New Foutz Rule

One of the largest take home messages I got from the Positive Discipline philosophy was, if it only works for a week- “Great! It worked for a week!” So who knows the duration of this latest success, but I’m reveling in it as long as I can.

There was a long period where dinner time conversation became a string of “I don’t like that.” “Do I have to eat this?” “How many more bites” and “I do wannit.” As any mother knows by the time dinner rolls around, if a hot meal has been prepared and presented and then received in this ungrateful tone, it’s hard to handle.

I was particularly taken aback by it, because this sort of pickiness was new in our home, at least from Scotland. I wasn’t sure where the sudden change in taste buds were coming from. All I knew was, I didn’t like it.

I took to saying “You don’t have to like you, you just have to eat it.” Which of course didn’t come off very sympathetic and didn’t earn many followers. But I have an abhorrence for pickiness. I believe the world would be a better place if people just ate what they were served and were grateful for it- both in terms of food and life in general.

When considering the question “How do I want to raise my boys” it struck me that the best way to know how to raise my boys was to look at the world and say “What does the world need?” (I also think this is a beautiful way to choose a career.) The world needs more gentlemen, more who are grateful and appreciative, more optimism, more work ethic, more thrift. .. I could go on and on. But the one that struck a chord relating to this post was- the world needs fewer people who complain.

So a new Foutz rule was formed.

No complaining at the dinner table. You can think it, but you can’t say it. If you do, you are welcomed to your room for the rest of dinner.

I proposed the idea to Tom and he was on board and presented it to the boys that very night. (Thank goodness it came from him, and not me, he practically walks on water in the boys’ eyes.) We had a few warnings the first few nights, but now- all it takes is the start of a groan- the “eye” and they clam up. I was delighted. That’s all I hoped for, a shift from dinner time conversation being taken up by “If you take three more bites. . .” and turned to “How was your day?” But the most delightful side effect is that the boys are now eating and liking seemingly everything I make! My boys are now requesting seconds of spinach salad with a balsamic vinaigrette! They scarf down romaine lettuce, and have welcomed the recent addition of many more vegetable sides at our meals. It’s really quite miraculous. Cooking has become more enjoyable, I don’t dread dinner. And I’ve been throwing together a green salad almost every night- because it no longer feels like a waste.

I’m right peachy about it all. Here’s hoping it keeps up!


Recognizing accomplishment

I’ve been feeling a bit down on myself lately. I guess I just haven’t felt like my list of accomplishments has been very admirable. My sister Adee pointed out, that I should stop calling myself “lazy,” when I visited a few weeks ago. And yet, that’s how I’ve been feeling. Too often, it seems I’ve chosen an early night or a nap over a project. Too often my response has been, “Well, I can just do that tomorrow.” When I’ve looked over the last few months it seems like I’ve been spinning my wheels. Going no where. 

And then, yesterday, I had this epiphany! As the jars of bottled grape juice exceeded 20 and my excitement at the Sundays of decadent drinking flashed before me. I realized: I’m learning a new skill. I’m educating myself. Even if I choose to never can again, this fall has been a lovely study in food preservation. I’ve learned a bit more about drying, freezing, and canning. I’ve discovered some new recipes and savored some old. As I took the jars down to my pantry I suddenly felt a wave of pride at my accomplishment. Before me stood:

26 quarts (qts) of grape juice

4 pints (pts) of pizza sauce

2 qts pickled peppers

1 pt jalapenos

2 quarts of spaghetti sauce

2 quarts of Arrabbiata sauce

1 qt whole tomatoes

1 pt tomato sauce (seeds and skins strained!)

8 qts salsa

28 pts of jam: nectarine, plum (butter and jam), blackberry, rhubarb, pear-ginger and raspberry

7 pts hot pepper sauce

1 qt tomatillo sauce (uncanned)

(And then I thought, and my Mom has the other half!)

Harvesting by the wagon-full!

