Friday, July 31, 2009

Chocolate Dessert #28

Today, it is monsooning. Look at my rain gauge.
It started around 8 this morning, and this gauge was empty. At one point, I had 4" of standing water in the front yard. Just for reference, this rain gauge holds 6" of water. Needless to say, Thor is not very happy going out to relieve himself today.

Last night, we had Chocolate Dessert #28, chocolate frosted pound cake. Really, the recipe is only for the chocolate frosting, since they tell you to use a store bought pound cake. I used my own recipe for Sour Cream Pound Cake, but since it was only 65 degrees las
t night, I could bake. For those of you in the Pacific Northwest, head on over to the supermarket, snag a frozen Sara Lee pound cake, and stand in front of the open freezer door for a while. Go ahead, you can tell them I sent you to use their electricity instead of your own. The directions call for the pound cake to be split horizontally in 4 layers, and the frosting spread between them, so it's a pretty little layer cake when served, but, of course, I don't follow directions too well. Besides that, I don't like chocolate frosting (and neither does my dearly beloved), but I love pound cake. So I needed my slice of cake plain, and he needed his with strawberries and cream on top. In any event, while mine was not as picturesque as perhaps the original idea would have been, no one left any on their plates; that must tell you something!


3/4 cup sugar
3 tsp cornstarch
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup boiling water
3 tbsp butter
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Stir together the sugar and cornstarch in a microwavable 2 cup measuring cup. Add the boiling water and stir to combine. Coarsely chop the chocolate, and add it with the butter to the cup. Microwave until thickened and smooth, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring every 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in the vanilla extract and let the frosting cool to room temperature. Slice the pound cake loaf 3 times horizontally, so it forms 4 layers, frost between each layer and reassemble, and frost the top of the cake, or just do what I did, and frost each individual slice. T
op with whipped cream and serve to the happy masses.
As I said, it isn't as pretty my was as the original idea might have been, but there was no griping about the flavor. And this is a very fast and easy dessert, suitable for company or "just because" you feel like it!

Edited to add: My daughter just got home from her summer course, which she's taking 60 miles north of here. she spent 2 hours driving the last 15 miles, because there was so much traffic on the interstate due to local road flooding. I'm really glad we live on top of the hill.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


A couple of days ago, one of Thors ears swelled up. I don't like taking him to the vet. Thor is the oldest mastiff we've ever had, at 8-1/4 years old, and I don't want anyone telling me to do anything which might be harmful to my children's best friend. So, reluctantly, I agreed to let Jeffrey and Kellie take Thor to a new vet (we were not going back to the fat guy who said Thor needed a diet and we should take him to Philly for surgery because of his minor limp). They were very pleased with this new vet. They said the office was staffed with plump ladies who just gooed over Thor and the couple of other pets who were there: this is a good thing.

The ear swelling was a hematoma caused by his ear flapping. She gave us ointment and prednisone (50 mg - that's a hefty dose!). She didn't want to drain it, for fear of causing other problems, stating that the swelling will simply be absorbed back into his body over time. He has a number of cysts all over his body, and we've been told that mastiffs are prone to those. She said they're benign, and unless one or more start growing like crazy, we should just leave them alone. She didn't mention that he's quite old, which leads us to believe Thor's still in good shape! Of course, Thor was a perfect gentleman, not budging when she gave him his rabies shot, although he did knock the "nurse" over when the vet tried to look at his ear (Jeff just grabbed his harness and held Thor in place - problem over). Kellie had cookies in her purse, and Thor earned a couple for being a wonderful boy. And he's now a very happy boy, because in addition to his daily peanut butter and vitamin sandwich, he gets not one, but two peanut butter and prednisone sandwiches a day - at least, for the next couple of days.

Happy Thorsday, everyone! Thor is healthy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chocolate Dessert #188, Modified

...modified to make chocolate cream pie!

I've been complaining that this has been a cool summer. This week, we've had 2 days over 80 degrees. Still not hot, but warmer. So, I decided a no-bake dessert would be in order. Since all of my kids love chocolate cream pie, what could be better? Off to the chocolate dessert cookbook I sauntered, found this filling, and from thence evolved the pie.


