• deviled eggs

    I’m a mixture of distracted and relaxed. This weird state of being comes from being intensely occupied at one moment to being free as a jaybird (or can one only be naked as a jaybird?) the next, with surprise bouts of puking thrown in to keep me on my toes. (Yes, another kid is hugging the bowl.) And all that is compounded by the acute awareness that our pace of life will soon go from an easy trot to a canter, and then—hold on for dear life!—to a gallop.

    To cope with my anxiety and excitement, I do the oddest thing (my husband would call it the “dumbest” thing): I add more stuff to our schedule. Yeah, it makes no sense, but it’s how I deal.

    Yesterday morning when I was rushing around, trying to get out the door for a day of errands and fun (a doctor’s appointment, eating out—twice, and ushering), I whipped up a batch of deviled eggs. I had made them the other day and wanted to tell you about them, but we scarfed them down so fast I never got around to taking the pictures. No matter. There were more Easter eggs in the fridge.

    These deviled eggs aren’t your standard mayonnaise-and-mustard deviled eggs.

    These deviled eggs are dressed up with extra spices and—this is the kicker—a knob of cream cheese.

    And while I like the flavor (lots), what I really like is the rush I get when I open my spice cupboard and start adding a sprinkle of this and a pinch of that. It’s like I’m a for-real artist and the ingredient-dabbed white ceramic plate is my palette, the egg yolks my canvas.

    Deviled Eggs

    Disclaimer: all measurements are guesstimates.

    These were store-bought eggs—for a more vibrant filling, use farm fresh eggs.

    6-8 hard boiled eggs, cut in half, yolks and whites separated
    ½ cup mayonnaise
    ½ – 1 ounce knob of cream cheese
    ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular)
    ½ teaspoon salt (I used a bit of smoked sea salt, too)
    ½ teaspoon cider vinegar
    2 tablespoons minced chives
    small squirt of Sriracha (or other hot sauce)
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    pinch of chipotle powder (or cayenne)

    Mash the mayonnaise into the cream cheese. Add the egg yolks and the remaining ingredients and mash well. If the mixture is too dry, add another spoonful of mayonnaise. Taste to correct seasonings (be generous with the salt). Spoon the mixture into the egg whites. Sprinkle generously with more smoked paprika and/or chives. Eat immediately or refrigerate for later.

    PS This week’s Kitchen Chronicles: in the midst of chaos.

    This same time, years previous: things that go on around here, learning (finally!) to manage money, I lost the bet, Mr. Handsome is a goofball and I have the pictures to prove it

  • an evening walk

    We had just eaten supper and I wanted to go on a walk.

    But not really, because I was bleary-eyed tired. I had been up since 2 o’clock that morning when I was urgently awakened by the sound of my husband hurtling down the hallway, hiss-yelling at me to RUN and COME HELP.

    I stumble-leaped out of bed, my not-yet-awake brain only half-registering some yucky gagging sounds. Slowly it dawned on me that someone was puking, and I yanked a towel off the bathroom rack as I staggered by. When I got to the scene of the disaster, I found my husband perched on the edge of the bed where he was helping to steady my son’s cupped (and full) hands.

    That’s how my day started and that’s why I was tired.

    But last night Sick Boy was knocked out on the sofa and the two older kids had gone with my parents to their house for a couple days, so it seemed a shame to not take advantage of the relative freedom and go for my walk. I knew the fresh air would do me good, but I was afraid the exertion would do me in. I couldn’t make up my mind.

    And then Sweetsie asked if she might come along.

    I almost never let my kids go for walks with me. After all, the point is to move fast, get a break, and think. This time around, however, I didn’t need any of that, so I said yes.

    “Can I bring my basket and pick some flowers?” she asked.

    “Sure,” I said. “And I’ll bring my camera.”

    And so last night’s walk was different. We took it slow. We looked for flowers, watched the calves play tag, and spied a rabbit.

    When she asked if she could take some pictures, I handed over the camera.

    I watched as she stopped in the middle of the dirt road, her basket of pretty weeds slung over her arm, the heavy camera pressed up against her face. She was so excited to be taking pictures like her mama does. I feasted my eyes on her, my little growing-up girl.

    She took pictures of the sky and used words like “clouds of smoke” and “dusty waves” to describe it. I rolled her phrases around in my head to try to fix them there, but even so, her exact wording slipped away.

