Yesterday was the 100th day of school - although with all the snow days, I have to wonder if that is really an accurate count. I mean, did the school push off the hundredth day every time it snowed or was this all planned out during the summer? Who knows and frankly, it doesn't really matter. The point here is that one of my boys had to bring in 100 things to school in honor of the 100th day of school. And my husband, always noticing what the teachers do not write in their notes home, realized that the note did not specify 100 small items, just 100 items. And so with an evil glint in his eye, Josh went to check how many empty seltzer bottles we had in the recycling bin off the kitchen. And he was serious. Had it not been for the fact that we finally finally finally got one of the recycling days correct, my five year old would have been lugging many large garbage bags full of empty seltzer bottles to school. But instead, he took 100 Hershey kisses. So dear Primer morahs, if you're reading this, you're welcome. Just think, you could have had a classroom filled with seltzer bottles and not a prayer of finding a piece of oaktag large enough to glue them on to!
At this point, you may be asking what the point of this lovely anecdote is, and you would be right to ask. And so I will tell you. More than 100 Hershey kisses come in a bag, and so happily, there were about 26 kisses left in the house after everyone left for school. Some for me, some for the girls. And these kisses kept my two year old busy while I made the first batch of hamentaschen dough of the season.
There have been many years when I did not make hamentaschen. They are not that easy to make and I have failed time and again. I have pulled many trays out of the oven with high hopes, only to be let down when all the filling has once again fallen out of the pinched triangles of dough.
And then one Purim we tasted my friend Alissa's hamentaschen, and not only were they very very good, but they were very very pretty. And since then, we have been making Alissa's hamentaschen - and I am so happy to share this very easy to make recipe with you. She, and by extension, I, don't really know where the original recipe came from, so for everyone's sake, we will just call them Super Alissa's Hamentaschen.
Here we go:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons lemon juice*
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest*
Jar of jam
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut the margarine into the bowl and using clean hands, mix the margarine into the dry ingredients until it all resembles a coarse flour. Add the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and mix on medium speed until it is all incorporated into a dough. This should take between three and five minutes, using a Kitchen-Aid type mixer. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for about an hour, or you know, until you remember that you were in the middle of making hamentaschen.
After the dough is chilled, unwrap it and roll it out on a floured surface, such as your countertop. The rolled out dough should be about an 1/8 inch thick but since that is virtually impossible to eyeball, just make it not too thin and not too thick - you don't want the dough to rip when you shape it, but you also don't want to have half-baked-half-unbaked cookies if the dough is too thick. Got that? Good.
So once the dough is rolled out, use a round cookie cutter to cut out circles - I didn't have a cookie cutter handy so I used one of those colored plastic Ikea cups from the kids' department. It's probably a little less than 3 inches wide. I dipped it in flour and it worked just fine as a cookie cutter.
The original recipe calls for a 4 and 1/2 inch cookie cutter, which I think is huge - and says that the recipe will yield ten cookies. I used the slightly smaller circle and I got 2 dozen, maybe even a few more, out of the recipe.
Using a teaspoon, place between a half and 3/4 of a teaspoon full of jam or jelly (we used apricot cause that's what we had in the fridge) in the center of each circle.
Carefully fold the dough up into thirds, making a triangular shape. I realize that that sentence does not at all explain how to form a hamentasch, so I will illustrate it with these lovely pictures (apologies for the shadows, it's hard to shape them and take pictures at the same time...)
Place the hamentaschen on a greased cookie sheet or two and bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for about 12-13 minutes. The hamentaschen should be just starting to brown around the edges. Being very careful, remove them to a cooling rack right away. If they cool on the hot cookie sheet, the bottoms of the hamentaschen will likely get soggy.
This batch of hamentaschen lasted for a week in an airtight container on the counter. These also freeze very well - and are delicious eaten straight from the freezer. Or so I am told, cause I would never do such a thing. Oh, who are we kidding? Yes I would.
*I did not have lemon juice in the house and I certainly did not have any lemon zest, so I skipped the zest altogether and used orange juice instead of lemon and they came out quite tasty.
