Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Nice-Weather Stories

This is so unlike southwest ND this time of year: it's the middle of the day in early August, and we've got the air conditioning turned off and the windows open to let in the breeze! Usually it's hot enough outside that we have all the windows closed, the air conditioning on, and the curtains drawn to combat the blazing sun's tireless efforts to heat up the house. Not so last week or this. It's very comfortable in the house right now and so wonderful to have the fresh air blowing in and to hear the sound of the trees' swaying in the wind, the neighbor cat's meowing outside, the chimes' gongs from the veranda, etc. The temperature has been dropping enough at night that it has actually been chilly in the house when we get up in the morning! Good weather seems like such a simple thing, but I'm grateful for it just the same.

Speaking of open windows, Hillary wasn't a fan of them this morning. At the risk of embarrassing her a tiny bit, I just have to share a couple cute things that she said today. I was away at the office, but Susan reported that Hillary had been sent to her room this morning to calm down after an incident, yet Susan could hear that Hillary was only getting angrier. Susan heard, "You're being ludicrous!" and went into Hillary's room to find out at whom Hillary was shouting! Turns out it was her blinds. Hillary wanted some privacy, so she was trying to shut her windows and blinds but couldn't. "They won't shut!" she told Susan, who replied, "Nor should they," thinking the windows should remain open so long as the incoming breeze was still so nice and cool. Hillary threw herself onto her bed, scrunched (Susan's word) herself into a tight ball, and said, "I can't be seen like this!" While I'm sympathetic to Hillary's desire not to have the entire neighborhood hear her crying, I can't help but smile at her dramatic reaction to the situation (and her choice of vocabulary)!

The weather was lovely, too, Sunday evening as we all gathered on the veranda for supper prepared by Suzanna (and me). Lately she has been volunteering to cook for the family (remember?), and she is doing a terrific job, albeit with the assistance of one or the other parent each time. Suzanna consulted a cookbook from one of her aunts (who have given the girls several books with kid-friendly and easy recipes for children-as-chefs) and found a main dish and a dessert that she wanted to make. The main dish was a baked pasta that sounded a whole lot like my mom's standard hot dish recipe (fried hamburger, macaroni, vegetable, soup), only covered in cheese and baked in the oven. Therefore, we decided to ditch the recipe and just make hot dish à la Mom--well, with our own twists.

Mom always started by frying ground beef with onions, salt, and pepper. Then she would add cooked elbow macaroni and whatever else she happened to have in the pantry: often a can of soup and some tomato paste or sauce (unless she was using cream-of-something soup), seasonings to match, and canned or frozen vegetables (corn, peas, or mixed vegetables). Instead of making standard elbow macaroni, Suzanna boiled whole-wheat noodles while I fried hamburger with chopped onions and shallots with ground pepper, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. To the ground beef, we added canned tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato soup, chili powder, mustard powder, brown sugar, Heinz 57 sauce, Tabasco sauce, chili pepper paste, and perhaps other things as well--I can't remember. Then we added canned corn and the cooked noodles and voilà! It was decidedly more over-the-top than Mom's hot dish, but it was definitely inspired by her--and Suzanna liked getting to decide just what to add. When we dished up the hot dish, we sprinkled each portion with grated Parmesan cheese and served it with garlic toast and dill pickles.

For the dessert, we followed the kids' cookbook's recipe called "Edible Aquarium." We made blue Jell-O and poured it into glasses, dropping Swedish Fish candies into and onto the gelatin. Everybody received his or her own aquarium filled with chewy fish for a fun treat to follow supper! (And because it was Ice Cream Sunday in our house, we had bowls of ice cream as a snack while watching Merlin on TV later on.)

P.S. For Mediterranean Monday last night, Susan made Rachael Ray's turkey spanakopita burgers and served them with garlic and basil whole-wheat couscous. Wow, was that ever delicious. As Rachael would say, "Yum-O!"


  1. Delicious meal, Suzanna & Kevin! Thank you, thank you, thank you :-)

  2. Hillary is too funny! Did she lisp when she said "ludicrous"?

    I love the blue jello! (and the fish!)

    I'll make my version of Mom's hotdish next time we're together! I actually made it for Dad and Beverly last trip home.