Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Third Month

Here we are, almost three months after everything started shutting down due to COVID-19. At this point, some places are starting to open back up, but not like they used to be, so things definitely aren’t back to normal. I’m especially feeling that lack of normal, as I’m still only going grocery shopping once every two weeks, and pretty much no where else, and that’s hard. But cooking is fun, and something normal I can do, so I’ve continued to do a lot of it. Here’s a look back at some of the meals we’ve been enjoying in the third month of lockdown life (including one amazing dinner from Beast Craft BBQ!):

We’ve kept up with our baking, too. Sunday afternoon “quarantine cookies” are definitely a thing! We’ve had fun trying all sorts of different combinations of baking chips, but the base recipe is always the same. I’ve also made some other things, including blueberry muffins, and even quite a few cakes…a carrot cake for our 19th wedding anniversary, a red ale strawberry cake for Pentecost, and a red velvet cake for Trinity Sunday.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two other special treats we’ve enjoyed in the last month, too. Eli’s Cheesecake kindly sent us an original favorites cheesecake sampler, which was a huge hit with everybody here, and I was blown away by the lovely gesture! We also indulged in another Chicago favorite, Frango mints…since we couldn’t go to Chicago, I had an extra little bit of Chicago sent to us!

I can’t say I care much for shopping every two weeks, and having to plan our meals so far ahead and in such great detail, but I do have a routine, so there is that. My refrigerator Tetris and pantry Jenga games have also reached a whole new level of expertise, so that’s fun. And we all enjoy having some extra-special meals to look forward to!

I don’t know if I’ll have another “Cooking Through a Pandemic” post next month…things will maybe be closer to our old normal by then, but who really knows? And even if they are, I think some things have changed for us permanently!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Second Month

So it’s been almost two full months since we got the call that Moose’s school was moving to distance learning. I figure that’s about the time our period of isolation began, even though it wasn’t fully official until a week or so later. Anyway, I’ve continued to do a lot of cooking, and I’ve continued to try to make some family favorites as well as some new things. Most of what I’ve made so far has been pretty popular (although the pork chops weren’t a huge hit), and we’ve repeated a few meals that were especially enjoyed (cheese and chorizo quesadillas are a new favorite!).

Baking has also been a favorite pastime…we bake cookies almost every Sunday afternoon. I also made a loaf of bread (not really from scratch, because I used frozen bread dough, but there was some effort!), plus a chocoflan for Cinco de Mayo, and a cake for Ladybug’s birthday.

New this month: We were actually able to support a few businesses, as well! We did carryout from two local favorites (The Wine Tap and Beast Craft BBQ), plus mail order from two others (Portillo’s and Eli’s Cheesecake). It was nice to have a small break from cooking on those occasions, because I’ve been going pretty much non-stop for the last two months!

I’m going grocery shopping on Thursday, and I have a whole new lineup of meals that I hope we’ll all enjoy!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic

In some ways, our lives during the COVID-19 shutdown haven’t changed a whole lot. For example, we didn’t go out to eat very often before, so that no longer being an option doesn’t have much of an impact. I have, however, been trying to cook more of our favorite meals, because it’s something I can do for my family during a time when it feels like there’s not much any of us can do, and that makes me feel like I’m being somewhat helpful. Throw in a couple of birthdays and holidays, and we’ve actually been eating pretty well for the last month…here’s a look back at some of the highlights:

Of course we’ve been baking, too, both for the aforementioned birthdays and holidays, and because it’s fun, delicious, and keeps us busy!

What have your eating habits been like since life turned upside-down?

A Markel Family Easter, Isolation Edition

I think we can all agree that Easter was weird this year, right? Without our normal church commitments like choir, acolyting, and serving on altar guild, Holy Week and Easter Sunday fell a bit flat. But whether we were at church or not, we still had reason to celebrate, so I tried to make this time at home as special as possible.

On Maundy Thursday, we enjoyed some beautiful weather while we were out for a walk in our neighborhood before we “went” to church, which we watched from the comfort of our living room.