1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups milk
2 egg yolks

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (2 squares)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Whipped cream topping

Make the pie crust and set aside (Paula, for your baby, you could likely combine 1/2 cup each ground rice chex and almonds with 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter to make a nice substitute for the graham cracker crumb crust), or just buy one, since they're all abo
ut the same. In a microwavable bowl, melt the chocolate. Whisk in the sugar, salt and cornstarch, then add the milk and egg yolks. Whisk well, and cook in the microwave for 7 to 9 minutes, whisking every 1 to 2 minutes, until the pudding thickens. Pour into the pie shell, then refrigerate until cooled. Top with whipped cream, sprinkles if you like, and serve. I believe mine lasted about 3 minutes after I took it out of the fridge, confirming my hunch that it would be a perfect hot weather dessert! (I thought the crust was too thick, but the kids like it that way.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garden Tuesday: Salads

Boy, if I didn't know this was "gardening by the square foot", I'd swear I had a lovely thicket going on here, wouldn't you?
These are the first baby tomatoes I've seen. I don't really like the fact that I can't focus the digital camera. I really love the pictures I take with my good old Leica, but I really enjoy the convenience of digital. Dilemmas in life.

And my first baby zucchini. Lots of people curse the prolific zucchini. I love them. I love them raw, cooked, in bread, however I can get them. I'm thinking of shredding some and freezing them so I can enjoy zucchini bread through the winter. We'll see how that goes.

Of course, with my bountiful lettuce, on taco night, I decided I didn't want to get my hands dirty. Instead, I made myself a taco salad. Who needs the tortilla, anyway?

And lunch: Hawaiian salad, green lettuce with tomatoes, pineapple, shredded coconut and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

How are your gardens growing?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hawaiian Pie

Well, I didn't know if this would work when I started out. And I certainly didn't have a recipe. I've never been to Hawaii, so I really have no business dubbing this Hawaiian pie. But it seemed like a good idea at the time, and, given how fast it sold, I think it was.
(The color in this picture is a little blue, and I have no idea why. Oh, well.)


1 Pie crust (I used refrigerated roll-it-out)
1 box ready to cook vanilla pudding mix
1 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup thawed orange juice concentrate
1-1/2 cups milk
2 egg yolks
slivered almonds

mini marshmallows

In a large microwavable bowl, whisk together the juices, milk and egg yolks. Whisk in the pudding mix, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, whisking every 30 to 60 seconds, until the mixture thickens. Line the pie plate with slivered almonds. After the pudding cools somewhat, stir in the pineapple and marshmallows, scoop into the pie shell, sprinkle the coconut over the top, and chill.

My dearly beloved and one of my sons thought this was not really sweet enough, but the rest thought it was wonderful. I didn't put whipped cream on it, because it was certainly rich enough, but you can choose to dress it up any way you want. It was a great summery dessert.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

With All Those Colors, She Uses....

....first, white. On the treadle machine.

My daughter happened upon some cow fabric we'd used to make a gift of throw pillows for their 4H sewing club leader (who loved cows and lived on a dairy farm), and told me to make something really fun from this fabric. From a drawer of "stuff", I dug out four 20 year old potholders (still made in USA at that time) and one cooking mitt (replaced a decad
e ago by Pampered Chef mitts, which are long, luxurious and worth every penny of their very high price). I quilted cow fabric front and back on the pot holders, took apart the mitt, quilted cow fabric front and plain white fabric back (inside) of each half and was set to go. Adding varied colors of binding made the set match, but it was declared "fun" by Kellie.
A matching apron, here obligingly modeled by her brother (who can never resist clowning around) was the end of white thread for last weekend.

Then, for another great, exciting color, I chose.....


OK, to be fair, when my dearly beloved saw the fabric I was using, his comment was, "That will never be mistaken for quiet and refined." I told him I just won't wear it to a White House cocktail party (to which I will never be invited anyway).

But it made a great dress!

I'm working on a skirt from the same fabric this weekend. I'm thinking maybe green is the next order of business after I'm done with the loud fabric. I just like to use the same color thread for several items in a row - why waste threading effort, especially for the serger, which uses 4 spools of thread, after all? Peculiar, I know; sorry!

Desserts are coming your way next week, including at least two from the Chocolate Dessert cookbook! Hope you'll come visit, and have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cheese and Onion Bread

I bought this really fancy bread cookbook at one of the used book sales in April. This book has glossy pages and looks like it was never even opened up. The first half of the book is stories of bread from different places, how loaves are shaped, what they're called, and that sort of thing. The second half then goes through recipes for different kinds of bread. The book is really pretty, somewhat confusing, and I haven't decided if I like or hate it (but I know I don't love it). This is my first effort from that book. It originates in England, or so they say. Look carefully at this page, and you'll see what it's supposed to look like. Trust me, I didn't feel it was worth that much work, so I made mine differently.


