time.  I have an entire notebook of menu plans to go with all my various cookbooks and magazines and I still use these when at a loss for what to make.

Of course there's been plenty of weeks when I've failed to write down any plan.  We're still all here so obviously we didn't starve to death, but I wouldn't recommend this method unless you're single because hungry eyes looking at you at 12:01 or 5:30 is enough to eat right through you.

So for now I keep a variety of breakfast and lunch foods in the pantry and plan my supper meals in my daily planner.  With 7 people all going different ways it's helpful to have my calendar handy when planning meals.  I can see at a glance if the meal needs to be quick, slow-cooked, meatless or feast day worthy, early or late.  I also keep a hidden stash of quick food (popcorn chicken, taquitos, corn dogs) because inevitably something will come up and a more involved meal will have to be postponed. 

I hope this Cooking Camp inspires you to make a meal plan because food can nourish the body, but it also nourishes the heart and soul and I'm sure your family is worth it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy Birthday Warren!

So today is Warren's birthday and we celebrated for two reasons.  First it's his birthday of course.  And second, it's not Lent yet.  So often his birthday falls during Lent or, even worse, on Ash Wednesday.  Not that those times are terrible, but once those ashes are thumbed on our foreheads it seems all celebrating comes to a screeching halt.  Today we took full advantage of this pre-Lent birthday.  It started with breakfast at a local cafe with lots of locals wondering why all these kids invaded their normally peaceful breakfast.  Then a few small presents.  Then the mail and boy did it deliver today.  Cards and packages, even the items I'd ordered came today.  What luck!  What to get for this business owning, gun toting, family loving, conservative country boy.  It was easy.  First the shirt in the photo was a winner.  It bears the logo and phrase coined by Benjamin Franklin.
For a taste of the music he loves and his favorite music video, I included the links. 
*Note the reference to weed in the song does not fit him, but he still loves this song.

I love this photo.  We've never put the exact number of candles on Warren's cake.  Emily had fun fitting all 38 candles on his cake and commented that next year he either needs two cakes or just a bigger one.  I laughed, but I shouldn't because my birthday's next and I'm a bit older than him.  I also love the beer in the photo because that's my husband:  angel food cake and beer
That's a whole lotta fire.  After he blew out the candles it was actually a little smoky in here.
I love you!  We love you!
Happy Birthday!

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