Archives for June 2010

Mango Ice Cream

Most of the time I buy ice cream at
the store.   But at least once or twice each summer, usually around the
4th of July, I like to pull out the ice cream freezer and get cranking
on some homemade ice cream. 

This
year I had so many varieties in mind that I began wondering if I’d
overheat my ice cream mixer, ice or not.  Someone mentioned an ice cream
recipe that could be made in a casserole pan in the freezer. A google
search produced several likely ideas.  The recipe below is what I ended
up making.  I based it pretty much on this video.

Serves 12

Preparation Time: 15 minutes, plus 3-4 hours for freezing

Ingredients

1 large tub of whipped topping (32 oz)

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)

8 ripe mangoes, skinned and seed removed

1 can pineapple chunks (14 oz) with juice drained off

Directions

Peel
mangoes. (A potato peeler works great).  Slice mango flesh off the
seed.  Drain pineapple.  Set aside few nice-looking chunks of mango,
enough to yield about a half a cup of diced mango.  Puree remaining
mangoes and pineapple in a food processor until fairly smooth.

In
a large bowl, combine pureed fruit with sweetened condensed milk.  Add
whipped topping.  Whisk together by hand with a wire whisk until well
combined. Pour into a 9×12 pan. 

Dice
the mango that you set aside and sprinkle it over the top of the
mixture.  Cover and freeze for 3-4 hours or until firm.  You may stir
once half way through the freezing time, but it is not essential. 

Yum!

Sometimes…

…I have to ditch my frugal-food ideals and buy the first, gorgeous cherries of the season. Pay twice as much as they’ll cost a couple weeks from now.  Gobble them down with abandon.  $17 worth of cherries, gone in hours, with the help of my family.  Before they’re all gone, I bring a few out onto the porch to take pictures of, in all their luscious glory.

Ah…cherries.

I wish we hadn’t eaten them all.

Backyard Safari

Recently we got a fun batch of toys in the mail from Backyard Safari Outfitters. There’s a fun periscope— double handles, sturdily made — with the added advantage of being submersible up to 16 inches. This lets kids peek into the water of a lake or river and spot those fish themselves.

The second item is a Bug Vacuum. The vacuum sucks the bugs into a chamber that is fitted with a magnifying glass for closer examination.

Other interesting items in the Backyard Safari line include a cargo vest.  With all the pockets for storing gear, it looks like the perfect gift for a kid who likes to go fishing.  There’s also a fun looking Bug Habitat.  That one would go perfectly with the Bug Vacuum.

I like the way this line of toys encourages kids to explore the outdoors in an active way.  The tightwad in me feels compelled to say that you could have similar play with cheapo butterfly nets and make-your-own periscopes. But not everyone is psyched to make their own toys.  And if you’re going to buy a toy for a kid, why not pick something like this that will encourage them to be active and interested in their world?

Sunday

Something here is wrong
There are children without homes
But we just move along to take care of our own
There’s so much suffering just outside our door
A cry so deafening
We just can’t ignore

To all the people who are fighting for the broken
All the people who keep holding on to love
All the people who are reaching for the lonely
Keep changing the world

Take a look around
Before the sun goes out
What’s lost can still be found
It’s not too late now
It only takes one spark to make the fire burn
So reach inside your heart and let this be the start

Chorus

I know you see the suffering
How they gone recover when people just look over like they don’t even notice them
Everyone whose focusing on ending all this hopelessness
You can change the world by changing who the world is hoping in

I see the sun coming up
It’s a brighter day
Let’s show the world that love is a better way
So lend a hand join the fight
‘Cause time is ticking away
Keep changing the world

I see you changing the world
Step up!

Homemade ice cream for the 4th?

I’m thinking of making a batch or two of homemade ice cream for the 4th of July and came across these yummy-looking candidates:

What’s your favorite ice cream?  Got a good recipe?

Playing with food

Today within minutes of receiving this book in the mail, my youngest two daughters were sitting on the couch together turning the pages and squealing delightedly over nearly every picture. Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches is well named.  The pictures are great, and the food looks wonderful.

After thumbing through the book, I couldn’t quite picture myself fussing so much, especially over the numbers of plates I serve in a meal.  However, between us, my girls and I easily came up with the ingredients for at least one bento-ish meal.  I laid out the ingredients, called the kids together and gave them the fun of artistically assembling their own lunches.