1 onion, finely chopped

4 tbsp butter
1 cup milk, warm
1/3 cup warm water
3 tsp yeast
1 tsp mustard powder

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp sugar
4 cups flour

approx. 1-1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

In a saucepan, saute the onion in the butter with the salt and pepper
until it's soft. Meanwhile, mix the water and milk, and sprinkle the yeast over the top of them. Combine the rest of the ingredients, EXCEPT the cheese, as per my tried and true instructions, adding the onion mixture as you start mixing the dough. Let it rise 15 minutes, then remove from the bread pan or mixing bowl. Split the dough into two loaves, and roll the first one out into a rectangle roughly 6" wide, 1/4" to 3/8" thick, and however long it gets to be (somewhere between 14" and 18" or so). Sprinkle half the grated cheese on the top, holding back only 1/4" from the sides and 1/2" from the ends. Then begin rolling at one end, pinching the dough on the roll down into the cheese you're rolling into every 2" or so. Put into a greased loaf pan, seam side down, brush with the egg wash mix from the Pullman bread, and repeat with the other half of the dough. This bread will rise pretty fast. Bake at 375F for about 25 to 30 minutes. Look how pretty it is!
I also used the heels as the bottom slices to make sandwiches in the George Foreman grill for lunch. I was afraid the cheese would melt out of the bread slice into the grill, but using the heels solved the problem. And there's nothing like a nice grilled turkey and tomato on cheese bread, now is there?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dogs on Birthdays!

Yesterday was Kellie's 19th birthday. Of course, Thor was at the party. See him?
How about now?

Is this better?

You can tell he's a great singer.

And when a guy has to be the only party animal, it's exhausting!

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Buttermilk Wheat Bread

This week has been cold and rainy. I'm talking 65 degree or less cold since Sunday. So this week I'm baking lots of different breads. Not that I don't bake bread all the time anyway, but if it's warm out, I'll just put together my go-to French bread and that's the end of it. When it's cold, I guess I want to hang around my oven a lot. Thus, I found for you the Pullman bread, and now, this one. This came from Beth Hensperger's bread machine cookbook, which I know some of you have as well, and it was good fresh from the oven and as peanut butter sandwiches the next day. It also held together very well for toasting - excellent for breakfast with your eggs, if that's what you love!


1-1/2 cups buttermilk OR
1-12 cups water plus 6 tbsp buttermilk powder
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used white wheat)
2 cups white flour

2 tsp salt
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast

Put the ingredients in the bread machine to mix, or mix following my directions (see side bar). After the first rise, punch down, form into loaves and put into loaf pans. Brush with the egg wash from the Pullman Bread, if desired, let the loaves rise again, and bake at 350F (375 for metal pans) about 25 minutes, until the bread has reached your desired darkness. Makes 2 loaves.

Note that the maple flavor was not very strong in this bread, so I think I'd add a teaspoon or two of maple extract the next time. Other than that, this bread has nice flavor. Thor loved it with his peanut butter and vitamins, too (OK, you don't have to tell me that dogs love peanut butter and anything).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Garden Tuesday

Well, we had 4 days of sunshine and temperatures approaching 80 on 2 of those days. Let me check my calendar again and see if it's July or May. Rain Saturday, Sun and cooler Sunday, rain due all week. Even the real farmers are griping!

So I snuck outside between thunderstorms for these pictures.

The lettuce plants keep standing up straight, and I keep cutting the leaves from the bottom, and they're growing like nobody's business. Christo, thanks for the suggestion. I'm using it on my red leaf lettuce, too. There are a lot of salads in my house of late.

I swear my spinach grew 6" with the sunshine, but the leaves still seem small. I'm thinking of cutting some if the rain ever stops, and seeing what happens.

And look at these pretty onion flowers! I didn't know onions flowered. That does not mean I'll be growing them from seed next year. My local Agway has nice onion sets, thank you, and I like supporting the Miller family descendants by buying from them. (Yes, my Agway is in a nice old barn with nice old worn floorboards, and as far as I know, descendants of the brothers who started it a zillion years ago still run the place.)

And I have my first zucchini flowers! I put these in one of my tomato supports, and forced the leaves to grow upward, instead of out in a vine, and it looks like I'm getting a zucchini bush instead of a plant crawling all over my yard.

This is my first square foot garden, and I really like it. No weeding, minimal fuss, lots of fresh veggies right outside my door. How much better can life be?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rocket Ships and Train Cars

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the most TV watching I've ever done.

"That's one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind."

It was hot in Danbury, Connecticut that July. My father had told me that men would be landing on the moon that day, and I watched TV all day. I was fascinated, regardless of the fact that I'm disturbed by the universe (you really don't want to know about that). It was a wonderful accomplishment for all of us, and I join many others in saluting Neil Armstrong and the Apollo crew. And if you think space travel is no big thing, think of the things which have benefited us Earthlings
as a result: velcro and teflon come to mind!

