Thursday, August 14, 2014

Creamy Rice Pudding Recipe

Remember when I said in my last post that I felt guilty about buying certain foods that I knew I could prepare myself?  That guilt propelled me into making one of them. It helps that it only requires 3 ingredients. Yes, you heard me correctly, just 3 ingredients that most people will have in their kitchens anyways.

This recipe for rice pudding seems crazy.  You only use 1 cup of long-grain white rice for 2 litres of milk. The trick is that you add the milk in stages, much like risotto, and the rice just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The first time I made it I had to call my Grandma Strom and ask her if I had copied the recipe down incorrectly, it seemed impossible.  But, my terrible handwriting, while nearly illegible, was accurate.

Creamy Rice Pudding

1 cup long grain white rice - I use Thai Jasmine rice as it's my favourite and I always have it in the house.
2 litres of homogenized milk
1/2 cup of sweetener - I like to use local honey, but you can also use white sugar.

Rinse and drain rice until the water runs clear.  In a thick bottom pot combine rice and just enough water to cover the rice.  Bring to a boil and cook until the water is absorbed.  Add 1 litre of milk.  Let simmer until milk is almost absorbed, then add the remainder of the milk.  Stir frequently.  The longer it cooks, the more milk will be needed.  In the last half hour of cooking (you'll have to guess at this point, who knows when it's the last half hour of cooking until it's the end of cooking?!) add the sugar and continue to stir.  Remember that it will thicken as it cools.  I like to put mine into individual size Tupperware containers and store in the fridge for my kids to grab when they need a snack.  The pudding also freezes well.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Home-made Guilt

Things I feel guilty about not making from scratch when I know I can make them better, more nutritious, and cheaper than buying them:
• bread
• naan
• frozen waffles
• yogurt
• rice pudding

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kitchen Renovation and Playroom Clear-out

We are entering that dreadful time pre-renovation when we have to start making permanent & definitive decisions and purchases relating to our kitchen reno.  I hate it.  It's totally a first-world problem, but I am filled with anxiety and dread about every decision I make.  They are all costly and for the most part, a permanent part of our foreseeable future.  We plan to live in the house indefinitely and I highly doubt we'll ever undertake a renovation of this magnitude in here again, so I want to make timeless and wise decisions.  Once it's done we can no longer say, "What were they thinking when they did that?!" - because we will have been those people not thinking.

Today was the very first major decision.  We went and bought two of the three new appliances we need.  I feel very confident with the fridge purchase, but a little bit uncertain about the stove.  The reason the fridge purchase is so weighty and necessary now is because unlike stoves, there is no "standard" size for refrigerators.  So in a complete renovation like ours, the fridge size will determine the cabinet size & placement.  No pressure or anything.

This is only the start.  If you are interested to see a glimpse of my vision for our kitchen, check out my Kitchen Renovation board on Pinterest.  You'll probably be able to tell very quickly which direction we're going.

Part of the preparation for the renovation is to clear out our existing playroom, which will become what it was originally intended to be, a dining room.  This is what has gotten me fired up tonight.  I first had to clean my 6 year old's room so that I could start incorporating some of the toys into her bedroom space (which is terribly small in the first place, just shy of 10x9 feet.)  Cleaning my kid's bedrooms & playroom always ends up making me so mad about how much stuff they have and how spoilt they are.  Today was no different.  After I finished the bedroom, I headed down to the playroom to try to winnow down her collection of toys.  She doesn't seem to understand that she doesn't need two of everything; two doll strollers, two doll beds, and literally 20 baby dolls (she likes babies). I'm not sure how I'm going to talk her out of some of these toys and we don't have many options for where else to put them as we have a moderately sized home: 1132 sq. feet with only a 1/2 size basement due to our house being a 3-level split.

I know I shouldn't complain, preparing for a big renovation is really a luxury, but a stressful one nonetheless, filled with buyer's remorse and self-doubt, at least for me.

Our playroom when it's clean, which isn't very often.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bits & Bobs

I don't have anything of much importance to report at our house.  Just a few odds & ends, hence the title of this post.

A Swiss Chard forest!
1. My garden is finally producing food.  Today was the first day I harvested anything, Rainbow Swiss Chard, which was promptly made into a garlicky chickpea curry and eaten with naan.  The tiny yellow zucchinis are growing at last (I anticipate eating them within a week) and the beans are flowering, a surprising pink flower.  The carrots still look very sad. I'm not including a picture of them as they look so poorly.