Purim* is coming in three short weeks and we are totally and completely unprepared. At this point, I like to have a plan, usually a three-fold one. The first part is to know what my kids are dressing up as. The second is to have a menu prepared for the big meal that we host on Purim and the third is to know exactly what we are giving for our mishloach manot (the gifts of food given to family and friends on Purim) - and to whom. This year, I have none, and my anxiety level has pretty much gone through the roof about all this.
And to add to all this, I have been feeling very neglectful these past few weeks about my lack of crafting with my two year old. She has been very good about it, but the other day she did ask when we were going to do another project - "Can we at least glue something, mommy?" and I knew that I had gone too long without, at the very least, cutting and pasting.
So we sat down and we cut and we pasted. And we came out with a pretty cute and very very easy Purim craft. We made hamentaschen (a three-cornered pastry traditionally made for Purim) out of colored paper and we hung them on the mantle. And my girls were so excited with them. My two year old, in particular, keeps walking up to the mantle, pointing and smiling and saying, "We made that! But what are those called again, mommy?"
So super simple directions.
Draw a triangle on a piece of brown construction paper. The points of the triangle should be somewhat rounded. We made five hamentaschen, so we did this five times. Then we drew a much smaller, rounded triangle on pink and purple construction paper, cut it out and glued it in the center of the big triangle. Any color will work, as long as you can think of a jelly flavor to go with the color, as these pastries are generally filled with jelly, although they can be made with poppy seeds or chocolate chips, or any melty candy.
A digression here, but last year we were lucky enough to receive yummy hamentaschen filled with peanut butter cups. I love peanut butter cups. How much do I love them? I'll tell you. Those hamentaschen were gone in a second - I am not even sure I showed those to anyone else in the house, straight into my mouth they went. And just to illustrate how insane that is, last Purim was a week or so after baby #4 arrived and I had had a c-section and I picked up bronchial pneumonia in the hospital and was so sick when Purim rolled around that I spent the morning crying in the doctor's office. And yet, I found the time to shove peanut butter cups into my mouth. So yeah, I loove peanut butter cups. So if anyone wants to send some of those babies my way, I am here waiting.
Getting back to our project, pink colored paper was strawberry jelly and purple paper was grape. When my boys came home, one asked for a blueberry one with blue paper and the other asked for green, because he wanted to make a zucchini one. I know, I have no idea, I can't explain that one. But who knows, maybe he's on to something. Maybe like a three-cornered zucchini filled puff pastry thing might be good.
So we cut, we glued and we taped to the mantle. I feel a little better now, but only slightly. At least the house is starting to look like Purim is coming, even if nothing else is getting done. Baby steps, baby steps.
*Purim is probably the most fun of all the Jewish holidays. The story of Purim, which is told in The Book of Esther or Megillat Esther, celebrates the Jewish victory over oppression and deliverance from the evil Haman. The story takes place in the city of Shushan during the reign of King Achashverosh in the Persian Empire. Today, Purim is commemorated by listening to the megillah, giving charity and giving gifts of food to family, friends and neighbors. It is customary for both children and adults to dress up in costumes, especially those featuring the characters in the Purim story, such as Queen Esther, Mordechai, King Achashverosh and Haman.
I didn't want to title this post Bean Soup because I felt like most people might skip over it - even though it is really very excellent. With apologies to my Thursday-evening-phone-friend, this soup is packed with fiber - and if you can believe the claim on the Goya bag, there are actually 16 different kinds of beans in the soup, hence the name, 16 Bean Soup. I don't know about you, but I was unaware of that there were 16 different types of beans.
So in an effort to shed some baby weight, I have taken to eating a high-fiber soup for lunch everyday in the hopes and prayers that it will keep me full until dinner. It doesn't quite work until dinner, but it works long enough for me to wait until the kids are eating dinner. Then I eat a piece of whole wheat bread and a little peanut butter. That keeps me full till Josh gets home and we eat.
Let's be honest, I don't believe for a second that anyone is really interested in the whens and hows of my daily pb sandwich (can one slice of bread qualify as a sandwich?), just like I probably would not log on each day to check the timing of your tuna sandwich - unless, of course, you had the menu I am in desperate need of - the one that will help me lose 36 pounds by summer. Do you? Cause if you do, I'm in. And just in case anyone is wondering why 36 pounds and not another number - because 36 more pounds to go and I am back to one pound under my wedding day weight. Pathetic, I know. But I bought a denim skirt the week before my wedding that I still have and love and I would really like to spend the summer in that skirt. Doable? I hope so. At this point, I am down 8 pounds. I can just hope the downward trend continues.
