Fredagsmys: Cozy Friday & 21 Ways to Get Cozy

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(Ok, so it hasn’t actually snowed here yet, as the photo above might suggest. But we have had a few flurries, and a real snow isn’t too far away. Also, we are moving. Tomorrow. Today was insane. Every single thing is in boxes and John and some of his buddies already took more than half of our stuff over to the new place. I wrote this a couple of afternoons ago when I should have been packing but obviously wasn’t because it was too intimidating to start. And then I figured I’d save it and post it on a Friday. So. ) Anyway, recently I read about the notion of Fredagsmys in this blog post from A Cup of Jo about parenting in Sweden.  The word basically means “Cozy Friday,” and it pretty much captures my feelings about Friday nights.  I just didn’t think there was a good word, let alone an entire cultural phenomenon, that celebrated it. So, as far as I can tell, in Sweden people curl up with lots of potato chips (ok, a little weird, but ok), huddle under blankets, watch movies, and just spend quality time with the fam. Amazing. We’re not at a movie-watching point in our kids’ lives quite yet, but we are all about getting cozy on Fridays. We sometimes make a pizza all together (Will is obsessed with cutting things with his little knife, plus I think there must have been a Daniel Tiger episode about making pizzas, because he knows ALL ABOUT IT), and sometimes pancakes or waffles. Or something else easy and cozy. Now that the days are getting shorter and the weather colder we are going to do it up for Fredagsmys. Some ideas for getting cozy on Fridays:

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DSC_03511. Do a super fast pick-up with the kids late in the afternoon to get ready

2. put Christmas music on (or this album). or whatever music makes you happy.

3. Put on pjs and a robe and slippers or thick wool socks

4. If you have a fireplace, make a fire!

5. Or if not light as many candles as possible

6. turn off and put away all the phones/ipods/ipads/computers/devices (for real)

7. Invite friends over and order cheap pizza

8. Or get some pizza dough from trader joes and cook your own

9. Or make a big pot of chili or soup earlier in the day to have ready for dinner

10. Use paper plates, bowls, etc.!

11. Make a big pile of all the pillows and blankets you can find and curl up with the kids and read

12. Make hot chocolate for everyone

13. Or cider and drink it through cinnamon sticks like straws

14. Or some good hot herbal tea in special mugs

15. Bake cinnamon rolls (from the can, obviously– Cozy Friday is all about No Dishes)

16. Play board games!

17. Family camp out in sleeping bags in the living room (or wherever)

18. Family read-aloud of whatever awesome book you’re reading

19. Watch a movie or show (we try to not watch much during the week so Friday is our night to binge on episodes of the West Wing or Chefs Table)

20. Pancakes for dinner (with sausage or eggs)

21. make popcorn on the stove. (it’s easy, I promise) or in the microwave. or over a fire pit. or whatever. sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast. or check out these 30 awesome toppings.

Happy Cozy Friday, y’all! (And if anyone has other good ideas for making Friday nights cozy and special I’d love to hear! read here for more about a similar concept in Denmark: Hygge)

Simple Supper for Cooler Nights

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We haven’t used our oven all summer.  Maybe once, on accident, early in the summer, when I forgot that using our oven=a 95 degree kitchen.  But the nights have been getting cooler– it was 45 the other morning when we woke up– and so last night I decided to roast up a bunch of our CSA gems.  I roughly chopped potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli, put them on two separate baking sheets (the potatoes needed a bit longer to cook), gave them a dollop of lard (leaf lard that I, a mother of two, personally rendered, no big deal) & a generous sprinkle of salt. I sprinkled garlic powder on the potatoes when they came out.

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We ate them right off the pans with some quickly stirred together mayo+mustard+honey (delicious, creamy, honey mustard sauce in an instant!). And that was dinner.  You could fry an egg or make some cheese toast if you wanted a little more protein, but we didn’t and all lived to see another day.  And Will loves dipping things into any kind of sauce, so he loved it. (Inspired by this wonderful book, I’ve been trying to make vegetables the backbone of our meals these days. Doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s good.)