We were a little busier on Good Friday, with some baking (including homemade hot cross buns for the first time!), and another walk, before we once again watched the church service from our living room.

We were especially busy on Holy Saturday. We did some more baking, including these amazing rosemary dinner rolls, one of my favorite new recipes that I’ve tried:

We also made our new Paschal Candle for the year, as we usually do on Holy Saturday…it was disappointing not being able to take it to the Easter Vigil, though!

We had a fairly last-minute change of Easter dinner plans, because Beast Craft BBQ announced that they were going to be selling hams, so Ryan went and picked that up Saturday afternoon. It smelled amazing, and there was great restraint on the part of everyone in the house, because we left it alone until Easter dinner!

I dug out some extra candles so we could really feel like we were participating in the Great Vigil of Easter:

But once again from our living room:

We always get hot fudge sundaes at McDonald’s on the way home from the service, so I tried to recreate that experience, as well:

We didn’t “need” Pop-Tarts for breakfast this year (do you ever really need Pop-Tarts?),, because we didn’t have to get up as early for the sunrise service, but tradition is tradition!

I was very happy to get to sing my favorite Easter hymn at the first service, which we attended from, you guessed it, our living room!

We always have Easter breakfast at church between services, so I tried to replicate that experience, too. Homemade biscuits and sausage gravy were the star of the meal (both of which I prepared on Saturday), because that’s what they serve at church, plus sausage patties, eggs, orange juice, and mini donuts:

I always take pictures after breakfast, and this year was no different. Yes, we all got dressed up, even though we were at home!

I really missed taking photos of the children by the baptismal font, but at least I got pictures of them on Easter, right?

I already shared the details of my Easter outfit, but here’s one more picture, with Ladybug, because this was her first occasion to wear a dress from Pinup Girl Clothing!

Back inside, and back to the living room for the second service, where we sang another favorite hymn:

The church part of the day was over much quicker than usual, which was sad. I did have plenty of time to prepare our Easter dinner, though, starting with setting the table with our china and spring table linens:

On the menu: ham, mashed potatoes, a trio of green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans with almonds), cherry Jell-O, and rosemary dinner rolls. It was a delicious meal!

For dessert I made the same lemon cheesecake with lemon-rosemary shortbread crust that I made last year:

We’re not done, yet, though! Since Easter is a celebration that keeps on going, and since our dinner plans had changed after I had already bought what was supposed to be the main course of Easter dinner, we had another special meal tonight…rack of lamb with some new sides (roast potatoes and cauliflower), plus some repeats (Brussels sprouts, green beans, Jell-O, and rolls), plus more cheesecake for dessert!

So there you have what was the strangest Easter I have ever experienced. Of course, our reason for celebrating never changes, but just the same, nothing felt quite right, and I truly hope we never have another Easter like it!

Time Has Lost All Meaning

Last week, the Fab Five and I baked cookies. Actually, that’s not really news…we’ve been baking cookies a lot more recently. But these cookies were special, because they were sugar cookies, and we had frosting and sprinkles to decorate them

That’s not the only reason they were special, though. These are the sugar cookies we were supposed to bake at Christmas and never got around to. So I decided in January that we’d bake sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day instead, and I bought the frosting and sprinkles with that in mind. You guessed it…time got away from us again, so last week we finally got out our spring cookie cutters and got to work. In the end, we had what were originally supposed to be Christmas cookies, decorated in the colors of Valentine’s Day, but in cheerful spring shapes, baked during our time of isolation due to COVID-19.

Time truly has lost all meaning!

Tasty Tuesday–Holiday Baking 2019

We never did get around to making and decorating cut-out cookies this year (I think we’ll make that a Valentine’s Day activity!), but I thought it would be fun to take a look back at all of the holiday baking we did do, from Thanksgiving Eve through Epiphany.

16 Dozen Cookies (four different kinds):

11 Pies (a total of eight varieties):

Layer Cake:

Coffee Cake:

Bûche de Noël:

Apple-Cranberry Bread Pudding:

Gingerbread-Eggnog Trifle:

Lussekattes for Santa Lucia Day:

Crème Brûlée:

Epiphany Baklava:

Even without the cut-out cookies, this may have been the busiest year of baking yet…it was delicious fun!