I list this not for any recognition or pat on the back, but rather to encourage myself to take a step back and say “Way to go, Kjirst, you rock!” Sure, I’ll probably not bring up canning when one of Tom’s fellow interns asks “So, what do you do?” Or when I’m confronted with how I’m utilizing my degree. But, you know what, who cares! I believe in continued education and who’s to say there’s a heirarchy in what one ought to learn. I post this to acknowledge that I’m struggling to define my priorities, to determine how I want to spend my time, and who I want to become. I didn’t start canning this year because I wanted to win the domesticity award. In fact, I think that’s exactly why only yesterday I saw the accomplishment in what I was doing. I started to can, because I recognized in it a way to save money, while feeding my family delicious healthy food. And because I couldn’t bear to see so much of my parents garden going to waste- while I spent hard earned money on those very food items every week! 

Was canning the best way to spend so many hours this past fall? I’m still grabbling with that, but in the meantime I’ve decided to acknowledge that it was a good way to spend those hours. Sure I’ve learned to put up food, but I’ve also had some beautiful bonding moments with my mother “Look at this pepper, Kjirsti, isn’t it beautiful!” I’ve had time to ponder on the symbolism of the true vine, as I’ve noted that it was the grapes that had become separated from their vine that had quickly spoiled. I’ve had a chance to marvel at the beauty of the earth, of vegetables and fruits. I’ve taught my son the origin of pears, grapes, brussel sprouts, squash, potatoes, raspberrries, tomatillos, and the list goes on and on. He’s harvested alongside me. I’ve smiled as I’ve watched him gazing intently into the hole created while removing potatoes at the life teaming within, shouting every few minutes. “Mom, look!” 

Mine is a strange time in life, one of immense flexibility. I am accountable to no one but myself, and my God. May I live each day to please Him, is my humble prayer. 

Smoothies- summer goodness!

So, I don’t have a Blendtec blender, I have a Vitamix, but I do have a Blendtec grain mill, which I LOVE, so I feel fine advertizing for them here on my blog. Not to mention the rave reports my brother-in-law has given of what an impressive business model they have, combined with the excellent experience I’ve had with their customer service department. In fact hearing about their company has made me more determined to support such companies- companies that still put their customers and employees first. 

I’m a big fan of smoothies. I became an even bigger fan when Scotland started eating solids, because I realized that smoothies were one of the best ways to feed him greens. (Spinach is surprisingly difficult to eat, if you think about it.) Greens are a great source of Omega 3’s. (Omega 3’s are most abundant in spring produce, while Omega 6’s are more abundant in fall produce- think grains.) Most of us have an inbalanace of Omega 3’s and 6’s because are diets are heavy on grains and light on greens. This causes havoc on our health. Greens are cheap and high in nutrition, but I’m not the best at always including a salad with our meals. So. . . I add them to our smoothies. By adding several huge handfulls of spinach alongside bananas, apples, grapes, and berries (pineapple is extra delicious) I can be sure that we are starting the day out right. I’ll often add a carrot as well- another often hard to chew veggie for little ones. Throw in some flax, and you’ll up your omega 3’s even more! 

What’s your favorite smoothie? Do you only make sweet or have you experimented with savory? Do you ever add spices to yours? Anybody every made almond milk in their blender? 

Bread day- multigrain flour and wheat gluten addition

I’ve been making our bread since before Scotland was born. You’d think two years would be an adaquet amount of time to master my simple recipe. Unfortunately, I’m still rather inconsistent. Sometimes it’s a result of my experimentation, Maybe I’ll add three cups of rye flour this time, or I think I could really half the honey in this recipe. But I think more often than not it’s because I don’t knead it long enough to get the proper gluten development. 

A few months ago I ran out of white wheat, so I tried to make 100% red wheat bread, but the results were never as good. The bread was dense because it didn’t rise properly. When I finally restocked my white wheat, I was delighted when the first week the loaves once again far surpassed the pans, while also maintaining a tight crumb. But the next two weeks- the bread was crumbly and dough pulled apart easily when I was trying to from it into loaves. While the bread tasted great, the texture and structure was poor. 

