Oats three ways

23 01 2012

It’s been a while since I wrote about cooking, and you might not sense it from reading this blog, but cooking is obviously what I do the most of, since we have to eat, and it’s something I really enjoy.  Too much, probably.  I have definitely gotten lost in a cookbook only to discover that it’s getting late and I haven’t actually made anything!  I got “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” for Christmas and have really enjoyed reading it.  Before that, it was “Nourishing Traditions” (and just for fun, I read “Eating Animals” on my iPod—back to back, these two books are the very definition of cognitive dissonance).  It’s been a lot of reading, and I thought I would share just one idea that has made breakfasts much simpler around here.  (If you’re interested, this is from Nourishing Traditions, although Foer would probably approve too, since it doesn’t involve any factory-farmed animals.)

At night, I soak about 1.5 cups of steel-cut oats in about 3-4 cups of water (I rinse them first).  In the morning, boil 1-2 cups water in a big pot and dump in the soaked oats.  Add a pinch of salt, bring to a boil, and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Soaking overnight reduces the cooking time, but more than that, it make the nutrients in the oats more available.  (Supposedly.  For someone more knowledgeable about this, I direct you here.  There are lots of online sources, sometimes contradictory, on the topic of soaking grains.)  So that’s day 1!  Oatmeal.  We like to add in mashed banana/peanut butter, or applesauce/cinnamon, or blueberries/yogurt…there are lots of possibilities!

There should be a lot left over (if like me, you are feeding 1 adult and 2 small kids).  So, the next day, just to avoid having oatmeal over and over, we mix it up a bit and make oatcakes.  The recipe in the NT book is so simple: 1 cup leftover oatmeal and 1 egg.  I found that adding a mashed banana adds a bit of sweetness, and I like to add blueberries too.  Then just fry them up on the griddle!  They need to be small or they don’t flip well, so I make lots of little oatcakes.  Very easy, and very popular with the kids!


Then if there is still more oatmeal (there always is), I found a recipe for muffins that I thought came out really well.  Actually, this search for a muffin recipe came out of a crazy desire to not throw away uneaten oatmeal.  BB usually loves oatmeal, but we all have our off days, and one day I was faced with essentially a whole bowl of blueberry oatmeal to throw out. 


So sad!  I tried several recipes, but found that I liked this one the best.  So get your little helper to don his new apron (that’s right, LB has been promoted to kitchen assistant!), and mix up a batch of muffins, either from leftover breakfast, or straight from the stash of cooked oatmeal left over from the start of the week. 


He added the blueberries one…by…one.  He really was having fun!


We also make some peanut butter bars (found here) that are a great snack!  I have to say, I liked it as is, but I also changed it up a bit; I think it’s a great base recipe that is easily tweaked.  So there you have it; oatmeal, oatcakes, muffins…three days of breakfast from a humble pot of oats!

Refashioned Raglans

24 02 2011

Nothing fancy today, just a few shirts I have finished up this week for Celebrate the Boy!  I’m continuing to raid the giant box of old t-shirts I have retired. The pattern is the Patrick Raglan, which at first I thought was too complicated but now I can crank out in no time, and I really like the look.  Before:


LB gets plain white and grey (left), BB gets an old favorite of mine (and his), my “Free Cookies” shirt I got for donating blood ages ago.  LB’s shirt was sort of plain so I decided to try some decorative serging on the outside, and did a freezer paper stencil of a car, his favorite thing in the world:


I think he likes it!


Here is BB’s shirt:


Arrrgh, the neckline got puckered when I was sewing on the collar!  I didn’t see any good way to fix it so I just figured (1) BB would never notice and (2) it would probably be less noticeable when worn, which I think is sort of true.  A modeling shot:


I got these pictures first thing in the morning; I was so excited to try them on the kids.  Wouldn’t you know, by lunchtime they had both managed to stain them.  BB with blood (aack!) and LB with jam and poo (ugh! ick!).  As much as I loved the ideas for dressing up your little man on Made today, looking them over the outfits are $50-$100 apiece and it’s hard to justify that, no matter how adorable it is, when you know the outfit will be dirty (and possibly ruined) by midday.  Maybe my kids are messier than most?  Or maybe they’re just BOYS!  Anyway, it’s a nice feeling to make them an outfit that looks OK and that they like, and it was made of FREE materials, so when they bleed on it (*sigh*) you don’t have to panic about it!  (Well, maybe panic about the bleeding, but at least you don’t have to worry about the shirt.)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

20 02 2011

Never mind that about feeling blah.  The next day, what comes along?  CELBRATE THE BOY month!  The BEST month in blogland (at least for those of us with all boys!).  Like with the Kids’ Clothes Week Challenge, it was just the swift kick in the rear that I needed to get going again.  I am checking Made and Made by Rae daily (OK, more like many times daily, just in case), browsing the Flickr pool, and just generally feeling inspired.  I love it!  My house is a total disaster but I have already gotten quite a bit of sewing done and some prep work for more projects… it’s very exciting.  Fortunately I have little helpers picking up the slack:


Aren’t they precious?  They would sweep all day if I let them, but it often devolves into a brawl over who gets the big broom.  And there’s no reasoning with a 15 month old.  Anyway, on to the good stuff, or at least the sewing, I won’t presume to call it good.  Just done.  I had made a pair of maternity-waistband-style baby pants for LB and just fell in love with them, wondering why all baby pants aren’t like that.  So I immediately cut out 2 more pairs and then forgot about them for the next few months.  So, item number 1 on my CTB agenda: make dem pants.  I started with the jeans, which are cut from a loved-to-death pair of my old jeans, and decided to make them lined (inspired of course, by Made).  Well, I *ahem* skimmed the tutorial and decided to try it, but I wanted my serging on the inside and not the outside so that I could roll the cuffs and show the plaid lining, sort of LL Bean-esque.  And I don’t even know WHAT I did, but I ended up with 2 separate pairs of pants joined at the ankle.  Sigh.  Much cutting and swearing later, they were done, a little smaller than planned:

02 February1

They have a mock fly and everything, but I realized that with white thread, you can’t see it at all.  I might go back to these and add some detail, like back pockets and contrast stitching.  Or… I might be happy they’re done and call it a day.  With the navy waistband they really look like maternity pants, I didn’t love it at all, but with a shirt on, you don’t really see that part. 

Next up, I decided to tackle my overflowing box of old clothing.  I have kept a lot of this stuff rather than give it away once I started going to thrift stores to look for clothes to refashion, I figure I’m cutting out the middleman.  Besides, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t thing anyone would want most of these shirts… Huntsville space center, Polymer science club, GSUSA… they have sentimental value to me, but they are ratty and old, so finally I cut out the designs (to make a quilt from, a project for another day), and relegated the rest to the status of fabric.  I let BB pick 2 shirts and got started.  Of course he wanted blue and green, so I pulled out my Lil Blue Boo Hoodie pattern and got started:

02 February

Two ratty (and boy do I mean ratty) old t-shirts have new life as a super cool, super BOY hoodie!  Just in time too, that boy is rapidly outgrowing his 3T clothes.  Old t-shirts from the “reclaimed clothing” box, get ready… your day is here!IMG_3254

Baby maternity pants and more recent sewing

28 12 2010

With Christmas behind us, our advent activities over, and a mountain of new toys to entertain the boys, I finally mustered up the energy to do some sewing for LB.  He has a closet overflowing with clothes (ah, the life of a younger brother) but most of his pants don’t fit very well.  It’s largely due to the bulk of cloth diapers, but even in disposables most pants either drag on the ground if they’re big enough to cover his tush, or fail to cover his backside if they’re a good length.  So for a little bit of practical sewing I took an old and beloved pair of corduroys and used them to make some made-to-measure pants for LB.  I used a pair of pants that fit in the waist but were too long, and used that to make a pattern that was just a bit shorter.  I used the legs for one pair and the top for another.  In the process I had a very “duh’ moment where I cut two left legs, thinking for some reason that they were symmetric…nope.  So I ended up having to cut the waist very short, and I added a waistband of knit fabric.  In the end I was really happy with that pair, and even though my husband laughed that they looked like maternity pants, they fit really well and look so comfy.  I know I loved wearing maternity pants, it was one of the best things about being pregnant!