    It was a sweet time, our walk together. This often-prickly child of mine skipped gaily, exactly like children do in the storybooks, and chattered nonstop, asking questions and making observations. I followed her lead and kept the conversation light, though I did do some gentle probing on some deeper subjects.

    We walked a mile before I suggested we turn back. She would have liked to keep going, but the wind had a bite to it and it was getting dark, so home we went.

    This same time, years previous: new territory: grief, peanut butter frosting

  • the quotidian (4.9.12)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    Eggs: it’s the kids’ job to collect, wash, and box them.

    We’ve been having night after night of frost warnings, so covering up the strawberries, lettuce, and tomatoes (what’s left of them) has become an evening ritual. The other night my husband and I didn’t remember until 11 pm—while he pitchforked straw over the berries, I sang them a lullaby.

    cold nights make for cozy mornings: the boy and the cat

    Spring break means lots of time with friends: if they had their druthers, these two girls would be together all the time.

    a favorite pastime: measuring each other, and then…

    figuring out where they are on the charts (both my boys are off them, height-wise)

    Date night out: we ushered for Dido, Queen of Carthage
    (that’s right—now my husband is an usher, too!)

    Don’t you take stuffed animals along on your date night? (The kids were playing in the van earlier that day. If anyone would’ve looked in the van windows, I’m sure they wouldn’t thought we were completely batty.)

    Easter cupcakes
    (fyi, my mother is unimpressed with my new yellow cake recipe and now I’m second guessing myself. If I decide to recant, you’ll be the first to know.)

    boiled eggs, awaiting color

    Easter baskets at the ready

    getting their directions

    The hunt begins!

    Aw, shucks, guys. I couldn’t help myself. I only ate one…

    counting her prizes (and then quietly helping herself to the other kids’ baskets, much to their consternation and our amusement)

    What’s funny about this picture? Can you see it?

    This same time, years previous: this slow, wet day, in which I post an excessive amount of pictures, asparagus with lemon and butter, cream of tomato soup

  • yellow cake

    “Buttercup Cake” was the name of the yellow cake that I grew up making and eating and enjoying. It was nice, but that was the problem, see. It was just…nice.

    “Nice” is friendly, “nice” is good, “nice” is innocuous and sweet and actually kind of boring. I wanted my yellow cake to be a little more…energetic. A bit more definitive. “Stellar,” maybe, or “tiptop.” If I was lucky, “striking” and “luscious” would be appropriate adjectives, too.

    This week I found the yellow cake recipe I have been yearning for. I wasn’t looking for it, mind you, but Wednesday morning it arrived in my mailbox nonetheless. A couple hours later a gorgeous yellow cake was cooling on the table.

    Then I made it again. And again—the last time in the form of cupcakes (that are waiting to be iced with this frosting and then sprinkled with coconut and topped with marshmallow peeps and jellybeans). I have the recipe memorized.

    What makes this cake so special?

    1. The flavor: mild and sweet with a good hit of vanilla and some depth from the buttermilk.

    2. The texture: moist, non-crumbly, tender. It’s kind of a cross between a pound cake and a sponge—the perfect cake to cut and layer and carve and shape…if you’re into that sort of thing. Which I’m not. But at least now I have the option.

    3. The method: no beaters! Just a whisk. So simple and whippy-ippy-fast.

    Do you have a favorite yellow cake recipe?

    Yellow Cake
    Adapted from the Amish Cook’s weekly newspaper column.

    If using unsalted butter, increase the salt to a scant ½ teaspoon.

    2 2/3 cups flour
    2 cups sugar
    pinch of salt
    1 cup water
    1 cup (2 sticks) butter
    2 eggs, beaten
    2/3 cup buttermilk
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

    Whisk the first three ingredients together in a large bowl.

    In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the butter. Simmer until the butter is melted. Stir the hot water-butter mixture into the flour mixture and whisk well.

    Combine the remaining four ingredients in a small bowl and whisk into the flour-butter mixture.

    Pour the cake batter into a greased pan (jellyroll, 9×13, 2 round 9-inch, muffin tins, etc) and bake at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean.

    Cool the cake for 10 minutes before inverting onto a rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting (I used this classic chocolate frosting).

    This same time, years previous: daffodils and horses, my baby’s faces, writing it out, in regards to marriage, cardamom orange buns

  • cup cheese

    I have a new recipe to share with you: cup cheese.