Yesterday, I was determined to get it right. I still experimented, adding two cups of multigrain flour, and then 2TBS of wheat gluten to make up for the lower gluten levels in the barley, and oats. But then I kneaded and kneaded and kneaded until I had a beautiul “window pane” when I tested it. The idea is that the bread’s gluten isn’t properly developed unless, when you slowly pull apart a small portion of the bread, it stretches so thin that part of it is translucent before it breaks. This meant that I kneaded it probably five-seven minutes longer than the recipe called for. Fortunately for me, I have a Bosch, so the only hassel was the hum of the motor. (Which didn’t compare with my wheat grinder that was running outside the garage door at the same time!) I also tried the trick I read in “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice,” and let the dough rest for one minute then kneaded it for another 2-3 before checking it again. (Apparently allowing the bread to rest helps the gluten grow.) I could tell a real difference in the dough compared to the last two times I’ve made bread. Before the bread pulled apart easily, this time the bread was super stretchy and you could see bubbles forming in the dough. (My grandmother included “bubbles forming at the edge of the bread” as her indicator for a dough’s readiness, in her life history.) It rose beautifully the first rise. When I punched it down and formed it into loaves, it stretched properly, forming a tight crust. I made three regular loaves, and since I only have three regular bread pans I opted for an artisan style loaf for the fourth. 

Notice the tight crust and bubbles on the inner parts of the bread.

Slowly, but surely, I’m learning about the art of bread baking. I aspire to making beautiful artisinal multi-grain loaves. I want to get to the point where I can say, Hmmm, today I think I’ll make a rye-barley bread with a sesame-poppy seed crust. I’d also like to add sourdough into my repertoire. 

The multigrain flour and wheat gluten was a fun addition. The crumb is tighter and fluffier than the whole wheat version, and there is a bit more nuttiness that I like. Adding wheat gluten, in general, results in a chewier bread, which lends itself well to a heartier sandwich.

As I write this, I’m realizing this was my last Cleveland batch. Next time I’ll be in Seattle dealing with a different alltitude and humidity level- let’s hope my experience lends me enough flexiblility to continue the bread baking success.

Birdseed Waffles

Scotland woke up this morning requesting pancakes. In keeping with our “Enjoy Cleveland” week, I thought, why not? So we headed downstairs,  tied on some aprons and had at it. We made a slight digression from pancakes  to waffles when I found a recipe I had printed out a few weeks ago for multi-grain waffles from I was immediately drawn to the recipe. How could a whole grain lover like myself not salivate over a waffle that is completely whole wheat while also containing sunflower seeds, flax (seeds and meal), poppy seeds and millet!!! (I’ve only recently discovered raw millet being used this way- uncooked for a bit of nutty crunch.) I had to try them. 

Of course, since it’s some how contrary to my nature to every strictly follow a recipe, I substituted one cup of my self-ground flour mix (buckwheat, oat, millet and barley) for a part of the whole wheat. Then thinking I didn’t have any millet left, I substituted sesame seeds for the 1/4 cup of millet, only to add a few TBSP of millet when I found them. Some how, with all the seeds going in, I left out the poppy seeds- bummer, next time. I love those freckles! (Plus they’re a good source of oleic acid.) 
This was the perfect recipe to make with kids because there is a fun variety of ingredients, most of which are easy to dump. Scotland loved comparing the various seeds, and wanted to try each one. (Fine by me!) I took to calling them Birdseed Waffles. (I think it would be sweet to pair these with a birdseed craft, maybe like this one we did a few months ago.) 
The final result was delicious- possibly my new favorite waffle. Topped with plain yogurt, strawberries and a drizzle of maple syrup they were incredible. And because of all the seeds- very satiating. I was actually disappointed, because I wanted to eat a few more! Scotland loved them, which you’ll have to take with a grain of salt, because he adores anything grain-based. (Where does he get that from?)
It was the perfect starter to our sunny day. We spent a lot of time out in the yard. Scotland played with the hose- watering the rocks, dirt and a few flowers, while I weeded. We went for several walks, and he drove and flew his little car. Why does sun make me SOOOO happy?!!!
P.S. For those of you who have followed my garden, my little forsythia transplant looks like this, this year!
Oh, and just in case you wondered, my larger one looks like this!
I love spring!!! #I’m going to miss my yard like crazy