Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 21: Saturday of "Vacation" Week

        Vacation is in quotation marks because we don't have students for a full week, but Monday and Tuesday will feature professional development work, so plenty of stuff to do. Still: "a change is a good as a rest," apparently, and I look forward to this week every year.

         Nate is home from Bates (so nice to 1. have him have a car; last year we were driving to Skowhegan to pick him up, which saved us an hour each way, but still: Friday night driving errands [and it always seems to rain or snow before breaks] tend to be grueling commitments; 2. have him close: Lyle's long, dark, traffic-heavy drives back from Saratoga Springs always worried me) with every piece of laundry he's ever worn, but his usual good nature, fund of interesting pieces of info, and variety of weird videos we "have to" watch or listen to or learn about. His request was for black bean soup and corn bread for dinner (!!??) so that was a 15 minute grocery shop and then about a 20 minute prep session. Our recipes for both are tried and true:

Easy Black Bean Soup

about 4 of the smaller cans of black beans, rinsed and sort of drained (last night I used 2 bigger cans and one smaller can)
about 2 cups of salsa, whatever kind you like (hot, med. or mild): we use Sister's, usually (and I did last night)
up to one box of chicken broth (but you could use veg. or maybe beef): amt. depends on your desired consistency (last night I used about 3 cups total)
various toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado or guac.. . . . lime juice is highly recommended. 

Cook the salsa for about 5 minutes in a medium/large soup pot, then dump in the beans and some of the broth; let simmer for at least 20 mins, then: squish up some of the beans with a spoon OR use an immersion blender OR transfer some to a stand blender OR leave as is. . . . Adjust amounts of beans and broth; add some salt if desired and/or more heat with various peppers, etc, and serve!

Of course, it looks weird, but it's delicious and pretty darn healthy. I think the base recipe came from a Real Simple "cheat recipe" years ago. As in: 10 years? 15?

Easy Corn Bread (from the back of one of the corn meal bags, I think)

Stir together:
1 1/4 cup of flour (I often use 1/2 c of whole wheat in there, though it reduces the rise)
3/4 c cornmeal (harder to find nowadays)
1/4 c sugar
2 tsps baking powder (I often forget this, which results in a polenta like patty. Not recommended, but it can be crumbled into whatever you're eating. Not so good with jam or honey, though)
1/2 - 1 tsp salt (I forget the exact measurement so I wing it)

**Heat oven to about 400; if you have a cast-iron skillet, put a lump of butter into it and put into the oven to heat about now. If you don't have a cast-iron option, turn the heat down to 375 or so and use a greased 8 x8 or so (medium sized) pan.**

Mix 1 c. milk, 1/4 c oil, and 1 egg; stir into dry ingreds. and, once the skillet is hot and butter is melted, pour mixture into skillet. Bake for about 20 mins. If you used w. wheat flour, it will not rise a lot; if you made "company cornbread," it should be quite puffy; use usual tests for doneness regardless.

Eat with tons of butter, honey, and/or jam.

It makes me laugh to look at this recipes, full of Granny lingo and ball park figures, but really: these are pretty fool proof, cheap, and, amazingly, impressively delicious recipes. Great for beginning cooks, broke young adults, and busy families. Since the soup also looks a bit dubious (my students would ask me, "Is that chocolate pudding?" in tones of horror), it's great for training kids to be adventurous eaters. My boys have inhaled it all their lives.

And: today he and I go to see my h.s.'s fall musical, which is usually stupendous. This year it's Chess, and the reviews are superb. I love seeing my students doing things they love to do, especially together. And: boom.

Tomorrow N and I will run the Turkey Trot in Brewer: it will be my seventh or eighth time, maybe? We registered early, and that means we'll get our laughably ugly tshirts. . . . and then run with company (probably more than 600 other people). Andy is coming up with us to cheer us on this time, which will be fun. AND I'll go to church tomorrow! It's been at least three weeks since I've been, and I'm delighted to get back.

My other wishes for my week:

  • to finish the Madelinetosh Vintage hat I'm working on, possibly for Andy for C'mas; 
  • to finish the various odds and ends of baby knitting that I have been carrying around in my bag since summer;
  • to do some reading for pleasure (Out of Nowhere by Maria Paidan, set in "Enniston," aka Lewiston, and Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place, which I loved)
  • finish the enthralling but scary Station Eleven, which I find I need to read in daylight;
  • to read Faulkner's The Bear for MDIHS Readers&Writers and prep our next meeting;
  • to work on the table runner for Tove;
  • to get Nate's Advent chain done! Yikes!
  • to do some baking/cooking for pleasure;
  • to score the literary analysis papers from my 9th graders! 
I'm currently listening with mingled horror and delight to Career of Evil, the third Cormoran Strike novel (wow. It is creepy and irresistible!), waiting to start an increased dose of my thyroid meds after a recent test revealed that the ol' gland is slowing down even more, and considering that I might want to push myself to sew more! I want to make the Washi dress I bought the pattern and cheap fabric for a year and a half ago. . . . so I think I actually need to get up and make it. Sheesh.

I will share that I am proud of these:

Nate's orange socks, which are a bit tricky to get on, but which wear nicely when he gets them on (and contrast nicely with the collegiate stacks at Bates's library!). Yay!

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