    Best I can tell, cup cheese (or soda cheese) is native to Lancaster County, the land of the Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite dairy farmers, but the first ten years of my life were spent in Lancaster Country and I never encountered cup cheese, so I’m not for sure about that. The cheese is made with soured milk—via a process of heating, straining, melting—and with the addition of several common kitchen ingredients.

    The strange thing is, I’m not sure whether I like the cheese or not, and promoting a non-favorite recipe on my blog feels a little weird. But I’m going to do it anyway because 1) the recipe is way cool to make, and 2) people who grow up with this stuff are crazy about it, and 3) with a few recipe tweaks (that I have yet to try but have included below), I may decide I’m crazy about it, too.

    And I really want to be crazy about it. The stuff is awesome, some of the most satiny, creamy, spreadable, scoopable cheese you can imagine. It’s glorious to behold.

    The problem (for me, anyway) lies in the flavor. My cheese was on the funky side, I do believe. But since I’ve never tasted cup cheese before and had nothing to compare it to, I’m not for certain about that. However, I think I know why it turned out strong and how I might make it less strong.

    Also, my kids, while not head-over-heels in love with the cheese, are open to it, so it may be worth a redo just so as adults they can say they grew up with the stuff and are crazy about it.

    This is not a hard cheese to make, though it felt hard because it was my first time and I was super-vigilant throughout the whole process (which is lengthy but doesn’t involve much active work time). The main trick is getting the milk to sour. I read that raw milk will sour in about 48 hours if left to sit on the counter. After 24 hours, my milk was smelling strong but not thick so I added a cup of buttermilk. Another 24 hours and it was ready to go. Next time (and what I say to do in the recipe), I’ll heat the milk to room temperature and add the buttermilk at the very beginning—hopefully that will cut back on the funk.

    This cheese has an incredible texture, creamy-smooth like peanut butter, and a luxurious richness to rival cream cheese. It’s amazing stuff, really. Most people eat it spread on bread like butter, but I think it could be mixed with all sorts of things (fresh herbs, chopped ham, boiled eggs, capers, radishes, etc) to make exciting dips and spreads.

    Have you ever had cup cheese? What did you think about it?

    Cup Cheese (a.k.a Soda Cheese)
    Adapted from a recipe my friend Kathy sent me, as well from the recipes I found in Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll and Mennonite Country-Style Recipes by Esther H. Shank

    1 gallon raw milk
    1 cup buttermilk
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
    3 tablespoons melted butter
    1 cup cream
    1 egg, beaten
    1 teaspoon salt

    Pour the milk into a large kettle and heat over medium heat until slightly warm. Remove from the heat and stir in the buttermilk. Lid the pan and set aside until the milk is thick enough to cut with a knife—about 36-48 hours. Skim off the thick sour cream and reserve for some other baking project.

    Cut the curds into ½ -inch cubes with a knife. Heat the milk to 115 to 130 degrees, stirring gently. Remove from the heat (or, if you want your curds to be firmer, keep the milk at that temperature for up to an hour) and separate the curds and whey by pouring the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined strainer. (Reserve the whey for other baking projects.) Tie up the corners of the cheesecloth and let the curds drain for 8 hours or overnight.

    Dump the curds into a bowl and mix in the baking soda and melted butter. Let sit at room temperature for 4-5 hours.

    Put the curds into the top part of a double boiler (I set a smaller kettle inside a larger one), making sure the top part is not touching the boiling water. Melt the curds, stirring occasionally. Once the curds are melted (they’ll be creamy-smooth and stringy, like melted marshmallows), add the beaten egg, cream, and salt. Bring the cheese to a boil (mine never got there—I just cooked it for awhile) and pour into dishes. Cover and refrigerate. Serve with crackers, bread, etc.