Anywho, that was a total off-ramp discussion. We will now be getting back on the Soup Highway. This soup is a cinch to make and it makes enough so that I (and my girls, who shockingly love it - I mean, seriously, it is bean soup) can eat it for lunch four days in a row. So I only have to make soup twice a week and we're good. We have also branched out into lentil soup and split pea soup and I'm not sure the kids noticed the difference. Well, the girl kids. The boys wont come into the kitchen when the soup is cooking. Gotta start em young. I missed the soup boat with the boys.
Here's the how-to:
Saute one chopped onion and one clove of garlic in one tablespoon olive oil until the onions are soft. (Full disclosure: I am never sure if you mince, chop or just smoosh garlic. I just buy the kind that is already super-minced in the jar.) Add the bag of 16-bean-soup, a very small amount of salt and 8 cups of water. Adding soup mix is not a bad idea, but soup mix has so much sodium and I don't wanna retain any more water than necessary, ya know? Anyway, bring the soup to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer, covered* for about an hour, checking after 30 minutes to see if the beans are yet soft. Once the soup is done and has been allowed to cool, I use an immersion blender to puree the soup. This is completely unnecessary but my kids are little and I don't want to feed the baby whole beans, she's not much of a chewer yet.
*In or house, covering a pot is all relative. Sadly, none of the pot covers fit the pots, it's actually been a few years since they have fit properly. All was well when we lived in an apartment, but once we moved to a house and the stairs down to the basement were off of the kitchen, my then two and one year olds realized what super fun it was to throw everything (everything) over the gate and down the stairs, and after that, nothing was safe. No really, nothing. And so down the pots and/or the pot lids went, just a few items in a very long parade of loud-sounding things that bounced down those basement stairs. I still get a headache thinking about it.
You know how some parents put all the toys away from the living room floor each night before they go to bed? We used to walk up and down the stairs to the basement, bringing up the parade.
And so this all explains why none of the lids fit. If you too have a lid issue, do what I do. I cover the pot in a big piece of aluminum foil and then put the pot lid on top. It kind of seals everything in and lets the pot lid sort of fit when you jab it into the foil.
Ah yes, new pots, you ask? Would love 'em. There are so many things in a house, especially in a kitchen, that just go bad after a bunch of years. Oddly, they are all generally things that you might have received before your wedding. I have always maintained that it would be great to have a bridal shower every seven years. So on your seventh, fourteen, twenty-first and so on anniversaries, all your friends get together and buy you things like an egg slicer, an apple corer, a spatula. Anyone in? Cause I am.
This whole Cookie Tuesday business has been making me nervous since last Tuesday. Baking something every week is a big commitment - and yeah, we usually bake anyway, but what if, for some reason, we don't bake cookies one Sunday and what if people actually start to look forward to Cookie Tuesday and I let them down? I would be so sad. For them. For me. For my kids' empty lunchboxes. (In case you can't tell, I read Julie&Julia over the weekend and it may have gone to my head.)
This particular Tuesday made me even more nervous because there was no school on Monday. Every time Monday is a day off, my whole week gets thrown off. I wind up thinking that Tuesday is Monday and Wednesday is Tuesday and my dinner menu gets messed up because I wind up defrosting the wrong things and I forget when pizza day is in school and I miscount the number of juiceboxes I need for the week. Man, I sound like a real type-A personality, which is so far from the truth. I usually feel like I am winging it - it, being everything - so I don't really know why I am freaking out about Cookie Tuesday. Maybe cause this week it's really Cookie Monday. Or Wednesday. I'm so confused. I just wish we'd have a full week of school. No snow days, no federal holidays. Just school. Every Single Day. For five days straight. Is that really too much to ask?
Okay, before I go completely off the deep end, I will share this week's Cookie Tuesday recipe. My mom's friend, Judy, whom I have known for more years than I have not known her, gave me this recipe ages ago. I have no idea where she got it from, but if anyone recognizes it as their own, please drop me a line. I would be so happy to give credit where credit is due.