Rocket travel leads me to think of a slower, more gracious mode of travel, and this bread recipe went right with this. With the caveat that I've never traveled more than 30 miles by train, we all think of train travel in terms of elegance. Heck, I always heard stories of gentlemen commuting from NYC to Connecticut in the bar car, preferring that to the dining car. That's the origin of the story behind this bread.

I happened upon this in one of the cookbooks I bought in April, entitled It's All American Food. The story is that this bread was so named either because it looks like a Pullman car, or because it was served in Pullman dining cars. In this day of being stuffed in aircraf
t like sausages, and charged for everything, soon to include using the restrooms if the airlines think they can get away with it, isn't it nice to harken back to an era when travel took time, and nice dining was expected to be part of the experience?


2/3 cup warm milk
2/3 cup warm water

4 cups flour
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp butter

Egg wash:

1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp sugar

all beaten together

Use your bread machine to mix the ingredients, or combine by hand (my link to complete directions is to your right, should you want them). When the bread has risen, punch it down, form into loaves, place in two loaf pans, and let it rise again until almost doubled in size. Brush with egg wash, and let it rise for a few minutes longer. Bake at 350F for glass pans or 375F for metal pans for 22 to 25 minutes, until desired degree of darkness is reached.

I found this bread much too salty for my taste, although there were others in the house who enjoyed it. I did, however, greatly enjoy having bread with a story; oral history comes in many forms, after all, and as wise men have said, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Box of Colors

UPS brought me a box that was about 2 ft by 3 ft by 1 ft yesterday. I knew what it had to be, and I was excited. As I staggered into the kitchen with it (although not heavy, it was quite bulky), my dearly beloved commented that he thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

The little boys opened the box for me. Thor supervised. My box of color bored all three. But look at what I got!

Carolyn, the sewing fanatic, has recommended Atlanta Thread many times. I have been disgusted recently at the downsizing of routinely available spools of thread, and asked my dearly beloved if I could have the 10 assorted colors, or even the 25 assorted colors. When I told him that there was a package of 50 spools (4 times the size of the routinely available ones) for $120, he said, "That's the one I want you to buy." Gents, take notes: this is the proper way to respond when your wife wants something reasonable. Best of all, I ordered Wednesday, and it was here on Friday!

Maybe this angle shows my rainbow better. My dearly beloved sugg
ested that I order a spool of brighter yellow, one of darker red, and four more each of white and black, so I fill all 60 spots on the rack, which was included in the $120 price.

They also included the 6" wooden ruler, although my youngest did comment that they only sent me half a ruler. If you sew, check out Atlanta Thread. If not, have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Brochet Buerre Blanc

Last night, I wanted my fish prepared differently. I didn't know exactly what that meant, other than different. So, I hauled out an old Bon Appetit cookbook I bought at one of the spring book sales, started reading, and found this. The recipe calls for a whole pike, which I didn't have. I'm a New England girl. I'm pretty certain that "pike" is short for "turnpike", as in toll road. So I used a haddock fillet. Still, my dearly beloved liked it, and that's the real test hereabouts.


(Pike in white butter sauce)

2 pound fish
1 finely chopped onion
1 shredded carrot
1 cup white wine
4 cups water
1 tsp thyme
2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 whole cloves

Toss everything except the fish in a wide pot (it doesn't have to be too deep). Bring to a simmer, cook for 45 minutes, turn off, and let cool. Add the fish and poach for about 25 minutes just below the boiling point.
When the fish is done, serve immediately with the white butter sauce:

Buerre Blanc (White Butter Sauce)

2 finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup wine vinegar
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
juice of one lemon

Heat the vinegar and shallots; reduce until almost dry. Remove from the heat, and add the butter one piece at a time, beating until foamy. Add the lemon juice, and serve over the fish immediately.

This recipe is supposed to have come from Normandy, I think. I scooped some of the finely chopped veggies from the fish broth and spooned them over top of our fish before adding the Buerre Blanc, and served it with angel hair in olive oil. Truthfully, I feel like the sauce recipe could have been doubled or tripled, or maybe a Bearnaise sauce would have worked as well or better. But as I said, my dearly beloved liked it, and in the end, that's what matters.

By the way, the liquid in which the fish was poached could be strained and frozen for use in a recipe that calls for fish stock. I believe the cookbook called it "court bouillon".

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Garden Dog on Thursday

I guess I fell into a garden theme this week, so today I'll show you my upgrade from garden gnomes:

No bunnies will attack the harvest while Thor's on duty. No mention here of what might happen when he's off duty.