A Markel Family Snow Day

Today we had a snow day! This was a special snow day, because not only did Moose’s school close for the day, the homeschool event we were supposed to attend at the Missouri History Museum was cancelled, so we were all truly home for the day!

Of course we had to play in the snow:

When a snow day happens the week before Christmas, you bake Christmas cookies. And while we baked, we watched not only the unbelievably fluffy flakes fall outside the kitchen window, but also the Nutcracker, something we do every year around Christmas. We watched three different productions today: The Dutch National Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, and my personal favorite, the San Fransisco Ballet. Three Nutcrackers and 13 dozen cookies later, and all of our “fancy” baking is done!

We also made “stained glass” Christmas ornaments while we watched White Christmas. I love how they turned out!

We found time for a nice walk in the snow:

And had our standard Markel Family snow day dinner!

The Fab Five had time to build two bags of their Lego Hogwarts Castle set today. Here’s a look at some of the detail:

After shoveling (something that I really enjoy doing!), we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The older I get, the more I relate to Clark Griswold, which is a little bit scary!

This was one of the nicest days I’ve had, and I really enjoyed the chance to both slow down and get a lot of work done!

Ready for the First Day of School!

The summer went by way too quickly, and it’s already time for the first day of the 2019-2020 school year! Yesterday was spent doing a few last fun things before we get back to work…playing board games, baking cookies, building a Lego set, and having an Iron Man movies marathon:

Today, on the other hand, was “cleaning day.” We got the school ready (more or less) for another year of learning. Surprisingly, not too much has changed in the last year, just some minor rearranging, which is very unusual for us!

We had a “Farewell to Summer” dinner tonight…ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, watermelon, and root beer floats for dessert. We also watched Detective Pikachu, which was a really cute movie, even for someone like me, who isn’t too familiar with Pokemon.

And the outfits are ready for tomorrow morning!

Everything else that needs to be ready for tomorrow is good to go…I put the schultüte together (but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see their contents), organized the bookshelves, and got all the new workbooks sorted out and put on desks. I’m looking forward to beginning our 12th year of homeschooling!

A Story of Flan

Our summer school adventures usually involve cooking of some kind. Actually, that’s one of my favorite parts of summer school. Trying out ethnic recipes, or recipes from different periods of time, or that have to do with specific events…I love an excuse to try something new that we probably wouldn’t eat otherwise, learn some new cooking techniques, and make some family memories.

Since we’re learning about various European cultures this summer, we’ve been trying foods from various countries on The Continent. Tonight our focus was on Spain, with paella for dinner, and flan for dessert. I set out to make the flan yesterday, and while it boiled over in the oven, making the house smelled like burnt marshmallows, it looked just right in the pan. When I went to invert it onto a platter, however, only half of it came out. It didn’t look pretty at all, and you know how they say you eat with your eyes first…plus, I like these special meals to not only be delicious, but to look pretty, too!

So, the children ate messy flan scraps (it did taste good, at least), for dessert last night, and I made a second flan this morning. More burnt marshmallow scent, and this time, even after loosening it with a knife, jiggling it, and putting it in a warm water bath, the flan wouldn’t come out of the pan at all. Not even a tiny little bit.

So, I reached my frustration point. I wasn’t making a third flan, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to have something even remotely nice-looking to present to my family unless I started thinking outside of the box. And that’s when it hit me…I could try to use a biscuit cutter to free individual portions of the flan that might actually look not just presentable, but adorably delicious!

It worked. For reasons I don’t understand, the individual portions lifted out with no trouble…the caramel sauce even came out with them! Actually, they looked far nicer than if I had managed to get the whole flan on the platter in one piece.

So, we tried a new recipe from a country whose cuisine we don’t normally get to enjoy. But we also had a great life lesson about making lemons from lemonade (or mini flans from flan?) and thinking outside of the box when working in the kitchen! What a summer school win!