These cookies are very simple, evidenced by their name, Light as Air Cookies. They are super-plain and my kids love them. Josh too. Which doesn't surprise me because when I met him, he didn't like anything but vanilla - in his cookies, his ice cream, his desserts. Weird. I know. But now that we have been playing house for almost eight years, he has broadened his horizons and even chose a chocolate milk shake at Carvel yesterday of his own free will - and not because I wanted to share. I was so proud. But at the end of the day, plain vanilla cookies still make him happy.
Here is the Light as Air Cookie recipe*:
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 and 3/4 cup flour
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease two cookie sheets. Mix the eggs and vanilla and sugar on low, until the mixture has thickened and turned a light shade of yellow. This usually takes about 3-4 minutes. Add the baking powder and flour and mix until combined. Using a tablespoon, drop the cookies onto the cookie sheets about 1 and 1/2 inches apart. This recipe will yield about 20 cookies.
Bake the cookies for 9 minutes, rotating the pans from back to front and up and down at 4 and 1/2 minutes. I know that sounds like a pain, and it is. But it does make a difference in how the cookies come out. Allow the cookies to cool slightly and then transfer them to a cooling rack. When they are cooled off all the way, store them in an airtight container. They can last that way for a good week, but I doubt they will last that long.
1. Don't try and double the recipe. I am not sure why, but I have tried it on several occasions and it doesn't work.
2. Also, don't try and get cute and use Splenda instead of the sugar. Again, tried it and had to throw out the whole batch. It was a double batch, another no-no. But you already knew that.
The heating system in our house consists of radiators. And when said house is over 100 years old, that radiator system is bound to come wrapped up in some issues. Or perhaps I should say many issues.
Three winters ago, the first winter we spent in the house, had me turning on the heat one morning after Josh left to work. I was just so cold and even though it was only the beginning of November and not yet technically winter, I made an executive decision to turn on the heat when I saw cold air coming out of the baby's mouth - and we were in the kitchen. Wearing sweatshirts.
So I turned it on and I heard the boiler click on. That seemed like a good thing - until steam started pouring out of the radiator in the dining room. I called Josh at work, not having a clue what to do because steam was still coming out and I had already clicked the heat off. Hmm. Josh came home, posthaste, as he likes to say, and donning an oven mitt he reached his arm down into the darkness that lurks under the radiator cover and turned that boiling hot and yet tiny metal knob that controls the steam and other stuff that comes out of the radiator to the off position. Then he went back to work and I put a second layer of sweatshirts on the children. Kind of like we are wearing right now - three years later.
And that brings us to the present. Along the way there have been various plumbers parading through the house throwing fun facts at us, such as, "you really need to change all the valves on your radiators" and "it helps to bleed the radiators each year" and the one we liked the most, "I just have to run to the supply store, I'll be right back". We never saw him again. And thankfully, he never sent a bill because I believe Josh would have used that bill as a lovely way to start a fire in our non-working fireplace.
But I digress.
The current issue (problem seems like such a negative word, no?) with our radiator system is that the one in our upstairs bathroom leaks. The one in the attic leaks too, but that's an entirely different story. I will, however, take one more detour before I come back to the leaky bathroom radiator. We bought this house in the summer and we noted that wow, the air conditioning works pretty well. In fact, it does not, but if you are coming from a small apartment without any air conditioning in the bedrooms, you might think this house is pretty chilly in the summer too. Anyway, because we were so focused on the coolness of the house, we neglected to notice that there was no radiator in the bathroom. At all. I mean, there was a pipe and all, hidden under a radiator cover, but the actual radiator was missing.
And so when the cold weather set in and we had finally recovered from the initial steam-laden bout with the radiators and had the heat working pretty well, we finally realized that the bathroom was insanely cold - pretty much at the same time that we realized it was time to bathe the kids, "hey, it's freakin cold in here. Turn up the heat, please!", one of us yelled to other down the stairs. And that's when we noticed the lack of a radiator. So we bought a space heater and made do until Josh had time to go up to the attic and somehow lug an extremely heavy radiator down the steps to the bathroom. It's a wonder that the whole thing didn't fall through the steps and land in the basement.