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Good & Cheap: Amazing Cookbook for Small Budgets

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I ran across a blog post this week by a woman who feeds her family of 7 for $300/month.  So theoretically, I could be feeding my family of 3 for $150/month.  That is definitely not happening any time soon, but I am always trying to find ways to reduce our grocery budget. In her post she mentioned a cookbook by Leanne Brown called Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day. ($4/person, per day is about what is allotted under the SNAP program, i.e., food stamps.) You can download this gorgeous book for free! Free, I say! On Leanne Brown’s website, here.  It is gorgeous, and I love her food philosophy so far: buy good quality eggs, even if you are poor; eat much less meat and many more vegetables & beans.  And use lots of spices and make things taste good! Yes! And the pictures are gorgeous (did I mention that?). She includes lots of Asian-inspired dishes, a Filipino Chicken Adobo that looks incredible, and things like cornmeal crusted veggies, Mexican street corn, smoky and spicy roasted cauliflower, and six variations on oatmeal. Anyway, this is a beautiful book, which you can also pre-order on Amazon, here. (The first edition has sold out, and the 2nd ed. is going to be released in July.)

For the Weekend: Venison Beer Chili

DSC_1289 DSC_1304 John made quite a bit of ground venison out of the deer he shot this fall (with a bow, at 54 yards, not in a tree stand), and it is my favorite.  Other than the venison he cans with our friend the surgeon, who also hunts (to his wife’s mild dismay). But the canned venison is a story for another day. Anyway, we don’t have any plans for the Super Bowl, but I do love football weekend food, so I decided to make a big pot of chili for our weekend stew. I don’t have a recipe for you (I more or less followed the Red Meat Chili recipe in nourishing traditions but added a small can of tomato paste and used a can of cheap beer instead of the red wine).  We ate it today, we’ll have it for lunch tomorrow, and then tomorrow night… I will make chili cheese nachos out of whatever is left! So it will be pretty much exactly what we will have eaten for the previous three meals, but in nacho form, which means it will be awesome.DSC_1296 Also, when I went to the grocery this morning it was 10 degrees outside.  Anyway, hope you all are staying warm and enjoying some good, satisfying comfort food this weekend!

Some Things About Winter & Normal Days

It’s still freezing cold here.  Lots of mornings in the single digits.  And general misery of that nature. This is our week (below).  And all the weeks from now until halfway through April. I know no one wants to hear anyone else complain about the weather, and a lot of you probably also live in cold places, but my poor little southern self still cannot get over this (and this is not a particularly bad example, this is just literally the normal weather for this week):

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Anyway. We eat a lot of potatoes in the winter because it just seems like the right thing to do, and they’re cheap.  It’s the only produce that I buy organic anymore, but I do think for potatoes organic is important.  Someone once told me that farmers of conventional potatoes won’t eat the ones they grow because of all the poison they know is on them.

One of my favorite things to do with them is to make a Spanish tortilla, which is kind of like a frittata but with onions and potatoes, and both of those cooked up nice and soft in heaps of olive oil, and then baked with the eggs poured over.  Here’s a picture of the potatoes and onions in the first stage of cooking, in the olive oil.  I’ve started adding several teaspoons of paprika to the potatoes and onions as they cook, and it just tastes like perfection. This is just as good like this as it is baked with eggs in a dish.  Either way, super warming and filling and rich and delightful for cold winter days.

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And then here are some pictures of Will recently.  He’s in this fun stage of saying new words almost every day: cheese, juice (by which he means elderberry syrup diluted with water; I don’t actually let him drink juice), baby, oink, uh-oh.  And doing puzzles like a champ, and helping put his toys away (even starting to put them back on the right shelf where they go).  And building with Duplos forever on his own. And also throwing some crazy tantrums and being really strong-willed and obstinate and all of that. But mostly being delightful and darling.

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But the tantrums and toddler craziness and the dishes and the coats and mittens and hats and the absolute cold (with no end in sight) have been tempting me to hate these days and wish them away.  But I read this the other day on this blog and I thought it was so beautiful:

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― poem by Mary Jean Irion

That just stabs me right in the heart.  These days are so precious, and my little baby is getting big and independent so very fast and these days of little smudgy fingers holding mine and snuggling in my lap and the little kisses on my mouth, these days will not last long.  I want to treasure them and savor them and not wish them away for warmer days.

We finally took our Christmas tree down.  I never posted any of the videos of Will and his Christmas tree joy, but for the first 2 weeks we had our tree up, Will would run into the living room first thing in the morning, gasping and laughing with joy when he saw the tree.  He would do happy dances and twirl around.  He loved that tree.  Now, ever since we took the tree down he points to where it was and then to the front door (where he knows it went) and makes the sign for “all gone” and then waves bye bye and makes a sort of anguished, concerned sound while doing these gestures.  It is heartbreaking. And precious.

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Moroccan Stew for the Weekend

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I almost always make a big pot of stew or soup of some kind on Saturday morning, enough to last us for lunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday.  Fortunately John doesn’t mind having the same thing a few meals in a row.