The other pair was made from the top of the pants, and it was a bear to sew because of the thickness of the layers.  They look a little goofy but I like them anyway.  Then I made a matching shirt that ended up not matching all that well…oops.  It was super quick though; I finally figured out how to do a blind hem on my serger and WOW it makes hemming so quick and painless!  The shirt took about an hour total.  I did the whole set in a day and a half, some while the kids were sleeping and quite a bit while they played with all the great new toys they got for Christmas.  I didn’t realize what a gift they would be for me, also!

12 December1

I’ve already cut up some jeans and an old corduroy shirt to make him some more “maternity” pants, oh boy!  So I currently have some enthusiasm for sewing boy stuff, but we are also expecting a NIECE so there will be some girl sewing going on around here!  Yay!

Pizza–Nature’s Most Perfect Food.

25 03 2010

I love pizza.  LOVE it.  If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, this would be it, without a doubt.  And, as with most things I like to eat in large quantities, I like to make it myself, for all the usual reasons.  It’s a HECKUVA lot cheaper than calling Papa John’s every week.  (Wait, calling?  What is this, 1995?  They have my credit card info and all my favorite orders saved on their website, and that’s dangerous.)  And it’s a million times better than frozen pizza.  It doesn’t take long to make, and it’s really kind of fun.  Tempted yet?

Yes, there is one plain slice, for the pickiest among us.

The Sauce:

Once upon a time, I found a recipe that claimed to be a Papa John’s copycat recipe, so I wrote it down, and have been using it, modified, ever since.  It makes enough for 4 pizzas, so I divvy it among little Tupperwares and freeze for future pizza nights.  Here goes:

  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (the big kind, 28 oz.)
  • 3 t. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. basil
  • 1/2 t. thyme
  • 3 t. olive oil
  • 1 t. lemon juice

Just place everything in a small saucepan and simmer awhile.

The Crust:

Sometimes I do this in the bread machine, and I use the recipe from the booklet for that.  But, if we have time to kill, BB is always up for mixing things, so we’ll make it by hand.  It’s not so hard, especially with a little helper, and it’s fun because you get to get your hands dirty.  My recipe is ever-evolving, but here’s where it stands right now.  It makes just enough for our pizza pan, which I have no idea what size it is (14″?  15″?  something like that).

In a medium bowl, mix:

  • 1 c. warm water
  • 1 1/2 t. yeast
  • 1 T. sugar

Stir to dissolve the yeast and let sit to proof.  Then add:

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour

And mix well.  Then add in white flour, or bread flour if you have it till the dough is workable by hand (ie. not a sticky mess).  It’ll take about a cup.  Then, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it, adding more flour as needed, until it is nice and elastic.  It should form a nice ball and spring back if you poke it.  I find it better to err on the side of too little flour, otherwise it gets stiff and hard to work with.  Coat the ball of dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise.  I usually pre-heat the oven a little since our house is pretty cold, and leave it there to rise.

Putting it all together:

Once the dough has doubled, and the sauce is ready, it’s time to make pizza!  I just stretch the dough to fit in my (oiled) pizza pan.  Spread about 1 c. sauce, and top however you like!  This pizza had spinach, roasted red peppers, and roasted garlic.  I have to say it was pretty amazing.  And, Papa John’s, as much as I love it, offers none of those fine toppings.

Mmmmmmm..... pizza.....

Bake at 400°F until the crust is browned and the cheese is melty and a little browned… then try to let it cool a bit and dig in!  It’s such a fun meal to have for dinner, and reasonably healthy, depending on what you put on it.  Now, I have read a lot about pizza.  And I have eaten a lot of pizza.  Let’s just say this is a well-researched topic here.  This will not be quite like those amazing specialty pizzas you get at those wood-fired oven places.  Apparently they get those awesome crusts by having an oven that cooks at 800°F!  Not an option for most home cooks.  Unless you are maybe Martha Stewart and you build a brick oven for that purpose, because you will NOT eat sub-par pizza.  But for the rest of us, a homemade pizza is easy, cheap, and pretty darn good.  I would eat it any day!  Or every day!