Mastiffs wave their front feet to greet people. Really. He's the third one we've had, and they all wave. That's why his foot is blurry; he's waving to you!

And, of course, Garden Dog has to rest with his littlest boy.

Happy Dogs on Thursday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Side Dishes: Rice and Broccoli

Yes, I know. BORING! Bear with me, please, and remember that my middle name is Boring.

I sent the boys to the garden for kale. I wanted exactly 8 leaves. (Now you're thinking, "Boring, and also odd!")

Having read in my 1930s encyclopedia of cookery that the ribs in the center of the kale leaf are tough, and also that it takes a long time to cook, I cut them out. The piggies loved them, thanks. Then I was ready to try a new grand rice adventure, inspired by risotto. I don't make risotto. I won't stand and stir anything for 25 minutes. There's too much else to do in the last half hour of cooking! But try this if you find some kale wandering around your kitchen; it was pretty good.


2-1/2 cups rice
5 chicken bouillon cubes
5 cups water
1 cup milk

8 kale leaves, center stalks removed, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan

In a large pan, combine the rice, cubes, water, milk, onion and chopped kale. Cook until the water is just about absorbed, about 22 minutes. Grind fresh pepper, or sprinkle pepper, over the top. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top, and stir both in with the cream. Serve a
t once.

See? Not quite such boring rice after all. It tasted pretty good; the kale tasted a lot like cooked spinach. I am sure I'll still need to find something else to do with it.

The broccoli idea came from one of my new cookbooks, but of course I altered it.


1/2 stick butter
1 to 2 tsp minced garlic
1-1/2 pounds broccoli spears
pinch salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, add the salt and pepper, and saute the garlic until tender. Add the broccoli (fresh or frozen, it doesn't matter) and cook over low heat until done, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes.

The original recipe called for 15 cloves of garlic. FIFTEEN? You're kidding, right? And I use the commercially prepared minced garlic, because my dearly beloved can't tolerate very much of it before he breaks out in hives. Sad, because he loves garlic. So, feel free to use fifteen cloves of garlic if that's what floats your boat.

So, there you have it. A couple of somewhat different side dishes to help your dinner offerings!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Garden Tuesday: Individual Progress

Shhh. Don't tell the weather people or they'll spoil it on me. We've had sunshine since Saturday. Lots of wind, but sunshine! Oh happy day!

I thought I'd show some garden progress of my individual plants this week. First up is my spinach. I know the tall blur is a grass. I pulled it out. Is the spinach supposed to look like this? How tall will it get? Here's what I know about spinach: (a) Enter your supermarket. Stay to the left, in the fresh produce aisle. Scan for dark green leaves in a cello bag. That's spinach. It needs to be washed a LOT. (b) After you leave the produce, head for frozen foods. Search for the brick. That's spinach. Cook slowly, and work hard at breaking it up as it cooks. More spinach wisdom is needed, I'm certain.

Mesclun Mix. Sorry, Christo, I won't be sending this, because it doesn't look ugly. You specified that you wanted the ugly mix.

Kale. What is it anyway? I'm not sure, but I planted it. Maybe I'm a bonehead, but I'm optimistic that I can think of something fun and exciting.

Red lettuce. Woo-hoo! It's looking good. Carrots above it, chives to the left, the edges of a tomato plant above the chives. Do you feel like you're playing in the dirt yet?
The boys pulled a couple of test carrots. Small, but fabulously sweet. Do you feel more like you're in the dirt? The boys did, and being boys, loved every second of it.

More mesclun mix. This is so pretty it doesn't even deserve the name, I think.
And I found a perfect way to wash said lettuce. Fill the sink with cool water. Dump in leaves. Stir gently. Fish out one by each. Grubby ugly things get left behind, including a drowned slug; you can see the dirt particles in the water if you look really carefully. But I'm enjoying my salads, even though I still have to buy tomatoes and cukes to put on top of them.

How are your gardens growing?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Frozen Strawberry Squares

Well, it appears that strawberry season is over. No more strawberries and bananas with milk (cream & sugar for my dearly beloved, who has never dieted a day in his life) and walnuts, the last batch of strawberry ice cream is being consumed, and, after 3 tries, I finally got this right.


1 cup flour

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sugar

No, there's no mistake. There are 3 listings for sugar.