I forget if I’ve written about this here– I don’t think I have– but John shot a deer this fall! With a bow and arrow! At 54 yards, no tree stand.  Kind of a big deal, I’m just saying. And that means a freezer full of venison for us!  He ground a fair amount of it, which is my favorite to use for cooking, and he’s also canned some of it with a friend of his (which sounds really odd but it turns the meat completely tender and then it’s the easiest thing to just toss into whatever you’re cooking).

Anyway, this morning I made a Moroccan stew with some of the venison, loosely based on this recipe from the Splendid Table’s website.  I say “loosely based” because I really only used the proportion of spices from the recipe and otherwise used what I had on hand (venison instead of chicken, plus lots of freshly cooked chickpeas.  I skipped the almonds but added the zest and juice of a whole lemon. I added green beans and about a cup of dried apricots and prunes.)  See here for another similar recipe, if you’re interested.  And here’s a vegetarian version if you want to use chickpeas instead of meat.

It was 8 degrees this morning, so it was nice to be standing near the hot stove preparing this, and it felt good to use heaping teaspoons of ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and cumin and let those spices melt together and fill the house with warmth.

This turned out a little meatier than I probably would have preferred (I probably used about 3 pounds of venison and would have been happier with 1, but I’ll just try to remember that for next time around.) I’m going to make a pot of rice to pour this over, and then we’ll be set until Monday.  With a lot of chickpeas and just a little bit of meat (ground lamb would be easy and really perfect for this), this is an incredibly economical and filling meal for wintertime.  And if any of you have any ideas for good filling stews please let me know! I have been rotating through the same 2 or 3 lately and could use some fresh inspiration!

Almond Flax Pancakes with Wild Blueberries

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It’s still blindingly cold here. Cold air pours through our floors and walls.  Now, instead of thinking about buying rugs and insulating our basement, I just think about making John quit his job and letting us all move to Arizona.  It was negative 8 or 9 when we woke up this morning.  I still managed to get Will bundled up and out the door for a free music class downtown, which, for my little Tennessee self, was a feat that bordered on the heroic and insane.  In order to qualify for free parking in the downtown parking garage I decided to buy a cup of coffee at a little shop right across from where the music class was (it was either that, or pay $2 for parking, so I decided a cup of coffee with a stamped receipt was a better use of $2).  And I ordered my coffee and was about to pay, and the guy at the register told me it was on the house!!!! I was completely floored and overjoyed.  Trying to savor the beautiful, small moments in the midst of the paralyzing and soul-crushing cold weather.

So this is a variation of my almond meal pancakes, which you can read about here.  This version also has flax and hemp, for a little variety in texture and some extra protein and fiber.  I’ve been buying frozen wild blueberries lately– they’re smaller than the “regular” blueberries you usually see, but wild blueberries apparently have almost twice the amount of antioxidant goodness as non-wild blueberries.  Interesting, huh?

I’ve been eating these, smothered with butter and blueberries, which add enough sweetness that I can live without syrup (although a little maple syrup wouldn’t hurt at all).

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Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, can be a little expensive, but they are packed with nutrition.  Just 3 tablespoons contains 10 grams of protein, 20% RDV iron, 20% zinc, 45% magnesium, and 3 grams of fiber (with only 3 g. total carbohydrates).  I bought a big 5 pound bag from the brand Manitoba Harvest, because it was much cheaper per pound than buying it in small quantities. I usually throw a few tablespoons in smoothies (I make one similar to this, minus the dates, plus 2 T of peanut butter), or toss some in the morning porridge.

One note about the pictures/recipe– for the pancakes in these pictures, I put blueberries right in the batter, but the berries ended up burning a bit as they were cooking, so the recipe says to just make the pancakes without the berries, and then add berries at the end.

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Almond Flax Pancakes with Wild Blueberries

1/2 c. almond meal
1/4 c. ground hemp hearts (aka hulled hemp seeds)
1/4 c. flax meal
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs
1/4 c. water
2 T. oil or melted butter (plus more to add to the pan for cooking)
1/2 t. vanilla extract (optional)

wild blueberries, thawed (or fresh, if they’re in season)

1. Mix dry ingredients, and then add remaining ingredients (except for blueberries) and stir until well-blended.  If you want to be really fastidious you can beat the eggs separately before adding them, but I just mix everything together in one bowl.

2.  Heat butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add batter, about 1/4 cup at a time.  Cook 2-3 minutes on each side.  Caution:  These do not form little bubbles like regular pancakes do to test for doneness, so you just have to watch them closely and use a little intuition to tell when to flip them.

3.  Top with butter and a mound of blueberries.  And real maple syrup (which you can buy the most cheaply at Aldi’s if you have one close by!).

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