    This same time, years previous: now, he wore a dresschickpeas with spinach, the case of the flying book, spinach-cheese crepes, and skillet-blackened asparagus

  • the quotidian (4.2.12)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    the kids dug up the bottles in our field and picked the tulips from the abandoned lot across the road (which they’re not allowed to do but did anyway)

    springtime supper: biscuits, sausage-cheese sauce, asparagus, and boiled eggs (cooking tip: to make a cheese sauce even cheesier, whisk a generous lump of cream cheese into the sauce before adding the other cheeses, yum)

    waiting for Grandmommy and Grandaddy

    after Grandmommy and Grandaddy drove on by without stopping: it was the plan but apparently my little boy was the only one who didn’t know it

    studying a food web after breakfast with their biologist Grandfather: my parents found a bunch of high school textbooks for me to use (history, literature, science, algebra)—so far we’ve just started the biology

    a pedicure from Grandmommy

    sometimes my kitchen help looks a little odd

    after coloring a map of the United States (one of her assignments), she went up to her room and cut the shape of our country out of some fabric, backed it, and wrote some of the states on it with marker

    this is what our evening read-aloud time looks like: me reading out loud while all the kids (except for my son since he’s the only literate one) pore over their own “reading” material

    a friend from church asked me to run some of his parched corn through my grain mill and then he brought me a loaf of mush he made with it—both my husband and I love it, the kids not so much

    Watching the horses: the scene looks peaceful and romantic, but look again. The child in the middle is getting ready to discreetly pinch the boy.

    Who says each kid needs their own bike? That’s a myth. 
    (They’ve since figured out how to fit all four kids on one bike.)

    After watching the four deer that were in our field (a very unusual occurrence) jump over the fence and thinking the one had lost his tail on the fence, my daughter went up to retrieve it—but it was just a handful of fur. (And then, almost as soon as she got back to the house, we saw eight more deer up there and the kids went wild.)

    making a pot of “soup”

    Our yard is full of thistles. Each spring I dig them up by the wheelbarrow (or orange, plastic sled) load. It’s an exercise in futility since we’re surrounded by fields of thistles, but I do it anyway.

    the potatoes are planted

    bales of straw ready for the garden

    skywalking from shed roof to straw bale

    This same time, years previous: my excuse

  • warning: this will make your eyes hurt

    I’m serious. There are some unpleasant pictures ahead. Proceed with caution.

    ***

    Yesterday my boy had another one of his allergic reactions—the kind where the white part of his eye turns yellow and mushy and swells up to huge proportions. The episode was fairly mild. I put in a couple eye drops and everything was fine.

    This afternoon it happened again. I didn’t rush or anything since we got it under control so fast yesterday. Plus, I wondered if a cold washcloth would do the trick (his eye was improving by the time we got to the ER last year and we had only used a wet hankie).

    But the eye kept growing and he kept fussing and begging to go to the ER.

    And then I took a good look at him and said, “Oh my!” and sent my older daughter out to go get my husband.

    Putting the eye drops in was an ordeal because he refused to cooperate even when we offered an ice cream bribe. And then we got stressed because the eye was swelling and swelling and swelling and we needed to act NOW. So we tried to pin him down. But that failed because 1) the kid can fight like a demon, and 2) neither of us was keen on prying open a squeezed-shut, mushy-gushy eyeball. So we let him up and then, wouldn’t you know, he went and stood in the hallway and tilted his head back and let me put the drops in (the same ones I used yesterday), no problem at all. He even smiled. He begged me to take more pictures.

    excuse the blurriness, but I just wanted you to see what a trooper he is

    He ate his ice cream and was happy.

    Except his eye kept getting bigger and bigger.

    Then we found another eye drop medicine in the medicine cabinet, but I didn’t have directions or details since we had long since thrown the boxes out. So I looked up information online about the eye drops that we had already used, but the only stuff I could find was talking about ears. Which was weird because that wasn’t what we were dealing with. So I called the pharmacist.

    Him: Hmm, are the drops up to date?

    Me: Yes.

    Him: Tell me again the name of the medicine?

    Me: It’s called Ciprodex, and the print is so small I can hardly read it, but I think it says it’s a sterile otic suspension—

    Him: What’s the middle word?

    Me: Otic. O-T-I-C…

    Him: THOSE ARE EAR DROPS! YOU DON’T WANT TO PUT THOSE IN HIS EYES!

    Oh. So “otic” is not the same thing as “optic.” Interesting.

    We did the drops all over again, but this time with eye drops instead of ear drops. And this time the swelling actually started to go down.

    Now my boy is curled up beside me on the sofa, staring at his eye with a handheld mirror.

    It’s still quite puffy, especially the part underneath the eye (which he likes to poke), but it’s slowly improving.

    And yes, I’ll be calling the allergist in the morning.

    Sweet dreams, y’all! May your night be free of protruding eyeball nightmares!

    This same time, years previous: three stories, oven fries