Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

This recipe was in the cookbook that came with Daniel’s grandmother’s food processor, decades ago.  Daniel and I bought a used food processor shortly after we began living together 19 years ago, and when his grandmother heard about this, she insisted that we look through her recipes and copy some we’d like to try.  Next to this one, she had written, “DANIEL’S FAVORITE!!!!”  She was a very enthusiastic person, so Daniel’s first response to hearing about this was that he must have said he kind of liked this cake one time.  However, when I made it, he found that he really does like it a lot.

Now it’s his traditional birthday cake that I bake every February.  I try to make it the night before so that we can start eating it for birthday breakfast, because it is a coffee cake–it’s not super-duper-sweet, being almost half fruit, so it’s good for breakfast as well as dessert.  We’ve also made it in the summer when we find a good price on blueberries.

The original recipe called for white flour only.  We’ve tried substituting whole wheat flour for one-third of it, and that makes a healthier cake without any noticeable difference in taste or texture, so that’s how I’ve written the recipe.

I’ve never tried to make it without using the food processor, but I’m sure you could–just chop the nuts finely before you start mixing, and mix the batter in a bowl with a rubber scraper.

To make one 8″ square cake, you will need: Read more of this post

Two Affordable GMO-Free Cereals

I don’t trust genetically modified food to be safe for our health or environment.  About five years ago, I realized that several of our favorite breakfast cereals contained corn, and I’d been reading that most corn grown in the United States that isn’t organically grown is now GMO.  We gave up buying those cereals routinely…but it was hard to resist the best sales!  We love eating cereal, and the mainstream brands are inexpensive, especially on sale, whereas the organic brands are priced so much higher that we’re rarely willing to pay for them (except for this delicious, low-sugar granola from Costco).  We wound up getting most of our cereals from Trader Joe’s, where all house-brand products are GMO-free and the prices aren’t too bad.

Did you know that Cheerios contain corn?  You probably think that’s an oat cereal.  But if you compare Cheerios to most of the store-brand imitators, the flavor is a bit different: The generic ones taste more plain, while Cheerios have a particular roasty-toastiness.  The difference in ingredients is that Cheerios contain a small amount of corn.  Therefore, no more Cheerios for my family.

We were still buying Post Grape Nuts, though.  No corn in those!  But one day I noticed that the box said, “Now with more protein!” and read the ingredients for the first time in years: They now contained soy protein.  Most non-organic soybeans grown in the United States are now GMO, too.  Sigh.  No more Grape Nuts.

Then, one wonderful day last year, I noticed a sign above the enormous pile of yellow boxes that were on special at Costco: GMO-free Cheerios.  Really?!  I examined the box excitedly but saw nothing there about GMOs one way or another.  Warily, I bought one of the big double packs at the bargain price, and when I got home I searched for information online.  I learned that General Mills decided to put in a little effort to use non-GMO corn and sugar in original flavor Cheerios because the recipe is so simple (compared to flavored Cheerios) that this was easy to do.  Hooray!

Not long afterward, I was craving Grape Nuts, saw them on sale, and noticed the Non-GMO Project logo on the box!  Right next to it was a circle saying Soy Free, and sure enough, isolated soy protein is no longer in the ingredient list.  Post took the soy out of Grape Nuts to make them GMO-free to appeal to certain target markets–like me!

I’m so glad that my family can have convenient snacks of affordable Cheerios and Grape Nuts again!  Our nine-month-old daughter can practice her pincer grip on crunchy little circles without being exposed to weird untested ingredients, and when she accidentally scatters some of them on the floor I don’t freak out about wasting expensive food.  (I do eat Cheerios that have been on the floor, sometimes….)

I know that some of the most serious healthy eaters these days won’t eat any ready-made packaged cereals or won’t eat any grain foods at all.  I’ve heard the arguments against them–but I feel that my family is thriving on grains as a part of our diet, and some of the simpler and less sweetened cereals are some of the grain foods we eat.  It’s great that some of the major brands are responding to consumer pressure to sell foods free of GMOs.

These two nutritious cereals that I’ve been enjoying since childhood work for me now that they are GMO-free!  Visit Real Food Friday for more articles on healthy eating!  Visit the Hearth & Soul Hop for more great food ideas!

Get Up and Eat: 3 Years of Replenishment

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Three years ago on Ash Wednesday, I wrote this article about the renewal we can experience during Lent.  I had no idea what was coming my way!

You may have heard of the idea of choosing one word as a theme for your year.  You’re supposed to place this word around your home or on a bracelet, where you’ll see it regularly and be reminded of your intention, and it will inspire you and serve as a guiding principle.  Maybe you make some collages or something based on your word, for further inspiration.  Maybe you use it like a mantra for meditation.  Some people tell stories of amazing growth that resulted from this simple choice.

