Thursday, January 24, 2013

Valentine's Day Soup

I know it's a little early for Valentine's Day, but I had to show you our latest favorite soup BEFORE February 14 so that you can try this at home, too!

First, boil a few carrots in your chicken broth until almost tender.  They will be easier to work with if they are still a bit firm, and if you cut them into two halves before you put them into the pot (which I didn't do this time, so do as I say and not as I did).
Remove them from the broth and allow to cool.  (I was in a hurry so I ran cold water over these until they were comfortable to touch.)
Cut a small "v" shape down the entire length of the carrot and give that long strip to the kid standing closest to you who is dying to taste the carrot!

Carefully slice the sides of the carrot on an angle to shape the bottom half of your heart.

Slice into pieces thick enough that they won't fall apart when you put them back into the soup.

Try not to break any hearts!

Add your remaining soup noodles or other vegetables and serve!

 Dish out the Valentine's Day Soup! 
We always add frozen peas to cool off the hot soup (and --- shhhhhh!--- to add extra veggies).
 Make sure you hunt out the biggest Valentine carrot ....
 and save it for last!  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Eves

On Monday, Stephen and I were making a double batch of Chex Mix for our New Year's Eve party that night.  As we were measuring out our ingredients (and he was snitching), it reminded me so much of my New Year's Eves growing up in East Akron.  We had the BEST New Year's parties ever!  We'd all go to the Aunts', Aunt Irene and Aunt Mary Kozy, who really weren't our aunts at all, but because of our close relationship in church with everyone, they were our "aunts" and that's that.  So anyway, we'd go to the Aunts' and there would be food and games and laughing and teasing and little kids and teenagers and adults and parents and senior citizens and everyone else, too!  We'd play Dutch Blitz and Uno and eat Chex Mix and sing and pray in the new year and eat some more and play some more and then finally in the wee hours of the morning, we'd all pack up and head to Country Kitchen for breakfast before we headed home around 7:00am to crash.  I can't believe my parents did this for us because if it were ME right now at this stage in my life, I'd tell my kids "No way, buckaroos!  You want to go to Country Kitchen for breakfast?  Then you find your own ride!"  But my parents didn't do that.  They stuck it out with us and THAT was New Year's Eve. 

Things are different these days.  Our family belongs to a church ten times the size of East Akron and there is no such thing as a church wide New Year's Eve party.  It's kind of sad because I loved sitting with Olga and Aunt Helen and Aunt Mary and Aunt Irene and Uncle Paul and Marcie (why did I never call her Aunt Marcie?), and Ruth and Arthur, Paul and Esther all the way down to Mark and Shirley!  We were ALL there, and we all ate and played and made memories together.

This year we had some friends over for the evening.  It was definitely a BOYS' party this year!  Only two girls in the mix, along with us moms, that is.  After we got the boys going on their snacks and games, the women disappeared to the basement so that we could have a little peace and quiet and some "girl time" together.  We were having a great time telling stories and laughing so hard when sweet Priscila came downstairs and so gently interrupted us to say, "Uh, I think there might be something burning in the oven."  Whooooaaaa!  I ran upstairs to find, sure enough, something burning in the oven!  We had forgotten Terri's baked brie was in there, and while the pastry was the perfect crispy tinge, the oil from the brie had leaked out and spilled out of the cookie sheet onto the bottom of the oven, taking some of the pastry with it.  It was a mess, but also very clean-up-able, so I wiped it down and promised myself that I would self-clean the oven in the morning.  It was high time for that maintenance anyway! 

It was soon close to midnight so we all gathered in the living room to have a prayer to welcome in the new year.  Glow sticks were passed out to the kids first and I went back into the kitchen to quickly deal with something when all of a sudden Timothy started whimpering and then screaming!  His glow stick had somehow exploded IN HIS FACE!  It had sprayed into his eyes and was burning.  I was finally able to convince him to have me lead him to the bathroom to try to flush out his eyes.  By that point, he was screaming that his face was on fire - his eyes, his forehead, his cheeks, his lips!  It was quite scary, to be honest, but I'll also admit that I was very tempted to turn off the light and force him to open his eyes so that I could see if they were glowing purple!  I know, I know.  Bad mommy.  But I WAS curious!  Anyway, in the meantime, in the other room, everyone was shouting Happy New Year already and then Timothy felt bad that he missed it.  The tears started all over again, but I think it helped to flush the stuff out of his eyes because Daddy came in and asked if Timothy wanted to come out so we could "do New Year's" all over again and he readily agreed.  Daddy was the hero!

Fast forward to this morning.  Timothy is now fine and has no issues whatsoever with his accident the night before.  Thank God!!  It could have been much worse!  I finished cleaning up the kitchen, including setting the oven to the self-cleaning cycle and went on to deal with the mounds of laundry.  I had just finished up an e-mail to Terri, which ironically included a post script saying that the oven was cleaning and the smoke alarm just went off.  Ha ha ha, blah, blah, blah, hit SEND and turn around to see smoke billowing out of the stove part and flames engulfing the interior of the oven!  I shouted for Fred to come help, to turn off the gas line or something!  Smoke, BLACK smoke, LOTS of BLACK smoke pouring into the kitchen!!  Smoke alarm screeching at me.  Kids running in to see what's going on.  Fred frantically scrambling to turn off the oven and the gas line.  I'm waving my new 2013 calendar at the smoke alarm to try to get it to stop screeching at me!  Oh my!  So thankful that none of you witnessed this flurry of activity in here this morning because you'd never let me live it down!

Once the oven was turned off, the fire subsided, while the smoke continued to billow a while longer.  The stove had turned a lovely smokey grey color instead of its usual glistening white.  (Yeah, right.  When's the last time my stove was 'glistening' white?!)   The exhaust fan couldn't keep up with the amount of smoke, so most of it was just wafting through the kitchen and on into the rest of the house.  I haven't checked yet to see what the snow looks like on the outside of the house where the exhaust fan blows.  Not sure I want to do that, really.  After a few hours, the oven was cooled enough that the auto-lock was released and we opened the door.  What * A * Mess!!!!  It took me the rest of the morning (and we were up early, thanks to the boys' internal alarm clocks) to clean up the mess and feel confident enough to re-engage the self-cleaning feature. 

I am happy to report that my oven and stove are now cleaned and back to their original hues - for the most part.  The lustrous white cabinets are another story, but whatever.  I had to think today as I observed the fine-ash coated cabinets and the dingy ceiling, discolored by previous cooking episodes, that this is a kitchen of use!  All of it's dings and discolorations and broken apparatus are all proof that this kitchen is used and lived in and enjoyed.  If I had a pristine kitchen, would I still feel welcomed and comfortable in it?  Probably not.  I would be afraid to use it for fear of doing damage to it's beauty.  I'm so grateful for my REAL kitchen, smoke damage and scent and all!  You are all welcome to come enjoy my real kitchen at any time and I won't fault you at all if you break my special glasses, spill honey into the cracks between the floor boards, break the knobs off the drawers or smoke up my kitchen with your baked brie!  Spending time in my kitchen is rarely a dull experience, so come enjoy!  I can provide you with a good laugh or two, I'm sure!

And that is our Happy New Year's Eve for 2013!  Always a thrill to start off the year with a bang, isn't it?  And how was YOUR New Year's Eve this year?  Happy New Year to you all!