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Archive for December, 2010

Nearly two weeks after Thanksgiving, and we are still eating leftovers.  Turkey sandwiches and quesadillas, french onion soup, breakfast fried mashed potatoes, stuffing frittatas, lasagna, and even a pan of turkey enchiladas.  When it comes to repurposing leftovers, we rule!  Our fridge is finally emptying out and very little has been wasted.

I splurged on a 20-quart stockpot for Thanksgiving this year.  It was a big purchase…  it’s only a cheap-o Target pot, but with cabinet space at a premium, I am still not sure where to store this monster.  No regrets, however, as a 20-quart pot meant nearly as much post-holiday turkey stock.  The old laying hen we brought home from our farm day joined it’s compatriot’s carcass, and I have enough stock to last a very long while.  It is well worth the small up front effort to have homemade stock on hand.

And where there is stock, there is soup.

Leftover Squash Soup

This technique works for any amount or type of leftover mashed veg (root vegetables or squashes in particular) and is merely an exercise in heating things up.  But there are a few basic things to consider for those new to cooking.

Put the squash in a saucepan, breaking it up with a spatula so it is not just a big Tupperware shaped lump.  Liberally season with your choice of spices.  For this go round, I used the Barbecue of the Americas spice blend from Penzeys.  It was a free sample and is a blend of salt, paprika, allspice, nutmeg, cayenne, pepper, cinnamon, thyme and ginger.  The nutmeg and allspice complement squash particularly well, it adds a rich color and a bit of heat, as well as just enough ginger for flavor without pushing it into curry territory.  *sigh* I heart Penzeys and am powerless against the crack like pleasure of Penzeys free samples.

Add enough stock to nearly cover the squash and start reheating, stirring occasionally to incorporate the liquid and keep the bottom from scorching.  A quality silicon spatula works very well for this.  Zyliss makes one which works really well.  The silicon stretches up much of the handle, which is great when you accidentally leave the spatula sitting in the pot between stirs.  (Not that I ever do that…  no…  not me…)

I sliced and toasted some garlic bread from the Gracie Baking Co.  I found a ramekin of goat cheese remnants at the back of the fridge.  Some stray baby spinach was located as well.  Sides were officially done.

Turning attention back to the soup, it had bubbled away during homework negotiations and was now more like babyfood than soup.  No problem, just add more stock until it is just shy of the preferred consistency.

Then turn off the burner before adding the dairy.  In this case I used Straus Whole Milk Plain Yogurt, but cream, half and half, or sour cream would work well too.  Fresh dairy can take a little heat and vigorous stirring, but fermented dairy products can curdle quickly if they are left to boil at this point.  Their proteins have already started to coagulate from the fermentation process and are simply more delicate.  So I just play it safe and turn off the burner before stirring in the yogurt at the end.  Another option is adding the dollop of yogurt or sour cream individually and letting The Child stir it in herself.

Notice there isn’t a measurement of any ingredient through any of this.  This is leftover squash soup.  You start with what’s leftover, you add liquid until it looks right, and then you serve it.  We polished off the squash, the last of the yogurt, some goat cheese, and spinach before any of it went bad.  I love that feeling of rescuing food just before it’s about to go south.  Plus, the entire loaf of bread is now sliced and in the fridge, making garlic toast with eggs much easier next morning before school.

The Child turned her goat-cheesed garlic toast and salad into a spinach sandwich and proceeded to dunk it into her mug (punning about squashing it into the little cup of squash soup).  Then she asked for seconds on everything, even the spinach, and double-checked I didn’t skimp on refilling the soup.

I love it when a meal comes together.

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A good friend is preggers for the first time and recently asked point blank, “What one thing was most useful when she was little?”  Obviously there are must-have purchases to keep an infant safe and healthy.  But hands down there is one product at the top of my most-useful list, and it has nothing to do with food:  the Eurobath.  Made by a company named Primo, I think this is one of the most worthwhile and functional tools around.

I am a big fan of registries.  The notion that it is somehow ‘not personal’ to give something you know the parents have already vetted is selfish on the part of the gift giver.  Parents should be gifted what they want and need, not saddled with extra stuff which may take time to return, duplicate what they already have, or in the case of the Eurobath, take up an enormous amount of space.

When new-parents-to-be are sorting through what they think they will need, the little infant bathtub seem like a necessity.  Most folks add it to their list without much thought and move on.  But in reality, sponge baths on the changing table work great during the lumpy stage, and most kids outgrow those little infant tubs in a matter of days.  Save a few bucks and just buy the sponge.

Post-spongebath at 12 weeks old

However, for the Eurobath, I have embraced hypocrisy and often *gasp* purchased off-registry, having it shipped directly to the new parents.  Friends have given me insight into their typical response of, “What the…   are you kidding me???”  Yeah.  I know, it’s three feet long.  Sorry about that.  Trust me.  You’re going to love it.

The Child at 4 months kicking and splashing away!

And love it they do.

The beauty of this thing is that it works for the limbs-flailing lumpy stage, and toddlers as well.

The molded plastic does a great job of cradling a tiny child gently so it was much easier to sit next to the tub rather than hunch over and destroy my back any more than it already was.  It sadly can’t go without saying that you don’t leave a kid of any age in this thing unattended.  Ever.  Don’t be daft.  But, this tub provides a comfortable angle and support for a wee one to splash and kick in the water without having to awkwardly lean over to support their weight for them.  It gives the freedom to get them clean without a struggle, and more often than not a bath became a long respite of happily-entertained baby time.  Fix a cuppa tea, settle into a comfortable spot on the floor next to the tub, and babies will contentedly entertain themselves splashing away for an hour.

I would not use this on a counter.  Once it’s got water in it, it is way too heavy and unwieldy to try and drain properly.

At eleven months old sitting up in the Eurobath with a pointless fork

Once the kidlette is big enough to sit up safely on their own they simply face the other way and the molded plastic slides their bum into a comfortable spot.  (Once again under the don’t-be-daft heading – it’s not for standing up in, climbing into without help, or leaving a kid alone even for a second.)  Many a scorching summer day was spent splashing in the tub cooling off.

And as for storage?  Yeah, at 36” long, 21” wide and 10” deep, it is big.  There is a hole on one end if adding a cord and hanging it from the wall fits your space, but we elected to store it in our tub.  It was just too big and unwieldy to put anywhere else.  The convenience of kid entertainment was well worth the inconvenience of removing it each time we needed a shower of our own, and the tub within a tub set up worked well for us for three years.  The manufacturer recommended age is from 0-24 months, however The Child was comfortable in it until she was about three and she has always been top of the charts on height.

I had a blown out disk in my back unbeknownst to me when we decided to have a baby.  Doctors always blew off my back pain because I was young, active, and flexible.  When The Child was 9 months old and I was having trouble functioning at all, I finally saw an orthopaedic instead of a GP.  The MRI showed there was no disk left at L4-L5.  There were a few fragments of disk tissue, and the space where the disk used to be had utterly collapsed leaving my vertebrae in direct contact with each other.

I managed three and a half more years before finally electing to surgically address the problem, and the Eurobath was a big help.  This unwieldy piece of molded plastic helped The Child get used to the feel of splashing water in her face as an infant, became daily entertainment for an active toddler, and made bathtime far safer for us both at a time when I was often physically incapable of leaving the house or moving from the floor.  That’s just full of win.

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