To make the crust, melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave, then stir in the flour, walnuts and brown sugar. (Paula, you can use rice flour or ground almonds for your baby). Combine thoroughly, press into a greased 9x13 pan, and bake at 350F for 20 to 22 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

When the crust has cooled, slice the strawberries and mix with 1/4 cup sugar; set aside. As a note, you might wish to puree most of the berries, since the slices can become pretty hard in the freezer, and just keep a few slices for prettiness on the top. Beat the egg whites with 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Beat the cream with the other 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. (If you're not into whipping cream yourself, you can certainly use 2 cups of something like cool whip in place of my cream and sugar.) Carefully fold the cream and egg whites together, then fold in the strawberry slices (or puree). Spread atop the cooled crust, top with some pretty strawberry slices, and freeze for several hours. Cut into squares to serve.

My hubby eagerly ate both of my imperfect trials with my 2 youngest sons, and they are working their way through the last one. This enormous piece you see in my fat little fingers may be the only bit of this which I actually get. It's OK. That's better for my butt.

Gaylen, I was thinking of your strawberry patch when I came up with this one. JB can eat it for a week's worth of desserts, and he'll love it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Calvert 7th Grade Review

Well, I'm only 5 or 6 weeks late in writing this. I'm sure none of you was holding your breath anyway, right? This is the Calvert 7th Grade Academic Curriculum; their Scholastic curriculum uses one or two fewer novels, and some number fewer compositions.

Ryan hates math. That being said, he did wonderfully with 7th Grade Calvert math. They write their own math curriculum, and it's very well organized and comprehensive. One of the things I like is that they have a test to be administered at the beginning of the course to see what the child remembers from previous years. They then offer 10 lessons for review of anything in which he's rusty. Ryan was so proud that he didn't need any of those reviews! This was a great pre-algebra course, introducing equalities and inequalities, variables and formulas. There was plenty of geography, including the Pythagorean Theorem, complementary and supplementary angles, polygons, parallel and perpendicular lines, etc. There was also some statistics, graphing, patterns and number theory, as well as the usual math and plenty of word problems. Right after we finished the course, Ryan took the Algebra I placement test, and aced it! He's excited.

Spelling was the Scott Foresman book. Ryan finds it rather tedious, and I would have preferred it if Calvert had continued using their original spelling course. I've sung this song before, and I'm sure everyone's bored with it.

Reading was an excellent course. Scattered through the course was poetry from the book Classic Poems to Read Aloud. Neither my student nor I was much excited about Poetry. That being said, I suppose it makes him a more well rounded person, and there's a lot of good to be said for exposure to many different literature forms. The first book we read was Kidnapped, followed by Around the World in 80 days. Both of these books are beyond exciting for a 12 year old, especially one whose mother does not allow TV to speak of, and whose computer use is severely limited, to the exclusion of all video games. These two factors give my children very vivid imaginations, a necessary factor in finding the excitement in books (in my opinion). After these two books, we read The Miracle Worker. Ryan expected to dislike this book based on two factors: (a) it is a play, and (b) it's about Helen Keller. He was very pleasantly surprised by the book indeed, and was cheering for Helen and Annie Sullivan at the end! Following that was Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, another book Ryan expected to dislike. He was surprised by this one as well. It's about a black family in the deep south prior to WWII, very well written and riveting. The last book was Anne Frank, and Ryan didn't like it at all. He found it very dull. Truthfully, I understand and don't disagree.

Composition and Grammar are somewhat intertwined, being taught from the same textbook. I found the publisher and ordered a workbook from them, so Ryan wouldn't have to write out the grammar exercises. This may somewhat defeat the purpose, but as parents we must choose our battles. I choose to have the child identify parts of speech by circling them in a workbook rather than copy the sentence and then circle the parts of speech. Another aspect of grammar is diagramming sentences. This is a somewhat tedious chore, but it's invaluable in teaching the child parts of speech. There is a review booklet included which can be used at any time during the course. It goes through everything taught in 6th grade sentence diagramming. We read through it several times, although Ryan declined to use it. Grammar included sentence and paragraph structure, including simple, compound and complex sentences. These lessons were interspersed with the Composition lessons. As a generality, the child wrote one composition every week or two, and had a large project due every 20 lessons (one month). Assignments included narrative and descriptive compositions, letters, book reports, interviewing and a research report. By and large, Ryan enjoyed the assignments - as much as a 12 year old will, at any rate.

Geography was a study of the climate, landforms, vegetation, minerals, demographics and economies of North and South America, Europe and Russia (following the same course covering Asia, Africa and Australia/Pacific Islands last year), along with map reading and an introduction to global issues. There was a lot of information in this course, and we enjoyed it.

History covered the time following the fall of the Roman Empire, and went through the American Revolution. It covered political, social (including religious) and economic changes in the world. There was even a unit on the history of the Muslim religion, an area about which most of us know painfully little. Ryan really likes history, and this course led to some great dinner time conversations with his father and big brothers, who really love the subject. Of course, as I stated in my review of 4th grade, this is a much more in depth course, and quite age appropriate.