2. How is your summer going?  I swore I wasn't going to overbook myself & our kids this summer, it always feels like I do and before I know it the summer is past and I'm standing there stunned in the school supply aisle thinking, "How did it get to be the end of August?!"  Yet, somehow, it's already July 16th and I don't feel like I've relaxed at all.  The kids were done school on June 25th and since then we've:

  • Camped on the Saskatchewan side of the Cypress Hills with friends.  We were supposed to be there 4 nights but were rained out and came home after 3.  Mike loved it though and can't wait to go back. Unfortunately the inverter/converter (I don't know what it's called) quit on our trailer so we had to order a new one and Mike will be replacing it before the next camping trip. I also discovered a new favourite artist, Geoff Phillips, purchased a numbered print of his painting "Camp Harding" at his studio/home while driving back through Maple Creek, and am excitedly planning a collage wall centered around it above my living room sofa.
  • Had the girl's annual eye exam - they're both heading to glasses sometime in the next year, but for the opposite problems. The 9 year old is nearsighted and the 6 year old is farsighted.
  • The 9 year old went to St. Albert for a week to stay at her grandparents with her cousins from Ottawa.  We went up last weekend to pick her up and visit as well. Unfortunately two of us came back sick.  I spent the last three days in bed only to get up to drive kids to events. Today is the first day I did any food preparation since Monday.
  • The 6 year old has started 2 weeks of swimming lessons. For some reason this has caused me to start having nightmares about her drowning.
  • The 9 year old is in a week of science camp at Medicine Hat College.  I'm loving it because they are doing all the messy experiments that I see on Pinterest, so I don't have to! (Does that make me a bad mom?)  It's a bit disappointing to see that there are only 2 girls in the group.

3. What's coming up? I'm hoping to be completely recovered from this stomach bug before Saturday's Chili Cook-off!  Sunday is the Medicine Hat Horticultural Society's Annual Garden Tour, then next week is Stampede, the parade, the midway...  Such fun! (my new catchphrase - see below.)

4. I've discovered a new-to-me hilarious British comedy, Miranda.  I binge-watched all three series (only 6-30 minute episodes in each series, so not THAT much watching).  Mike was embarrassed by how loudly I laughed, he said he could hear me all the way in the garage while his music was playing.  I've never denied that I'm a loud laugher.  Some things are worth the belly laugh, find joy where you can!  You may recognize Miranda if you watch Call the Midwife, she plays "Chummy". I highly recommend it if you enjoy light, silly comedy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Gardening Done Wrong

I love to garden.  It's very calming to be outdoors, hands in the dirt.  To plant a seed and then later be able to eat the fruits (literally) of your labours is sweet indeed.

As much as I love it though, it doesn't seem to love me.  I try hard, so hard, to be a good gardener, but I think my thumb may be more black than green.

Case in point - this spring we realized that with our fence replacement behind schedule, there was no way we would get the backyard raised bed we had planned built in time for this growing season.  As one of our front flower beds was filled with the most hideous bushes known to mankind, I decided that it would be the perfect excuse to rip them out and plant a small vegetable garden there instead.  Unfortunately, by the time I got the bushes entirely removed, and my neighbour graciously rototilled it for me, I was already two weeks behind the generally recognized planting weekend of May Long.  Then we got that unrelenting rain and cool days and nights.  The sprouts were slow to come up and then most of the bean's leaves had rotted away from damp.  The spinach, which normally will volunteer itself anywhere a seed falls, had only two sprouts, TWO!

I'm thinking of blaming some of it on ants as well.  The bed was infested with small red ants making hills everywhere, but especially along the stems of the beans.  I ended up spreading diatomaceous earth over most of the dirt to kill the ants and replanting the sad, spindly beans.  Of course now they are over a month behind and I'm wondering if we'll even be able to harvest a single bean from them.

I was very excited about the basil plant I had purchased and planted in a pot in my backyard.  I had dreams of batches of pesto so large that I would have to can the excess! However, after only a week I noticed the leaves were turning yellow and brown and falling off of the plant.  I couldn't figure out the problem, I hadn't been overwatering it (basil likes dry soil).  Well, I might not have been overwatering, but apparently my husband was watering them every time he used the hose, and my 6 year old was watering them multiple times a day with her water gun. I cut the plant back, planted some basil seeds I had in the garage and am now waiting for the sprouts to grow into something usable.

I currently have only two successes.  I have a rather beautiful yellow pear tomato plant in a large terra cotta pot in my backyard that has many flowers and has already set quite a bit of fruit.

I have also had some good luck (so far) with a rhubarb that I planted in one of my front flower beds.  I know that a lot of gardeners in our area lost a significant number of their perennials this year. I lost 4 in one bed alone, so decided to use the spot that 3 of them had been in for a rhubarb plant.  I'm trying to incorporate more edibles into my yard and this was my chance. Rhubarb doesn't like it's roots disturbed, but it seems to be doing well so far in this partial-sun location.

I refuse to share a photo of my vegetable garden until it improves in appearance.  It's so embarrassing. That's the problem with front yard gardens, everyone can see how poorly your garden is doing. The neighbours probably wonder what on earth I am thinking.