After their initial surprise– since when does mom let them play with food? — they got into the spirit and embraced the challenge.    Several of the kids really got into it, adding their own flourishes to the book’s suggestions and taking a good long time to assemble their plates.  See that palm tree in the bowl on the right? And the feta cheese sprinkled like sand around the rocks?  And the grin on the face of the artist?  Good fun.

Everyone enjoyed the project, even mom.  I was pleasantly surprised to find how simple it is to turn a carrot coin into a goldfish. Also, teriyaki meatballs are wonderful with blue rice, raw carrots, and raw spinach.  Who knew?   I will be thumbing through this book for more meal inspiration in the future.  And I’m pretty sure that will please my kids.

Art + food.   What could be more fun?

a God who cares about shoes

I’m in the van with my 12 year old son, driving past a pair of thrift stores whose proximity to each other always lures me in.  I remember that my 8 year old daughter needs shoes.  Her play shoes literally have holes in them.  I’ll buy new if I need to, but I always check thrift stores first.  When I mention the shoes to my son, he shows me a hole in his shoe as well.

“Dear Lord,” I say, “Please help us find good shoes at the thrift store.  Amen.”

“That’s a weird prayer, ” says my son, quirking an eyebrow at me.

I shoot him a grin as I pull into the parking lot at the first thrift store.  “You think God doesn’t care about your shoes?”

“Ummm…I guess he does…?”  His voice betrays his doubt.

I remember sleeping with my babies sometimes when they were sick.  They were so emotionally fragile, so clingy, that it wasn’t enough to be snuggled next to my side as usual.  They wanted to drape their little bodies across my chest, to be wrapped in both my arms, head tucked under my chin.  And still the little feet scrambled, restless to scoot higher, closer, deeper, into my arms. I was right there.   But they wanted more.  They seemed to want to crawl under my skin.

I get like that with God sometimes.  I want to see Him, to feel His arms around me.  He’s there all along, of course, whether or not I feel the weight of his arms.  But in my human fragility, I want that clear sense of His guidance, His presence.  His caring.

Today that longing is not for myself.  It is for my son.  As we get out of the van, I pray again, silently this time, hoping that today my son will be allowed to see the Arms everlastingly wrapped around him…will get to glimpse the Providence I’ve seen so often in my life.  It doesn’t always come overtly, but I hope for it today, for him.

We walk into the first store and I’m first drawn toward the dishes.  I’d like to find a white water pitcher to add to my collection…or maybe a tea pot.   No luck with those hunts, but right next to the dishes are the shoes.  My son walks along the racks, on the hunt ahead of me.  Baby shoes and high heels and men’s Sunday shoes.  Hmm….  Then I spot a pair of pink crocs, just the right size for my 8 year old daughter.  She’ll love these.  No shoes for my son, but part of the prayer has been answered.

The finding of the first pair of shoes has made my son hopeful.  “Let’s check at the other thrift store,” he says.  ” Maybe they’re there.”

In the other store I find a lovely white tea pot, tall and elegant, for $6.  I almost feel arms around me, arms of the One who knows my heart and delights in showering me with small blessings liked $6 teapots.

And shoes.

Shoes.

And more shoes.

Cute brown and pink tennis shoes for my 5 year old daughter who is constantly losing hers.  $2.50.  Good-looking pink and white Nikes for my 8 year old– $2.75 but blue-tagged and half off today.   I’ve literally never bought new Nikes for my kids, but God has provided this barely-used pair for my daughter for the princely sum of $1.38.

And then, shoes for my son.  Grey-blue and tan, reasonably stylish, and tiny bit big, perfect for a 12-year-old who’s growing fast.  $5.75 and he loves them.  Later I google the brand and discover I’d have paid $60 for those shoes, new. We walk out of the store, both of us smiling, carrying a teapot and a bag bulging with shoes.  Four pairs of shoes for $15.

And more important, a remembrance stone for my son to pull out of his pocket on a day where God’s providence is quieter, less obvious.

It’s not about getting closer to God.  He’s always there.  It’s about opening our eyes, and seeing Him all around us.  Sometimes he shows up in tangible answers to prayer.  Other times He quietly inhabits the air around us, allowing us to breathe in, breathe out, allowing us to seek and wonder and reach and long to be closer.

He’s always there.

———

Related links:

JohnMark McMillan: Closer (youtube) | (lyrics)

Shaun Groves: Push Button Faith

Summer food: Pizza on the grill

 

There’s
something wonderful about grilled pizza.  The bottom edge of the crust
is crisp and brown.  The top is chewy.  And the whole lovely thing, from
crust to toppings, is infused with the wonderful flavor of the grill. 
If you’ve never grilled a pizza yourself, you might think it is
difficult, but it’s not.  Here are a few pointers to get you going.