It sounds like a fine idea, and in January of 2012, when several bloggers I read were writing about what word each of them chose, I found that a particular word came into my mind as a goal for my own life.  The word was replenishment.

Almost a year earlier, during my church vestry retreat, I’d thought of replenishment as the one word that best expressed what I wanted for my church: We were worn out from years of struggle, and many people had left, so we were down to a small core of mostly old-ish people working really hard to keep our parish going.  I prayed for replenishment of our individual souls and strengths to keep us working toward the replenishment of our parish with new people and new energy.  It’s working!!  Our church is growing and getting really wonderful now!

But as 2012 dawned, I realized that I could use some replenishment myself.  Not only was I working really hard on the vestry, but I was still working my way out of being a migraineur, which is a deceptively elegant word for “chronic horrible headache victim” or, at least in my case, “person with a massively fucked-up tendency to allow her brain to malfunction and get some kind of bizarre power trip out of it.”  My New Year’s resolution for 2010 had been to battle the headaches from every possible direction, and that really helped: I went from having about four headaches per week to more like two per month!  But that battle had worn me down, what with various lifestyle changes and medical appointments and facing stuff in therapy and attempting to ask for what I need, so although I was suffering less pain, I was very depleted and had this awful sense of being so busy all the time yet never getting everything done.

So: 2012, my year of replenishment!  I didn’t write the word everywhere or make a collage, but I prayed about it a lot and, when faced with choices about what to do, considered what would be the most replenishing choice.  It was going pretty well for the first couple months, and then it was time for Lent, and I decided that I would fast from the idea, “I don’t have time to get things done.”  Well, guess how that turned out? Read more…

What I Read Recently: Adult, Tween, Baby, and Architecture Books

I’ve only read two books to myself in the past month, but I’ve been reading to both of my kids, too, and looking at some floor-plan books, so here are two book reviews in each category.

Books I read to myself:

  • The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards begins during a snowstorm in 1964, when Norah and David’s child is about to be born.  They can’t get to the hospital, but luckily David is a doctor, and his nurse Caroline is able to meet them at the clinic and administer anesthetic that makes Norah semi-conscious during the birth (as was the style at the time).  Baby Paul is perfect, but he’s followed by a twin sister whom David immediately recognizes as having Down Syndrome.  He directs Caroline to take the baby girl to an institution, and then he tells Norah that their daughter died at birth.  He wants to spare his family the pain of raising a disabled child, but Norah is devastated by the loss, and it affects their family life forever.  Meanwhile, Caroline finds the institution unbearable and decides to move to another city and raise Phoebe (giving her the name Norah had said she would give her daughter) as her own child.  The plot then unfolds over 25 years.  This is my favorite kind of book, about people who seem very real getting into interesting situations and having feelings that make sense even if you, the reader, would react differently.  Almost every moment has a vivid clarity.  I also love the depiction of Pittsburgh, where Caroline raises Phoebe, because that’s where I live and I’m familiar with their neighborhood and the other places they go.  This book was just as good the second time around as when I first read it several years ago, but I’m glad I waited to reread it until my own daughter was safely born–stories of birth defects and complications are not ideal pregnancy reading!
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  Just when I think nothing new can be done with the structure of novels, something like this comes along!  Ursula is born in 1910 and dies without taking a breath.  Ursula is born in 1910 and drowns at the seashore when she’s five years old.  Ursula is born in 1910, has a terrible feeling of foreboding at the seashore when she’s five years old, and then at age eight ventures onto the icy roof, after her brother throws her doll out the attic window, and falls to her death.  Ursula is born in 1910 and at age eight hides her doll under the pillow, but then she catches the Spanish flu….  It’s like a time-travel story, except it’s always the same stretch of time; what matters is what she does with it and what else happens, the effects of the proverbial butterfly fluttering its wings.  WARNINGS: Some of Ursula’s lives are pretty grim, even graphically horrifying.  The nature of the story is going to force you to think about all the ways a little girl could die.  But if you can handle it, this is a fascinating book!  I especially like the points when the cumulative effects of Ursula’s multiple lives come almost to the surface of her consciousness–which in some of the timestreams gets her sent to a psychoanalyst who is hilariously clueless about how to talk to a child!

Read more…

How to Get Kids to Behave in Church

Welcome to the February 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Do It Yourself

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of
Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code
Name: Mama
. This month our participants are teaching us how to make
something useful or try something new.