Cloth Diapers

25 02 2010

I started using cloth diapers with big brother, gosh, I guess it was 2 years ago already.  It was the diapers that prompted me to buy a sewing machine, because I realized if I could make my own, I could save big bucks.  So I worked on it, and I’m proud to say that most of my early efforts were completely usable (unlike the clothing I tried to make).  Diapers, I found, are actually really easy to make.  To make “nicer” diapers, like the kinds you can buy (bumGenuis, FuzziBunz, etc.), you have to order special materials, but it still works out to be a couple of bucks per diaper, versus almost $20 retail.

At first, I made my own pattern using velcro, and it was pretty good.  Here is a tutorial, in case you want to try it; it’s the one I used.  Then I decided I liked snaps better, and decided the cost of a pattern was well worthwhile if it produced a usable diaper in one try.  Patterns range from $5-13, so by the time you figure materials and time, it’s a good deal.  For little brother, I made all his diapers, and already he is outgrowing the smallest ones, so I have been working on some size medium diapers.  This has been my sewing project for the last week, and I’m proud to present:

Chloe Toes diapers

I like the chloe toes pattern, although I have very few with which to compare.  They come together really quickly, and I’ll probably try to put together another 4 this week.  They’re a little bit big on LB still, and if there’s something you don’t want, it’s a diaper that is a little baggy in the legs and waist.  🙂  But I’m sure in a few weeks they will be fitting great and it will be time to retire the small diapers already!  These diapers are bound in fold-over elastic (FOE), and the blue ones have little dinos:


Having 2 in cloth diapers is a lot of work, but there is something to be said for having a little fun with diaper changes.  I change a LOT of diapers every day, and I get a little kick out of choosing which diaper to use.  BB likes to pick out a diaper for LB at diaper change time, and he will spend a good minute mulling over the choices.  “Hmmmm…. robots or zoo animals?”

Anyway, sewing diapers has become more of a chore than a fun project, so I’m glad these are done and I can swap out my needle and work on other things.  I spent last night working on a rag quilt for BB–it should be done soon!  And I have my eye on several of the projects from Celebrate the Boy month on MADE and Made by Rae… I will definitely be making some 90 minute shirts in the near future.

Fingerpaints from the pantry

22 02 2010

I whiled away the evening yesterday browsing a new crafty site I found, The Crafty Crow.  Really, it’s a roundup of other craft blogs, but it’s great because things are indexed by age level and theme.  There are a ton of things I want to try!  I’m always looking for fun things to do with big brother… 2 1/2 is a tough age, because he’s not quite old enough for a lot of things, and coloring with crayons every day gets a little old.  So, today I made these gel paints that were described on In A Nutshell.  All it takes is cornstarch, water, and food coloring, which are things we always have around, and it was super quick, too!

Ooooh, purdy.

I think it’s safe to say that flannel shirts will not be coming back into vogue anytime soon, so I sacrificed an old shirt to be a smock, and we set to finger-painting. As advertised, these were a great way to teach color theory.  We mixed colors to see what would result, and it was a lot of fun!

Let the art begin!

This was definitely the high point of the day.  In fact, the rest of the day has been a disaster of Titanic-esque proportions (on a domestic scale, anyway).  And it’s not even dinnertime yet!  My thoughts on this project:

* Next time, I would make less.  We painted tons of sheets of paper (and paper plates) and had lots left over.

* I would just do primary colors; the green went largely unused, and it’s kind of unnecessary.

* I’d skip the scent.  I like the idea, but I used mint extract in these, and I don’t want to give the kiddo the idea that it’s food, even though I guess it would be safe to eat.

* I would be a “paint nazi” and dole out just a bit at a time.  We made a mess of the paints, which made color mixing hard after a while, since everything was all mixed up:

The Aftermath--our art, and what's left of the paints.

Good times, though!  We’ll do it again!