Months later (because that's how long it takes us to complete home improvement projects) and after much drilling and hacking away at the lovely tiled bathroom floor, and after many calls to Josh's childhood friend who happens to be a plumber and after many many trips to Home Depot, the radiator was installed in the bathroom, and all was well and toasty.
And then this winter that radiator started to leak. We tried ignoring it but for some reason, it still leaked. We tried thinking about tightening various valves, but again, it leaked. We even put a small aluminum pan under the radiator to catch the water but it filled up too fast - and that's saying something because the leak really was very slow, like three drips a day or something. I feel the problem with the pan was that we just forgot it was there and so never emptied it. And then one day, Josh had a brilliant idea. I know what you're thinking. He called a plumber. But no, that would be too easy and way too costly. No, my love placed an open diaper under the radiator to catch the water and it lasted waaaay longer than the pan ever did. It lasted a good few weeks, maybe longer. I can't say for sure because I have no idea when he put it there. And then this morning we pulled that diaper out and I have to say, I have never seen such impressive soaking up of, well, anything.
This is a Luvs diaper. We love Luvs. We switched to Luvs when we had our second child and we realized that diapers were insanely expensive and that we would be having two in diapers. Pampers are only for coddled first children. There, that's a whole other psychological discussion in itself that we may or may not come back to at a later date.
Here is a picture of the diaper.
It's a little hard to tell how full of leaked water it is. I would have liked to weigh it, but I do not have a scale. My mom does though, and we are going there later so if I can muster up enough blase self confidence to not care what others think, I might just bring that baby over there and weigh it. I mean, I'm curious, aren't you?
The only remaining question I have is, if this diaper can hold all that water, why can't it stay dry overnight when a child of mine is wearing it? I mean, sure, most of the time it does, but on occasion a little one will wake up in nothing less than a lake. And that little kid is certainly not outputting overnight as much as a radiator does over the course of a few weeks.
I don't have an answer. But please, discuss amongst yourselves. I'm going to make sure Josh remembered to put a new diaper in bathroom.
So this might be a little ambitious for me, but from now, every Tuesday will be known as Cookie Tuesday.
I will be introducing the cookie of the week in our house - namely the cookie that we bake on Sunday so that the boys can have snack for school and the girls can have their cookie ready to go for when they wake up from their nap. Don't judge me. Cookies are a useful part of the arsenal of bribery tools that a prepared mommy lugs around town. And, most of the time, I like to this I am a prepared mommy.
This week's cookie is an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. I don't really love oatmeal raisin cookies. I can take 'em or leave 'em. But Josh loves them. And he loved these. The kids did not. They hated them. This does not mean that they are not tasty, this just means that for whatever reason they did not meld with my childrens' taste buds.
I actually tasted one after the kids gave them back to me and they were pretty good. I will concede that they are not chocolate chip cookies so to me, they can't be great, but they were good. But many many people love oatmeal cookies and if you are like Josh and really love them, well, more power to you!
So instead of eating the cookie of the week, the kids are eating animal crackers. And they are okay with that. Except that we call them animal cookies because a cookie is a treat. A cracker is not. Except that my eldest is on to me - his teacher calls them animal crackers and she must be right because - and this started just recently - anything anybody who does not live in our house says is right and anything mommy says is wrong. Always. I think I will have to bring this up at the parent-teacher conferences next month.
Anyway, these cookies were very easy to make, and surprise - they are made from a cake mix. The original recipe is from the Duncan Hines website, but it called for a spice cake mix and Josh would rather never eat an oatmeal cookie again than eat anything made with a spice cake mix, so yellow cake mix it was!
Just mix all everything and use a tablespoon to drop the batter onto the greased cookie sheet. I used three cookie sheets and came away with almost three dozen cookies. They freeze very well, and if you pop a few frozen ones into a sandwich bag in the morning, they are defrosted by snack time, which in my kids' school is probably around 9:30am, or something like that.
Here's the how to:
1 box of Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix
4 egg whites
1/2 cup oil
1 cup oatmeal - the quick cooking kind
Preheat to 350. Mix all. Drop by tbsp onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-9 minutes. Allow to cool on a baking rack. Store in a freezer bag or airtight container. It seems slightly unfortunate that the inaugural Cookie Tuesday recipe was not a hit with the kids. But that's okay. You can't please everyone all the time. Better luck next Tuesday kiddies!
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)