***

By the time my first child was born, I’d been attending a small, liberal Episcopal church in my neighborhood for eight years.  Church is very meaningful to me, so I wanted to continue going, but how would I manage with a needy little baby who would become a wiggly toddler and then a child with his own ideas? Nicholas is ten years old now and has a baby sister, Lydia, and I’m able to manage both of them pretty well while still soaking up church myself.  I’ve learned a lot along the way!

I’m saying “church” but many of these tips would apply to other religions’ worship, and many of these strategies for church behavior also apply to any situation where we need to sit still and listen, like performances and meetings.  I’ve put them approximately in the order that you can start using them, beginning with things that work from birth–so if you have an older child and you’re just now trying to get back to church, skim along until you see something that seems feasible for your child now.  Read more…

A Robot’s Cookbook, Chapter 1

I decided that this text requires its own post to really do it justice.  It started as an extremely lengthy spam email received by my ten-year-old Nicholas, who immediately turned it into a bizarre modern entertainment experience by having the computer read it aloud.  Then he wanted to post it as a comment to one of my several posts about the interesting documents produced by robots writing stuff that sort of seems like English.  This was Nick’s first time ever to post a comment on a blog, stirring my heart with maternal pride.  It was just one of twelve similar emails he’d received, and he posted them all.

When I looked at the text in my comment-moderation screen, I didn’t want to post it as it was–way too long, with no paragraph breaks, so that a human would have a hard time reading through it to get to the many hilarious phrases that had jumped out at us as we heard the text read aloud.  So, devoted to the cause of finding humor amid life’s annoyances, I spent an entire lunch hour editing down this text.  Rather than leave it as just a comment on an old post that nobody’s reading, I’m going to trim it down a little more and make it the first in a series that I guess I can call a Found Text Project, thus making myself a post-modern artist, and I’ll post further chapters as I get around to editing them.

Not one word has been added or rearranged.  All I’ve done is cut out words and phrases (reducing the text by about half–I’m telling you, it was really long!) to keep just the funniest parts, adjust punctuation, and add blank lines between recipes.

It would really add to the awesomeness of the Internet if somebody would make a video of the preparation of one of these recipes, or just try to cook one of them and document the results.

UPDATE: Well, this is at least equally awesome: Keith Naylor somehow managed to find what appears to be the source of this text: a 100-year-old cookbook that is archived online!!  Check it out–although far less garbled, it is almost as amusing.  Wow.

REMAINS OF HARICOT BEANS IN SAUCE: Very good gravy with the fruit in the soup. Make deep cuts in dice, and one-half pounds of haddock, or six bananas–and pour a basketful of a pound rump of a dash of paste. Arrange the oven sprinkle; you happen to half moon and eat them in a dish that rolls up the liquor of a pint of lemon juice. Add one separately, and a pint of red enough. Brown an egg and turnips and pour over the oven. Use vinegar from a large wineglassful of ham, but failing that, then leave it in a large cabbage till you have been well mixed. Take your husband telephones that can do this. Read more…

Things Not to Do: Ingredient Chopping Edition

There will be no gory photos in this story.  Although many things went wrong, cutting myself was not one of them.

Don’t buy a cheap “as seen on TV” food chopper like the Vidalia Chop Wizard.  If you did, don’t try to use it to cut a bunch of different foods that might not work.  If you are doing that, don’t use the fine-dicing grid; use the bigger one that is less likely to get jammed up.  If you must do this sort of experimentation, don’t do it when you don’t really have time for dinner to go spectacularly wrong and be delayed more than an hour while the whole family gets mad at you.  Also, don’t do it when you already have a cut on your thumb from last week’s bagel-slicing mishap, because raw onion juice will sting, and the Band-aid will not protect you but will actually make it worse by holding the onion juice right there in the cut with that nice absorbent pad.

I made all of these mistakes on Sunday–except for buying the chopper in the first place, which I did a little over a year ago; it worked pretty well on onions, at first–and the whole mess resulted from one main Thing Not to Do: Don’t give up on using the kitchen tool that is really appropriate for the job because the baby is sleeping in the dining room.  Move the baby to another room, or take the risk that the baby will wake up and need to be held by Daddy for a while but will then go to sleep for the night at a reasonable hour.  If baby’s sleep is really so precious at this time that you can’t bear the possibility of disrupting this nap, change your dinner plan to something that doesn’t require chopping.  Just, please, don’t put yourself through what I did! Read more of this post

Oh, all right. But they didn’t Book my Face!

More than three years ago, I explained why I was boycotting Facebook.  Yesterday, I joined Facebook.  My intention was to join as The Earthling’s Handbook, but Facebook immediately responded, “You have to join with your real name!  I’m the only book allowed here!” so I joined with my own name but used The Earthling’s Handbook icon as my picture.  I did not give Facebook my face.

Why not?  Everyone else is doing it! Read more of this post