1.  Start with a good pizza dough recipe like this one.  
Once you’ve allowed the dough to rise an hour or so, punch it down and
divide the dough into pieces about the size of tennis balls.  Make sure
the dough has enough flour kneaded in so as not to be sticky. Roll the
dough fairly thin, and place each round on a floured cookie sheet to
rest until you are ready to carry it out to the grill.

2.   Preheat the grill to a medium heat.

3.  Gather your pizza sauce (here are some amazing ideas)
and all the ingredients you plan to use. For grilled pizza, you quickly
add toppings after you put the dough on the grill, so get organized
before you go out to the grill.  I put all my toppings in small bowls on
a cookie sheet for easy transport. 

4.
Flop a round of dough directly on the preheated grill.  Don’t worry if
it lands a little crooked– for grilled pizza, rustic is great.  Quickly
spread on a thin layer of sauce and a sprinkle of cheese, then add your
other toppings. Grilled pizza will turn out better if you’re not too
heavy-handed with the toppings. Once you’ve got your toppings on your
pizza, add just a bit more cheese, and shut the lid of the barbecue
grill. 

5. Let it cook for a couple
minutes, until the underside of the crust just starts to brown.  Using a
large long-handled spatula, rotate the pizza a quarter turn.  Close the
grill, and let it cook for a couple more minutes, until the bottom of
the crust is cross-hatched with nice medium brown markings, and the
cheese on the top of the pizza has melted.

6.  
Remove your pizza from the grill and place it on a cookie sheet to
bring indoors to cut.  Add your next round of dough to the grill and
repeat with more toppings.   I love to make each pizza different.  The
one on the left in the picture above has pepperoni, mushrooms, fresh
spinach, and cheese.  The one on the right is topped with cheese, bacon
bits, and little dabs of cream cheese all over the surface.Yum!  Have
you grilled pizza before?  What toppings are your favorites?

Church camp

Ever since I somehow ended up in charge of organizing the food for our yearly church camp, I’ve looked forward to camp with a mixture of dread and anticipation.  However, it’s definitely getting less scary the longer I’m in charge. This year, my 4th as head cook, was the highest attendance ever, with 80-100 people at most meals.  That came to a total of 1040 meals over 4 days’ time.

Thankfully I had lots of help.  My sister and a friend helped me shop– a huge undertaking, requiring 5 carts at Costco, 3 at Winco, and partial carts at 4 other stores.  Then at each meal there were 4 volunteers in the kitchen doing the cooking. I was in and out answering questions and cooking ‘pet’ recipes, but other people did the bulk of the work at each meal.  Everything went smoothly, and I was pleased that we could offer people some really good food at a cost of about $1.50 a plate.

We did traditional favorites like pancakes, tacos, and pizza.   This year for the first time we also served teriyaki chicken (using the teriyaki sauce recipe from my book), plus fried rice and egg rolls. It was really well received.  However the last half hour of prep was breathlessly crazy, and the stoves looked like an oil slick after we were done.  I’m still trying to decide if that meal is worth doing again.

Another new thing was fresh biscuits for 2 breakfasts.  My 15 year old and I rolled out a bunch of 12 dozen biscuits at home (using this recipe) then froze them, and waited til camp to bake them.  They turned out well, and I think I’ll do them again.

We also added a pasta bar for one dinner.  We offered two pasta choices (spaghetti or wagon wheel pasta) and two sauces (marinara with meatballs, or a ridiculously yummy alfredo sauce– here’s the recipe)!  It was a bit more work than the frozen lasagna we have done other years.  But it was half the cost, and I think people enjoyed having options at the meal.

Of course there was lots to camp besides the cooking.  It was fun hanging out with friends and family, watching the kids tubing, singing, eating s’mores by the campfire, and of course snapping tons of photos.  I got nearly 1000 over the 4 days, and gave my new 85 mm lens a good testing. It is a sweet, sweet lens! It gets great clarity at a distance, lovely unfocused backgrounds, and really excellent color. Here are a few pictures —  click to enlarge.

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Book Winner

The winner of the book Steady Days is Jennifer of Butterflies in the City.  Thanks to everyone who shared memories of songs from your childhood– it was really fun to read all your comments and memories!