Also included was an Art History course covering architecture. It includes everything from early architecture and pyramids to new modern buildings. They cover styles of columns, interior and exterior trim and embellishments, and styles of architecture. The is the third in the Child's History of Art series written by Calvert School, and it is a wonderful enrichment for any child's education (and some of us parental figures can learn something, too!). The course also includes art lessons based on this art history course.

Science used 5 books from the Science Explorer series: From Bacteria to Plants, Animals, Human Biology and Health (remember my rant about the food pyramid?), Motion, Force and Energy, and Sound and Light. As has happened in times past, the Science curriculum spirals into ever more detail. Ryan enjoyed every book except the Human Biology book. Oddly enough, he doesn't like Science about people, but finds it rather boring. Well, I guess we don't have a burgeoning doctor in our midst (for which the college fund is grateful). There were plenty of experiments, and, for the first time, the test service required that some experiment results be turned in with the tests. One thing that I appreciated is that when multiple books are used for a course, the child feels a sense of real accomplishment when he finishes a book and can put it away.

As with 4th grade, Calvert includes online technology lessons for 7th grade. They teach such things as word processing, desktop publishing, networks, use of the internet and hyperlinks.

The lesson manual for 7th grade is written to the student, but I kept it and read the material to my son, except when it was a very long introduction to a new topic or a new book. He didn't like reading the lesson information to himself, and I feel that doing the introductions, and acting as teacher, kept me more "in the loop." I'm sure there are people out there who are happy to hand the manual off to the child, and just ask the discussion questions, but I like to control my environment and my child's education. The lesson manual is a really invaluable tool. Even for someone not trained as a teacher, it gives me the confidence to believe I can teach every single thing in this curriculum to my son. His excellent grades, as given by the Calvert School Advisory Teacher (I pay extra for this service, very happily), prove that I am right. If you have any questions about this, or any Calvert course grades K through 7, leave your email address with your comment, and I'll try to respond. And Paula, I'd love to see you write what you thought of Calvert's 7th grade interactive program!

Calvert 4th Grade Review

Well, we finished school quite a while ago, but with the house being its usual circus, I never did my end of year school summary.

This is my second time through Calvert School's 4th grade homeschool curriculum, and I loved it must as much the second time around. I've been homeschooling this child since Kindergarten, always using Calvert's curriculum, and been nothing but pleased with it. My son is highly intelligent, and has always been considered "too young" for the grade that he's in by the school district. This is why I started teaching him in the first place: his birthday being only 5 days after mine, I knew he could start Kindergarten 2 months before his 5th birthday and do well, but the school district refused to even consider admitting a child who could already add and subtract, and was beginning to sound out words. "He's too young," they said, "He can't possibly do this work."

So here he is, finished with 4th grade 3 months before he "should" start it. Let me tell you about our year.

Mark used Calvert's 5th grade math (remember, he taught himself to add and subtract before he was 4). After reviews of place values, multi digit addition and subtraction, and other such concepts, he learned multiplying 3 digit numbers by 1, 2 and 3 digit numbers, longer division, areas, perimeters, graphing, and rudimentary statistics. It is a well organized program, and the separate math manual tells me, the parent, exactly how to explain each thing to the child. The answer keys do not show how to arrive at the answers; they simply give the correct answers. I don't feel that the steps are necessary. If Mark didn't understand something, we would work it out together on a white board (which is obviously more fun than paper) and get the right answer, then let him work similar problems until he had the process down. My biggest problem with this child is that he doesn't want to write down all of his steps, because he can do so much in his head. Well, September starts another year in which I can try to beat him into writing his steps down...

Other than Math, we used the 4th grade curriculum. I understand that Calvert is offering a somewhat simpler 4th grade curriculum next year, the Scholastic curriculum, in addition to the Academic Curriculum, which is what we used. This is a lot of work, but the kids do learn much more than one would think possible, and much more than I would have thought I could teach!

Spelling is the Scott-Foresman 4th grade book. I was not a fan when Calvert changed from their original spelling program to this a couple of years back, and haven't changed my mind, but there were a number of parents who were happy that their chlidren would no longer have to learn 40 words per week. This is a standard spelling book; nothing more needs be said.

Reading is a wonderful program. The kids read novels written for their age group. We started with Robinson Crusoe, then proceeded to Mighty Men and Famous Legends (both produced by Calvert School), and finished with Island of the Blue Dolphins. My son expected not to like Island of the Blue Dolphins (his brother had held the same expectation), and very much enjoyed it. The lesson manual presents discussion questions which query the child's memory of the events of the chapter, and also questions which cause the child to think about what he read, and conclude why something happened, or what might be in the future. There is also a phonics workbook (which is optional), which helps with both reading and spelling if the child has trouble in either area. Finally, a Critical Thinking workbook helps develop the child's analytic thinking process. A separate collection of poetry was assigned periodically, although there wasn't any formal analysis of it. We enjoyed the reading greatly.

Grammar is taught via a Calvert developed workbook. It introduces nouns, pronouns, verbs, including verbs of being, verb tense, regular and irregular verbs. The book also covers pronouns, including subject and object pronouns (no, you may not say "Ben and me are going to the beach," and you also may not say "Give the money to Ben and I.") Adverbs, adjectives and subject complements round out the course. Blech, I know. I love grammar. I'm nuts.

Composition is a biggie in Calvert. They teach the planning stages, as well as refining compositions. The assignments included compositions about self, factual compositions, fiction and letters. One assignment I vividly remember was where the child was supposed to write about a famous person he'd like to meet and what they'd do. My son invited Thomas Jefferson to dinner. Yes, the dead president. If I can remember, I'll find that and reproduce it for you one of these days; it was humorous. They also had to write letters to someone about a real thing; it could be something about their town, or even a suggestion to a toy company about something they'd like. My son griped about creating planners or outlines, because he likes to write out of his head, but he did enjoy most of the assignments.

History uses the book "A Child's History of the World". This is an excellent book. It presents the basics of history from cave men to present, in a story format, which children can read and enjoy. I've seen people on the Calvert School forum complain that there isn't enough detail to the course, but, let's face it, 4th graders are 9 years old. Are we really trying to give them all the details of everything that ever happened? They'd be overwhelmed. Give them a nice overview, and they'll find topics about which they want to read more. And they will certainly learn more in the next few years with Calvert. For me, this course is an excellent introduction to the history of the world. It also came with a workbook which contains an outline of each story, and the child has to fill in key words in the outline. This was a great refresher, and it also is a nice introduction to outlining.

Geography was an introduction to the art of map reading. Now, I know that map reading is rapidly becoming a lost art, with Mapquest and GPS units in most cars (but not mine), but I think it's important. This course taught latitude and longitude, continents, oceans, distances from a map scale, using a map key, and geographic regions. It's a little dull at times, but what isn't? And you really can't understand your world or history without an understanding of geography.

Science uses the McGraw Hill textbook, which has input from National Geographic. It's a nice, colorful text, well written. I find that each year of Science is pretty much the same as the previous, but more in depth. We start with plants, and this year learned about plant cells. We also learned about animal cells, vertebrates and invertebrates, and classifying living organisms. Simple machines, motion, magentism, rocks and fossils, and the human body were other units. While Ryan loves Science, my little guy really doesn't. Overall, however, this is a good course, and he learned a great deal, albeit reluctantly.

Calvert also includes an online technology course. It's really child friendly, and touches on everything from typing to internet to word processing.

If you have any questions, please ask them. If you leave your email address when you sign in, I'll give you a personal answer to any of your questions. I am looking forward to 5th grade with Mark, in a couple of months, when we've had time to enjoy our summer, of course. I'll post about 7th grade shortly.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Kung Pow Chicken

Yes, I know it isn't spelled right. I didn't follow the directions, and largely ignored the recipe anyway. So, this isn't truly Kung Pao Chicken. But the name is so much fun that I knew my boys would want to run around bellowing "Kung Pow!" And they did. Especially the one who's 24 going on 5.


5 Pounds boneless, skinless chicken
salt and pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp chili powder

Pan drippings
1 cup cold water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup cold water with 3 tbsp cornstarch whisked in

3 minced green onions (green and white parts)
1 grated carrot

2 cans sliced water chestnuts

Arrange the chicken in a large baking dish; sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices. Bake at 350 for about an hour, or until done, turning once.

Remove the chicken from the oven. Pour the pan drippings into a sauce pan, add the cup of water and bouillon cubes, and bring to a boil on the stove. Add the soy sauce, then whisk in the water/cornstarch combination. Heat until the sauce thickens and turns bubbly, stirring as needed. Meanwhile, arrange the veggies over the chicken. When the sauce is ready, pour it over the chicken, and return it to the oven for about 15 minutes, or until your rice is done. Serves my household (which was 9 last night).

Of course, I don't have a pretty picture on the plate, because the fool camera batteries decided to take a small vacation after the first picture was taken. I hate rechargeable batteries!

Anyway, just holler "Kung Pow Chicken!" especially if there are boys in the house. They ought not enjoy the name of food nearly this much!